From flying with Dylan to being backstage with Freddie Mercury: Photographer’s iconic images capture pop stars in the era when rock really rolled
Whether it was the Rolling Stones, Queen, The Who, or Bob Geldof eating a banana, Danny Clifford was there, with his trusty camera. These never-before-seen photos – which also include Nile Rodgers, Amy Winehouse, Rick Parfitt and Dave Grohl – chronicle just some of the music icons Danny has snapped over his 40-year career. Scroll through these amazing photographs that capture iconic moments in Rock ‘n’ Roll history…
A wistful-looking Freddie Mercury back stage in Hyde Park, 1976. Danny recalls: ‘I had been wandering around backstage… and there he was, in a white boiler suit, being handed a microphone. With minutes to go before the start of the show, I playfully asked, Who are you? “Freddie,” he replied cheerfully, seeming to appreciate the cheek of my question. I asked him if I could take a few photos. “Of course you can, dear boy!” was his reply. With a portly stage assistant to my left giving him last-minute instructions, Freddie struck a couple of poses for me, looking like Count Dracula. Surprisingly relaxed, I thought, considering he was due on stage any minute. I asked him if he was off anywhere nice. He just smiled and pointed upwards to the hole above his head. With that, the sound of Brian May’s guitar rang out and the platform Freddie had been standing on started to levitate, rising straight up and onto the stage for the start of their show. I made my way back to the front of the crowd at speed to capture Freddie, now stripped to a white leotard, in all his camp, charismatic glory. This would be the beginning of my working relationship with Queen.’
Keith Moon with little Zak Starkey in 1978. The Who’s wildman drummer seems deep in concentration while Ringo Starr’s son watches. From 1996, Zak would himself go on to perform and record with The Who as their drummer.
Freddie Mercury in full throttle, in 1978. Danny said: ‘I recently dug out some negatives of shots I took of Freddie Mercury in 1976 that I had never even seen before. So it’s impossible to say which pictures are my favourites, as I’d only find some new ones five minutes later and change my mind.’
Keith Moon and Australian comedian Norman Gunston at Charlton Stadium in 1976. Danny reminisces: ‘We stepped out of the car; Keith, with a woman on each arm, me, with my little Nikon, and we were suddenly greeted by a journalist in an ill- fitting suit, with greased down, thinning hair and a camera crew in toe. “Ah, Mr. Moon! Norman Gunston, from the Norman Gunston show…” he announced. “Are you Australian? I don’t want anything to do with you Australians!” The crowd gasped as Keith continued insulting Mr Gunston, reaching for a bottle of Vladivar vodka (though it was reported as champagne). To give some context, it’s worth remembering that The Who had been thrown out of Australia by their prime minister. The government kicked them out because Keith had been flinging televisions out of windows, driving cars into swimming pools and generally being an off-the-scale idiot.’
Bob Geldof channels William Tell while eating a banana – possibly in tribute to the Boomtown Rats song Banana Republic. ‘I have always taken a bit of a bohemian approach, playing with light and color to capture the drama and madness of the artists I work with,’ the photographer said.
Amy Winehouse backstage at the 4th BBC Radio Jazz awards held at the Hammersmith Palais, in West London. From the very start of his 40-year career, Danny has found himself in the middle of the action, documenting his adventures among the greatest musical icons of the century.
Kate Moss and Pete Doherty, the night of a Babyshambles gig in north London in 2003. ‘At a last-minute gig at the Duke of Clarence pub on the Essex Road… Halfway in to La Belle et La Bête and Kate swanned onto the stage (stage is a generous word for it, but she joined the band). Leaning in, she sang into a microphone held for her: “Is she more beautiful, is she more beautiful, is she more beautiful than me? Is she more beautiful, is she more beautiful, is she more beautiful than me?” That was it and she was off again. I got the shots. Nothing arty, just a “got it” moment,’ said Danny.
Liam Gallager in Japan, 2005. Danny remembers: ‘I went to Japan with Oasis. This bold, confrontational shot of Liam shows him as the epitome of what he is: a proper Rockstar. I recall going down in a lift with both Liam and Noel. Liam was taking a moment to preen himself in the mirror, giving it his usual Mancunian shoulder work, muttering “I look like Michael F***ing Jackson in this jacket.” Meanwhile Noel stood behind, making a certain hand gesture towards Liam. Happy times.’
Keith Richards on stage with the Stones in one of the ‘Rock Stars Don’t Smile’ exhibition – whose title gets it name from something Liam Gallagher once said to Danny: ‘[In London 2005] From the moment we walked into the [Royal Albert Hall] room of children, in their various stages of battling cancer, they were all visibly excited to see Liam and the many other famous faces scattered around. So much so, that the room was pretty rowdy and my job was to get the shots of the celebrities smiling with the kids, in what was a limited amount of time. Liam, not making things easier, was pretty loaded by this point and I needed all eyes on camera one. “Alright everybody, big smiles! There we go.” I announced, playing the part of the happy-clappy event photographer. I got the shot. Later, Liam angrily said to me: “You told me to smile. Rock stars don’t smile”.’
Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. For the first time, Danny Clifford’s iconic shots, along with the often jaw-dropping stories behind them, can be seen and purchased at his forthcoming exhibition in Hampstead, north-west London.
Pete Doherty of Babyshambles gets high off the ground. The photo was taken while the band was on tour in Birmingham, on September 29, 2005. The selection of shots for the exhibition were curated by Alexander Rosenberg.
Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood in 1976. Danny Clifford shot this picture in the year the Rolling Stones toured Europe. Over the years, Danny became great friends with many artists and bands – allowing him to get access that other photographers could only dream of.
A picture of photographer Danny Clifford, taken on Bob Dylan’s private jet… by Bob Dylan himself. It was at the age of 20, after his shots of Dylan at Earl’s Court made it into The London Evening Standard, that Danny received a phone call that would prove historic: ‘I had an office space in Soho, inside the offices of The Who. Paul Wasserman [Dylan’s PR man] called to say how much he and Bob liked my photos. When he said, “Bob want’s a word…” I mouthed my excitement to Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. At which point, the phone was snatched from my hands by Roger Daltrey and passed around between them, all wanting to speak to Bob. By the time I got the phone back, Bob had gone.’ All was not lost, as it was this phone call that led to Danny joining Dylan in Paris and eventually, as his official photographer on his USA tour.
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