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Ian Whittington remembers posing for Don McCullin with the Fab Four, 28 July 1968

In July 1968, the well-known war photographer Don McCullin was commissioned to photograph the Beatles in different locations around London, for asession known as the Mad Day Out. It was for Life magazine. I think they moved around a lot to avoid big crowds gathering.

This is St Pancras Old Church and gardens, in north London, where some of the best-known pictures were taken. My grandad, Jack, was the head gardener. He was visiting family in Derbyshire that day: he always said if he had been there, he wouldnt have allowed the Beatles in, because they were the sort of long-haired layabouts he disapproved of. He was upright and Victorian, dressed in corduroy trousers, waistcoat, jacket and tie, even when he was working.

Im the little boy on the left in the light blue jumper, and Im six years old. Standing next to me is my younger brother Neil and behind us is our nan, Eunice. Shes holding paper and a pencil, as we got three of the Beatles autographs. Yoko Ono, who was there that day, kept calling John Lennon away, so we only got Paul, George and Ringos signatures. As young boys, we lived on and off with my grandparents for years, staying with them before we were finally offered a council flat in Shepherds Bush, west London.

There was no announcement that the Beatles were coming they just turned up, with a small group of friends, assistants, photographers and hangers-on. The other kids were just knocking about in the park that day, as we were. Kings Cross and St Pancras was a poor area then; parts of it were Dickensian. According to my nan, I sat on Pauls knee. At one point, she brought them out tea.

It was a beautiful park, much bigger than it is now. There was aVictorian bedding scheme, which my grandad was very proud of, a fountain, glasshouses, aplayground, London plane trees. Sir John Soanes mausoleum is there. In one famous picture, the Beatles are posing among my grandads prize hollyhocks. He had eight or nine staff, some of them in this photograph the older man in the trilby at the back was the park keeper. He would take us to different London parks Parliament Hill Fields, St Jamess and point out plants and birds. I got my love of the outdoors from him.

A black and white version of this photograph, by another photographer who was there called Stephen Goldblatt (although its often attributed to McCullin), features on the inside gatefold sleeve of twoBeatles compilation albums: theRed Album, from 1962-1966, and the Blue Album, from 19671970. Ive no idea why it was chosen: I suppose its nice the way they are mingling with the crowd, looking like normal people. I first saw it on one of the records at a girlfriends flat when I was 16: I said, Thats my nan! And then, a few seconds later, Thats me!

This photograph was published for the first time in Don McCullins 2010 book A Day In The Life Of TheBeatles. Looking back at it today, Iremember those austere times, my London roots and the huge back garden we were lucky enough to play in.

Are you in a notable photograph?

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Fifty years ago, homosexuality was decriminalised and pop was never the same again. From Dusty and Motown to Mick Jagger and the Kinks, here are the songs, clubs and clothes that liberated Britain

In one of his very last acts as Beatles manager, Brian Epstein signed a contract for the group to represent Britain in the Our World global satellite television event, broadcasting the band to an estimated 400 million people in 25 countries. So on 27 July 1967, the day that male homosexuality was partially decriminalised in the UK, the UK No 1 was All You Need Is Love.

Exactly one month later, Epstein was dead from an overdose of sleeping pills. Nowhere in his obituaries was his homosexuality mentioned. He didnt hide who he was, even if it caused him anguish, and the fact was common knowledge among the pop milieu. But even after the passing of the Sexual Offences Act, it was not thought of as a topic worthy of discussion. Perhaps the Beatles magic still held, perhaps it wasnt thought suitable.

There is no doubt that Epstein was largely responsible for the Beatles success. He believed, when everyone else mocked, that they would be bigger than Elvis, and they were. Andrew Loog Oldham worked with him briefly in early 1963: When you sat down with Brian, he wrote in his memoir Stoned, you knew you were dealing with a man who had a vision for the Beatles and nobody was going to get in the way of that vision.

Epstein was only one of many gay men who were involved in the music industry at every level in the 1960s. Showbusiness in its widest sense provided a safe haven in a world where the simple physical expression of who you were laid you open to blackmail, prosecution, and even incarceration in prison or a mental hospital. It promised validation, money and the possibility of alchemising personal sexual attraction into the creation of that often ambiguous figure, the pop star.

A rally organised by the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Photograph: Hulton Deutsch/Corbis via Getty

From early on, British rock stars, from Cliff Richard and Billy Fury through to the Beatles, had a softer masculinity that reflected the gay showbiz milieu as well as the target market of young females. The groups that followed after the Beatles the Rolling Stones, the Kinks exhibited an even more extreme version of this blurring between the genders.

However, despite the flamboyance of managers such as Larry Parnes, the creator of British pop culture in the mid to late 1950s, with his stable of stars, and indeed Epstein himself, they were essentially back-room boys. Who or what they were didnt ultimately matter to the public and the press. No major British star came out as gay during the 1960s: the influence of homosexuality, while embedded deep within pop culture, was still covert.

Its also important to note that the passing of the act had no direct input from pop culture. Unlike America, where the homophile movement as it was called in 1966 was pursued by young activists and determined pressure groups, the attempt to change the UK laws was undertaken within traditional lobbying and parliamentary guidelines. Most of the people concerned the two politicians who undertook the brunt of the work in the houses, Leo Abse and Lord Arran, as well as the members of the Homosexual Law Reform Society, which became the Campaign for Homosexual Equality were older, pre-pop.

Although the Sexual Offences Act loosened the legal restrictions against gay men, people werent dancing in the streets when it was passed. If anything, the acts reception was muted, dulled by the viciousness of the final debate and the highly partial nature of the freedoms granted. Some people thought it was about time, while some older gay men, born well before the second world war and steeped in the repressive atmosphere of the 1950s, resented the fact that the whole topic had been made public and the supposed glamour of illegality removed.

Attitudes within the gay world were to some extent dictated by a generational divide. Epstein was born in 1934, and took his marginal status hard. For a younger man like journalist Peter Burton, born in 1945, things were different: I never thought I was the only person who felt as I did, he wrote in his memoir Parallel Lives. I never worried about whether my homosexuality was right or wrong because it seemed perfectly natural to me and by the time I had become aware of society and the laws attitudes, it was too late for me to change mine.

Mod fashion makes it to America LIFE magazine, 13 May 1966.

Although it did not directly contribute to the changing of the law, the saturation of 60s pop in androgyny and homosexuality contributed to a more liberal climate. In 1966 and 1967, for instance, Britain was famous worldwide for its Carnaby Street fashions largely dominated by one gay man, the designer John Stephen. His clothes were worn by the Beatles, the Small Faces, Jeff Beck of the Yardbirds, and the Rolling Stones pictured in John Stephen finery on the cover of their Aftermath LP. In May 1966, he was the subject of a Life magazine profile.

