EXCLUSIVE: Famed photographer who snapped The Beatles, The Who and the Stones shares unseen photos and tells how he got his big break after finding Mick Jagger in bed with two naked women
- Alec Byrne, 68, recalls to DailyMailTV how he snuck into film sets and snapped photos of rock stars when he was a young photographer in London in the late 60s and early 70s
- Some of his never-before-seen photos, which survived a flood, a building fire, and an earthquake, are showcased in his new book, London Rock: The Unseen Archive?
- At 19, Byrne watched Mick Jagger make his acting debut after the photographer finagled his way on the set of the film Performance, and snapped a photo of him in bed with actresses Michele Breton and?Anita Pallenberg
- 'There was nowhere else to go so I had to sit on the edge of the bed, Mick glared at me with the two women beside him, I'll never forget it,' he told DailyMailTV?
- Byrne smoked marijuana with Bob Marley, hung out at Elton John's house, and befriended Paul and Ringo
- He remembers vividly the time he was at the Marquee Club in SoHo when Keith Richards collapsed on stage, his eyes rolling back in his head and his body crashing into an amp?
- As a young photographer, Byrne was present at Brian Jones's funeral and walked over to his open grave and captured an iconic photo
Photographer Alec Byrne, now 68, recalls being on the front lines of London's rock n' roll music scene in the late 1960s
It was the summer of 1968 and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger was filming his first movie.
The film, Performance, was being shot in a house in Knightsbridge, west London on a closed set, but word quickly got out.
Young music photographer Alec Byrne had somehow managed to sneak in - but the 19-year-old wasn't prepared for what would happen next.
'To this day I don't know how I pulled it off, when I got there the house was nothing fancy and, with a full complement of cast and crew, a bit cramped,' Byrne told DailyMailTV.?
'I followed the flow of people to where the focus of the activity was and I suddenly found myself in a small bedroom - there was Mick Jagger lay in bed with two naked women, it was some sight.'
Jagger was in the middle of filming a steamy scene with actresses Anita Pallenberg and Michele Breton when Byrne stumbled in - he couldn't believe his luck.
'It was pretty special, the girls were free and easy about being naked,' he recalls. 'Mick was very quiet, intensely focused on what he had to do. But shooting bands on stage and behind the scenes did nothing to prepare me for this situation.'
Byrne squeezed passed the production crew tried to position himself in the corner of the room out of the way.
But as he did so did a grip guy carrying a lightning stand and blocked him off.
'There was nowhere else to go so I had to sit on the edge of the bed, Mick glared at me with the two women beside him, I'll never forget it.
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Iconic: One of Byrne's favorite shots, he says, was the photo he took of Mick Jagger filming a steamy scene on the set of his first film, Performance, which the 19-year-old photographer happened to walk in on. 'There was nowhere else to go so I had to sit on the edge of the bed, Mick glared at me with the two women beside him, I'll never forget it,' he said?
The film, Performance, was being shot in a house in Knightsbridge, west London on a closed set, but word quickly got out, Byrne said
'I quickly moved off into the corner and stayed for the rest of the shoot grabbing shots between takes. I got some of my favorite photos that day.'
Byrne's extraordinary photos - seen here for the first time and showcased exclusively on DailyMailTV - make up part of his new book on the British music scene of the late 1960s and early 70s called London Rock: The Unseen Archive.
The photos are among hundreds of pictures documenting his early career as a rock photographer snapping music legends like Jagger, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, and Bob Marley as well as iconic bands of the day including The Beatles, Cream, Beach Boys, and The Who.
Incredibly, the entire archive sat gathering dust in Byrne's garage for almost 50 years until the treasure trove was recently unearthed.
And amazingly the thousands of photos had somehow survived through a fire, flood, and earthquake over the years - events which had destroyed thousands more images in Byrne's collection.
Byrne recalls those early days captured on film fondly.
He started life as a dispatch rider for Keystone Press, a photo agency in Fleet Street, collecting film from photographers to be processed.
