The two “Get Back” photo sessions
In early May 1969, photographer Angus McBean and the Beatles returned to EMI House to recreate the cover photo from the “Please Please Me” LP for their upcoming LP, “Get Back”. However Angus found that EMI had constructed a new porch which prevented him from photographing the Beatles from the exact same perspective as he had done in 1963. Pictures from this day feature John and George wearing different jackets.
When EMI House heard that the exact photo angle could not be replicated, they agreed to have the new porch taken down temporarily. The Beatles and Angus then returned on May 13 1969 at 6pm for another attempt. Pictures from this day feature John and George wearing pin stripe suits (their 1966 tour suits).
The recreation of the “Please Please Me” cover shoot was probably not an attempt to bookend the Beatles’ recording career, it was merely an idea sparked by the original intention of the “Get Back” LP project of the Beatles going back to their roots, again recording an album without studio trickery like overdubs. In an interview with Terence Pepper for a book about Angus McBean, Paul McCartney says that the idea for the “Please Please Me” cover recreation came up at a Beatles group meeting, and that they all thought it was a fun and “full circle” idea.
Photographer Angus McBean himself has also recalled the occasion: “(In 1963) I asked John Lennon how long they would stay as a group, and he said, “Oh, about six years, I suppose – who ever heard of a bald Beatle?”. Well, it was just six years later that I was asked to repeat the shot with the Beatles as they now looked – very hairy indeed. When I got there I couldn’t retake the shot; a new porch had been built and I couldn’t get into the same position. However, EMI asked if I could come back in a week. Meanwhile, the whole new porch was pulled down and we tried again. Ringo Starr was so late that the staff of EMI was streaming down the stairs. I got the camera fixed up and John, fascinated by photography, came and lay down beside me to look at my view-finder. I can still hear the screams of the EMI girls as the realized who they were stepping over to get out the door!”
When the “Get Back” project was reshaped into the “Let It Be” album, the cover idea also went out the window, and no one has really explained why. Indeed, John Lennon himself wondered what happened to that idea, but no one has stepped up to give an explanation. Our best guess is that with Paul McCartney sporting a beard in the whole of the “Let It Be” film and John being clean shaven, the “Get Back” photo would seem out of place, adorning the accompanying album.
Still, it finally became a bookend of sorts with the release of the red and blue albums in 1973.