Word just reached us, even thought it was reported in the Telegraph July 26th, that editor Sean O’Mahoney had passed away at home July 21 at the age of 88. You may be more familiar with his pseudonym, Johnny Dean, which is what he signed his editorials in The Beatles Book (Monthly) with.
Born in London in 1932, Sean O’Mahoney started his career as a publisher in the mid fifties. He rang Brian Epstein in September 1962, to ask if the manager would like to promote his group, The Beatles, in “Pop Weekly”, a magazine Sean published for Robert Stigwood at the time. Epstein was of course very interested, not only could O’Mahoney do an article on the group, Epstein would also pay for an ad for their first record. Sean phoned journalist Peter Jones and commissioned a quick piece of 500 words about the group and expected them to fade quietly away.
When “Love Me Do” started to climb the charts, Sean realised that his suspicion that beat groups would be the next thing was right. So just before Christmas 1962, he left Pop Weekly to start his own magazine, which he was going to call “Beat Monthly”.
Then in January, he was sent a copy of The Beatles second single, “Please Please Me”. And he was hooked. Sean rang up Epstein, told him that he thought the new single was great, and that he would feature The Beatles in every issue of his upcoming magazine. True to his word, Sean let The Beatles grace the back cover of the first issue of “Beat Monthly”, and when issue 2 was going to the printers, there was nothing else to do than giving them the front cover.
When “From me To You” was released, Sean rang up Brian again to pitch an all-Beatles magazine. Brian Epstein and the lads all approved of the idea, and the magazine became an overnight success. The monthly magazine was also sent out to all members of the Beatles fan club in Great Britain, and overseas to all fan club secretaries in other countries. O’Mahoney didn’t stop at this, and through his career started more than twenty other magazines.
O’Mahoney and his photographer, Leslie Bryce had unprecedented access to the Beatles, in the recording studios, back stage, on location while filming and elsewhere. Bryce even took a few photos of the Beatles at home. The Beatles’ press officer Tony Barrow wrote articles for the magazine, as did The Beatles’ assistants and road managers, Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans. The magazine had a run of 300 000 at the most. But all things must pass, and when The Beatles split up, the magazine also ceased to be, with issue no 77 the final word.
Still, with the rise in popularity of the Beatles once the seventies had begun to take shape, O’Mahoney revived the magazine in 1976, the same year as all the Beatles singles were re-released in Britain and a few other countries. The first 77 issues were re-issues of the old magazines, but with a few added pages wrapped around. In these pages were letters from the readers, ads and Beatles news, both solo and other news items regarding the Beatles and their legacy.
Editor for the new pages changed, but at one time, Mark Lewisohn was in charge. While writing the news, he also extensively researched the BBC radio archives, so the Beatles Book (Monthly) then became the first publication to chronicle all the Beatles radio appearances for BBC Radio.
From issue no. 78 in 1982, the magazine was all new, while still relying heavily on the vast photo archive of Bryce’s photos amassed by the magazine. Outtakes from the various photo sessions for the magazine now appeared in print.
The magazine lived on until 2003, with no. 321 the final issue. O’Mahoney had already resigned from publication the year before. In the aftermath, a couple of books with text and photos from The Beatles Book archives have been published, OMahoney himself compiled “The Best of The Beatles Book” in 2005, and after he left the archives to his daughter, she and her husband published “Looking Through You: The Beatles Book Monthly Photo Archive” in 2016.
Sean O’Mahoney left behind his wife Jacqueline, daughters Josephine and Suzanna and six grandchildren. The family asked for no flowers, but donations in his memory to macmillan.org.uk, an organisation providing emotional, physical, and financial support to people diagnosed with cancer.