Encouraged by the mod movement and their own increasing confidence, young gay men were beginning to cast off the guilt. As Burton remembers: Those of us from the immediate postwar generation were developing our own tastes and inventing our own styles. We were evolving our own look and we had adopted our own music. In 1966, Burton teamed up with Bill Bryant to open a new club, Le Duce. Located on DArblay Street, Soho, in the centre of London, it was conceived as a gay version of the mod venue the Scene a club for dancing.

Burtons list of tunes from Le Duces jukebox contains a great deal of Motown (the Elgins, the Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Supremes), soul (Otis Redding, Bob & Earl) and Dusty Springfields You Dont Have To Say You Love Me. Dusty was a huge gay favourite in the mid 60s, mainly because of the no-holds-barred nature of her performances and her often melodramatic material.

The Supremes in 1967, who played with the drag troupe The Jewel Box Revue. Photograph: RB/Redferns

She was a constant presence on the most influential pop programme of the 1960s. Ready Steady Go presented all the hot, young British groups – the Animals, the Kinks, Them – and there were specials on Motown (March 1965), James Brown (March 1966) and Otis Redding (September 1966). With frequent black American and female guests and the gay presenter Michael Aldred, it was a vision of a more pluralistic world to come.

There were gay records released in the mid 1960s, but they were comparatively few and aimed at an audience still strictly within the ghetto: drag queen records by the likes of Mr Jean Frederick, or the extraordinary series of singles released on the Camp label, with titles such as Id Rather Fight Than Swish. Just like today, that left young gay men free to project their own feelings and desires into mainstream pop records.

Motown was popular because it was perfect for dancing and the lyrics were all about falling in and out of love. The Supremes, in particular, often tipped over into melodrama in an almost knowing way. The stylised appearance of many female performers fed into the gay appetite for drag queens the Supremes had performed with the American drag troupe The Jewel Box Revue in 1964.

The Beatles also had gay fans, although that is little discussed. Accounts of their season at the Paris Olympia and footage of their Washington concert (both in early 1964) bear this out. The androgyny of the groups that followed was also appealing. In their early days, the Rolling Stones, in particular Mick Jagger, flirted heavily with camp, and the Kinks further broke convention with the appearance of the 17-year-old Dave Davies with the longest hair seen in the UK for decades.

Almost a queer song sheet music for Im a Boy by the Who.

Homosexuality was not openly discussed but the more alert picked up on songs such as the Kinks Dedicated Follower of Fashion, or their elusive, slippery See My Friends. In autumn 1966, the Who had a No 2 hit with Im a Boy, an extraordinary record which had as its subject the angst of a young boy dressed by his mother as a girl helpfully described by bassist John Entwistle as almost a queer song in the pop press of the time.

Its tempting to think that 1967 would be full of gay pop statements: this was not the case. There were several iconoclastic records early in the year: the Smokes My Friend Jack (about LSD) and the Rolling Stones Lets Spend the Night Together (premarital sex) for instance. Coincidental with the wave of progressive legislation put forward by the Labour party (laws concerning abortion, homosexuality and, later in the decade, divorce and equal rights), a younger generation encouraged by 60s pop culture were beginning to agitate for greater freedom.

Perhaps the most oblique yet powerful of these outre statements was Pink Floyds first single, Arnold Layne, about a clothes fetishist who enjoys wearing womens clothes. Although presented as a morality tale about social disapproval Arnold Layne: dont do it again the song was shocking for the time and the group were seen as part of the wave of taboo busters: as Disc and Music Echo put it, Meet the Pinky Kinkies! As if to seal the deal, the record was banned by Radio London.

According to Jenny Spires, Syd Barretts friend at the time, this provocative aspect was deliberate: Arnold Layne was about a knicker snatcher but it was also a nod to the decriminalisation of homosexuality bill. In a time when it was shocking for men to have long hair even, to cross dress was seen as almost criminal but we all cross dressed. Syd and I had several gay friends and we followed the controversy around the bill.

David Bowie in a dress designed by Mr Fish on the cover of The Man Who Sold the World

In the autumn of 1967, the Kinks released David Watts, a song about Golden Boy envy that had its roots in an encounter with a gay promoter. The band had long been fascinated by gay styles and behaviour, and, in his Top of the Pops performance of Autumn Almanac that year, Ray Davies let rip with the full gamut of camp gestures in what is perhaps the most overt performance of this nature before the early 1970s. On the way to Lola, hes clearly having a great time.

The 1967 Sexual Offences Act was in many ways compromised as Peter Tatchell has noted, convictions for various gay offences went up in the years following its enactment but, as with the laws concerning abortion and divorce, it began to loosen up society in a manner that reflected the openness of pop at the time. It was all about freedom for everyone and its full impact would not be seen until 1972, when David Bowie, having laid aside his Mr Fish man-dress, openly stated that he was gay and in fairly short order became a superstar. Thats when the fun really began.

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This great Beatles album is as thrilling a listen as ever on its 50th anniversary: but its a melancholy time for the one-world counterculture the record soundtracked

At the time Sgt Pepper was released, the American writer Langdon Winner once recalled, I happened to be driving across the country on Interstate 80. In each city where I stopped for gas or food Laramie, Ogallala, Moline, South Bend the melodies wafted in from some far-off transistor radio or portable hi-fi For a brief while, the irreparably fragmented consciousness of the west was unified, at least in the minds of the young.

How far away it all seems. On 26 May the 50th anniversary of the Beatles Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (it actually falls on 1 June) will be marked by the release of remixed and repackaged versions of the original album. With his characteristically jolly humility, Paul McCartney insists in the latest issue of Mojo magazine that its just a record but its gained in notoriety over the years. The truth is that Sgt Pepper might be the most confident, boundary-pushing record British rock musicians have ever created, and it is worth revisiting again.

We might also think about the era the album crystallised, and its long legacy. Sgt Pepper is not quite the quintessentially psychedelic, love-and-peace artefact of historical cliche: streaked through its multicoloured dazzle is a very Beatle-ish kind of melancholy, partly rooted in the bands decidedly unpsychedelic postwar childhoods. But the wider cultural moment, and the Beatles place at its heart, were indeed replete with beads, bells and a wide-eyed optimism.

Three weeks after the album came out, the band were the biggest attraction in the worlds first global satellite TV show, singing All You Need Is Love to an audience of as many as 350 million. Meanwhile, on both the US west coast and in swinging London, young people on the cutting edge really were trying to push into a future very different from the one their parents had envisaged.

The so-called counterculture may not initially have reached much beyond its urban nerve centres and campuses. But the basic ideas Sgt Pepper soundtracked soon acquired enough influence to begin no end of social revolutions. A new emphasis on self-expression was manifested in the decisive arrival of feminism and gay liberation. Countries and borders came a distant second to the idea of one world.

