An Unofficial History

Of The Beatles Monthly Book

In September 1962, Sean O’Mahoney, employed at Pop Weekly magazine, called Brian Epstein to discuss promotion for Brian’s new group, and secured the first printed advert for the band’s debut, Love Me Do. Impressed with Love Me Do and the new beat music scene in general, Sean was convinced this fresh sound would be the next big thing, so he left Pop Weekly to work on his own magazine which would eventually become Beat Monthly. Issue 1 featured the Beatles on the back cover.

When the follow-up Please Please Me landed on his desk he knew he had to feature them prominently in Beat Monthly. He put them on the front cover of the second issue. But he had an idea that a band like this deserved a magazine to themselves.

Beat Monthly ran the first printed ad for the Beatles Monthly

He kept in regular contact with Brian and eventually put to him his idea for a regular magazine devoted to the Beatles. Brian agreed, subject to the Beatles’ approval, so a meeting was arranged. The band thought it would be great, although Paul is said to have asked “What on earth are you going to put in it after the first three issues?”.
Sean received a contract for sole and exclusive rights to publish the official Beatles magazine. The first printed advert for the book appeared in his Beat Monthly No 4 and on 1st August 1963, the first issue of The Beatles Monthly Book went on sale.

Issue No 1 had a print run of 80,000 copies (some sources say 40,000) which sold out within a few weeks and was not reprinted. For subsequent issues the print run was increased to around 330,000 per month at its peak in 1964 as month by month the early issues were completely selling-out. The format of the magazine remained pretty much unchanged throughout the 1960s, with contributions from those close to the Beatles such as Tony Barrow (aka Frederick James) and Peter Jones (Billy Shepherd); a Fan Club page, letters from fans, a centre spread photo and “Song of the Month” lyrics. There was a Beatles News page, although print deadlines dictated that by the time your Beatles Monthly arrived, most of that “news” was already weeks old.

Issue 1: Early Print – No Black Text.

Leslie Bryce: Issue 6, Front. Original 10”x8”.

A popular feature of the Monthly were the exclusive photos. The most notable were by house photographer Leslie Bryce, whose work features prominently, particularly in the earlier books. Later issues started to feature more contributions from others (including Mal Evans and Tony Bramwell, who were probably preferred by the Beatles as time went on).

1966, For Those Who Missed The Early Issues

Front cover of Issue 69

The familiar Beatles Book front cover titles were designed by Bob Gibson, who also filled the inside pages with many drawings and cartoons. Most books had photo covers, but three had Bob’s portrait covers, like Issue 69, pictured here. He also worked on other of Sean’s Beat Publications mags and he drew the story board art inside the U.K. Magical Mystery Tour EP.

Bob Gibson’s original artwork

Bob Gibson’s artwork is seen throughout the publication, along with work by Mike Raxworthy who joined around 1965.

Issue 77: We Say Goodbye

As the official voice of the Beatles, the Monthly would always present the Beatles at their best. Criticism was absent and Sean kept his personal opinions to himself to the end. Away from the music, inevitably the Beatles’ private lives would be subjected to public scrutiny and inevitably readers’ letters would echo this. From the early years of unfailing adulation, later issues would occasionally publish letters questioning the band’s behaviour and even their musical direction. Towards the end, the Beatles having ceased to perform live, devoting more time to their individual projects, it must have been increasingly difficult to run the magazine without The Beatles’ cooperation. I think they simply had other priorities. So in December 1969, with little warning, Sean decided that the magazine should end with Issue 77.

THE BEATLES BOOK SOCIETY

Sean was rightly proud of all that had been achieved with the magazine and when it ended the fans continued to enquire about old issues and wonder whether the magazine might rise again. To meet this demand, in around mid-1973 Sean had an idea to start a club, The Beatles Book Society, to share news, information and memorabilia from the old days. For an annual subscription members would receive a monthly newsletter in book form, “like a miniature Beatles Book”. Unfortunately, it would never get off the ground. Although membership cards were issued, I don’t think a newsletter was ever sent. Sean closed it down in January 1975, with all subscriptions being returned. But his determination to find a satisfactory format remained.

BEATLES BOOK SOCIETY MEMBERSHIP CARD

THE BEATLES BOOK APPRECIATION SOCIETY MAGAZINE

THE FIRST ISSUE, 1976

He soon hit upon the solution; a monthly magazine, celebrating the original Monthly (including an “Original Collectors Copy” of the first 77 issues), plus added content: latest news, exclusive photos (there remained a wealth of unpublished material in his archives) and a letters page. Issue 1 landed in newsagents in May 1976. The content of the reprinted books was identical to the originals, although (mostly) subtle differences separate the two. Edited again by “Johnny Dean”, the new pages featured work from Peter Doggett and Mark Lewisohn, amongst others. It was so successful that when Issue 77 was complete, Johnny announced that the Beatles Monthly Book would rise again. In October 1982, just as EMI were celebrating with a 20th anniversary re-release of Love Me Do, Issue 78 arrived.

THE BEATLES BOOK MONTHLY (TAKE TWO)

And so, the Beatles Monthly Book was in print once more. Now 48 pages from cover to cover. The layout varied slightly from the original Monthly, but the letters page and centre photo remained. There were plenty of archive photos, many being seen for the first time, as well as post-1969 photos of the solo Beatles. Remarkably, for over 20 years, the magazine had no trouble filling its pages with both archive and new stories right up to the final issue 321, in January 2003.
And that is most certainly the end. Sean O’Mahoney passed away in 2020. Without him there can be no more Beatles Monthly Books. It is fairly certain, too, for reasons of copyright and data protection, that the books will never be reprinted. They remain a unique document, not just of the Beatles, but of music history.

THE NEW BEATLES MONTHLY, FIRST & LAST