®PRESENTS CLASSIC ROCK N' ROLL PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAFFAELLI
<GO BACK><MOBIUS GALLERY>
BEACH BOYS / BLIND FAITH / ERIC BURDON / FLEETWOOD MAC / GRACE SLICK / / IAN ANDERSON / ROLLING STONES / STEVE WINWOOD / THE DOORS / 3 DOG NIGHT / CREEDENCE CR / ARCHIVES / PURCHASE PRINTS
____________________CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO VIEW LARGER VERSIONS__________________
BLIND FAITH was either one of the
great successes of the late 1960's, a culmination of the decade's
efforts by three legendary musicians, or it was a disaster of
monumental proportions, and a symbol of everything that had gone
wrong with the business of rock at the close of that decade. In
fact, Blind Faith was probably both.
My involvement with the band started in April of 1969 when the newly formed group's manager Chris Blackwell came to my studio and asked me to fly to
London with him to meet and photograph the band. I accepted and we departed from LAX the next day. This was my first trip to England, and on our flight
Chris filled me in on the band?s background.
Blind Faith's beginnings dated from the break-up of the hugely successful band Cream. According to Chris, a clash of personalities between
bassist-singer Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker was responsible for the break up of Cream. Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker remained together after the demise of Cream. In Nov 1968 Steve Winwood joined the band after he quit Traffic. Rick Grech joins the band after leaving the group Family.
Our flight landed at London?s Heathrow Int. airport just before 11 PM. By the time we went through Customs, collected our luggage and located Chris's
Mercedes in the airport parking, it was after midnight. Chris suggested that before I check into my room at the Royal Lancaster hotel, we visit the band,
who were rehearsing at the Morgan Studios in London. It was well past midnight when we arrived. The Studio was adjacent to a residential area and
with everyone home for the night the streets were filled with cars. We had to park several blocks away and walk. I was carrying my camera case and was not happy about lugging it all that distance. Chris said ,don't worry I know a shortcut.
After a short distance Chris pulled open a squeaky iron gate and I soon discovered that the shortcut was through an old graveyard. As I passed
through the portcullis it was like entering the set of a classic 1931 Vampire horror movie. I followed Chris through a maze of gravestones, half
expecting Bela Lugosi to step out and say, I vunt to suck your blood. Chris had used this shortcut before and was moving along at a brisk pace. The turn
of the century Victorian headstones were quite fascinating and soon my photographers eye found interesting compositions in the moonlight, that I
just had to stop and shoot. I steadied myself between two large monuments and took several time exposures. By the time I put my camera back in the
case I realized that I had lost track of Chris.
My first trip to London and in less than an hour I was lost in an eerie moonlit cemetery. I grew up in the 50's and remember sitting in a darkened
movie theater watching a black and white film about a character in just this situation about to be eaten by a Werewolf. I found myself listening for the
telltale howl or the opening creak of an ancient crypt when a hand touched my shoulder. I jumped three feet and practically out of my skin. I spun
around expecting to see Christopher Lee peering out from behind a raised black cape, but to my relief it was just an amused Chris Blackwell. He said , Don't worry, you're safe, It's not a full moon until tomorrow night. I felt a little embarrassed, but followed him very closely until we reached the studio.
You would never guess from looking at the exterior of the building that it housed what then was a state of the art recording studio. The band was in
the mixing booth with the studio engineer Jimmy Miller, listening to a rough mix of, Can't Find My Way Home. Chris got everyone's attention and said, I
have someone here I want you to meet, This is Jimi Hendrix's photographer; and then almost as an afterthought he said ?his name is Ron Raffaelli.
Everyone was impressed and eagerly shook my hand. Although I felt a little diminished I smiled and said I was pleased to meet everyone.
That introduction had left me a little uneasy. I was very grateful for the doors that my association with Jimi had opened for me, but my worth and
talent were my accomplishments and not a result of my friendship with Jimi Hendrix. I remembered a friend of mine who I met when we were both
photography students at Art Center. His name was Chris Andrews and on a number of occasions I was with him when someone introduced him as Julie
Andrews' brother, not mentioning his given name at all. I always felt that that had diminished him as an individual. Chris had his own unique talent
and personality that were completely ignored when someone introduced him as a sibling of a famous personality. I have known several individuals that
have had to bear that cross and I got my first taste of this experience that night.