Such shibboleths as marriage until death and a job for life were quickly weakened. Once the leftist unrest of 1968 was out of the way, the shift continued away from the old-fashioned politics of systems and social structures towards the idea of freeing ones mind everything coloured with an essentially optimistic view of the future.

Two years after Sgt Peppers release, a young graduate at Wellesley College, a women-only institution in Massachusetts, gave a speech. Our prevailing acquisitive and competitive corporate life, including tragically the universities, is not the way of life for us, she said. Were searching for more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating modes of living. And so our questions, our questions about our institutions, about our colleges, about our churches, about our government continue.

Her name was Hillary Rodham, and her journey says a lot about where 1960s values eventually led us. To quote the music writer Charles Shaar Murray, the line from hippy to yuppie was not nearly as convoluted as some people subsequently liked to believe and once the love decades more ambitious alumni reached positions of power, the origin of many of their ideas was as clear as day.

Their professed distaste for corporate values fell away, but the hippy individualism summed up in the future Hillary Clintons insistence on immediate and ecstatic ways of life lived on, as did a questioning attitude to tradition, and to the stifling limitations of the old-fashioned nation state.

After the anti-60s backlash symbolised by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, by the mid-90s such ideas were shaping a new political establishment, embodied by Bill Clinton, and Blair and Browns New Labour. I am a modern man, from the rocknroll generation. The Beatles, colour TV, thats my generation, said Blair. Clinton honked away at his saxophone and ended his rallies with a song by Fleetwood Mac.

It is not hard to read across from these politicians ideals to what they soaked up in their formative years. In 2005 Blair, who fronted a long-haired band while at Oxford University, told the Labour party conference that people should be swift to adapt, slow to complain open, willing and able to change. Collectivity was yesterdays thing; against a background of globalisation and all-enveloping liberalism, governments job was to encourage individuals to be as flexible and self-questioning as possible.

John Lennons response to the rebels of 68: the Beatles make Revolution rock

Go back 50 years, and you perhaps hear early stirrings of those ideas, soaked in patchouli oil and put to tape at EMIs Abbey Road studios. Try George Harrisons Indian-flavoured Within You Without You: Try to realise its all within yourself/No one else can make you change. Or what about John Lennons response to the rebels of 68 in Revolution (on the so-called White Album)? You tell me its the institution/Well, you know/Youd better free your mind instead. As for a picture of globalised utopia, after the Beatles had broken up, Lennon released that saccharine anthem Imagine, with its key line: Imagine theres no countries.

And now? If youre a citizen of the world, youre a citizen of nowhere, says our new prime minister. If we do indeed live in the post-liberal times endlessly analysed in academic papers, it is the inheritance of the 60s that is in question. For sure, many of the changes that originated then have become irreversibly embedded in millions of lives. Attitudes to marriage, sexuality and matters of race are seemingly more liberal than ever; wherever you go, youre never very far from the whiff of marijuana smoke.

But the dominance of post-60s individualism and globalisation is being weakened by the resurgence of collective identities meant to have withered away: class, nation, region. And if the events of 2016 and 2017 are anything to go by, political success now often goes to people whose values appear the polar opposite of the old counterculture.

Duty, nationhood, and regular trips to church: whatever values Theresa May affects to represent, they are surely redolent of a world that existed long before the 1960s (consider also her parliamentary record, which includes votes against equalising the age of consent, gay adoption and the repeal of section 28).

Last year, a New York Post article contrasted Hillary Clintons embodiment of the campus 1960s with the sense that Donald Trump was an unexpected throwback to the Rat Pack, those macho exemplars of everything the hippies wanted to sweep away. Trump, said the author, represented pre-Feminist Man, the guy who brags about never having changed a diaper and expects subservience from his wives.

Sgt Pepper arrived two decades after the second world wars end: roughly the same historical distance that separates the Brexit/Trump age from the high point of the Clinton/Blair era. Given a 21st-century polish, the albums music sounds as thrilling as ever, though with a bittersweet sense of a credo suddenly falling victim to a counter-revolution.

On the last track of the old side two, the bell-like piano chords that begin A Day in the Life used to sound like the death knell of all the inward-looking, fusty, moralistic ideas the Beatles came to do away with. How strange to tune in half a century later and find all that stuff back with a vengeance.

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The singer/songwriter is filing a suit to regain copyright ownership after Duran Duran tried and failed to do the same with their catalogue in 2016

Paul McCartney has filed a lawsuit against Sony/ATV to regain the rights to classic Beatles songs.

The star is hoping to confirm the reclaim of ownership of songs he wrote while a member of the band in a case that recalls a similar battle faced by Duran Duran in 2016.

In a complaint filed in New York, it details McCartney transferring rights of songs he wrote with John Lennon to various music publishers throughout the 1960s. In the 1980s, Michael Jackson bought the rights to many of these songs, including Hey Jude and Let It Be. The singer then bought shares in Sony/ATV and after his death, and his estate sold them back for $750m. This bundle included many Beatles tracks.

The ownership of the songs is set to be McCartneys again in 2018 but he claims that he hasnt received confirmation this will happen without a legal fight despite numerous attempts to contact the company.

McCartney has reason to worry, given that Duran Duran fought and lost a similar fight with Sony/ATV last December. A judge ruled that English laws of contract barred them from seeking to reclaim rights over their own works.

Rather than provide clear assurances to Paul McCartney that Defendants will not challenge his exercise of his termination rights, Defendants are clearly reserving their rights pending the final outcome of the Duran Duran litigation in the UK, the complaint reads.

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The Liverpool club owner drove the band to Hamburg on their formative trip in 1960 and also handled early bookings

Allan Williams, best known as the first manager of the Beatles, has died aged 86, it has been announced. It was Williams who took the band to Hamburg, where its members learned much of their craft, before returning to the UK and stardom.

He was the owner of the Jacaranda club in Liverpool, which confirmed the news of his death on Friday night. His legacy has allowed us to remain at the heart of the Liverpool music scene for almost 60 years, and his memory will live on through every band that plays our famous stage. Allan, you will be missed. All of our thoughts and wishes go to his family and his wife Beryl, a message on the clubs Facebook page read.

The Beatles Story, an exhibition in Liverpool celebrating the bands success, praised Williams for his significant role. Martin King, its spokesman, said: We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Allan Williams. Our thoughts go out to his family at this sad time. Allan was a friend to many of us at the Beatles Story and his legacy will continue to be told for years to come.

From left to right: Allan Williams, his wife, Beryl, Lord Woodbine, Stuart Sutcliffe, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best at the Arnhem War Memorial in 1961. Photograph: Keystone USA/Rex/Shutterstock

In a statement released on Friday, the exhibition said: His involvement in the Beatles early years in Liverpool and on to Hamburg helped shape the band in to what we see and know today.

