It might be hard to believe, but Please Please Me, The Beatles’ debut album, was released 50 years ago today. It was March 22, 1963, when the LP was rushed out by Parlophone, and it went on to spend thirty weeks in the UK album charts. This would be the start of a phenomenon few could have anticipated: within 18 months the band had not only conquered Europe and America, but much of the world. In celebration, TIME presents a series of intimate portraits of the group taken by renowned photojournalist Philip Jones Griffiths.
Shot in 1963, they are images as frank as they are revealing: Ringo Starr signs an autograph for a fan, appearing to be dressed in nothing but a shirt, tie and underwear; John Lennon gazes into Griffiths’ lens as Brian Epstein, The Beatles manager, stands nearby. Meanwhile, we see what might be a backstage ritual as Paul McCartney and George Harrison look into a mirror, seeming to prepare for a show. This was a time when they were on the cusp of worldwide fame, a time before the mania of Beatlemania. It’s wonderful to see them up so close.