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Eight Arms To Hold You: Behind The Rare Beatles Photo Book

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PledgeMusic is proud to host a new campaign for Eight Arms to Hold You, a forthcoming photo book featuring an important new archive of rare and previously unreleased photos of The Beatles. We recently asked Paul Skellett from Archivum Publishing about the new find, this special time period for the Fab Four, and the special first fans edition for those who pre-order the book.

It’s amazing that finding a forgotten archive of Beatles photographs is even possible. How was this discovery made?

After a discussion with Simon Wells about hidden or lost collections concerning The Beatles, and with Simon Weitzman and myself currently working with Glen Marks at Rex Features on a Lou Reed project for which we had been granted access to the archives at Rex, I decided to ask Glen the question, ‘So what exactly do you have on the Beatles?’ Glen said we were welcome to take a look.

I think for a long time the ‘media’ wanting to licence Beatles shots have always taken the low hanging fruit, the obvious choices, I mean, a journalist isn’t going to want an ’off-duty’ picture of The Beatles. What we went in search of and found were the obscure outtake type of shots, old contact sheets and prints/transparencies retired to now stiffening draws in the deepest rooms. Jackpot! The Beatles behind the scenes!

Do you have any particularly favourite photos of the new archive?

We have a lot to go through and scan. Some images do not truly come to light until scanned. It’s the reportage photos that I really like. As a long, long time Beatles fan, I’ve seen many photos of the Beatles. When you see some of these photos that give you a glimpse of each of the Beatles as an individual human, it helps you understand the dynamic of what brings four guys together to create this incredible force. With such a displacement of time now, the reportage shots look like scenes from a high production period movie. Everything captivates me, obviously the Beatles, the fashion, the architecture, cars, the whole lifestyle. You just can’t help getting all ‘rose tinted glasses’ about it all.

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How have the Beatles fans reacted to the project so far?

The reaction has been incredible, with offers of additional material and places for us to hold events. People just need to realise that it’s purchasing -- pledging -- for the book that is going to get this book made and bring this collection back to life. One image that I restored of George in the Alps got ‘liked’ 175,000 times in 24 hours.

Simon Weitzman has been pushing the PR and contacting all the clubs, and the response has been fantastic. We couldn’t be more pleased … well we could, we could be 100% pledge pleased but it’s getting there and a lot quicker than expected.

Where do you think “Help!” fits within the Beatles’ legacy? What made that such a special moment for the band?

“Help!” is very important for The Beatles. With the state of the nation as it was in ’64, even though Harold Wilson had hiked income tax, the buoyancy of the property market and full employment had led to youth culture consumer boom, all spearheaded by The Beatles. Their success inspired a succession of fashion designers, film makers, photographers, models and artisans populating what was to become know worldwide as swinging London. The Liverpool lads had succeeded in breaking down class barriers, elements of discrimination -- they were the first white group to publicly admit they were directly influenced by black musicians -- and northern accents became common place in broadcasting.

It’s important to point out that The Beatles took such a hold because they challenged convention and they were given massive platforms on which to show that you could be ‘natural’ and true to your own cause. (Yes, they compromised with Brian Epstein to get the show on the road, but as individuals within a unit they we’re always true to themselves.) Their ‘bite back’ humour and ‘take it as it comes’ confidence is what empowered a generation. They we’re often quoted as saying that anyone can do anything, we’re all just people, talent is overrated, it’s about applying yourself and believing you can. That’s how I’ve lived my life!

Another big boost that super-sized the boys was the fact that, for the majority, it was the first time they had seen their idols in colour, in colourful and in exotic locations, four northern lads now wealthy, international icons. What could be more aspirational for a working class youngster in 1965?

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Will the book include both black and white and colour photos?

The book will be filled with black and white, colour and toned images. It will also have a selection of paintings and illustrations that I will be doing specifically for this book. All of the photographs are being completely restored and remastered for this publication. The aim is to create the best reproduction of these photographs possible.