The team behind the attraction said they were shocked and saddened by the news that Williams, who also served as the Beatles first booking agent, had died. He personally drove the van to take the young band to Hamburg, Germany in 1960, where they gained the vital show business experience that led to their emergence on the world stage, they said. In May this year, Allan was awarded a top civic honour in recognition of his contribution to the music industry in Liverpool.

In 2009, Williams spoke about the Beatles early days, saying he had confidence in the band when others in Liverpool did not. It was mainly their personalities, because most of the groups were a bit on the thick side, whereas they all had good educations; they were a bit posher and more articulate. So I thought, no, I will take a chance, he said.

He also remembered bonding with a young John Lennon. I had him down as a coffee-boy layabout, as I used to call him, and thought he was rather arrogant. But when I got to know him its quite tragic, really. I had an unhappy childhood, too, so there was a bit of an understanding there, although we never talked about it.

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New Jerseys most famous musical son has had at least 41 books written about him but thats nowhere near enough to put him at the top of the chart

The release of Bruce Springsteens autobiography this week caused a predictable stir among fans, some of who queued for hours to meet the Boss as he began his book tour.

But the book, titled Born to Run, is far from the only work about the rock star. The British Library lists 41 titles with Springsteen as their subject matter, from biographies and photographic collections to Bruce Springsteen and Philosophy.

But, while impressive, the number of books about Springsteen is small compared to some other solo artists who have been inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

We worked this out by counting every title that lists a given rock star as its subject. The undisputed victor, unsurprisingly, is Bob Dylan, with 138 three times as many as Springsteen.

John Lennon comes next with 98 titles, Elvis Presley ranks third with 97, while Michael Jackson and Bob Marley round out the top five.

The Beatles (as so often is the case) deserve special mention: the group was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988, but all four individual members were later inducted individually.

The British Library has 54 books about Paul McCartney, George Harrison is the subject of 19, while Ringo Starr has five books listed against his name.

Madonna is the only female artists that ranks in the top 10 with 53 titles about her a dozen more than Springsteen.

pop and rock stars who have inspired the most books

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Whats the best-designed album sleeve? The Beatles White Album or Kraftwerks Autobahn? Miles Daviss Tutu or Pixies Doolittle? Designers of modern album covers including Peter Saville, Vaughan Oliver and more pick their favourites

The Beatles The White Album (1968)

Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

Chosen by Jonathan Barnbrook, creator of the sleeves for David Bowies Heathen, Reality, The Next Day and Blackstar

Richard Hamiltons sleeve was really radical and ahead of its time and it still looks contemporary. By contrast to Peter Blakes vivid artwork for the Beatles previous album, Sgt Peppers, it was a plain white sleeve with the band name just embossed, almost invisible. There was a stamped number, which made each one unique. My parents had it first, but I thought it looked boring until I studied art. Once you understand the context, it gets really interesting. We think of design as for the present moment, but while music doesnt change, peoples feelings and relations to it do. So the sleeve becomes a reflection of that. It placed an avant-garde idea into the mainstream the cover is a blank space on which you can project your fantasies. A few years ago, this guy had a record shop selling nothing but old copies of the White Album. People had drawn on them, made coffee cup rings on them or whatever and each one was different, because it had lived a life. On the vinyl edition of Blackstar, you can see the record and, over time, watch it decay. Its trying to say: Thats reality.

Grateful Dead Aoxomoxoa (1969)

Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

Chosen by Roger Dean, designer of more than 100 fantastical album covers, most famously for Yes

By the end of the 60s, we had people walking on the moon and Concorde zooming across the Atlantic in three-and-a-half hours. The future seemed right around the corner. At the same time, there was this incredible psychedelic movement going on. It felt as if everything could be different. The musicians were making new worlds. I was obsessed with designing the future, but the graphic designers of the day were hardwiring it into our existing culture with their decades-old design and fonts. Thats why Rick Griffins cover had such a powerful effect on me, and is still my favourite sleeve. He had changed the use of lettering completely but it was still legible. The painting looks as if it comes from a completely other world. It seemed to be saying to me that the rules were bullshit, that we could do anything we wanted. As an art student, this was like being given the keys to a prison door. I didnt copy it, but it allowed me to do my own thing. The album is OK, but the cover is blisteringly amazing. When I look at it, I see freedom.

Kraftwerk Autobahn (1974)

Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

Chosen by Peter Saville, famed for his work with New Order, Joy Division and Factory Records

Autobahn was the first album I ever bought, after I heard the single on the radio. In 1974, as a teenager who had never been abroad, listening to the full 22-minute title track while staring at the autobahn symbol on the sleeve felt like being taken on a journey. I was on a European highway, in a soundscape crafted by classically trained musicians, seeing cathedrals and power stations, villages and skyscrapers, ancient and modern, in time as well as distance. It was a continental tour from gothic to postmodern, from the dark ages to Brigitte Bardot with the pulsebeat of a speeding vehicle. All defined in a simple symbol. As a fledgling visual artist, this was my first lesson in semiotics. I realised that visual codes acted as keys to unlock the huge range of potential awareness in an audience. Four years later, when I was asked to do the poster for the first night of the Factory club, I noticed an industrial warning sign on a workshop door at art college: Use hearing protection. Id been thinking Factory … new music … industrial city and realised: Thats it! My Autobahn moment.

Hawkwind In Search of Space (1971)


Chosen by Malcolm Garratt AKA Assorted Images, designer of classic artwork for Buzzcocks, Magazine, Duran Duran and Simple Minds

At my grammar school, you displayed your allegiances via the album you carried under your arm: Deep Purple in Rock, Genesiss Nursery Cryme and so on. The longhairs were outsiders, but to be ever more apart, you carried Hawkwind. The designer, Barney Bubbles, was a genius. This wasnt just a square of card. It unfolded out to a rough hawk shape. On the front, there was this post-psychedelic, pre-electro, sci-fi mandala. On the back, there were no track titles, just a completely blurred picture of them playing live (which seemed to replicate the Hawkwind live experience) and the words: Technicians of spaceship Earth, this is your captain speaking, your captain is dead. Coming with a booklet of countercultural images and texts, it really broke convention for album packaging. It inspired me graphically, with its geometric shapes and fluorescent colours, and I became immersed in an alternative lifestyle and took psychedelic drugs. On one trip in Scotland, I was convinced I could see aliens landing, I experienced synaesthesia and distinctly remember listening to this album through my teeth. When the Sex Pistols came along, I realised this outsider attitude applied equally to another counterculture, punk.

