Although this photograph has now been seen quite a bit, I can claim some part in the chain of events that established its historical significance. It was taken on or around April 1, 1974, at 625 Palisades Beach Road, Santa Monica, and it is important because, as far as I have been able to establish, it is the last ever photo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the same frame. True to his nature, and in one of the many bizarre happenstances that visited his short life, Keith Moon, also a house-guest at 625, happened to be in the middle while Linda, on the left, looks like she’s about to bash him over the head with a pool cue.
The photographer, using his Polaroid camera, was my friend Peter ‘Dougal’ Butler, Moon’s long-suffering PA, and the original has long since been lost. It first appeared in his book Moon The Loon, published by Star books in March 1981, but the caption beneath it did not draw attention to its importance which suggests that neither the publishers nor Dougal had any idea of its significance at the time nor, indeed, for many years afterwards.
It wasn’t until Dougal asked me to help with his second book Keith Moon – A Personal Portrait in 2001 that it began to dawn on me what the picture represented. Before I went public with my discovery (by sending it to Mojo magazine with an accompanying story) I checked out the two photographers most likely to have taken pictures of John and Paul together in the seventies – Bob Gruen (John’s favourite New York photographer) and Linda McCartney. Bob told me he’d never photographed them together and Mary, Paul and Linda’s daughter, who nowadays curates her mother’s archives, said Linda hadn’t either, at least not after The Beatles disbanded.
So I put two and two together and decided this was, indeed, the final photograph of John and Paul together. I should add that John’s friend May Pang, another house-guest at number 625, also took pix of J&P together around this time but Dougal reckons this was before he snapped his shot.
Pictures of more than any two Beatles together were at a premium after John’s death. All three, and their wives, were photographed at Ringo’s wedding to Barbara Bach in 1981 but as far as I’m aware it wasn’t until The Beatles’ Anthology project that Paul, George and Ringo were photographed together again, this time by Tommy Hanley, an employee of Apple who just happened to be at Paul's studio in Rye when they were there and casually snapped them. The next day, October 3, 1995, the picture was on the front page of the The Sun and Hanley didn’t have a job. He did have a fat cheque to put into his pension fund, however, and he was about to retire anyway.
Other pictures of PG&R together, and some with George Martin, were taken at Abbey Road around this time, one of which appeared in our Omnibus book about the studio but we had to go through hoops to get permission from Apple to use it. That particular book was originally published in 1982 with the Abbey Road LP cover on the front but by the time we republished it 15 years later Apple had acquired the rights to all The Beatles’ sleeve imagery and we were denied permission to use it on the cover of our edition. Not to be outdone we dispatched a photographer to St John’s Wood and told him to take a picture looking north along Abbey Road from the same angle with the zebra crossing in the foreground, and it turned out just fine (see cover below). Beatles or no Beatles, no one could mistake it for anything else but the road past the studio.
Nowadays pictures of Paul and Ringo are ten a penny of course.
And while I’m on the subject, since they split up only one photograph has ever been taken of the four members of Abba on their own without others – by Meryl Streep who’s keeping it to herself. It happened at the Stockholm opening of Mamma Mia! The Movie on July 4, 2008. The former Abba members posed, along with most of the stars and others involved in the film, on a balcony but although Frida and Agnetha were standing close together, Benny and Björn were at opposite ends of the balcony, meaning that the “clean Abba shot” the world’s media were craving still failed to happen – at least in public: Benny later revealed that the four posed exclusively for Meryl Streep’s camera later that night.