Punk through the lens: Adrian Boot’s iconic photographs of The Clash, Patti Smith & more
April 8th 2016
Photo: Adrian Boot © The Specials
“The Specials concert in Brighton. Not strictly a punk band, more a two tone outfit formed from the fusion of punk and reggae. It was their fans that were the real punks and in true style invaded the stage bringing the concert to a climax. The stage manager was nearly killed as the wall of loudspeakers collapsed on top of him. It was a riot.” – Adrian Boot
Amidst his early photography work of reggae and Jamaica, UK music photographer Adrian Boot captured intimate moments of the rise of punk culture in the 1970s. His subjects included the greats of the punk world; The Ramones, Blondie, The Clash, and The Sex Pistols among many others, capturing rich moments of musical history.
For the next month, you can gain insight into the musical revolution of forty years ago. PUNKULTURE will be on display at SunStudios in Alexandria for the next month, exploring this unique point in time.
Take a sneak peek of some of Adrian’s favourite moments below and delve into his memories of the punk icons he worked with.
Adrian Boot © The Clash – Camden
Up on London’s Chalk Farm road and inside today’s bustling trendy Camden Lock market, the old stables can still be seen tastefully integrated into the Proud Gallery’s club and bar. Back in early 1977 it was all very different. Then, it was a disused and dilapidated two-storey end terrace railway storage shed that housed the infamous Rehearsal Rehearsals studio. Now it is completely part of a continuously redeveloping market complete with tourists. What remained of the original market was burnt to the ground during the 2008 Camden Market fire – a fire that also destroyed the famous Hawley Arms, favourite haunt and inspiration to the late Amy Winehouse.
On a cold grey 1977 punky London afternoon I arrived at Rehearsal Rehearsals, an urban squat littered with old barber chairs, collapsed sofas, empty beer cans and food containers, bits of wire everywhere, piles of rubbish, a jukebox – and Paul Simon tearing from room to room firing his BB gun at anyone or anything that moved. It was in this hazardous environment, inside this urban war zone, that I found myself with instructions to take some photographs of The Clash. It was the first time I had met the band. Described to me by the press officer at the CBS Soho square headquarters as a “punk” band, and as such difficult and unpredictable.
Apparently I had been asked because of my Jamaica track record and possibly because of my generally dishevelled and scruffy appearance. Perhaps they thought I would blend in more. At the time I didn’t quite understand why Jamaica was relevant. This bunch of council-estate art-student angry white boys – what connection could they possibly have with tropical, sunny, colourful Jamaica, with their aggressive raw power punkrock, urban anarchy and drab black combat gear?
Adrian Boot © The Clash – Westway
If you keep walking all the way down London’s Portobello road, way past the tourists, the bric-a-brac stalls and antique shops, you will eventually find yourself under the A40 Westway. These days most of the arches under this motorway flyover form part of a West London urban cultural complex, with an impressive collection of cool restaurants, trendy clubs, art galleries and boutiques. Once a year the shops and restaurants are boarded up, roads are blocked off and the area reverts to a former urban self as the focal point of the infamous Notting Hill Carnival. During this august bank holiday carnival the real heat of the event will be found under and around these motorway arches. It is here you can find the coolest sound systems, the best jerk chicken stalls, and as always, it’s the place where trouble starts.
Towards the end of 1977 the Westway boasted none of its present day urban beautification. Instead it was just another post-war depressed, undeveloped, graffiti covered wasteland with a grey 60′s concrete elevated urban freeway overshadowing the neighbourhood. The previous year the area was host to the infamous 1976 Notting Hill Carnival riots. Tempers had reached a boiling point among young black men over police use of the “sus” law, under which anybody could be stopped, searched and held. A refined version of the law still angers locals today.
Windows were smashed, fires were lit and ill-equipped police officers picked up dustbin lids and milk crates to charge the rioters. More than 100 officers and 60 other people were taken to hospital. A year later the post riot debris was still in evidence. This was surely the ideal inner city location for a Clash photo-session. Most of the band only had to take a short stroll from home to the location. It was a bright sunny day and everyone was in a great mood – the band were on home turf. After one hour we had finished, with no makeup, stylists, art directors or press officers to delay things. Simple and fast, organic and relaxed: the best way to take photographs.
Adrian Boot © Patti Smith
Out of New York, this punk poet was the antithesis of Blondie. She performed live in London 1978, though I wasn’t really a big fan. The USA punk scene lacked the anarchic humour and mischief of the Brits.
Adrian Boot © Generation X
This was taken from the side of the stage at London’s famous Marquee club in 1982 – the tail end of Punk proper. Billy Idol ended up becoming a rock superstar and heart throb.
WHEN: April 4 – May 13, 9am – 5pm every weekday
WHERE: SunStudios, 42 Maddox St, Alexandria
HOW MUCH: Free. More info here
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