Iggy Pop Lust for Life (1977)

Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

Chosen by Vaughan Oliver, who defined the visual aesthetic of the 4AD label in the 80s

I wanted to design record sleeves from the moment I went to see a Roger Dean lecture in Durham when I was 15. His sleeves werent about how the band looked, but the use of imagination. In my work, Im keen on the ambiguous and the mysterious. This sleeve is the complete antithesis of my philosophy, but I like its innocence and directness. Im not a fan of the graphics, but this image given what Iggy was going through in 1977 with heroin addiction is just extraordinary. Andy Kents photograph isnt the depiction of a wasted rocknroller one might expect. Iggys a beautiful man, aged 30, but its like a high-school photograph and totally fits the words Lust for Life. I bought it when I was at Newcastle Polytechnic, probably because of David Bowies involvement. The sleeve seemed confrontational and unexpected. Iggy looks like a childrens TV presenter or someone about to present the weather forecast, but the record inside is raw and harrowing. Its the absolute opposite of everything conjured up by the sleeve. I love that.

Pixies Doolittle (1989)

Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

Chosen by Tash Willcocks, Manchester-based illustrator behind sleeves such as Elbows Asleep in the Back

I was brought up in a house in Cornwall where no one listened to music. When I was a teenager, my friends bought this album and showed me it. In 1989, I had never seen anything like it. The combination of Simon Larbalestiers photography and Vaughan Olivers design and typography was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I thought: Whatever that is, thats what I want to do. I had always been a messy person, but suddenly everything made sense. I realised that in art and design, you can get your hands dirty, make mistakes and embrace them. Before this, to me, a record cover meant a boyband on a sleeve, which made me want to puke, but here was something I could emotionally engage with. It gave me no answers, only a million questions. Why are the letters like this? Why is the print over the top of everything? I cant even remember playing it, just staring at it and it taking over my brain. It gave me permission to be me, which has influenced everything in my life.

Rammellzee Vs K-Rob Beat Bop (1983)


Chosen by Tony Hung, artist behind Blurs The Magic Whip

Jean-Michel Basquiats artwork brought this great hip-hop 12in from 1983 to my attention in a record shop in Manchester. The cover is typically Basquiat. In the context of a record sleeve, he brings something unconventional, bold, playful, thought-provoking, raw and engaging while maintaining an unlaboured feel. All the surfaces including the record labels are something to behold, and perfectly suit the music within. Despite being 33 years old, this work feels more potent than ever, when much of our daily eyeline is bombarded with overstylised, computer-perfected, market-led noise. Armed with just a paint stick, Basquiat effortlessly cuts through it all. Its life-affirming. It reminds me I am a human being and to be a human being, to be instinctive, and that with just primitive tools, we can still make joyful and fulfilling work.

Joy Division Unknown Pleasures (1979)


Chosen by Dan Hillier, winner of the 2014 Best Art Vinyl award for the cover of Royal Bloods debut album

I was five or six when this came out in 1979, and didnt know anything about Joy Division, but its one of those images that has always been about. When I was younger, I didnt know what it was or understand it, but something about the graphic always appealed. I later found out that Peter Savilles sleeve design depicts a frequency wave from the first known pulsar, but it could equally be a landscape or depict musical frequencies. My experience of the music on records has always been influenced to some degree by the cover art, and this is dark and bleak and jagged, which is perfect for that album. After Royal Blood used my Pachamama image for their album, their manager and I agreed we would have preferred not to have words on the cover. On the front of Unknown Pleasures, theres no band name or text, so no marketing or conventional enticement. It has something akin to the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey about it, like a communication from somewhere unknown. Its mysterious, dark and self-contained.

Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy (1973)

Photograph: Alicia Canter for the Guardian

Chosen by Carson Ellis, award-winning illustrator and sleeve designer for the Decemberists, Weezer and Laura Veirs

This has been my favourite album cover for as long as I can remember. Hipgnosis did lots of the great 70s sleeves and this is weird, timeless and iconic. I recently did a cover for an album of Zeppelin covers called From the Land of Ice and Snow and redrew the Houses of the Holy image in my own style. So Ive spent a lot of time with it. Its a photo collage image of nymph-like, mermaid-like, naked children actually a brother and sister climbing Giants Causeway, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Zeppelin combine blues with fantasy and JRR Tolkien, and all that is on the cover. It seems to signify otherworldliness, something primal and social taboos. Theres something vaguely sexualised about the children, but whatever sexuality its alluding to is subtle enough that you can shrug it off. On the cover of the Decemberists What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, I drew a stylised, flat depiction of a naked woman, with tiny pink dots for nipples. I was told that big stores wouldnt stock it. They were the most benign, non-sexual nipples that anyone ever had.

Miles Davis Tutu (1986)

Photograph: Irving Penn

Chosen by Cey Adams, designer of Def Jam Recordings sleeves from the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Jay Z

This is one of Miles Daviss last recordings, in his avant-garde period its named after Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Its just a stark photograph by Irving Penn of Miles looking straight on, and the edges are faded black [the cover was designed by Eiko Ishioka]. I was taken by the fact that an artist could have a cover without his name on it, and Miles Davis was obviously so popular that he could do that. Miles always had very powerful features, and the texture and detail in his face shows the journey of his career and how much he put into it. I was drawn to the album by that intense, beautiful stare. I modelled my career on Miles in terms of wanting to push boundaries. For example, Public Enemys Fear of a Black Planet was conceptual art, which no one had done in hip-hop before. However, I was so moved by the Tutu cover that when the time came to do LL Cool Js greatest hits album, All World, I applied the same idea to an Albert Watson photograph of LL. There was type on the front, but it was on a shinkwrap that peeled off. It was my homage to Tutu.

Parliament Motor Booty Affair (1978)


Chosen by Joe Buckingham, designer of various De La Soul sleeves including De La Soul Is Dead

Ive always liked album sleeves that double as construction kits. I had a Jefferson Airplane album that you could take apart and build into a fully three-dimensional cigar box. The inner sleeve was an image of marijuana, and that sat in the box, so it looked as if it was filled with grass. In this field, though, this Parliament cover is king and is still my all-time favourite sleeve. It was a gatefold with a pop-up element. If you laid the album flat, this fantasy castle popped up along with various characters you could cut out and stand up in the castle. There were tons of illustrations, and the cover featured a giant bird coming down on the albums Sir Nose character. There was just so much to look at in Overton Loyds artwork. It really piqued my imagination. I think subconsciously the starkness and simplicity of the cover image against a white background seeped into how I designed De La Soul Is Dead.

Marvin Gaye Here, My Dear (1978)


Chosen by Scott Sandler, Grammy-nominated designer of artwork for everyone from Def Jam to Lil Wayne to the Rolling Stones

I love this because of the story behind it and the way the cover works with the music. In the mid-70s, Marvin Gaye had had two enormous albums in Whats Going On and Lets Get It On, but was going through an acrimonious divorce from Anna Gordy. They agreed a deal whereby she wouldnt get any money, but would get all the proceeds of his next album, which looked guaranteed to be the biggest record ever. Instead, he sabotaged the deal by making a wilfully uncommercial album, full of songs about their relationship, although its now seen as another classic. Gaye gave Michael Bryan, the artist, very specific instructions, so the cover features the singer looking like a Greek god. The artwork includes the words love and marriage and judgment and it unfolds to a picture of him handing her this itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny record. Thats dark, but mostly a record just features a photo of the band. This is a total concept, a snapshot of his state of mind and an amazing art piece.

