Musical history drips off the walls here in Camden. On my way to Proud Galleries, which is tucked neatly into the famous Stables market, I know that all around me there are any number of struggling artists fervently paying their dues in the basements and bars of the area.
I also stroll past hundreds of people queuing in the rain for an impromptu club gig by megastar Prince at the local Electric Ballroom. A weighty juxtaposition – but one that this particular hub of north London shrugs and carries lightly as if to say: “This is Camden Town. What did you expect?”.
What better place, then, for renowned music photographer Colin Jones to launch an exhibition dedicated to one of the biggest and best bands the capital has produced? Jones photographed The Who on tour, in rehearsal and simply getting out of bed in the morning, during the 1960s.
He captured ‘Swinging London’ through his images of the band at work and rest and through oddly touching photos of fans at the shows.
The exhibition concentrates on classic black and white imagery, with just the odd colour photo – most notably a famous and striking shot of the band posing for the cover of The Observer, with a union jack flag behind them and guitarist Pete Townshend sporting a union jack jacket.
This is the image that Colin himself picks out as his favourite, when I chat to him at the opening night of the exhibition. I ask why this particular photo is his favourite and he tells me that it was due to a frenzied last minute change to the brief for the photo shoot. “It was supposed to be in black and white. But I got a call at the last minute and they wanted colour for the cover.” I ask if that inspired the use of the red, white and blue flag theme, which would have been somewhat lost in a black and white photograph. “Yes,” laughs Colin. “Keith (Moon, the band’s drummer) stole the flag for the backdrop from the outside of the hotel in Manchester.” A time when rock star behaviour truly paid off, it would seem!
The exhibition also features photos of the band in more personal moments at home, including singer Roger Daltrey answering the phone whilst shaving, Pete Townshend sitting in front of his broken guitars that he’s hung up on his wall and an unforgettable image of bassist John Entwistle sitting on the carpet at home practising bass, whilst his mother sits on a chair next to him sewing some clothes.
For a window into The Who on and off stage during their early years, this is a rewarding exhibition. And if you pop along to see a gig in the locale afterwards you might even catch the next Daltrey, Townshend, Entwistle or Moon.
Fifty Years of The Who by Colin Jones will run from 6 February to 23 March 2014 at Proud Galleries, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8AH.
Review: Fifty Years of The Who.Colin Jones. by Imelda Michalczyk on 5 February 2014, London.