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John Lennon murder and a 1968 Beatles photo shoot
By Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk

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Photographer's Lennon encounter

A photographer has been remembering the day he spent with The Beatles at a 1968 spur-of-the-moment photo shoot.

Tom Murray, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, was also in New York on the day John Lennon was murdered.

The 1968 session in London became known as the Mad Day Out and there are 23 surviving photos.

"They were great fun," said Mr Murray. "I think the reason I got on so well is that I wasn't in charge, I was just there and I was their age."

Tom Murray
Tom Murray's career started at local newspapers in Essex

Mr Murray's opportunity to photograph the most famous group in the world came out of the blue.

He'd already established his name working for the Sunday Times Magazine and alongside some of the big names in photography such as Lord Snowdon, Helmut Newton and Eve Arnold.

"I was asked by another photographer Don McCullin if I would drive him around for 'a pop group'," he said.

"So I came back to Suffolk, picked up my Jag and Don told me to bring a camera because I might get some nice snaps.

"I put a Nikon in my pocket and two rolls of colour film, which was strange because I usually shot in black and white.

Lady Madonna

"We turned up at these rehearsal rooms and heard somebody playing Lady Madonna.

"As we opened the door I thought 'oh, that's a Beatles tune'. Yes, it was - it was being played by Paul McCartney.

"In the corner was John Lennon and Yoko Ono and round the other corner was George Harrison and Ringo Starr having a cup of tea.

"I said 'is this the group?' and Don said 'yes, didn't I say?'

So Tom ended up taking his own pictures as well.

"I'd been a photographer for 10 years and had no assistant or lights but I thought I had a golden opportunity.

"As it was a Sunday, it was incredibly quiet. Parts of London were dead because most of the shops were closed in those days.

"At each place we stayed for about 20-30 minutes before people realised who we were photographing. I doubt if you could get away with that today."

The Beatles
The Beatles on the Mad Day Out in London, 1968

New York

As part of the 1968 shoot, Mr Murray took a photo of John Lennon playing dead.

It was a picture which editors deemed too insensitive to publish when Lennon was shot in New York on 8 December 1980.

Mr Murray happened to be in Manhattan that evening for a birthday meal.

"There were about four of us who worked for GQ and Vogue and we were having dinner on the Upper West Side.

"People were running by saying 'Lennon's been shot'.

"We went rushing up to the Dakota Building and already police barriers were up and there were crowds.

"Some were playing John Lennon songs, some were crying, some were dancing and at about three in the morning we heard the sad news that he had been pronounced dead.

"I just thought it was a great waste of a fabulous talent."

Mr Murray, 67, gets prints signed by some of the stars he photographed and raises money for charity by selling them.

So far, he has reached over £1.3m for Make A Wish, Help The Hospices and many others.

Tom Murray is hoping to produce a retrospective book of his work which will also continue the fundraising.




SEE ALSO
In pictures: The Beatles in 1968
09 Dec 10 |  Arts & Culture
Where were you when?
09 Dec 10 |  Magazine
Archive: John Lennon shot dead
07 Dec 10 |  Entertainment & Arts
John Lennon's mother defended
16 Nov 10 |  BBC Introducing
Chapman explains Lennon's killing
17 Sep 10 |  US & Canada
When The Beatles came to Suffolk
23 Sep 09 |  Arts & Culture

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