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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

A Brief History Of Violence part 1: MDO.

The eagle-eyed (and probably long-term unemployed) should be able to spot at least six Mad Day Out locations in the above St Pancras panoramathon, though I wouldn't recommend it. Better (and more pointless) to indulge in a bit of cud-chewing on the subject of the Mad Day Out itself, and its themes.
There are at least two (and possibly as many as ninety) themes running through the pics, the most obvious theme being the theme of the fighting theme:

Various people (but mainly lazy magazine editors) have noticed one or other of these pics before ejaculating thus: "Aha! An accidental but useful visual metaphor to illustrate the dissolution of the Beatles!" Maybe so.
However, it seems these pics were really a calculated move on the part of the Fabs: they asked Don McCullin to be principal photographer on the shoot precisely because he was best known for his war photos. Then, as now, as ever, war splatters on, to the horror of 99% of the human race (the ones not doing the fighting). Quoth Macca: "Don's a very cool guy. He is one of the great British photographers. We thought we've got to be the war. We'll provide the battlefield and it'll work. He'll just click into action."
Another theme, clearly related - John, "dead", twice:

(The same spot as above on the left, 43 years later, looking remarkably, and appropriately, like a barrow mound):

They pose outside the Coroner's Court (as above, except for the barrow mound bit):

John "pisses" on the church (and Paul's expression is funny - "Has he learnt nothing?!"):

And so on, and so forth. It seems from Paul's comments, and from what's there to be seen, that the Mad Day Out may have been another attempt to say something about their times, the times in 1968 being particularly dark, both intra and extra-personally (and I'm not sure if that's even a word... but you get the idea). How much more interesting if so (and it was pretty interesting to start with).
Thanks to Joe Baiardi and Tammy for "an" pic.


  1. Cool shots. Thanks!
    Any current shots of the church? Has it changed any?

  2. Click on "st pancras" in the label cloud for other then and nows.

  3. Hmmm. I've not noticed the Macca quote before. It really isn't the wildest imaginative and conversational leap from '...we've got to be the war. We'll provide the battlefield...', to 'let's be our own funeral procession, George you can be the gravedigger', is it?

  4. I wonder if St Pancras Old Church and Wapping Pier Head were the only two locations in which John performed the 'pretend to be dead' thing on that day? (Naturally it had to be John). If they were, by accident or design he chose two particularly evocative, if relatively isolated, places in which to act out this strange performance: one believed to be (one of) the earliest sites of Christian worship in London, the other by the Thames where convicts left England for transportation to the colonies, and situated nearby to the gallows at Execution Dock.

    It is worth remembering, too, that the original 'plan' - supposedly - was to take photographs in Highgate Cemetery itself. To add to the (many) symbolic aspects of the day, Bunhill Fields - the Dissenters' burial ground, and the final resting place of William Blake - is yards away from Old Street roundabout.

    Bit macabre for some, maybe, but there you go. It raises the possibility that more thought was given to their choices of photographic locations than has been acknowledged hitherto. It is entirely possible that a book that the band (John?) or entourage (Francie Schwartz? Yoko? Don McCullin?) had recently read might have influenced their chosen destinations.

  5. The following entry for August, 1968 in the Cecil Beaton Diaries:

    'Telephone from the Apple corp. to know if I'd be interested in photographing the Beatles. Yes. Two men came to lunch, very intelligent, but very strange. I, speechless, waiting to ask questions. The Beatles wanted me to go round in a van with them and photograph them at various stops. Fine, but not this Sunday. Why? Well, couldn't you bring the American Ambassador too?'

    What does it all mean?