Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: 'Terry O’Neill’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Album'


Terry O’Neill photographed some of the most monumental movers and shakers of the twentieth century: JFK, Churchill, Mandella, Blair. That’s very nice for him, but what about the people who made us move and shake? Well, stand back, because this cat has shot The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Ray Davies, Led Zeppelin, Elvises Presley and Costello, Chuck Berry, Diana Ross, Janis Joplin, Springsteen, Bowie… I think you get the picture. You can get a slew of them in a new A (for AC/DC) to Z (for Zeppelin) collection of his most iconic and rarest pictures called Terry O’Neill’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Album.

That title is actually slightly misleading because quite a few of the stars between its covers have nothing to do with rocking or rolling (there’s a big spread on Sinatra, who hated the genre). Don’t get too hung up on that because there’s plenty that fits the bill from O’Neill’s earliest swinging snaps of the Fabs, The Dave Clark Five, The Animals, and some very, very young Stones through relatively recent artists such as Blur and Amy Winehouse. She’s the most recent one in the lot because O’Neill admits in his introduction that no one since her has had enough star power to ensnare his interest (I see what he means).

The interesting thing about O’Neill’s work is the way it often subverts our expectations. He’s the one who shot that famous picture of Ozzy in which the evil one looks like he just paid his one hundred bucks at Glamour Shots. He made Liza Minnelli look like Jagger. He made ol’ Lucifer Lips look like a cuddly bear all wrapped up in his fur-lined anorak. Ringo appears to be the lead Beatles as he leaps over the rest of the band in an extraordinary action shot I’d never seen before. He filmed hellion Marc Bolan in a very moving embrace with his infant son.

At other times, O’Neill captured the artists just as we expect them to be, whether it’s Sir Elton posing in his giant wardrobe of outrageous gear or Alice Cooper subverting that Bolan shot hilariously by applying fright makeup to a sleeping baby. Really, there is no unifying style or approach to perceive among the mass of photos in Terry O’Neill’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Album. Color or black and white, candid or staged, funny or po-faced, action-packed or serene, bizarrely normal or normally bizarre, the photos in this big, big, big book really have one thing in common: big, big, big music stardom.

Get Terry O’Neill’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Album on Amazon.com here:

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