John Lennon, Rock N Roll Album Cover, Hamburg, Germany, 1961
© Jurgen Vollmer

John Lennon, Rock N Roll Album Cover, Hamburg, Germany, 1961

By Jurgen Vollmer
About the image
This photograph captures John Lennon in 1961, leaning against an arched brick doorway in Hamburg, Germany. Three of the four other Beatles at the time, Paul, George, and Stu Sutcliffe, are seen partially blurred as they walk in the foreground. In 1974, John Lennon called upon Jürgen to use this image as the front cover of his album of 1950s-1960s Rock 'n' Roll classics called John Lennon - Rock 'N' Roll.

Jürgen was interviewed about the photo shoot and the subesquent use of this image in 2004 by Goldmine, exerpted below:

“Vollmer always liked what he calls “the backyards” of Hamburg, which to him looked mysterious. A doorway at Jagerpassage 1, Wohlwillstrasse 2 caught his eye, and his thought at the time was, “It would be great to have a rock ’n’ roller in there.”

In April 1961, a 20-year-old Lennon became that rocker. Vollmer, then 21, was in what he called his study phase, and he wanted to experiment by placing his camera on a tripod and setting a long exposure. “Before I even started taking any pictures, I said to John, ‘You just lean there and look arrogant, like you always do,’” Vollmer recalled with a laugh. “And I wanted the other three out of focus.”

Those “other three” in the photo are Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Stuart Sutcliffe. Vollmer did want their shoes in focus, so he had them practice walking past Lennon first, then shot a roll of 12-exposure film.

Years later, when Vollmer was working in New York as a magazine art director, he received a phone call from May Pang, Lennon’s companion during his so-called “lost weekend” away from Yoko Ono. Pang was calling on behalf of Lennon, who was interested in seeing Vollmer’s photos from their April 1961 session. Lennon wanted to use one for the cover of “Rock ’n’ Roll,” an album featuring his versions of early rock hits. (The Beatles often covered songs from the same era during their Hamburg club days.)

Vollmer made enlargements of his photos and met Lennon at the studio where he was recording. According to Vollmer, he designed “Rock ’n’ Roll” as a gatefold cover and remembers Lennon describing it as “beautiful.” But in the end, the packaging was redesigned under the direction of Roy Kohara, and the album was released in 1975 with a standard cover and Vollmer’s now-famous photo—cropped tight and not showing the in-focus shoes of the blurred McCartney, Harrison and Sutcliffe—on the front.”

Collector's Notes:
Jürgen Vollmer's photographs are printed to order, so please allow 2-4 weeks for delivery. Each silver gelatin photograph is hand-signed by the artist.

Buyers will receive a certificate of authenticity following delivery.

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John Lennon, Rock N Roll Album Cover, Hamburg, Germany, 1961
John Lennon, Rock N Roll Album Cover, Hamburg, Germany, 1961

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