Pop: The music photography of Brian Griffin
As a new retrospective of his work is released, the rock 'n' roll photographer recalls some of his most recognisable shots
Elvis Costello and The Attractions – Armed Forces/Taking Liberties (1978)
I was commissioned by Bruce Bernard, picture editor of The Sunday Times Magazine, to shoot a feature about Elvis Costello and The Attractions. I flew to LA and stayed at the famous but horrendously cheap Tropicana Motel with the band and their support, Rockpile. I remember seeing Tom Waits peering out of his room on the ground floor watching what we were up to. I shot the diving board inner sleeve photograph at a record executive's house up in the Hollywood Hills.
The underwater swimmer is Attractions drummer Pete Thomas. All the other photographs were taken around the Tropicana, apart from one, which I took in front of Hollywood High, where the bands were playing that same evening. Elvis and I went to see Bob Dylan playing at the Hollywood Bowl and we had seats right up front. After the gig we went backstage to Bob's dressing room, which was a Portacabin. It was just Elvis, me and Bob. I will never forget Bob's war paint make-up.
I took the pictures back to Bernard in London. You never knew when to show your work to Bruce. Should you show him after lunch when he'd be pissed, or in the morning when he would be suffering from a hangover? I tried him in the hungover morning and he promptly rejected the lot. Luckily, Jake Riviera, Elvis' manager, said he'd take them all and they ended up on several of Elvis' album sleeves down the line.
Joe Jackson – Look Sharp (1979)
I hired a pale blue Ford Escort to pick up Joe. I remember we parked at Waterloo and went to munch on hamburgers at the Wimpy Bar at Waterloo Station. It's just a short walk to the South Bank from there, so we headed off in that direction. When we got there, I saw in an instant a shaft of sunlight shining between the concrete. I told Joe to quickly 'stand there'. A click with my Olympus OM1 and that was that, it was all over in five minutes. Joe had on those now famous winkle picker shoes from Shelly's Shoes on Carnaby Street and that was the shot.
Joe hated that cover, hated the fact his face wasn't on the sleeve and vowed never to work with me again – and he never did! Once the album was released and it was such a hit, I remember I had these girls come up to me one day in New York and kiss me. They felt it was the greatest album cover ever.
Echo and The Bunnymen – Heaven Up Here (1981)
For the Heaven Up Here shoot we went to Porthcawl beach in South Wales as they were recording at Rockfield Studio, which was fairly near. We had buckets of fish offal and had a guy run up the beach throwing beach guts in the air to attract the gulls. After the shoot we all piled into this seven-seater black Peugeot estate I had on hire, and drove away from the beach. There was me, my assistant, the Bunnymen and the fish guts man who was stinking the car out. I seem to remember he was wearing Arab headgear. Anyway, we came to the joining of two roads all laughing and joking and feeling good about the shoot when this big truck came out of nowhere and very nearly wiped us out. It was a very close thing and almost Bunnymen no more!
Rob Dickins, then head of the record label Korova, and Bill Drummond, the band's manager, hated the pictures. They didn't like the four little silhouettes at all. I had to fight along with Martyn Atkins, the designer, for that. It was a hard sell.
BRIAN GRIFFIN's first foray into music photography began with Stiff Records in the 1970s, leading to him becoming the predominant visual chronicler of New Wave, Post-Punk and the New Romantics. His new book POP, featuring essays by Terry Rawlings and Paul Gorman, is published by Gost; £40; gostbooks.com