U2 Boy (1980)


Chosen by Alison Fielding, Beggars Banquet Group creative director, who has designed for the Prodigy, the Specials and the Horrors

When I was about 13, I heard I Will Follow when I was listening to the John Peel show on headphones. I thought it was amazing, and immediately went to this little local shop that sold TVs as well as records, and ordered it. At that point, I had no idea what it would look like. When I got it, I just thought it was so beautiful, I stared at it for hours. I dont care much for the graphics, but its very evocative of a time in my life that shaped my love of music, and theres something almost Mona Lisa-like about the photograph on the sleeve. Does it capture innocence, or something darker? They used the same boy two albums later for War, by which point he has a split lip. So theres a narrative developing. When I was about 13 or 14, I had this big blue Adidas bag for school, and I wrote U2 on it in really big lettering in ballpoint pen, but messily and badly. That was my first attempt at graphics.

Bjrk Homogenic (1997)


Chosen by Rochelle Nembhard, who worked on the acclaimed cover for Petite Noirs La Vie Est Belle

I like covers that relate directly to the musician, more than abstract images. I like some abstract images, but those covers could be anyone. Homogenic is a piece of art, and the fact that she used Alexander McQueen to design it was amazing. Its a fusion between African and Asian the African necklaces and the Asian dress that stands the test of time. I love all Bjrks covers for that reason they all show an aspect of her. The visual aspect of music, the album cover, is important, because it is a picture of the music, depicting the sound. It should be so much more than just a one-dimensional image it has to be the face of the music. Thats what I was trying to do with Petite Noir, working with the artist Lina Viktor. I knew she had the type of imagery that would translate into his music and stand the test of time.

Scritti Politti Work in Progress EP (1979)


Chosen by Matthew Cooper, designer for Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, Hot Chip and many more

I love the DIY aesthetic of the first edition of Elvis Presleys first album, later homaged by Ray Lowry for the Clashs London Calling sleeve. The wonky type looks like it has been cut out and stuck on by hand. Theres another musician awkwardly cropped in the photo of Elvis. Nowadays, the record company would ask you to Photoshop him out. The immediacy of the image and graphics make a statement of intent: Here I am. Many years and genres after that was released, the same aesthetic inspired me when I came across this EP of Scritti Polittis second John Peel session in Chick-A-Boom Records in Sutton Market, some years after it came out in 1979 on Rough Trade Records. The sleeve was just a plastic bag with two bits of photocopied paper in it. One of them listed the entire costs of making the record, including 65 for 5,000 plastic covers. The other photocopy was of a bag of crisps, a badge and some sugar. It demystified the entire process and I realised that I could do something similar at the local library. So I took loads of stuff down and started photocopying it.


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You get none of the credit and do a lot of the work: whod be a drummer? Deirdre OCallaghan asks some of the best in the world. Introduction by Stella Mozgawa of Warpaint

Im not sure what kind of person makes a drummer, because they are so wildly different. The star of Whiplash and a 14-year-old kid in a punk band have a different set of goals, even though they are expressing themselves through the same instrument. You have to be a certain kind of person to want to play music seriously. There is a type that sees the value in sticking to it.

When I was at primary school, boys never let me near a drum kit, because girls cant play drums. But while other kids learned instruments and became disillusioned, I always had this little fire in my belly. Even now, when I play drums, I still feel like an excited teen.

A lot of drummers are studious and read percussion notation, but I started off hitting pillows to video clips of Hanson songs in the living room. The bands drummer, Zac, was 11, tiny and on TV. Everyone needs that moment of realisation I can do that! and seeing a kid my age and stature in a successful band was mine.

My mum was a singer and my dad played bass; he bought me my first drum kit for my 12th birthday. I took lessons with a local jazz teacher, but after a couple of months he told my dad he wanted to let me follow my own path. I thought it was really cool of him to say, let her teach herself all these songs, she has a good ear. I found the best learning process was sitting at my drum kit, headphones on, listening to songs by Tool and Led Zeppelin, music that had intense drumming.

Performing well has a lot to do with feeling relaxed and confident, as opposed to warm-ups before a show. Its important to do the best work you can, to honour the composition and nail the parts youre playing, but its difficult to have an achievement that is separate from everyone else. As a band, you are a package: its a very emotional experience, with the same three people every night over an extended period of time.

Outside Warpaint, Ive played with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kurt Vile and Regina Spektor. When I play more aggressive stuff, I can snap two pairs of sticks a gig. Its a different game now: Warpaint dont go that hard.

I dont get nervous before shows, but sometimes, on TV, I get a cramp in my hand muscles. Something just hits me and I grip the sticks differently like a monkey, rather than a human who has practised this for a decade.

Drumming suits my personality more than being a singer in the spotlight. I dont want to be famous. As a child playing Steely Dan in my bedroom, I would close my eyes and fantasise about playing a massive festival; I never wondered what it would be like to hook up with Leo DiCaprio.

(Top picture: Deap Vallys Julie Edwards, photographed by Deirdre OCallaghan at the bands rehearsal space, Los Angeles)

Stephen Morris, New Order and Joy Division

Stephen Morris, photographed in his home studio, UK. Photograph: Deirdre O’Callaghan

In Manchester, in the early 1970s, there was very little to do; it was all grey. If you wanted to hear music, you had to go to concerts at the Free Trade Hall and the Stoneground to see bands like Genesis. Phil Collins was an interesting drummer, and probably still is. When punk came along, you pushed all those records under your bed and pretended you never liked them at all.

Joy Division were called Warsaw then. I saw two ads in a magazine. One was Drummer wanted: Warsaw and the other was Drummer wanted: the Fall. I thought, hmm, I could probably do both. But I phoned up [Joy Division frontman] Ian Curtis and got the job.

It was really difficult getting a gig because there werent that many venues. Nobody liked punk bands. It was us versus the establishment; we quite liked being on the outside of it all. There was the bloody Manchester mafia, where the Drones would get gigs, and the Buzzcocks, and everybody else but we couldnt get a gig. So when you did, youd really go for it.

We knew Tony Wilson, who became our manager; he saw us, and everyone thought we were fantastic, even though it was probably more anger that set us apart. And then people started getting interested.

Working with our producer Martin Hannett on the album Unknown Pleasures was interesting and infuriating. Youd listen to it and wonder how it had got from what you imagined, which was very raw and live and raucous, to the way it sounded. It was like, whats he done? I had to record all the drums separately. Martin wanted the bass drum in the ballroom, and the snare drum in a tin can, and the hi-hat in a little cardboard box which is dead easy to do now, but not then.

