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Home » Music, Non-fiction, Photography, Reviews

PHOTOGRAPHY – THE WHO, PROUD CENTRAL

Submitted by admin on October 18, 2009 – 11:01 amNo Comment

by Tom Fraser

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Colin Jones’ new exhibition of photographs invites viewers to hit the road, eavesdrop on recording sessions and share downtime with one of rock’s most influential acts.  The Who exploded onto the British scene in 1965, thrilling audiences with breakneck rock and roll and strutting showmanship. Jones’ photographs capture them throughout the following year, just as their reputation as an outrageous, instrument-smashing live band was starting to spread round the country. One strikingly composed image shows Pete, Roger, Keith and John on stage in Manchester.  Each band member is frozen in trademark pose: Roger leans towards the crowd, microphone in one hand and redundant microphone stand in the other; Pete’s right arm is aloft, mid 360 degree guitar thrash; John looks downward as his powerful fingers hammer out one of his famous pentatonic bass lines, while Keith is every inch the jester as he perches cheekily at his drum kit.

By contrast, other images give insight into the private personalities behind the on-stage swagger.  Pete is shown at home, sitting in front of a wall display of some of his many smashed guitars.  Interestingly, he appears to take no pride in his back catalogue of destruction.  He sits hunched on his bed, meekly looking towards the camera with eyes that seem to betray a sense of sadness and regret.  Also included in Jones’ collection are informal photographs of the band and their small entourage as they travel between shows.  One image shows Pete, Keith and John buying a newspaper from a railway station vendor.  The old man appears not to notice their drainpipe trousers, outlandish winter coats and Mod haircuts as he holds out his hand for payment, but the stark contrast in dress and bearing between newly rich and long-suffering poor is immediately and movingly apparent to the viewer.

Jones’ exhibition allows us to watch The Who as they are making the transition from plucky upstarts to global superstars.  His images appeal for a variety of reasons: it is a thrill to see adrenalin-laced images from live concerts, just as it is a genuine privilege to see intimate shots of these usually extrovert young men with their guards down, relaxing at home or studying sheet music.  Importantly, the collection also includes photographs that emphasise the professional, perfectionist approach the band took towards recording in the studio.  In one image, the intent look on Roger’s face as he evaluates playback symbolises how much work The Who put into their craft.  His critical expression contrasts with the bored look of a girl sitting behind him – perhaps she wasn’t prepared for such a strong work ethic when she joined The Who’s rock and roll circus?

Colin Jones’ exhibition is highly recommended. The Who enthusiasts will be delighted by never-seen-before backstage images, while photography lovers will find the collection rich in thoughtfully composed shots. Go along to Proud Central and discover the men behind the music.

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