Elton John's Bedroom
It's difficult to describe the gracious and generous way in which Elton John treats people, everyone will tell you the same thing, he's simply one of the friendliest people you could ever want to meet. The chance came up to shoot him for the NME and it was supposed to take place at his Record Company, but the day before the shoot he changed his mind, he suggested instead that we do it at his house.
He lives out near Windsor and a driver was sent to collect me, I had never been treated quite like this before, I sat in the car wondering what he would be like, what would I say, he was a huge superstar, why on earth would he invite me out to his house?
Turned out he thought I might prefer his home as a place to do pictures, this was unusual, most stars of his stature would never do this, they would want to keep you away from their house not invite you to go there. I arrived and was ushered into the kitchen, it was bigger than my parents home, and there were records everywhere. Piled up on the table, in boxes on the floor, I had never seen so many, in fact a lot of musicians have very few records, why bother listening to someone else when you make your own?
But Elton is a fan, a huge fan, and music meant everything to him. It turned out that he had a standing order with Tower Records in LA, they were to ship him a copy of every record released. That may sound extravagant, even a little crazy but to Elton it made sense. His record collection was simply second to none, he had purchased the collection from Bernie Andrews, a Radio One producer, he must have had 20,000 LP's. It was stored in a room that was built like a maze, corridor after corridor of LP's neatly filed and literally floor to ceiling, it seemed to go on forever. I spent a long time in there just looking at the records, I had never seen anything like it, except at a record store.
I should explain, whilst chatting over a cup of tea he had told me to take a look at his house and decide where I wanted to take pictures, nowhere was off limits and he said to just explore the place and let me know my choice of rooms, I found a Disco (the previous owner was an Arab) there was an indoor swimming pool with a giant chandelier, a living room full of Art, a massive dining room, a gym, stables, garages full of cars, a small recording studio, I really was spoilt for choice.
Then I went upstairs, this was the largest house I had ever been in, I kept exploring and I ended up in his bedroom suite, not by looking for it, I just happened upon it. It contained these huge speakers, priceless works of Art, and this old bed, something that looked like it belonged in a castle, I figured this was the place where I most wanted to shoot. I mean he did say anywhere, and the idea seemed perfect, papers like the Sun would have given anything to take pictures of him there, but that was the thing, I only ever had my pictures published once, in the NME, everyone knew that about me and that's why I was trusted, to me it made total sense, I did some of the worlds biggest stars and the only place they appeared was a music paper, it meant I was never a threat, I could get these fantastic photos and nobody had to worry about them turning up everywhere, the Fleet Street photographers respected me for it too, although they thought I was completely nuts.
I went back downstairs, told him I had seen his bedroom and asked him about the bed. He said it was from the 16th century, I said it was my favourite room, he said no problem and I went to set up my lights. Looking back it was maybe a presumptuous thing to do, but he was so kind and welcoming that I never really gave it a second thought. We did the pictures quickly, it was all over in a matter of minutes, I think I was probably very nervous, but he really did not seem to mind. He joked that I had been in his bedroom and escaped unscathed, I knew he was desperate to come out about being gay, maybe it influenced my choice of rooms, maybe thats why he let me photograph him in there.
We took pictures elsewhere but by comparison they were kind of boring, after all it's not every day you see a 400 year old bed surrounded by Modern Art.
I went back to the house a number of times to do photos for him, he seemed to enjoy having me around and often invited me to stay for dinner, there was just one catch, if you stayed you were given a woman's name, Rod Stewart was Sharon, my friend Frank Murray was Ruby, I was Bette.
Terry Hall - London 1981
I always thought Terry Hall was unlike the other Specials, although they were all different from each other. Offstage Terry was always quiet, he was shy and reserved, yet he had a riveting presence once he stepped onstage.
Despite photographing him a great many times I don't think we had that many conversations, we exchanged pleasantries of course but my instinct was to leave him alone, I think he preferred it that way and was actually grateful I did not rabbit on too much.
He always did what we asked of him, trusting us completely, many people think Terry never smiled in photos, but that's not true, he did if we asked him to, but I always felt he looked better looking a little aloof, or even downright miserable.
Yet, looking at this photo 35 years later it really seems to show the young Terry Hall really well, you can see why so many people were attracted to him, and whilst he has a slightly vulnerable look on his face, he still has a commanding presence, even in a passport photo.
David Bowie - Hammersmith Odeon 1973
These photographs are taken on the last night of the Ziggy Stardust Tour in 1973.
They sum up for me, everything that was great about that Tour, David's flamboyance, Mick Ronson's guitar hero poses and most importantly the interplay between the two of them.
Ronno was the perfect partner and foil for David, they interacted so well that it all looked completely natural and spontaneous, almost like they were doing it for the first time. Whilst David cavorted round in a number of outrageous outfits Mick threw these great shapes all through the show, nobody ever played the part of the guitar hero better in my mind.
David is wearing the short kimono outfit that he started the show with. I always admired his ability to wear a short skirt and you see him here conducting his audience of adoring fans. He makes it all look so easy.
Of course the center photo reveals the most controversial moment in the show, that's if you don't understand that David's simply playing the harmonica solo during Gene Genie whilst on his knees in front of Mick and with his head in Ronno's crotch.
Back then this was considered trés risqué, nowadays it would be considered mild in comparison to modern teen idols.
It's such a shame that David broke up the Spiders from Mars immediately after this show, he had already recorded Aladdin Sane and was ready to move quickly to his next phase. This tour was one of the best I have ever seen, I feel lucky to have been there at this final show.
Nick Lowe - Buffalo 1978
For any British band touring America in the 70's the first thing you did after checking in to the Hotel/Motel was to hit up the Thrift Shops and Pawn Stores.
Back then there were still gems to be had at both, and musicians rigorously checked them looking for guitars and other instruments, on this particular day Charles Shaar Murray found a Telecaster in great condition, in fact he lent it to Nick so that he could play Heart of the City in the encore at Elvis's show that night at the University.
Thrift Shops, also known as Sally Ann's (Salvation Army) were great places to find cool stage clothing, and also winter coats, much needed as this trip occurred during the great Blizzard of '78.
These were the days before Johnson and Johnson started being the place for Rock Star Threads, us chaps could not get enough cowboy shirts, leather jackets, cashmere coats and a whole lot more.
The Thrift shop in this photo is in Buffalo, and the temperature was 15 below, but Nick Lowe is a hardy chap and never even bothered to wear a jacket over his legendary musical note sweater.
Nick Lowe - Toronto 1978
When Jesus of a cool was released Charles Shaar Murray and I went to the US to do two cover stories for the NME, one on Nick and the other on Elvis.
The American record company was nervous about the LP's title and chose instead to call the album Pure Pop For Now People, a catchy little phrase that worked quite well as an alternate title.
Nick had brought Mighty Martin Belmont from the Rumour with him and was due to do a couple of special gigs to promote the LP.
Rather than a full set Nick chose to join Elvis for the encores in Buffalo University and at the El Mocambo in Toronto. He also did a special radio show for CHUM FM.
The people at the El Mocambo put up a special sign for this event, Springtime for Basher it proclaimed, using a line from the Producers along with the nickname many if us knew him by. It came from his simple instructions to bands he was producing in the studio, "bash it out—we'll tart it up later".
It was too good an opportunity to miss and so I asked Nick to stand outside the club and throw a few shapes, Nick did this with ease, the expression was one Nick used to describe the art of guitar playing in front of an audience.
"It's easy being in a band, all you do is go onstage and throw a few shapes"