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Glimpse Rock Music History at These Two Rockarchive Exhibitions

Aladdin Sane contact sheet - apart from the Kodak Ektachrome colourfilm, Duffy also shot two rolls of black and white film. This contact sheet was put together by Duffy's son Chris and includes the original colour album cover image. © Brian Duffy

Rockarchive currently has two exhibitions running, Contacts which is on display at the Lucy Bell Fine Art Photography Gallery & Agency in St. Leonards on Sea and Inside Abbey Road Studios which is on at the Barbican Music Library.

The former, as you might have guessed from the name, features contact sheets that went on to contain what’s become some of the most iconic music photographs. Snippets of music history and the contact sheet context from which they emerged.

Like photographer Brian Duffy’s contact sheet from David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane shoot. Which, not that it needs explaining, features Bowie as his post-Ziggy character, the lightning bolt flash of red and blue dividing his face. An instantly recognisable and endlessly replicated image. The bolt itself Bowie has said represented the duality of mind, while also being a homage to his schizophrenic brother, Terry. Duffy himself is said to have actually drawn the outline of the lightning bolt on Bowie’s face, which was inspired by a logo on a rice cooker in the studio’s kitchen.

Early set of contact sheet photos by Don Hunstein taken of Bob Dylan in his New York apartment on West 4th Street in 1963. © Don Hunstein

Other iconic images are Don Hunstein’s photos of Bob Dylan in a Greenwich Village apartment in 1963, smoking, laughing and playing his guitar or sitting with his then girlfriend Suze Rotolo. Bob Marley also features, looking relaxed in photographer Allan Ballard’s Primrose Hill studio. It’s these more intimate moments, that capture the musicians in playful, off-guard mode, that’s celebrated in the images. As well as being a celebration of the medium of the contact sheet itself, which along with many analogue methodologies, is now something fading from use.

Bob Marley is pictured in a very rare studio shoot. He had just finished the European part of his 'Exodus' tour (playing his last gig at the Rainbow Theatre in London). © Allan Ballard

“When you see the contact sheet, it reveals something different from what you think the picture was about, because you see David and Duffy going through the process to find that one moment,” Brian Duffy’s son (and archivist) Chris told the Guardian. “When someone takes your photo you naturally feel self-conscious. But Duffy had a technique of engaging the sitter in conversation to a point where he made them forget they were being photographed. He would push people, be argumentative, say outrageous things. If he knew you supported Chelsea he’d say Arsenal were better.”

Contact sheet of twenty-two separate images of Tom Waits reading 'The Mammoth Book of Oddities' in a diner in California in 1999. © Jill Furmanovsky

And when it comes to the iconic shots, Chris reveals that they often come not right at the end but, perhaps unsurprisingly considering the subject is probably most at ease then, in the final act. As Chris notes, “It’s often Duffy always described it a bit like a boxing match. It might not be the last punch that knocked the guy out; it might be the one in the third round that weakened him.”

The exhibition features not just David Bowie, and Bobs Dylan and Marley, but also Oasis, Joy Division, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Bjork and Chrissie Hynde taken by renowned photographers (many of whose work is featured here on Rockarchive) like Barrie Wentzell, Don Hunstein, Michael Putland, Carinthia West, Andrew Catlin, Matt Anker, Colin N. Purvor, Brian DuffyAllan Ballard and Jill Furmanovsky.

Noel Gallagher whilst recording the Oasis album 'Be Here Now' in October 1996. © Jill Furmanovsky

The latter’s work is what’s on display at the Inside Abbey Road Studios exhibition. It follows on from Furmanovsky joining Abbey Road Studios as their Artist in Residence last year. The Barbican exhibition features Furmanovsky's images taken inside the iconic recording studios, starting with her photographing Pink Floyd recording Wish You Were Here back in 1976.

Since then the photographer has captured the many musicians who have recorded there, including Oasis who recorded Be Here Now there in the 1990s. And more recently Furmanovsky has captured some of the musicians who have recorded in the new studios, like DJ Yoda, Royal Blood, Novelist, Mura Masa and Nile Rodgers.

Along with these behind-the-scenes prints and photographs that reveal the magic behind the music, there is also artefacts and unique paraphernalia on show.

Rare colour image of Roger Waters during the recording sessions for 'Wish You Were Here' at Abbey Road Studios in 1975. © Jill Furmanovsky

“As a 14-year old devoted member of The Beatles’ Fan Club, I dreamt of being allowed into Abbey Road Studios, so I've never gotten over the thrill of stepping into that holy building.” Furmanovsky says. “My first visit was in 1976 with Pink Floyd, who were recording Wish You Were Here and I've subsequently been back many times to photograph some of the world's greatest musicians making music, which was an incredible privilege. This exhibition, which is a collaboration with the wonderful staff at Abbey Road, will give music fans a chance to see what goes on beyond the famous zebra crossing. Finally, on behalf of the Rockarchive collective, it is a delight to be returning to the Barbican Music Library, which has become an unique music-inspired art gallery”.

‘Inside Abbey Road Studios’ is on now until 27th June 2018 at the Barbican Music Library, Level 2, Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS. Go here for more info.

‘Contacts’ is on now until 17 May 2018 at the Lucy Bell Gallery, 46 Norman Road, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, TN38 0EJ. Go here for more info.

Furmanovsky recalls "I was asked to shoot a band session at Abbey Road, about a month after the media furore that was going on at the time. The band had cancelled their American tour due to a major Noel/Liam row and the papers were saying that they’d split up. But they hadn’t, so we needed some shots to show that they were still a working unit. We were going to do the shoot outside the studios by the wall of graffiti but Noel said “We’re not going to be Japanese tourists.” So we used the interior where they were about to record anyway." © Jill Furmanovsky

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer these and many iconic images from the exhibitions which you can buy as limited edition photographic prints here and here. 

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