I digress, Back to the studio. I was not commissioned to shoot the Blind Faith album cover, that had already been decided. After the introductions
Mr. Blackwell told the group that he wanted me to get to know everyone and then make appointments to do individual portraits. Jimmy Miller rewound the
tape and we all listened to the song again. Each band member commented on how they could make improvements and soon everyone was back in the studio, instruments in hand, recording what was destined to become a rock classic , Can't Find My Way Home.
That night I tiptoed around the studio, avoiding tripping over cables and quietly shooting pictures of the band rehearsing and recording songs for
what was to become there classic and only album together. During the breaks I talked with each member individually trying to access their personalities
and determine how to best photograph them. The recording session broke up well after sunrise and everyone went home to sleep or do whatever rock stars do after a long night in the studio. Chris dropped me off at the Royal Lancaster hotel where I checked in and went up to my room and finally got
some rest after a long flight, an adventure in a graveyard, all night in a recording studio and almost two days without sleep.
The next night we were in the recording studio again. When the opportunity presented itself I got each member aside and told them that I had decided to
photograph them at a location of their choice, where they were most comfortable. Rick Grech said that he had a favorite park that he and his lady would often go to for a picnic. Steve Winwood said that he had a special (secret) location deep in the woods outside of London that he found
particularly meditative and would like to be photographed there. Ginger Baker was a little cool to the idea, but said that he was most comfortable
at home and that I could shoot there. Eric Clapton was the most personable of the group and we immediately struck up a friendship and he invited me to
spend the next weekend at his home, where we could relax and do some informal shots.
The next day after putting together a peasant's lunch (bread, cheese and wine) I took Rick and his Lady to his park and shot some pleasant pictures of him in this outdoor location. The following day I rented a limousine and picked up Steve Winwood for our trip out to the country. It was a long drive and on the way Steve began to relax and after I gained his confidence he told me why this location was so special to him. Steve said that his secret location was enchanted, Enchanted, I said. Steve then related a story indicating that these particular woods were believed to be inhabited by Elves and Gnomes for hundreds of years dating back before the Druids. I asked him if he had ever seen any of these creatures? He would not give me a direct answer, but stated that, If you believe, you will see.
Steve told our driver where to leave the highway and we drove into the woods quite a distance until the car could go no farther. Steve told the driver that we would be a while and then he took me on a two mile hike into the dense woods. When we finally arrived I must admit that it was definitely an enchanted story book location, and a likely spot where Bilbo Baggins might well set up housekeeping. We were both exhausted after our long walk and sat down on a rock under a shady tree and rested. I loaded my camera and Steven meditated for about twenty minutes. I then shot several rolls of film of a very reverent musician. Later after I returned to my studio and developed the film; I found myself examining every frame very carefully, looking for tiny eyes peeping out from behind tree trunks and branches.
My next subject was Ginger Baker. Chris Blackwell said he wanted to accompany me when it came time to shoot Ginger. So Chris drove me out to Ginger,s house in the early afternoon. It was located in a rural section of London with lots of open spaces and dirt roads. On the drive out to Ginger's house, Chris gave me a warning. He told me that Ginger will always try and test someone that he does not know. I said, What kind of test? Chris was not sure, but indicated that Ginger will always say or do something unexpected and your reaction will determine whether he accepts you as a friend or not.
When we arrived at Ginger's house we found him in the driveway putting the finishing touches on a wax job on his new sports car, A Jensen Interceptor.
It was low, sleek, silver gray, with leather straps that held the bonnet (hood) down. I took some picture of Ginger standing next to his pride and joy and when I was finished, he asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. I said, Sure, thinking I could get some shots of him behind the wheel with his hair blowing in the wind. The passenger seat was cramped for my 6 foot 2 inch size, but I managed to scrunch down so that I could get a wide angle shot looking up at Ginger from the floor boards.