Although the book will consist of this fantastic archive, the photographs are illuminated by the writing of Simon Wells. Simon is our historian/researcher, and he has already written numerous successful books on The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and ’60s counterculture.

The book title is “Eight Arms To Hold You.” Was that the original title of the film? What led to the change and what does that mean?

Richard Lester wanted to call the film “Help!” from the very beginning, but as I understand it, the title was already registered so the lawyers said, ‘No.’ Ringo offered the title ‘Eight Arms to Hold You.’ It relates to the eight-armed Indian God statue that is a focal point in the script. The enthusiasm to write that as a title song was not great. Another phone call to the lawyer resulted in a question, ‘Does your ‘Help’ title have an exclamation mark after it? The rest is history, but the American release of the album still used the “Eight Arms…” title with “Help!” as a sub, maybe because they’d already engaged in promotions? Copies of the single “Ticket To Ride/Yes It Is” and early copies of the U.S.-released 45 single “Help!/I’m Down” are actually printed with “Eight Arms to Hold You” as the movie title instead of “Help!”.

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Can you tell us about the special 1st fans edition?

Well, the book is the same size as the vinyl albums. The original idea is that our Beatles books will compliment the vinyl releases, since you’ve got to think about how it all looks on the shelf. There will only be 965 copies printed in this edition. Fans get the opportunity to become a part of the process by submitting personal memorabilia for reproduction, and subsequently they get a credit within the book. Anyone purchasing this copy will also be entered into our competition, and the prize is a Hofner Violin Bass.

Anyone purchasing will also get a thank you name credit at the back of the book for being apart of this campaign. The books will be signed and numbered and will be of a quality equal to books usually reserved for a three figure price tag. We have said from the start that this is a book for the fans and archives should not remain dormant. We can liberate the archives and make the books, but if the fans can not afford them, what’s the point?

We’ve engaged our skills and committed ourselves as fans to perfect a process to cut out the unnecessary areas that add to the cost, so that we can deliver a high quality product to those who are going to appreciate it.

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Will this book use all the photo’s in the “forgotten archive” or is it possible more books may come out in the future?

“Eight Arms…” is the result of looking through a large selection of images spanning The Beatles careers. We realised that there was a large amount of images around “Help!,” and as it is the anniversary, figured it was a good place to start. The original idea came from some discussions about Beatles books and rare images, etc., but as I said, even though I’m a big Beatles fan, I did not want to be involved in any Beatles picture book unless their was a concept behind it. Otherwise it would be just another picture book that ends up in some high street bargain bin book shop. Why would I want my name on that?

I came up with an idea called “DECADE,” a series of books that span The Beatles’ careers year-by-year, but they are designed to compliment the re-issued vinyl albums that came out. I put the idea to Simon Weitzman, my business partner in Archivum, then we ran the idea by Glen at Rex, Julian at Pledge and Simon Wells and everyone thought it was a great idea.

As far as I know there has never been a year-by-year chronological, pictorial, high-quality publication focused on the Beatles -- the recording, touring, marketing, PR, private lives, etc. that also includes environmental factors such as politics, cultural and technology. Did you know that The Beatles, during the recording of HELP! were among the first to ever use the first of what was to become a cassette machine to experiment with? Anyway “DECADE,” seven books in total, is what the core project will be, of which “Help!” is the first. Only the fans can unlock the treasures we have, so pledge now! Each book in succession will help create the next.

Can you tell us what led you to choosing PledgeMusic for such a prestigious project?

I spend a lot of time in music communities, and obviously being in publishing, you are aware of your own industry and people talk. It was pretty much hearsay to be honest, so we checked PledgeMusic out and really liked how straightforward it was, I especially like anything that gives control to the artist so that ticked a big box! The staff have been fantastic helping us to get The Beatles on the platform, they’re never short on advice, and, in some cases, they slap your hands, which is a good thing. They know what they’re doing and understand how to get the most out of your campaign.

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