Byrne's extraordinary archive will be released on December 7
'I was riding around on a scooter and I was a Mod with the parka and the whole "Quadrophenia" set up.
'But I got to know the photography end of it by hanging out in the dark room.
'I picked up various things a long the way and my brother had a real cheap 35mm camera and I started shooting that - going to the park, snapping family, and friends.
'I was earning five guineas (￡5.25) a week and remember buying my first camera for ￡42. I had to get my mother to sign a hire purchase loan agreement.'
After getting an artsy photo of a building published in the local paper, Byrne became hooked.
He began taking photos of bands after work trying to go to as many gigs as possible.
'I was shooting everything and I'd do three or four bands a week and I would send these pictures in and the magazine New Musical Express (NME) would publish one or two and it got to the point I was making as much money from the weekly music papers as I was from my job.
'I was ready to quit, but before I made that decision I'd done a gig and went back to the office, snuck in through the window, and developed some pictures.
'Problem was I fell asleep though complete exhaustion then the morning guy came on and said: "What the hell are you doing here?" and I was fired immediately.'?
Byrne went straight to NME asking for a job and they gave him a retainer.
It was 1966 and the London music scene was about to explode.
'I was in the right place at the right time,' Byrne recalls. 'There was a music revolution happening and I was in the thick of it.'
One of Byrne's most memorable photos came on May 4, 1967 - the day after his 18th birthday.
Byrne, who began taking pictures of bands as a teen, recalls seeing rock legend Jimi Hendrix and Mick Jagger at the taping of the weekly music show Top of the Pops on May 4, 1967 - a day before his 18th birthday - He snapped a photo of the two stars which he believes had met for the first time this night
The young photographer's extraordinary photos - seen here for the first time - make up part of his new book on the British music scene of the late 1960s and early 70s called London: The Unseen Archive. Above is Byrne's shot of Keith Moon, Peter Townshend, and Mick Jagger in 1968?
Byrne remembers vividly the time he was at the Marquee Club in SoHo when Keith Richards (pictured in 1971) collapsed on stage, his eyes rolling back in his head and his body crashing into an amp?
Byrne was going to the BBC's studios at Lime Grove every Thursday for the taping of the weekly music show Top of the Pops, and that night Jimi Hendrix was playing.
He recalls: 'I was in awe of Hendrix, he blew the doors off the place, but the cool moment came when I noticed Mick Jagger behind stage, out of the lights, just standing there watching Jimi's set.
'When taping finished, Jimi went over to Jagger and I immediately followed.
'I asked if they minded my taking their picture and they said no, I snapped a shot on my Rolleiflex, just one frame, no other photographers were around.
'As far as I'm aware that was the first time these two music legends met.'
The following month Byrne covered the Our World TV special at Abbey Road Studios.
The Beatles's Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album was only three weeks old, and the event would include the band's first performance of 'All You Need Is Love.'
It was the world's first international satellite broadcast - the first worldwide show - and involved contributions from 19 nations and an estimated audience of 700 million people, mindblowing figures in 1967.
Byrne remembers the press day at Abbey Road Studios the day before being a scrap of media, but when all the newspaper guys went he stuck around.
'After the crush inside, everyone was ready for a little fresh air, including the Beatles,' he recalls.
'I found myself standing with Paul and Ringo, who were out on the forecourt having a cigarette.
'I asked if they don't mind me taking a few more shots and they were fine. They were the best shots I got all day.
'I asked Ringo if he was nervous about the satellite show and he smiled: "Not really. I just keep the beat y'know."'
Young Alec: Byrne landed a young photographer's dream job in the late 1960s photographing rock legends when London's music scene was about to explode. Above he is pictured in his London studio in 1968?
Byrne's nearly lost his valuable body of work several times over the years. In 1994 the devastating Northridge earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.7, struck the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles. Byrne's office in Hollywood was badly hit and hundreds of negatives were again damaged
In 1971 he recalls how a fire ripped through his studio in London destroying thousands of negatives
Five years later when Byrne decided to move to the States hundreds more negatives were damaged by sea water during the Atlantic crossing in a shipping container (pictured)
During those golden days of the London music scene, gaining access to huge music stars was not like it is today.
