My past is catching up with me on Twitter.
Apparently there is an interested audience for my punk & reggae photojournalist work from the 1977- 80 era.
Sadly a large part of my collection, including all the original negatives, suffered from mysterious disappearance syndrome during my divorce, but I had a few print copies remaindered in an old box and last year I dug them out to please a keen French reggae fan who’d heard of my exploits.
Following his enthusiasm I thought I’d add a little more about those experiences.
First, as assistant social secretary to Tony Wilkins at High Wycombe College – where we booked an unknown band to support Screaming Lord Sutch, called the Sex Pistols, my version of the story of which is in Dave Roberts’ excellent Rock Atlas (latest edition)
As a freelance photographer (I kept the art student bit quiet) I always got into the Top Rank (Cardiff) and Stowaway (Newport) clubs for free and managed good access to the bands.
Getting to interview Nico however, was a piece of luck/bluff that I felt I deserved for being one of the few true fans in the house that night.
She was supporting Siouxsie & the Banshees who had broken big following their signing to Polydor (much campaigning graffiti of “Sign the Banshees” had preceded this), but the crowd was ignorant of Nico and one idiot threw some chewing gum that stuck in her hair. She cut her set short and went to her dressing room in tears. Cameras at the ready, I found a back way through the Top Rank corridors thanks to a bouncer friend and was greeted at her open door by a guy who started talking right away,
“You must be Pete, I’m sorry but she can’t do the interview right now, she’s too upset, but if you can just wait a bit I think we…”
At this point would you have said, “I’m not Pete…”?
Soon, Nico beckoned me in and I sat with her and her manager, immediately apologising for the bad Cardiff crowd and that idiot who threw the gum.
Only after about five minutes of conversation did she smile and say,
“You’re not Pete are you?”
By this time I was feeling secure enough to say, no, I was just a freelance photographer but also massive fan of the Velvets and her…
She cheered up on hearing that and not long after, Cardiff friends including Wendy (left of frame in the pic) turned up and she allowed them in,
8 genuine fans in the crowd of 2000.
This pic of Siouxsie was taken at the Stowaway the year before that gig with Nico, a gig with far fewer fans, the Banshees not yet such a widely known band. Being in with the Stowaway management I went downstairs to the Speakeasy “sister” club after the gig with the band and the small entourage.
Siouxsie was the coolest customer, as the transvestite and transgender clientèle of what was a members only gay club swanned around. She calmly ordered a G&T and settled deep into her chair whereas some weeks later, a sweaty Jimmy Pursey of Sham69, in the same room, looked like he’d have a panic attack.
Steve Severin went on to use this photo for his own graphic design background for the cover of ZigZag – the transatlantic magazine that had a huge standing with most fans and music journos I knew. Unfortunately my copy of that cover and his correspondence has suffered the same fate as my negs…