The Specials - Coventry 1979
We were doing the cover for the Specials LP and just when I thought we were finished Jerry Dammers asked if we could do one final group shot.
He took us over to this abandoned and decaying boat that was located in another part of the Coventry Basin. Although I thought he was nuts wanting his photo taken here, we carefully arranged the band members on the boat.
Jerry had this huge smile on his face, positively beaming at the camera. When we were selecting the photos for the first LP he asked for a print, saying he was not going to use it now, but maybe it would have a use in the future.
The second LP was shot deliberately out of focus on an SX70 Polaroid camera, this was because Jerry wanted it to look just like an old sleeve and less than one pack of film was used, Jerry was so enamored with one of the Polaroids that he declared the session over. Worried that the American record company might not be too thrilled at the idea of an out of focus sleeve I insisted we shot a roll of film on the Hasselblad as well.
I asked him what he wanted for the back cover. We already did the back he proclaimed with a huge toothy grin. A little confused by this I asked him to explain, it's the photo on the boat that you did when we shot the first LP he gleefully replied.
The Two Tone Tour - Brighton 1979
The first date of the Two Tone Tour was in Brighton, I went on the bus with the three bands, my old friend from my Thin Lizzy days, Frank Murray, was the Tour Manager and so I grabbed a ride.
There was a fabulous camaraderie on the bus, as there often is at he beginning of a tour, the musicians were all getting to know each other and we had the same coach as used on the legendary Live Stiffs Tour.
Because I had moved on from the NME to shooting record covers I felt no need to take that many photos and so I just settled in and enjoyed the atmosphere.
However, it did seem a good idea to take a photo of all the bands on Brighton beach. Trying to keep control of seven people, i.e. The Specials, was something I was used to, but now there were more than twenty musicians to keep track of, I tried in vain to organize everyone.
The Two Tone School Photograph idea lasted about a minute before someone spotted Specials Manager Rick Rogers calmly walking on the beach.
Suddenly most of the people in the photo jumped up and started chasing after Rick, he legged it as fast as he could but in the end they caught up with him.
The 'reason' for the chase was apparently that he was holding everyone's Per Diem's and they just wanted their readies.
The Specials - Front Cover - Coventry 1979
I have to thank my friend Elvis Costello for suggesting us to Jerry Dammers, he was producing the First Specials LP and thought we would get on well together. There are few people who I would describe as genius, but it applies to both Jerry and this Band. Seven very individual people, and one of the best bands I ever worked with. Jerry had both the locations and ideas worked out for their first LP sleeve, he showed my some LP's that he liked visually, one of them was the Who's My Generation. Although taken in colour the band is shot from above, and with seven people in the band, group shots are never usually easy. We went to a location Jerry suggested at the Canal Basin in Coventry, these guys took direction really well, but, they also knew how to hold their own in a band this big, each had his own personality and it shows, if only all groups were this easy to deal with, I might have continued doing it. For the LP cover we cut out the band members with a pair of scissors at Jerry's request, he wanted it to look cheesy, then we stripped it onto a white background, but here, for the first time you can see the actual photograph as it was originally taken. There were only ten frames done of this pose, the last two on the roll were used for the back cover, and that's a slightly different story.
The Specials - Back Cover - Coventry 1979
The front cover was taken from the first floor of an abandoned building, looking down at the Band who were standing in a triangular shape, the strongest shape there is. But Starr, my partner in life and crime took an SX 70 photo of the same shot from the side, at ground level. When I got down the stairs she showed it to me and I told the Band to stay in position, I sized it up the the Hasselblad viewfinder, gave minuscule directions to each musician to get the image perfectly composed and clicked the shutter. Once. One single frame. I think it's because I knew it was perfect, what young and arrogant confidence that is. But it's probably the best group shot I ever did, and it certainly passes the test of time. Instead of a picture we had done earlier in the day we used it as the Back Cover, and also
the Poster. In America they used it as the Front Cover, against our wishes, back then we also designed the sleeves, and Starr did the typography by hand with Lettraset. It's an Architects Drawing, side and top elevation, not that the Two Tone fans were supposed to get that, but it justified the position when we showed it to the Record Company, they saw one sleeve, just two photographs, nothing more. Luckily they really liked it and all the hard work we put into it had paid off. I love this picture.
Phil Lynott - Tokyo 1979
After working with him a few times for the NME Phil Lynott and I became best friends and I became their Tour Photographer. In fact we got on so well that we shared a house for a few years, we went everywhere together and I went all over the World with them including numerous Tours of America, the UK, Europe and Australia. The highlight however was a trip to Japan for their first tour there in 1979. I had always wanted to go to Japan and found the place fascinating despite being unable to speak a word of Japanese. After spending a few days in Tokyo we moved on to Osaka and Nagoya which meant taking the high speed Bullet Train between towns. We were standing on the platform at the Tokyo Railway Station when a bunch of schoolboys recognized Philip and came over to ask for autographs, seeing them in the traditional school uniforms of the time I asked them to pose with Philip as there was a great contrast in the way they and Philip were dressed. Looking at this photo now their uniforms seem so formal, but back then this is how all Japanese Schoolboys dressed. I took many great photos of Philip but there is something about this photo that makes it my favourite. The clash of cultures makes it distinctive but the look on his face also captures this spirit of this great musician who left us way too soon.