Been Working Like a Dog, Sleeping Like a Log
The Beatles A Hard Days Night: A Private Archive by Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn (Phaidon) is drawn from the extensive archive of Martha Karsh, which she obtained in 2001, and includes shooting script excerpts, film stills and a bottomless pit of ephemera. The story of how this material surfaced will make collectors envious and Beatles lovers overjoyed. The book is beautifully designed by Lorraine Wild. Being a Beatles film fanatic, I enjoyed learning from Karsh how this project came together.
How and why did you retain all your Beatles ephemera? We purchased the film from the estate of the producer, Walter Shenson, in 2001. We learned about the sale from a friend of ours who knew of our interest in The Beatles* and had gone to Oxford with the producer’s son who was selling the assets. (We own 100% of A Hard Day’s Night and we share ownership of Help 50-50 with The Beatles.)
When my husband Bruce negotiated the deal, he said he would meet the asking price as long as all the film-related items Walter had were included as well. All terms were agreed and shortly thereafter we received about 17 boxes full of items. From A Hard Day’s Night, there were carefully preserved negatives and an intact album of contact sheet prints—about 3,000 images. The rest—all the ephemera, including the marked up script, budget, newspaper clippings, stationery, ticket stubs, fan letters, telexes, etc.—was rather randomly scattered in boxes. We retained an archivist recommended by the folks at Apple Corps Ltd (The Beatles’ company) and had all of the material carefully preserved, organized and indexed. We felt it was important historical material that should be properly archived. We did not really know what we might do with it at the time but always felt that it deserved to be more widely shared.
(*My husband and youngest son, Michael, have long collected rock and roll memorabilia and some music publishing, including that of The Beatles, Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix and other greats.)
I once had every Tiger Beat and 16 Mag that had the Beatles featured and tried to copy their every gesture. Was this true for you? I was only 7 when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in 1964 and took the U.S. by storm, so I was not really old enough to collect those magazines. My husband was a year older and recalls his older sister being a passionate Beatles fan and having all those magazines—so he got to browse them. That introduction launched a lifelong fascination with their music and stories.
In creating the book, I envisioned it as the producer’s “private archive” and “lens,” so I restricted myself largely to the material we obtained from Shenson. Even with that “restriction,” I was astonished at how many mainstream (as well as teen fan) magazine covers featuring The Beatles were in the archive—certainly an indication of their immense popularity at that time.
Both Bruce and I grew to love The Beatles’ music more and more as we listened to it in the later ’60s and ’70s. Today it is, of course, among our favorite music, and the sheer breadth of The Beatles’ song catalog, as well as its pervasive influence on so many other musicians, is astonishing.
I saw Hard Day’s Night and Help over 25 times each when they played a double feature at Cinema Village in New York, on the weekend before my army draft exam and physical. I was dazed. What was your relationship to the films? It was less common in our modest childhood years (Bruce in St. Louis and me in McLean, VA) to see films repeatedly, but we both saw both films several times—Bruce’s sister more times. I did, like most young girls, have a “favorite” Beatle—and that was George! Bruce’s sister’s favorite was Paul, and still is! (We happily attended the MusiCares event several years ago where Paul was the honoree, as well as his Beverly Hills fundraiser for the land mine clearance organization, and his recent show at Desert Trip, among others.)
When Help was restored and rereleased, we attended the LA premiere—as did Ringo—and saw it again a few times. We attended both the U.S. and U.K. 50th anniversary premieres of A Hard Day’s Night. The U.K. premiere was at the BFI (British Film Institute) in London, and there we were thrilled to meet the film’s lovely director, Richard Lester; Giles Martin (son of The Beatles’ legendary music producer George Martin), himself a talented music producer, musician and songwriter; and Mark Lewisohn, one of the world’s top Beatles’ historians, and a delightful man and outstanding writer whom I later engaged to write the introduction, epilogue and captions for the book.
Bruce and I both especially love A Hard Day’s Night—the storyline, the energy, the characters, the music—and the way The Beatles are portrayed at a pivotal time of their stardom.
What is the greatest joy this book on A Hard Day’s Night has given you? This is easy, and it’s all in the creative process. From the moment I imagined this project, I envisioned two things:
1) A short, heartfelt Beatles-infused dedication to my husband recalling our wonderful 38 years together from young law students to spouses, professionals, philanthropists and parents of beloved grown children …
2) A Beatles “book-as-beautiful-object.” I had a particular vision for the cover—which I hoped would grace all manner of chic coffee tables. I wanted the cover to express the fun, high-energy vibe of the Beatles in the ’60s, as well as have a clean, modern look. Lorraine Wild instinctively understood this and her very first iteration of the cover was 90% there. The white background with raised Beatle figures that appear to be “jumping off the page” (much as they jumped around in the field to the tune of “Can’t Buy Me Love” in the film). The other 10%—very precise details of type, title, paper, cloth, finishes, colors and textures (both embossing and debossing), we joyfully and thoughtfully crafted together.
The beautiful interiors came together with a lot of thoughtful consideration, editing and curation of materials—another delightful collaborative effort by the designers, author, my assistant and me.
Having never created a book before, I came to learn that one only sees it in pieces until it is actually printed and done. In this case, that did not happen until July 2016 when I received the first prerelease copy, and, candidly, the finished book left me speechless.
So to answer your question: My greatest joy was first creating and then seeing the book actually finished, the whole so far exceeding the sum of the parts for me. The quality of the jacket, the cover, the silvery title, the glossy, rich red text and paper, the high-resolution prints and images, the authentic feel and appearance of the ephemera on textural tip-in paper, the glorious gatefold images, the lively and authoritative text—seeing the pieces assembled revealed a gorgeous sort of art-film-music-history project. And add to that the personal dedication: a song title and lyric from the film— “Happy Just to Dance with You”—that “says it all” to my husband, along with a family gift that honors his lifetime of generosity.
In short, I am most happy that the book sparkles, both personally for me and for other Beatles fans.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →