Eyes of the Storm

By Paul McCartney



288pp/$75.00/June 2023

1964: Eyes of the Storm
Cover by Stefi Orazi Studio

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

In 2015, Ringo Starr published Photograph, pictures he had taken throughout his years with the Beatles. He wasn't the only Beatle who was a shutterbug, and Paul McCartney has published his own collection of photos from the Beatles era. Whereas Starr's collection covered several years, McCartney has elected to focus on a single year in 1964: The Eyes of the Storm, a title that evokes not only the craziness of Beatlemania, but, coincidentally, Starr's own past playing with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes.

The book is divided into six chapters, beginning with the Beatles in their hometown of Liverpool and McCartney sharing their adventures in London, Paris, New York, Washington, D.C., and Miami. When the Beatles were in Liverpool, there was no way they could anticipate what it would be like to arrive in New York the following month to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, although the reader has some inkling about what they are about to experience. The book covers their appearances on Sullivan as well as their first concert at the Washington Coliseum. Although the book is titled for 1964, it only covers a period from December 7, 1963 through February 21, 1964, just over two months. The rest of the year is covered textually in a timeline at the end of the book.

While most of the photos do seem to be giving an "eyes of the storm" view, showing the calmness the Beatles were able to enjoy away from the adoring crowds, McCartney also includes photos, such as a two-page spread on pages 180-181 showing the screaming crowds held back by police, and then shots of their police security over the next couple of pages. Running paparazzi are also included to remind the reader that while the Beatles may have had moments of calmness, they were surrounded by forces they had inadvertently set in motion, but couldn't control.

Interestingly, McCartney doesn't include pictures of some of the major events of the period the book covers, perhaps because those are so well photographed. There are no pictures of the Beatles meeting Cassius Clay in Miami, The concert in Washington is represented by one photo of the Coliseum's marquee (with a couple pictures of the Capitol building and White House to set the scene), and only two photos from the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, both taken of the band during a rehearsal.

Although McCartney allows several of the photographs to stand on their own without captions, and others to have minimal captions, he also provides introductory essays to each chapter. Noting, for instance that in Miami, "the colours there were so vibrant," many of the photos from that part of the trip are, in fact color pictures. While many Beatles fans focus on their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, the period surrounding it tends to get short shrift, so having McCartney write about the three weeks they spent in Paris immediately before flying to the U.S. or their last days of normalcy in Liverpool and London, provides added context to taking America by storm.

While the photos are the main part of the book, McCartney's commentary is what makes the book worthwhile for Beatles fans. The images may capture their more candid moments, as well as showing the cities they were traveling through, but their official photographers have released similar images in the past. What sets the book apart is McCartney's view of what was happening at the time the pictures were taken, adding a personal dimension to the period of maximum Beatlemania.

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