The worst was Love Will Tear Us Apart. We had recorded it, and I had done the drums over and over again. We were staying in a flat in Baker Street in London, and I had just got my head down when the phone went. Its bloody Martin: he wants us to come back and do the snare drum. Every time I hear Love Will Tear Us Apart, all I can hear is the anger of being dragged out of bed.

Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Grinderman, Sonic Youth and the Cramps)

Jim Sclavunos, photographed at home, New York. Photograph: Deirdre O’Callaghan

Im mostly self-taught, but for a few weeks I took lessons from Jim Payne, an esteemed drummer and teacher. He taught me many things, one of which has stuck with me the admonition that in order to be properly balanced on ones throne so that all limbs can move freely and independently, one must have a relaxed asshole. Thats very important wisdom for any student of the instrument.

The key moment of my recording career happened very early on: I was listening to a playback of a song I had just recorded, and was dismayed by the loud clicking sound that was meant to be the sonic representation of my kick drum. I resolved to understand more about the sound of drums, and about producing. I had my own particular sound that I felt was unique, if raw, and much better.

Leroy Horsemouth Wallace (Burning Spear, Dennis Brown, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Studio One session drummer)

Leroy Horsemouth Wallace, photographed at home in Jamaica. Photograph: Deirdre O’Callaghan

I still play music because, like my friend Bob Marley, I have a dream. I still hear him in my ears. He says: Horsemouth, go there and do it. You are there. Maybe you are the only one left.

The drumsticks I played with in Rockers [the 1978 reggae film] werent real. I couldnt find mine, so I took two posts out of some old chairs in the back of a hotel. Its not about the drumsticks, its you. A lot of drummers dont master the beat; you can see it in their faces, theyre dying for the song to be done.

You make your own space. Reggae represents a lot of things. Its several beats in one. Its hip-hop, Tchaikovsky in everything you play, there is a reggae beat.

Larry Mullen Jr (U2)

Larry Mullen Jr, photographed in Ireland. Photograph: Deirdre O’Callaghan

I formed the band in Dublin in 1975, around the time of the punk explosion: it seemed anything was possible. Being able to play your instrument proficiently was the least important part; attitude was essential, which was really great news for us we were not accomplished musically, but had a singer with attitude. At school, we rehearsed on Wednesday afternoons in Mr McKenzies music room the first song we wrote was called Wednesday Afternoon. We argued endlessly over musical indiscretions we still do.

I was a huge glam rock fan. In 1973, Cozy Powell released Dance With The Devil, which reached No 3 in the UK charts. Its a rare and beautiful thing for a drummer to have a chart hit. But if glam, pop and rock, along with Dance With The Devil, were my wake-up call, then Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane would become my most important benchmarks, with one of the all-time great rock drummers, Woody Woodmansey, playing on all three. I had no clue what Bowie was singing about.

Carla Azar (Autolux)

Carla Azar, photographed in her studio, California. Photograph: Deirdre O’Callaghan

When I was four, I went to a football game with my parents in Huntsville, Alabama. There was a drum line playing right behind us. In retrospect, they were probably not very good, but I remember turning around and being mesmerised.

The most addictive thing to me in music is spontaneity, chaos and honesty especially when playing live. I feel the most satisfaction when I finish and I dont understand how I played some of the things I played.

Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Them Crooked Vultures)

Dave Grohl, photographed at home in Los Angeles. Photograph: Deirdre O’Callaghan

In Nirvana, I never got recognised. I lived this perfect existence: I was in one of the biggest bands ever, but I could walk in the front door of a gig and no one would know. I could get up and play those great songs with my friends and watch people go bananas.

Some of my favourite drummers would be considered some of the worst of all time because their tempo fluctuates so much, or there is inconsistency but its the passion that interests me. I cant do a solo. I never practise by myself. Its like, Id never really dance alone.

As a drummer, its your responsibility to make sure this thing gets off the ground, but you dont expect any thanks. Youre there to serve the song; youre there to get people to move. They might not really know why theyre dancing, but its you.

Ive always been fascinated by the Ringo Starr debate. Was he a great drummer? Of course he was a great drummer: you hear three and a half seconds of his playing and you immediately know its him.

Bobbye Hall (Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Stevie Nicks, Carole King, Bruce Springsteen)

Bobbye Hall, photographed in the desert, California. Photograph: Deirdre O’Callaghan

I would be lulled to sleep by listening to the blues. I knew that instead of using words I wanted to play and, being an only child, I had a chance to do that. My parents needed to work things out and, for me, beating on pots and pans was a way of not involving myself with what the adults were doing.

I came to Hollywood on 15 January 1970. I had a 30-day ticket: either I make it or Im gone. And Im still here. I stayed at a residence for women in the industry. I had a friend, and I would come home and she would ask: How was your session? And I would say: Well, I was working for this group, they call em the Doors, I think. And shed go: Oh my God, youre kidding me. I had not a clue.

When you play, there is a place you go. Its not something you do: it happens to you. Its almost like abduction: you came back and you looked at your watch and it was a different time.

Ringo Starr (The Beatles)

Ringo Starr, photographed in his home studio, California. Photograph: Deirdre O’Callaghan

In 1952, I was in hospital with TB for 10 months. To keep us busy, they brought us instruments. They gave me a drum, and from that moment on I wanted to be a drummer. I loved the blues and tried to emigrate to Houston, Texas, when I was 19, to live near Lightnin Hopkins, but there were too many forms to fill out. Then Elvis came in.

I think rhythm comes with the body, and my timing comes with my heartbeat. I try to teach this to kids; some get the idea, some dont. But you cant hurt the kids feelings, so I say: Maybe you should play piano or guitar. You can put a lot of time in and play good piano, but I dont think that happens with drums.

On Sgt Peppers, I had this new kit, the maple kit. It had actual skin heads, calf heads, which I had never had before: from the 60s onwards, it was all plastic. Theyre so deep, and I was always looking for depth. You see pictures of me where I have towels over the drums and cigarette packs anything to give it more body.

Pauli The PSM (Gorillaz, Damon Albarn)

Prier was at the heart of the pop explosion of the 1960s, capturing homegrown stars such as Jacques Dutronc and Johnny Hallyday along with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Miles Davis

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Paul McCartneys biographer picks out the best work in a field that has often been marked by leaden paragraphs overstuffed with show-offy facts

Writing about the Beatles has saddled me with two heavy burdens. The first is that almost everyone considers themselves an expert on what the bands publicist Derek Taylor called the 20th centurys greatest romance. Ive noticed that many of these self-appointed sages hate to hear something about the subject that they dont already know. My new biography of Paul McCartney was full of revelations about his life, in and after the Beatles, yet from many quarters still brought that resentful chorus of nothing new here.

