Punk Rock

Devo at the Berlin Wall

Dev at the Brandenburg Gate 1978

I went over to Berlin to photograph Devo, we did all the normal photo shoot stuff in the afternoon before they had to go to the Soundcheck.

But it still said nothing other than, here are a bunch of weird Americans from Akron, Ohio wearing yellow paper suits and funny hats. I did have a better idea, but it would take a lot of persuasion to achieve it.

They had to leave for the airport at seven am, I suggested leaving an hour early and going to the Brandenburg Gate to do photos. Berlin was still a divided city and the Wall separated east from west. I ran it by Gerry, I ran it by Mark, once I had their votes the rest of the band agreed, and so off we went.

When we reached the Wall it was completely deserted, the band changed into their outfits on the coach while I checked out the best position for photographs. Then the band quickly posed together for a few frames, but it still didn't say that much about the situation. I asked them to march back and forth in front of the gate a few times. 

It was to be my East German homage to Abbey Road.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted some Russians on top of the gate, with what I assumed were binoculars. Just as the band crossed for the third time the Russians stood up and I saw it was not binoculars they were carrying it was machine guns. Then a bunch of German came out of the loudspeakers, it scared the life out of us, in fact the frames are not level because I was seriously spooked by the situation.

They scarpered quickly back to the bus, I joined them and in moments we were soon on our way out of the country, the adrenaline rush was pretty strong, but, I doubt if the whole thing lasted more than three minutes, machine guns have that effect on people.

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.


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.

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.

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.