Beach Boys Sound Check

The Beach Boys - Dorchester Hotel 1977

You could describe my life as pure luck, not in getting the picture each time, that part was relatively easy, but just in terms of who I got to see and the circumstances under which saw them. This photo definitely comes into that category. 

Back in the 70's the Record Companies were flush with cash and were happy spending it on themselves. CBS took this to the extreme with their Annual Conventions, these multi day events consisted of flying hundreds of Record Co Execs to some exotic location and then have their best Artists perform for them, Bruce Springsteen played the 1975 one in New Orleans. In 1977 they had it in London, on the morning of the first day Elvis Costello started busking on the street outside the Grosvenor Park Hotel, his hope was to get the attention of the CBS people, instead he became a person of interest to the Police and got arrested. Luckily he got out of jail in time to play Dingwalls later that night.

The highlight of the Convention was a performance by the Beach Boys on the final night. I was pretty good at sneaking into places unnoticed and so, along with my friend Kevin, we slipped into the Ballroom via the service entrance in mid afternoon. I did not know if we would see anything but it was worth a try. We were hiding behind piles of stacked chairs when the place started to get quite active. Then, in front of out star struck eyes, out came the Beach Boys to do a Soundcheck. Better yet, Brian Wilson was with them, he had not bern seen in public or performed with them since his breakdown and in NME land this was scoop central. 

I stayed hidden for the first three numbers, behind Brian was his Doctor/Psychiatrist who would massage his shoulders between numbers, he also shouted out the words to the songs acting as a sort of full time prompter to the shell shocked looking Brian. Figuring that they might only do four songs I took my chance and darted out from my hiding place, I scurried to the front of the stage and took five very quick frames before running out of the Ballroom, thru the Hotel Lobby and out on to Park Lane. 

I had my photo and nobody was going to take it away from me. After developing it I noticed the two teacups on the floor in front of their feet. To me it really adds to the impact of the image by adding just a hint of the surreal to it. As I said I was really fucking lucky, I really did have the best job in the world...

The Ramones - NME Cover

The Ramones - New York 1977

In early 1977 Mick Farren and I went to New York to check out the Punk scene, we went to all the usual clubs like Max's Kansas City and CBGB's, and we met up with a number of bands including Blondie and the Talking Heads.

But the main reason we were there was to do a cover story on the Ramones. Mick was old friends with Seymour Stein who owned Sire Records and he set us up with an interview and photo shoot.

We met up at Joey Ramone's apartment on a Sunday afternoon and I proceeded to drag them outside for a shoot, I had found an alley just off the Bowery and to me this summed up the way New York was back then.

The city had just declared itself bankrupt and was very different from the way it is today. The alley was full of garbage, old furniture, and homeless people. We walked to the far end where an old sofa he'd been dumped right there on the street.

The Ramones did what they did best and posed in leather jackets and ripped jeans, the archetypal punk look. I gave little direction as we were accompanied by Arturo Vega, their Art Director. I told them where to stand, and he told them how to stand. It was not my normal way of working but they trusted him and it actually made my job easier. The pictures we did together were good, and that's all that mattered.

The Clash on the Circle Line

The Clash on the Circle Line 1977

On April 7th 1977 the first Clash LP was released. We put them on the cover of the NME to coincide with this pivotal moment in Rock history.

Their manager, Bernie Rhodes, decided that to maintain maximum street credibility the photos and the interview should be done on the Circle Line. Tony Parsons and I were to meet the band at midday on the Baker Street platform.

We started the interview but it was incredibly noisy. I took photos but the moving train was not the easiest place to work: the smoking car we were in was filthy and I was also worried about camera shake. 

In the end we used a close head shot photo for the cover, and this frame was never used. So for more than 35 years it has remained unseen, but I think it stands the test of time quite well. What comes across to me is just how young we all were back then, in 1977.


Dr Feelgood - Hope and Anchor

Dr Feelgood at the Hope and Anchor Benefit 1977

There was an unwritten rule about photographing live gigs, No Flash. But, there were times when you had no choice, especially in Clubs, Elvis Costello at the El Mocambo was another one. The bands don't like it because the strobe can phase them when they are not expecting it, the punters don't like it because it destroys the ambience a bit. So I used to do it very rarely, and when I did I picked my moments carefully. I knew the Feelgoods really well so they did not mind me standing on the side of the stage, but at the Hope and Anchor the stage was tiny, and the Feelgood's were a big band by now and even in this tiny club they had a huge PA, just look at the size of the monitor wedges. I was literally a couple of feet from Sparko when I took this photo, I only ever took a few frames, and once I knew I had something great I stopped. I think this shot really sums up the energy of their live act, Wilco is on the other side of the stage so I was unable to see him, but it's nice to have a big close up of Sparko and Lee in action. They were one of the best live bands ever, and this night was the best show I ever saw them play.

The Ramones on the Bowery

The Ramones - New York 1977

In April 1977 Mick Farren and I came to New York to check out the punk scene for the NME. We went to all the well known Clubs including CBGB's, Max's Kansas City, the Bottom Line, Danceteria and the Mudd Club.

Joey Ramone lived close to CBGB'S which was on the Bowery in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Initially we took photos on the roof of Joey's apartment building but although it looked like New York it did not really have the right feel.

I had spotted this alley when walking over to Joey's place, it was a block from  the Bowery and seemed perfect to me, it was full of trash and totally run down, back then huge parts of Manhattan were like this, the money had run out and the city was bankrupt.

I dragged the four Ramones to the location, I did a number of group shots, aided by their Artistic Director the late Arturo Vega. It seemed odd having somebody else telling the band what to do, all they did was stand there in a line, but it made them relaxed so I was happy to let him help.

To me this sums up the American Punk scene at that time, leather jackets, t shirts and jeans was the look they all had, it's a shame the Ramones never had the true success they deserved, but their influence should never be underestimated.

Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop - Manchester 1977

When Iggy Pop released The Idiot in 1977 he did a British Tour featuring the album's producer, David Bowie, on keyboards. This meant that security was very tight, and photographers were not invited.

This did not stop me going to the first show at Friars in Aylesbury. In an attempt to avoid the security personnel I ended up in the roof looking straight down at Bowie, but the lights were terrible and I knew I needed to try again.

So Tony Parsons and I went to Manchester a couple of days later. This time security was even tighter and I was unable to get my cameras into the show. But the next night, in Birmingham, I strapped the lenses to my ankles and hid the cameras under my clothing, having seen the show twice I knew exactly when Iggy would throw a few shapes and decided to limit myself to those numbers.

This time I did much better, I got quite a few good photos, including this one which pretty much sums up Iggy, having got what I needed I kept my cameras hidden for the rest of the show, I was not going to take a chance that I would get caught, and luckily I didn't.