The second, long-term burden is becoming classified as a rock biographer. In Britain, writing about rock music still isnt really taken seriously and, by and large, doesnt deserve to be. In the US, by contrast, its taken far too seriously, with the earnest, plodding pair Greil Marcus and Peter Guralnick vying for supremacy in the field. To me, their combined surnames suggests a new verb, to greilnick ie churn out leaden paragraphs overstuffed with show-offy facts, yet be unable to create a compelling narrative or convey character or atmosphere.

In listing my top 10 Beatles books, Ive omitted most of the best-known full biographies. One reason is that theyre often by American authors who combine greilnicking with laughable ignorance of British culture. (In Bob Spitzs the Beatles, for example, teenage John Lennon learns of his mother Julias tragic death from police arriving by squadcar, whereas in late-50s Liverpool it would just have been a lone copper on a bike.) Most of my choices are peripheral works, illuminating a specific era or personality.

When I embarked on Shout! my Beatles biography in the late 70s, friends and journalistic colleagues told me I was mad; there was nothing more to know. Indeed, at the beginning I was almost embarrassed to mention the B-word, saying instead I was writing about popular culture in the 60s. How different from today, when the appetite for Fab Four trivia seems inexhaustible. If I proposed a book of Ringos collected laundry lists, publishers would form a queue.

1. Love Me Do: The Beatles Progress by Michael Braun
Braun was a 27-year-old New Yorker working in London, who presciently joined the Beatles 1963-64 British tour and so was on hand for their first breakthrough in the US with I Want to Hold Your Hand. Though American, he was no greilnicker but a gifted reporter whose fly-on-the-wall account prefigured many later scenes in A Hard Days Night. Braun paid a high price for this amazing access: John later admitted the Beatles had been bastards to him and photographer Dezo Hoffman remembered them throwing him a lamb chop from a room-service trolley as if he was a dog.

2. Paul McCartney:
Many Years From Now by Barry Miles
An authorised biography. Formerly known simply as Miles, the author was a co-founder of Indica, the art gallery and bookshop that became the epicentre of Londons underground scene in the mid-60s (and where John famously met Yoko Ono). Initially, Paul intended the book to deal solely with his London years, proving how he, not John, was the first to explore the avant garde, but Miles convinced him to include his childhood as well. The result is part-biography, part-autobiography, with long, fascinating first-person reminiscences by its subject. But theres little about his marriage to Linda and nothing about their much-criticised career in Wings.

3. Daddy Come Home by Pauline Lennon
John grew up believing that his father, Freddy, a ships steward, had deserted his wife and child when John was a toddler. That feeling of abandonment continued to haunt him even as a Beatle, finally erupting in an anguished shriek of Daddy, come home! on the first Plastic Ono Band album. Having reappeared in Johns life in the mid-60s, 54-year-old Freddy astonished everyone by marrying 19-year-old university student Pauline Jones, with whom he had two further children. Joness memoir casts him in a more sympathetic and believable light.

4. The Longest Cocktail Party by Richard DiLello
One of many American flower children who washed up in London in the late 60s, DiLello became Apples house hippy. His sharp-eyed account runs from the early days, when the Beatles business was plundered by con artists and freeloaders, to the arrival of Allen Klein and the reign of terror that followed. Along the way, he assists in ticklish PR projects like promoting John and Yokos film Self-Portrait. When this extended study of the Lennon penis is boycotted by conventional reviewers, Yoko comments that the critics wouldnt touch it.

5. Magical Mystery Tours: My Life With the Beatles by Tony Bramwell
Bramwell was one of the many babies delivered by Pauls midwife mother, Mary; his house was on Georges round as a butchers delivery boy. As the Beatles grew more famous on Merseyside, long before they had roadies, hed carry their guitars into gigs, becoming so ubiquitous that John nicknamed him Measles. His rollicking autobiography describes how he worked for Brian Epsteins NEMS company, became an indispensable aide to Paul in particular witness to the very moment that he fell in love with Linda and later successively head of Apple Films and Apple Records.

6. Lennon Remembers by Jann S Wenner
The full text of a marathon interview John gave to Rolling Stones co-founder in 1970, just as the bands breakup was moving into its final chaotic phase. Like an extension of the therapy he was undergoing, it pours out Johns frustration during years straitjacketed by the Beatles image and his bitterness at media attacks on Yoko. It swipes at George and Paul even downgrades the Beatles incomparable producer George Martin to a mere translator. What was all that shit about, John, Martin finally got the chance to ask just a few months before Lennons murder in 1980. The reply?: Out of me head, wasnt I?

7. The Man Who Gave the Beatles Away by Allan Williams
In later years, Williams competed with Pete Best as the worst case of what I call Liverpool eyes the tragic gaze of those left behind when the Beatles conquered the world. His coffee bar, the Jacaranda, was the favourite hangout for a band he initially termed a right load of layabouts. He nonetheless got them their first work in Hamburg, driving them there in his own beaten-up van. But after theyd avoided paying his commission, he let Brian Epstein take over. This book, ghosted by Daily Mirror journalist William Marshall, has the authentic reek of Liverpool back alleys circa 1961.

8. All You Need Is Ears by George Martin
The first of the much-mourned Sir Georges two autobiographies, describing the career path studying oboe at the Guildhall School of Music, producing classical music and comedy records by the Goons and Peter Sellers that seemed least likely to lead to the greatest pop act of all time. And how that left him uniquely qualified him to help Lennon and McCartney to their undreamed heights.

9. As Time Goes By by Derek Taylor
Though Taylor started as a journalist, his unique wit was too subtle to work in cold print. This is mainly a collection of music-press articles written between his two stints as the Beatles press officer when, as he recalled, I was a Hollywood character, which is easy if youre a murderer or a twat or know a line of Keats. One piece of reportage captures the authentic Derek tone in a classic instance of Pauls readiness to perform anywhere. Driving down from the north on a golden summers evening in 1968, they followed a signpost to a village called Harrold simply because they liked the name. Thrilled by this whimsical visit, the villagers laid on a sumptuous cold supper, then they all adjourned to the pub where Paul sat down at the piano for a first sneak preview of Hey Jude.

10. The Lives of John Lennon by Albert Goldman
Included as a masterclass in how not to write a biography of a pop star or anyone else. Firstly, for its blitz of untruths (John is portrayed as a schizophrenic, epileptic, autistic, bisexual killer and wife-beater) which often contradict one another. Secondly, for its ludicrous ignorance (to take just one random instance, the British police are said to wear balaclava helmets). Thirdly, for the sheer futility of writing an 800-plus book about a musician and a music its author despises. Even if the subject is a monster (which John wasnt) your first duty as a biographer is to love your monster.

Paul McCartney: the Biography by Philip Norman is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in hardback priced 25, and is available from the Guardian bookshop for 21.25. It is also available as an ebook, priced 12.99.

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