Never-before-seen Beatles, Rolling Stones photos on display in Malibu

Photo by Julie Ellerton.

A treasure trove of never-before-seen images of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are on display right now in Malibu. 

The unexpected and extraordinary behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of the two biggest rock bands in history just made its debut at the Tracy Park Gallery at the Malibu Lumberyard shopping center.

Although the Beatles and Rolling Stones may have hit their peak during the well-known “British invasion” of the music scene nearly six decades ago, both bands have endured the test of time and are still considered the greatest rock bands ever. 

The previously never-before-seen photos were taken by Bob Bonis. He was the tour manager of both bands during the height of their: the Beatlemania period and meteoric rise of the Rolling Stones, from 1964 to 1966. It was a productive time for both bands and a busy time for Bonis managing the superstars.

Because Bonis had intimate access to the bands, he took their photos behind the scenes on his Leica M3 “which is the best camera you can possibly use,” according to Tracy Park who is showcasing the photographs at her eponymous gallery in Malibu. Bonis took “thousands and thousands of rolls of film,” according to Park. 

In 1966, the Beatles famously stopped touring and Bonis put away his camera. He hadn’t developed the archive of film and stored everything away in his basement.

Bonis passed away in 1992, and his wife died 14 years later. When their son was cleaning out their house, he discovered the treasure trove of undeveloped film. With rock stars this important and influential, the newly discovered archive was like discovering plutonium. The rolls of film included proof sheets and detailed notes with dates and locations of the shoots.

Thirty-two of these rare, intimate images went on display at the gallery March 19 and will stay up until the end of April. They are also for sale.

Park described the images as “very personal. We have images of Mick Jagger reading a Playboy magazine. We have him looking at a Bob Dylan album.” 

One striking image is of Mick Jagger in a hotel room watching a Rolling Stones performance on TV. 

“He’s on the television, so, Bob woke him up and there’s the photo of him awake watching himself on TV,” Park said. “The one beautiful thing about all these images too is there are descriptions for everything.”

Many of the photographs of the Beatles were taken after they were asked to leave the Ambassador Hotel. It seems the commotion from fans and paparazzi was too overwhelming so the group decamped to a private residence in Bel Air. The photos capture the Beatles in unguarded moments, never seen before. 

“Nobody was there except for the Beatles and their tour manager,” Park said. “The pictures are insane. They’re gorgeous.”

After Bonis’ son passed away, the photo archive went to a friend who curated the images now on display in Malibu. Of only 32 framed photographs on the gallery walls, Park called the reception to the images overwhelming. The artist proof photos will have a very limited run to maintain their rare status. 

The Lost Images of Bob Bonis show is available to view at the Tracy Park Gallery on the second floor at the Malibu Lumberyard, 3939 Cross Creek Road. Call (424) 279-0147 for more information.