“I was moved to tears when I saw the close-up of John Lennon. You can see all of their expressions. He [Weill] had a sensitivity to people’s emotions.”
-Ethan Byxbe, nephew of Eric Weill (photographer)
“So by Candlestick Park it was like, ‘Don’t tell anyone, but this is probably our last gig.'”
-Paul McCartney, 1966
One-of-a-Kind Beatles Images Portend the End of an Era.
This original contact sheet of rare 1966 images of The Beatles was discovered by artist, photographer, musician, and Beatles enthusiast Dave Seabury at a garage sale near San Francisco in the late 1980s. These photos, which we have on offer, were taken at the Fab Four’s final concert at Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966.
The story of how these images were discovered is almost as fascinating as the images themselves. Seabury frequented garage sales for years inquiring about Grateful Dead or Beatles photos and never had any luck. On one fateful day the seller said, “Yeah, there are some Beatles pictures in that box over there.” (Marks) In the box Seabury found a contact sheet with 73 black-and-white images of The Beatles taken by someone who clearly had privileged access to the band. The photos were close-up and deeply moving, however there was no date on the photos and no photographer stamp.
Seabury recalls that every once in a while he’d take out these photos and think, “These are really great, they deserve some attention.” Then, many years later, he read Joel Selvin’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle about The Beatles’ last concert at Candlestick Park which included Jim Marshall’s famous photos. After looking at the pictures Seabury thought, “Those shirts look familiar.” He quickly pulled out his Beatles contact sheet and voilà, they were wearing the same shirts. Seabury said, “That’s when I realized the photos on my contact sheet were taken at Candlestick in 1966.” (Marks)
In 2015, Seabury began his quest to find the photographer. With the 50-year anniversary of The Beatles’ final concert on the horizon, he said, “I contacted all The Beatles collectors I could find… I just kept coming up zero.” (Marks) At the same time, Seabury, a photographer in his own right, was working on a photo exhibition and concert to be called “Lost and Found Beatles.” Scheduled to open on the 50th anniversary of the Candlestick show, at The Reclaimed Room Gallery in San Francisco, he started a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to turn the contact sheet images into prints. It was a labor of love.
When the pictures were finally printed, Seabury realized that rather than the usual stock photos taken at concerts, these images were unusually pensive and intimate. Unbeknownst to their fans at the time, John, Paul, George, and Ringo had a secret — they had recently decided that this would be their last live concert together. Amidst 25,000 screaming fans, the photographer was able to capture what The Beatles knew, that this was the end of an era.
When the “Lost and Found Beatles” show opened on September 29, 2016, the identity of the photographer was still a mystery. At the exhibition closing party, professional collector Derek Taylor realized that a photo in the exhibit looked familiar. He explained “... the way Lennon’s hair was tousled. I just knew I’d seen that photo before, like something I’d bought… A few weeks later, I happened to be looking for a record and boom, that Lennon photo, an 8-by-10, falls out.” Taylor flipped the photo over and saw a stamp that read, “Photo: Eric Weill.” (Marks) Mystery solved.
Eric Weill, who struggled with bipolar disorder for most of his life, died in 2006. He was well known for his photos of Bob Dylan and for claiming to be the Zodiac killer on a call-in radio show in 1969. Ethan Byxbe, nephew of Weill, described his uncle as “a professional photographer… [whose] news photo called ‘The First Hippie Riot’ from 1968 is in the collection of the Smithsonian.” One of Weill’s acquaintances explained that “Eric was just one of those guys who showed up everywhere with a camera.” (Marks)
Seabury was eager to meet Weill’s nephew, his only living relative, and explains, “When I finally connected with Ethan and explained everything to him, he was totally blindsided. He was like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute. You published his photos?’ And I said, ‘Look, man. I want to meet with you… I cede all rights to these photos to you.’” Byxbe was grateful for Seabury and explained, “thanks to Dave’s project, people can enjoy some of my uncle Eric’s photographs, and he can get credit for some of the work he did. I think he would be happy about that.” (Marks)
Though the mystery was solved, it was still not clear how the contact sheet ended up in a garage sale. Ethan Byxbe believes that “The bulk of my uncle’s material was stolen right under our noses. When I was a little kid in the 1970s, my grandmother had hired some older neighborhood kids to help her clean up her garage…There were several milk crates full of original negatives and photographs, including most of The Beatles' material. I had a bad feeling about them and said, ‘Grandma, maybe you should put Eric’s pictures in a closet or something.’ She said, ‘Oh, no, they’re fine.’ She was very trusting. And sure enough, after they left, I checked the garage and the milk crates with Eric’s original materials were gone. They had taken everything.” Byxbe remembers another theft that occurred years later. He said, “My uncle was living in an old, 1930s milk truck… People would be in and out of the truck visiting him, and one time, someone ripped off much of what he had left. Between those two incidents, most of his photographic materials that I knew about were gone.” (Marks) Byxbe does not know when the contact sheet was stolen but he assumes that’s how it started its journey to a garage sale in Northern California.
This original contact sheet would be a thrilling addition to any Beatles collection. Weill memorialized one of the most significant turning points in the history of the world’s greatest band by inviting the observer into The Beatles’ souls and capturing a moment that the audience was not aware of at the time — the beginning of their separation.
Also part of this lot is a poster-size image of the contact sheet, 46x61 cm (18”x24"), as well as a poster, a flier, and 6 postcards promoting the “Lost and Found Beatles” exhibition presented by Seabury in 2016.
Provenance: From the collection of Dave Seabury, artist, photographer, and musician.
Contact sheet with 73 photographs by Eric Weill. 21.5x27.5 cm (8½x11"). Numerous small creases and surface skratches, short closed tear to bottom edge; very good. Poster-size image of the contact sheet, 46x61 cm (18x24") and a poster, a flier, and 6 postcards promoting the “Lost and Found Beatles” exhibition included.
Kevin Courrier. Artificial Paradise: The Dark Side of The Beatles' Utopian Dream. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2008.
Ana Leorne. “The story of The Beatles' last official concert, which took place in San Francisco 55 years ago, the Fab Four played Candlestick Park.” SFGATE. August 25, 2021.
Ben Marks. “A Garage Sale Find of Rare Beatles Photos Took a Collector on a Magical Mystery Tour.” Collectors Weekly. March 8, 2018.
Jordan Runtagh. “Remembering Beatles’ Final Concert.” Rolling Stone. August 29, 2016.
Price: $22,000 .