Armed with a camera, which had just one reel of film that could take only 12 photographs, 15-year-old photography student Andy Wright knew every picture had to count.
Wright’s assignment was to get some shots of Britain’s up and coming pop group, The Beatles, as they played a concert at the brand new Fairfield Halls in Croydon, South London in on April 25th, 1963.
The Liverpool group’s first Number One, From Me To You was in the charts for 36 weeks and was followed a few months later by the world’s biggest selling single, She Loves You.
However, the young Andy was not much excited as he was was more interested in holding the Rolleiflex camera steady than witnessing history in the making.
“To be honest, I was more of an Elvis Presley fan," said Andy yesterday. "I remember the first record I ever bought was Elvis singing All Shook Up. I was probably a bit awestruck but the Beatles had not attained their real fame and there was no real Beatlemania. To me, they were just a group playing at a venue in the town where I lived,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
When Andy’s set of photographs, showing the mop-haired group in their then trademark Beatle suits and Chelsea boots, were unearthed in his attic and shown to Fairfield’s officials, who decided to use them to mark the venue’s 50th anniversary.
Andy, who still had the negatives has been persuaded to license use of the pictures and has registered them with the world’s largest commercial picture agency, Getty Images.
“They should generate a significant return for Andy from global licensing rights,” Fairfield’s spokesman said. “They are potentially worth tens of thousands of pounds. We had been searching for pictures of The Beatles at Fairfield for years and had almost given up hope of ever finding any,” he said.
The concert came barely a month after the release of the band’s first LP, Please Please Me, and John, Paul, George and Ringo formed part of a Mersey Beat Showcase mini-tour featuring acts managed by their manager Brian Epstein.
Also on the bill – which The Beatles headed with John Leyton – were Gerry and the Pacemakers, Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas and The Big Three.
In the end, Leyton was ill and The Beatles topped the bill on their own for the 5.30pm and 8pm performances – with Ringo, as Andy’s pictures show, using The Dakotas’ drum kit.
As well as shots of the group in action – with George looking rather quizzically at the young photographer taking pictures in the wings – Andy also captured them relaxing backstage and with a woman who appears to be a radio journalist, identified only as Mrs Kirby.
“My father was a voluntary steward and got me into the concert for nothing. There was no security or anything in those days. You just walked in,” Andy said.
“I only had 12 pictures on my roll of film. Film was expensive back then. The picture of all four of them backstage was taken with the last shot I had. They were very nice to me but they were a bit shattered after the concert. I went home on the bus, developed the pictures, and proudly took them into the school the next day. I still have the Rollei camera I took pictures with,” he added.