When a 25-year-old Sunday Times photographer was called in to assist on a photo shoot for a pop group, he had no idea that he would be taking some of the most iconic photos ever of the biggest band of all time in what became the last official photo shoot before that band’s contentious breakup.
But that’s what happened to Tom Murray on July 28, 1968. With only two rolls of color film and a single camera, Murray unexpectedly spent an entire day with the Beatles, shooting 23 iconic photos — images that captured a free-spiritedness and playfulness that was never again seen from the band.
With the editorial help of writer Simon Weitzman and the design talents of Paul Skellet, this photographer tells his story of the wonder and excitement of this day in Tom Murray’s Mad Day Out, an exquisitely designed coffee table book that is part story, part photo album, and all art piece.
The book is more than the story of a single chance encounter with the Beatles. Murray begins with his own personal story, which includes his love of cars (something in common with the Beatles), his start in photography, and a fascinating long-term assignment in Africa. Yet it doesn’t take long until Murray takes us through the story of the most exciting assignment that a young photographer and music fan could get.
The bulk of the book focuses on the Mad Day Out shoot — a term Murray coined when describing the day to his mother. Murray describes the day in detail, his feelings as the shoot went on, and the technique he used to get some of the most vibrant, candid, and playful images taken of the Beatles during that era. In a clever epilogue to the story, Murray revisits the photo shoot locations, allowing the reader to see how the locations have changed in the 48 years since the Beatles played in those spots.
The most notable aspect of the book is Paul Skellet’s extraordinary design. Skellet uses a variety of colors, typoography, graphic styles, and creative use of negative space to create a book that is both evocative of a late-’60s aesthetic, while also being up-to-the-minute contemporary.
Beatles photos are interspersed with Murray’s other subjects (being a sought-after magazine photographer and the youngest person ever commissioned to work with the Royal Family, he has an illustrious catalogue) and illustrations to evoke not just a single day with the Beatles, but the feel of the era that spawned the Mad Day Out. The design is so rich that every page is a feast for the eyes, whether or not it contains an image of the Beatles.
Once the shoot was completed, the photos got locked in a drawer and stayed there until decades later, Murray started auctioning them off for charity. But it is only with this book that the collection has been released to the public. Tom Murray’s Mad Day Out was conceived as a limited-edition, direct-to-fans publication and premiered at the 2016 Fest for Beatles Fans in Chicago, IL. This book is an excellent addition to any Beatle fan’s collection and one that will be read and studied again and again.
Limited quantities of Tom Murray’s Mad Day Out with the Beatles are still available at the Fest for Beatles Fans store. Follow the project on Facebook for news, photos, and updates about future editions.