A gem from the night for 'Diamonds'

WASHINGTON — While the Beatles were recording "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" for "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" in 1967, Henry Grossman was with them in the studio on Abbey Road, shooting in black-and-white for Time. The recording started at 8 p.m. and lasted until after midnight, so Grossman had time to take many pictures. "Kaleidoscope Eyes: A Day in the Life of Sgt. Pepper," his new, $495 limited-edition (1,967 copies) slip-cased photo book, reproduces 250 in chronological order.

Excerpted from an interview with Grossman:

I wasn't a fan. Rock-and-roll wasn't my music. They let me in because they knew me. We were friends.

I'd photographed them in Atlantic City on assignment for the Daily Mail. When they went on Ed Sullivan I was in the balcony. We went to Austria together. And to Nassau, when they were shooting "Help!"

I'm a singer, too, a tenor. (I was in "Grand Hotel" on Broadway, and sang for two years at the Met.) But I wasn't their kind of singer. When we went to the beach, and I'd break into "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," they'd tease me about my voice.

Once George was searching for a word and I said, "Why don't you get a thesaurus and look it up?" and he said, "What's a thesaurus?" so I went out and bought him one. He's used it a lot. He said so in an interview.

In those days I traveled often. I covered Churchill's funeral, and the wedding of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, and every time I was in London I'd look up the Beatles. Which wasn't easy. Everyone was pestering them. They were always changing their telephones. You had to somehow get the number-du-jour.

Once in Wales, when they were with the maharishi and the house was surrounded by press, John saw me in the scrub, and opened the door and pulled me in, and when the press started yelling, he said: "Henry travels the world with us. He's our friend. If you were our friend you could come in, too."

The pictures aren't posed. And those aren't costumes. That's the way they dressed. When Paul came in, he started playing something that he'd been working on, and by the end of the evening, you wouldn't have recognized the melody. It had completely changed. I didn't know how to follow what was going on. And didn't really try. I was enjoying them, not what they were playing. I love their music now.

An exhibition of Henry Grossman's photographs is on view at Govinda Gallery, 1227 34th St. NW, through Dec. 23. For more information: 202-333-1180 or www.govindagallery.com.

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