In February 1967, legendary French photographer Jean-Marie Perier found himself camped for a week in a makeshift photographic studio,  inside the Abbey Road recording studios, while the Beatles were in the midst of recording Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

“I will tell you my first and my last memories of The Beatles.” said Jean-Marie, when I spoke to him a couple of days ago. 

“The first was in 1963. I had just met them at Brian Epstein’s office. I didn’t speak English very well and their accents were hard for me to understand – but I had heard their music and I wanted to find a way that they would remember me. And so I took them into the studio, where I gave each of them a cigarette and a lighter. Then I asked my assistant to shut down all the lights in the studio. It was total darkness. I told them: “Light your cigarettes please !” I quickly made the pictures, like 45 seconds. Clic clac, thank you Kodak. “Let’s put the light back on.” Then I shook their hands and said: “Goodbye guys and thank you.” Well, they did remember me, and that’s why I was able to work with them from time to time over the coming years.”

“The last was four years later, in 1967. Brian Epstein had hired me to shoot some record sleeves. It all happened in February during the recording of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I had to build a photo studio inside the Abbey Road studio building, in a room next to their recording studio. I stayded there for one week. They needed group pictures of the four, so I had to wait a long time since it seemed there was always one of them hanging around somewhere – talking to the angels!” 

The Beatles sport four fine moustaches for Jean-Marie Perier, February 1967
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One of the most famous photographs from that February 1967 session was used on the front cover of the picture sleeve of the double A-side single, “Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane”. Jean-Marie deliberately set up the lighting behind the band, to create the desired effect. Sadly most of the session photographs were lost over the years, but Jean-Marie does still have a variant of the “Strawberry Fields” cover photograph in his archive, and this is available to purchase as a signed limited edition in a choice of sizes. This variant is close to the sleeve shot – and is as close as it gets.

Incredible to think that this titanic disc was held at number two in the UK charts by none other than Engelbert Humperdinck. Crazy times.

Strawberry Fields cover variant by Jean-Marie Perier
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Without a doubt my favourite photograph from the sessions is this shot of The Beatles in front of a yellow pop art explosion on a red background. This seldom-seen photograph is available to purchase as a signed limited edition in a range of sizes, including a staggering six foot square (1.8mx1.8m) version.

In this image, John, Ringo and Paul are cracking up, while George is caught in reflective mode. One of the reasons I like it so much is that you get to see the clothes they were wearing on the “Strawberry Fields” shot much more clearly, as this photograph is lit more traditionally, towards the band. You’ve got to love Ringo’s shirt, and the blazer that John Lennon is sporting. Although the image is at the top of this news item, let’s look at it again here.

The Beatles go Pop, by Jean-Marie Perier
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