Byrne remembers setting up a photo shoot with David Bowie in a park.
'It was agreed we would go to a park in Beckenham (South London) which is where he was living at the time,' said Byrne.
'But when I got there I was surprised, it was just him standing at the gate, none of his people.
'His star was rising but he didn't arrive with an entourage of publicists, make-up artists, and hangers-on the way an artist would today.
'I always had an interest in Bowie and his 'Space Oddity' was special, but while I was expecting a withdrawn, artsy, introverted guy, he was the opposite - he was warm and easy going.
'We were both South London boys and I think we clicked right away, we spent a few hours together working out how to get the best pictures.
Byrne managed to capture some incredible portraits of Bowie in his prime and shortly after the shoot the star's office called asking if they could use one of his photos as his publicity shot in the program for the Humble Pie tour.
'Fast forward to 2015, and I got word that the same photo , pulled from an old copy of the program, was to be the lead image for the book accompanying Bowie's new box set, Five Years (1969-1973).
'I was humbled, here's a guy who has been photographed thousands of times over the past 50 years but he remembered that one picture, I was honored.'
For Byrne, the stories come thick and fast.
Smoking marijuana with Bob Marley during a photo shoot was particularly memorable and hanging out at Elton John's house was great, he says.?
Byrne, who had had the privilege of hanging out with some the biggest music icons, says the death of Rolling Stones founder and guitarist Brian Jones deeply affected him (Pictured December 11, 1968)?
Jones died aged 27 shortly after being pulled, unconscious, out of the floodlight swimming pool at his home in Hartfield, East Sussex on July 3, 1969.?After the ceremony when nearly everyone had drifted away Byrne walked over to the open grave and captured a memorable photo
But Byrne seems to gravitate back to the Stones, a band he had the privilege of photographing dozens of times.
He remembers vividly the time he was at the Marquee Club in SoHo when Keith Richards collapsed on stage, his eyes rolling back in his head and his body crashing into an amp.
'It was a small venue, low stage and literally I could feel the sweat coming off Jagger because I was right in the front,' he recalls.
'The guys were having so much fun because this was their last gig before they were going to leave England and go to France.
'So there was lots of booze and substances being passed around and at one point you can see in the picture that Mick is looking at Keith because no one knows what he is playing and he's weaving around.
'Next thing he falls back, crashes on the amplifiers, slumps down on to the stage and everyone starts thinking "has he died?"'
'People rushed to him and he was taken away and I caught it on camera. I was amazed that he reappeared on stage a short time later.'
While Byrne remembers how easy success came to bands like the Stones, he also remembers how others needed a leg up.
In January 1968 he began working with an emerging band called Love Affair whose first single 'She Smiled Sweetly', written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, flopped.
The band was desperate for their next hit so they turned to Byrne to give them a boost.
The young rock photographer whisked them to Piccadilly Circus where he came up with the idea of shooting photos at the statue of Eros - the goddess of love.
But his idea came with a twist.
In a few short years, Byrne had built up an archive of material that would be the envy of music photographers the world over. Pictured is his shot of Iggy Pop, King's Cross Cinema, in 1972?
'The Who, Who's next' press party at Keith Moon's house, Chertsey, Surrey, July 14, 1971
He attended The Who, Who's next Press party at band drummer Keith Moon's house (pictured in 1971)?
Byrne also befriended The Beatles while the band was making their appearance on Our World TV special at Abbey Road Studios. Pictured left is a photo he snapped of John Lennon and his first son Julian in 1968, and right, Paul McCartney in 1973
The incredible archive of material sat in storage for more than four decades. Pictured above is Jim Morrison, The Roundhouse, September 1968
'I told them to climb up on the statue for a photo and the traffic began to slow down with all the people looking up,' he recalls.
'Then it clicked, I told them to stay up there as long as they could, the traffic was backed up and now hundreds of people began to gather to see what was going on and the police were called.
