A Failed Attempt to Get Back

Please Please Me (1963), the debut album by The Beatles

 
 

George Martin was an honorary fellow of the Zoological Society of London, which owns the London Zoo. Martin thought that it might be good publicity for the zoo to have The Beatles pose outside the insect house for the cover photography of the album. However, the society turned down Martin’s offer, and instead, Angus McBean was asked to take the distinctive color photograph of the group looking down over the stairwell inside EMI’s London headquarters in Manchester Square. Martin was to write later: “We rang up the legendary theater photographer Angus McBean, and bingo, he came round and did it there and then. It was done in an almighty rush, like the music. Thereafter, though, the Beatles’ own creativity came bursting to the fore.”

 
 

 
 

In 1969, the Beatles asked McBean to recreate this shot. Although the 1969 photograph was originally intended for the then-planned Get Back album, it was not used when that project saw eventual release in 1970 as Let It Be. Mirroring the cover of the band’s first album, Please Please Me, was John Lennon’s idea.

 
 

Photography: Ethan Russel

 
 

In January 1969, The Beatles had decided to go back into the studio to rehearse and record new songs and have the project filmed for a documentary. The project’s original working title was Get Back, and an album and film were to be the end products of these sessions. Being older and more independent, the individual Beatles’ tolerances for each other’s quirks had decreased: for instance, on 10 January, George Harrison walked out of the sessions after the latest in a series of arguments with John Lennon over his music and after being harassed by Paul McCartney about his playing style on a take of Two of Us. By the time the Beatles had decided the project was completed, all parties involved were so aggrieved that all of the resultant recordings and film were left on the shelf for close to a year, with no one wanting to face the grueling editing process.

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