Elvis Costello's Orchestra

Elvis Costello and his Orchestra - hammersmith Palais 1981

This photo has to be the largest group of people that we ever shot. It was originally used on the inner bag of the Trust LP in 1981, the Orchestra comprises of all the people who worked for Elvis at the time, plus the Guest Artistes on the Record, Glenn Tilbrook and Martin Belmont. You will recognize Nick Lowe playing Sax in the front row and the incomparable Cynthia Lole sitting next to Glenn. Barney Bubbles designed the Music Stands especially for this photo.

It was taken at Hammersmith Palais as that was where EC had spent many hours watching his father, Ross, rehearse with the Joe Loss Orchestra. Instruments and Dinner Jackets were also rented for the occasion.

Given the size of the place it took every strobe pack that we could get our hands on, twelve Balcar packs were spread out under the balcony, even with that amount of power, 28,800 Watts at full power, the exposure was only F5.6 (for photo nerds only).

What was great about this shoot was that everyone did exactly what we asked and paid attention during the entire process. Given how hard it usually was just to get to get Bands to listen to instructions it was incredibly helpful that everyone did what we said. But, this was a special bunch of people who took the photo very seriously, and I thank them for that...

Paul Weller - The Face

Paul Weller - The Face 1981

Whilst Terry Hall never appeared to smile, he was certainly not miserable, he just saw no need to smile, if you asked him to he did, albeit in a very minimalist fashion. The same was not true of Paul Weller.

I remember this shoot well, it was a cover story for the Face, he was wearing a bright red vest, a clean white shirt, and his hair was a perfect copy of Stevie Marriott. You could certainly direct Paul, it did not do you much good however. All you got was the look, a stare that questioned his reason for being there, that this was part of the job, that you would never see below the surface.

Being for the cover it needed to be good, I tried everything to get some kind of look on his face, every angle failed, nothing brought a smile to his face, nothing I said caused any change in him, the photo needed something and I told him so.

Out of his pocket he produced a box of matches, he put one in his mouth and the picture somehow now had a life, he moved it around slightly between frames, as if it were an important prop. His face is exactly the same in all the pictures, the position of the match governs the choice, yet somehow there is something here, a flicker of interest in his eyes, but you have to look really hard to see past the persona he has always projected, that of Paul Weller, leader of the Jam, leader of the Style Council, and now the Godfather of Pop, I'm amazed he has lasted this long.

David Byrne - Tryptych

David Byrne - London 1981

I first came across the Talking Heads  in 1977 on a trip to New York for the NME and photographed them there and again in London when they supported the Ramones at the Roundhouse.

My old friend Tibor Kalman designed their record covers and we often spoke about David Byrne, his intelligence and the need to never disappoint him by doing anything ordinary.

This photo was originally done for the Face in 1981 and as we had done many times we built a small studio in the basement gym in the Warner Brothers building on Broadwick Street. Down there we photographed people as diverse as Laurie Anderson, Bonnie Raitt and the Pretenders.

David Byrne has such photogenic features, it's hard to take a bad photograph and we had just done a series where he pulled and distorted his face, something nobody else would ever agree to do, but for him just seemed natural. As he is a very tall and thin man I then asked him just to sit straight on to the camera.

I took three successive images on the Hasselblad, altering the angle of the camera on the tripod between frames, shooting first his head, then his chest, and finally his hands resting in his lap. It seemed a perfect way to present him, the Face never used it so I'm showing it here for the first time.

I always remember Brian Eno's observation, That it will be so great when Byrne and Bowie are really old, they can sit together on an island and still look cool. Of that I have no doubt.

Elvis Costello - Trust

Elvis Costello - The Trust Sessions 1981

Elvis Costello was the first person I ever photographed in a Studio, it was March 1978. We did it at the same time as the two consecutive NME Cover stories, one with Nick Lowe, the other of him sitting on a bench. I never showed them to the paper, mainly because they were in color, but also because Studio Photography was not allowed yet, documentary, live, or while they were being interviewed was the norm back then. 

I set about changing that, but I had to wait until 1980 and the launch of the Face before anyone took me seriously, Pop Stars on White was simply not considered interesting, it was considered to be boring, the stuff for PR photos.

But in 1979 Jake Riviera asked me to shoot EC in the Studio for Armed Forces, he had a vision of Elvis smoking, I had a vision of him standing with his guitar, his feet awkwardly bent, but in the end a painting of a Herd of Charging Elephants was used, Jake's smoking photo was put on ice, and the full length shot was printed 70 feet high above the Dominion in Tottenham Court Road.