'The police eventually coaxed them down, they get arrested and taken away, and by the time they appeared in court a week later all the newspapers had covered the story, job done.
'Their new record Everlasting Love shot straight to number one - I'd definitely credit my little stunt for that.'
Cutting his teeth in the rock and roll scene in London in the swinging 60s had been incredible for young Byrne.
In a few short years he had built up an archive of material that would be the envy of music photographers the world over.
But as a young lad who had had the privilege of hanging out with some music icons, nothing affected him more than the death of Brian Jones.
Stones founder and rhythm guitarist Brian Jones was a universally respected pioneer of new musical forms.
He died aged 27 shortly after being pulled, unconscious, out of the floodlight swimming pool at his home in Hartfield, East Sussex on July 3, 1969.
'I just couldn't take it in,' recalls Byrne. 'Just a few months before, I'd been photographing and chatting with him at the Rock and Roll Circus. Now his life was over, and the reality hit me hard.'
Byrne decided to go to his funeral in his hometown of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, 115 miles from London.
He said: 'Brian's hearse arrived as part of a 14-car procession.
'His coffin, carried into the church through the crowd, was covered with flowers, including a guitar shaped wreath from the Stones office.'
Byrne said Jagger couldn't make the funeral because he was filming a movie in Australia, but Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts were there. Keith Richards was expected but never arrived.
Byrne managed to capture some incredible portraits of Bowie in his prime and shortly after the shoot the star's office called asking if they could use one of his photos as his publicity shot in the program for the Humble Pie tour. In 2015, that same photo was to be the lead image for the book accompanying Bowie's new box set, Five Years?
Byrne was lucky to meet some of London rock's biggest legends, including Marc Bolan, the lead singer of English rock band T. Rex (pictured in 1971). Bolan in 1977, at age 29
T. Rex live at Lyceum Ballroom, London on January 16, 1974
After the ceremony when nearly everyone had drifted away Byrne walked over to the open grave and captured a memorable photo.
He said: 'There was no security, just Brian's coffin in the ground and two young female fans in long dark coats and hippie hats standing there paying their respects. I captured the moment on film.
'The experience drilled home a simple fact, good times don't last forever.'
Byrne covered music in London from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s eventually setting up his own photo agency.
Eventually in 1976 he decided to switch to America, settling in Los Angeles where he stills lives today with wife Kim at the family home in Encino. He has two daughters Lucy and Chloe.
His incredible archive of material sat in storage for more than four decades.
Byrne, 68, said: 'For nearly 50 years these images were in boxes hidden away in my garage until a friend I was working with, Drew Evans, came by the house and saw a picture on the wall of The Beatles and said, 'where did you buy that?'
'I explained I had taken it along with photos of other bands and that's what got the ball rolling.'
Byrne also explains how he almost lost his valuable body of work.
In 1971 he recalls how a fire ripped through his studio in London destroying thousands of negatives.
Five years later when Byrne decided to move to the States hundreds more negatives were damaged by sea water during the Atlantic crossing in a shipping container.
Then in 1994 the devastating Northridge earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.7, struck the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles.
Byrne's office in Hollywood was badly hit and hundreds of negatives were again damaged.
'Looking back I feel fortunate that there's still so much material that has survived through fire, flood and quake,' he said.
With the remaining photos dusted off, in late 2012 Byrne held an acclaimed one-night show in LA attended by more than a thousand people.
'That showed me just how important these images are,' he explained.
Since then Byrne's work has been featured during the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, exhibited by the South by southwest music festival, and accepted into the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Now his impressive body of work will be available for wider consumption in the book, London Rock: The Unseen Archive, which will be released on December 7.
London Rock is also published by Virgin Books ￡50 www.penguin.co.uk http://www.demoraliserband.com/2AefFpm
London Rock is on display at Proud Central, London 8th December – 28th January
London Rock: The Unseen Archive - The Perfect Exposure Gallery, Los Angeles - Opens Dec. 14
Alec Byrne Website http://www.demoraliserband.com
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