Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: Marcus Hearn’s ‘Pink Floyd’ and ‘The Who’


Last December I reviewed official Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearn's latest book on the venerable studio. More recently he has assembled new editions of two handsome collections from the Rex Features photo library documenting Pink Floyd and The Who. A Hammer Horror nut and a psychedelic Rock fan: now there's a guy I'd like to hang out with!

Both books capture two of our most enduring British Rock bands in unexpected ways. Pink Floyd begins with a series of shots from Dezo Hoffman, the photographer most famous for his iconic snaps of The Beatles in mid leap. He attempts the same thing with the far less cuddly Floyd to hilariously incongruous effect (Roger Waters, of all people, looks like he's really into it!). Next Marc Sharratt shoots some more appropriately moody, psychedelically lit portraits of the group. Ray Stevenson catches a moment certain to fascinate fans as future "Have a Cigar"-singer Roy Harper appears on stage with Pink Floyd at the Midsummer High free show the day A Saucerful of Secrets was released. The band poses with a less likely guest in Goksin Sipahioglu’s 1971 clicks featuring French movie star Jeanne Moreau. 

Not surprisingly, Pink Floyd posed together for few photos after that point, and most of the book’s remaining shots were captured in concert. The highlights of this period are André Csillag and Brian Rasic's eerie image from the elaborately staged Wall tour, some of which look like outtakes from a long lost German Expressionist film.

Hearn's text is sparse, but refreshing because he refuses to shy from the group's turmoil, as writers tend to do in books of this sort. Hearn quotes some pretty harsh barbs exchanged between Waters and Dave Gilmour. Fortunately the tale ends with a welcome peace accord, as Rasic and Richard Young document one final appearance by Waters, Gilmour, Wright, and Mason at Live 8 in 2005, finishing the book arm-over-arm in a shot as unexpected as the Dezo Hoffman snaps that opened it.

I'm no Pink Floyd expert, so I can't really attest to the rarity of the photos in Hearn's book on the brooding psychedelicists. I'm a lot more caught up on my Who homework, so I'm more comfortable assuring my fellow Whooligans that there is much fresh imagery in The Who to delight longtime fans. Dezo Hoffman really dominates this volume, getting things underway with some black and white shots of the Shepherd's Bush thugs in full Maximum R&B mode. These photos are astonishing for their mod moodiness and their textured clarity. You can feel each scratch (plus one prominent puncture) in Townshend's Rickenbacker as he thrashes it in a soul trance. Hoffman also contributes some atypically intimate shots of the group, zooming past their flailing limbs to zero in on vulnerable, disarmingly boyish faces. Considering The Who's reputation for clowning and destruction in the '60s, there is also an unexpected melancholic undercurrent in the early shots. Hoffman catches Keith Moon pouting behind his kit on the set of "Ready, Steady, Go". The photographer also seizes the group's more celebrated contempt, as seen in Pete's bloodletting sneer while hovering over his puckish drummer. Hugh Vanes gets even more personal with his oddly pensive candids of Townshend, Entwistle, and Moon eating on the road. 

Most fascinating of all may be David Magnus's series starring model Carl-Anne Martin as she drags Entwistle out of bed to the sleazy lounge of Germany's "Beat Club" T.V. show. The first shot in the series is the female Who fan's equivalent of the one of Jimmy reclining under a wall of pin ups in the Quadrophenia photo booklet. There are also some obscure treasures taken at Monterey and "The Rolling Stones Rock 'n' Roll Circus". Afterward, we zip through Townshend in his boiler suit and Daltrey's bare chest and Moon on the paunchy decline. Several pages survey the Kenney Jones years and the various reunions with and without Entwistle (plus Townshend's painfully withering assessment of the first gig "The Who" played after their bassist's death). But the book's true beauty lies in its first two-thirds ogling The Who at their stylishly photogenic '60s peak.

Get Marcus Hearn's Pink Floyd and The Who at Amazon.com here:

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