Trust was our next venture into the Studio, this time it was somber, dark hat, coat and suit, a cigarette in hand, it got proofed, but in the end it lost out to a frame from Barney Bubbles Video for New Lace Sleeves, a color shot of EC looking over his glasses, it became somewhat Iconic.

The pose was something we came up with in the Studio, weeks before the video. That image had a Frank Sinatra vibe to it, his hand making the perfect wave, I loved it but it was not part of the brief, so it appears here for the first time.

Next up was something that was the ultimate photographic honor, the chance to use the giant 20x24 Polaroid camera, that produced an instant print two feet high, there were only five of these cameras in the world.

I called EC and asked him if he would sit for me, he eagerly agreed, the camera was incredibly slow to use, and you only got ten sheets of film, I shot nine frames, with only three decent photos, one of which appeared on the cover of the Face, the last frame however was something completely different. He looked away from the lens, I asked him to look down, wearing his black beret Jake joked that it was his Laurence Olivier pose, in retrospect that was quite a compliment.

We shot more pictures to go with the Face story, but it was 1982 and from his bag he produced a blue sweater, and matching blue glasses. I documented it, but kept it hidden, if Jake had seen that I would be in trouble, no way would he want EC to be photographed in that outfit. I thought it was cute, but it remained under wraps for 32 years.

In 1986 we worked again, around the time of King of America, as well as some Django Reinhardt looking ones, EC suddenly appeared in a bright yellow coat, and black watch tartan shoes, I made him jump up and down, jumping for joy was the Fleet Street name for it.

In 1991 he teamed up with the Brodsky Quartet and I got to shoot him with Classical Musicians, they were about to go on tour, I warned the musicians of the perils to come. You are going to get screamed at, way more than the polite applause you get at Classical a concerts, it will change you forever, you will never be the same again, I was right.

Although I had given up photographing people by the mid nineties, I did agree in 1996 to do one last session in New York, to promote North, his latest disc, I used a large format 4x5 camera this time, the results were simple, but stunning. I used my favorite trick, the black turtle neck sweater, cover up the neck, hide few pounds, it worked as advertised.

I always had fun in the studio with him, he enjoyed dressing up, and throwing a few shapes for the camera, we never failed to produce good work, the chemistry between us had been there since the first time we met, it's still there now 35 years later.

Being friends and shooting stars is the best way to work, I had similar chemistry with Phil Lynott and Pete Townshend, but I enjoyed working with Elvis the best of all...

David Byrne - The Face

David Byrne - London 1981

There is something about David Byrne that makes you take good pictures, almost like you don't want to bother him with something that's not interesting, I worked with him a number of times, but the 30 minute session we did for an early issue of the Face was the most productive.

It was shot in the basement of the Warner Bros building in Soho. There was a gym down there and quite often I built a little studio in the space, I did the Pretenders, Laurie Anderson, even Aha in that basement.

We told David the ideas and he cooperated fully, we decided to shoot on black to emphasize his face, after all it's one of his most interesting features, we shot him distorting it, pulling the skin this way and that, ending up with the classic frame of him opening his eye, quite literally in fact.

We also experimented with double exposures, combining profiles with straight on views, now you would do it in photoshop but back then it was all in camera. And also one set of pictures where I used three consecutive frames to shoot his body, to show his height, and to make something other than a simple 3/4 length photo shot the usual way.

It's amazing what you can do in 30 minutes with the right person, David Bowie is someone else that inspires you to try anything, and to trust your judgement and forget any normal poses.

I always remember Brian Eno's observation, That it will be so great when Byrne and Bowie are really old, they can sit together on an island and still look cool. Of that I have no doubt.


Johnny the Lydon King

John Lydon - London 1981

The first time I photographed Johnny Lydon in the studio he turned up with Keith Levine, this was Public Image time, he was complaining loudly and was uninterested in having his photograph taken, I struggled to get anything worthwhile from him, in fact I gave up after seven frames of the twelve frame roll, I unplugged the Strobes, but, just as he was about to get off the stool he turned profile and I quickly grabbed this frame using only the modeling bulbs as lighting. I then suggested we call it quits, I saw no point in wasting each others time.

But in retrospect it's a really good photograph, and it sums up the anger and frustration burning up inside him. It also shows his refusal to compromise, and his hatred of the "Business of Music" which is how he described the relationship he had with his record company.