Many claimed or were crowned with the title of "the fifth Beatle." Pete Best would like it. Brian Epstein, who promoted the band from basement clubs to baseball stadiums, surely should qualify. George Martin may well have deserved it from a musical standpoint. Murray "The K" Kaufmann had the listeners at WINS in New York convinced during the heyday of AM Rock. And then there's Robert Whitaker.
Whitaker had the good fortune to be the Beatle's "official photographer" throughout their recording career. He took the iconic pictures, like Paul and George Martin pondering a bass part at Abbey Road Studios, the legendary "Butcher Block" cover that didn't grace the front of the release of "Yesterday and Today," and the more staid portrait that did. The group disembarking at the recently renamed Kennedy Airport, about to set foot in America for the first time. Paul with his Hoffner Bass. John with his beloved "Chuck Berry" Epiphone Guitar.
Then there are the less iconic, but still fascinating shots like that self-same Epiphone with a set list for a Hamburg German Show taped to its "horn." The shots of preparation for the "Butcher Block" cover shot, with raw meat, sausages, and dismembered baby dolls. Their loves and losses -- touching shots of Ringo, Marueen and Zak, John, Cynthia and Julian, Ringo "in hospital" after having his tonsils out.
All of these shots are part of a hefty book of (mostly) photos, all by Whitaker, "With The Beatles." It is part of the same LIFE series that brought you the previously covered "50th Anniversary" collection of Bob Dylan photos, "Forever Young", and a similar volume of Rolling Stone photos (I'm beginning to feel like a shill for these guys, but the books are pretty amazing). The Beatles form the third leg in this series of veteran rock royalty.
So, show of hands -- how many of you were at Shea?
Check out the slideshow below for some of Whitaker's iconic shots. Photos courtesy Robert Whitaker and LIFE: With The Beatles (copyright © 2012 Time Home Entertainment, Inc.)