Soon we were cruising down a narrow dirt country road and I was getting my shots of Ginger behind the wheel with his red hair blowing in the wind. At
seventy miles an hour Ginger looked down and gave me an evil smile, and mashed the accelerator to the floor. The speedometer quickly climbed to 80, 90, 100, 110 and still climbing. The countryside was just a blur out the window. This was too fast for a freeway, but we were on a rutty dirt road. Ginger looked at me as if to say, Had enough? I lowered my camera and said, Is this as fast as it will go? Ginger gave me a warm smile and took his foot off of the accelerator. I had passed the test.
When we arrived back at the house, he invited me in for tea and biscuits. Ginger was an avid wood carver and he showed me his artistic collection of mostly abstract carvings. The English release of their album featured a young nude girl holding a chrome plated jet airplane that Ginger had carved. We sipped tea and ate biscuits as ginger sat in his lounge chair and told stories. At one point his infant daughter escaped the nursery and entered the room. She quickly scrambled up Ginger?s leg and perched herself on his knee. Thinking that he might like a shot with his daughter I took a picture.
We spent a pleasant afternoon with Ginger and his family and then Chris and I excused ourselves and left. Weeks later when I was making prints form this
session I printed the shot of Ginger and his daughter. After it was developed and floating in the fixer I found I could not keep form starring at it. There was just something about this shot that I found so unexpectedly fascinating. The juxtaposition of this evil looking hard rock drummer?s face, next to such an adorable young angelic child was so captivating that I could not take my eyes off of it. To this day I still think that this is one of the most compelling images I ever captures as a rock photographer.
Friday night we were all back at Morgan Studios listening to the final mix of "Can't Find My Way Home", "Presence of the Lord" and "Sea of Joy." There
was a little bickering about some minor details of each song, but all agreed that a good compromise had been reached and the engineer was given permission to send the tapes off for vinyl pressings. The last bit of business had been concluded by 3:30 AM and Eric Clapton asked me if I wanted
to drive home with him for our weekend photo session. I agreed, but we needed to stop by the hotel to pick up my equipment and a change of clothes.
By 4 AM we were on our way to Eric's newly acquired estate in the exclusive community of Hurtwood Edge.
It was still quite dark when we arrived at his estate, but nevertheless I was overcome with the beauty and majesty of the residence. Due to the late
hour I was taken to my room where I slept in a beautifully carved Victorian four posted canopied bed. The next morning we had a delightful brunch on an
outdoor terrace overlooking the garden and six acres of woodland. After we ate, Eric took me on a tour of the interior of the estate. I soon lost count
of bedrooms, baths, dens and libraries. I had never been in such a magnificent home and I said ?If you don?t mind me asking, but do you come from a wealthy family or did you purchase this estate by making love to guitar strings with your fingers. Eric gave a little laugh and raised his hand, wiggled his fingers and said,Just with these.
The rest of that day we spent in one of the dens enjoying pleasant conversations. After dinner we were back in the den; Eric lit jasmine incense and played some of his favorite albums for me. He also shared some of his solo (experimental) guitar music which we listened to with headphones. Later that evening Eric excused himself and then came back after a short time with a wooden box containing a 500mm telephoto lens. He said that he purchased it in Japan while on tour and wanted me to have it. I was overwhelmed and could hardly find the words to express my surprise and appreciation for such an unexpected and generous gift. Eric said that he had bought it on an impulse and would probably never use it and that it would be more useful to me.
The next day Eric took me on a tour of the grounds. The back of the property had four brick pathways that branched out from the estate like spokes on a
semicircle. Eric said that because he had only been in the house for a couple of weeks he had not yet explored this particular pathway, so we were exploring it for the first time. As we were walking along engrossed in conversation Eric nearly walked into a low hanging tree branch blocking our way. I asked him to hook his arm around the branch and I shot several photos of him on this yet unexplored walkway. As we walked along Eric asked me
several questions about Jimi Hendrix's personality. I told him that they had a lot in common. Besides their talent as guitarist I said that they both shared a quiet modesty and a respect for all life, and a spiritual sensitivity.
As our journey continued I noticed a break in the raised curb that paralleled the walkway. There was another branching path, but it was blocked by a thick overgrowth of bushes. Our curiosity was peaked, so we muscled our way through the shrubbery and soon found ourselves in a large vine covered
wrought iron dome. The whole interior was lit with dappled sunlight, giving it almost a mystical or magical feeling. There were several curved wrought
iron benches lining the inside. We sat down quietly and took in the ambience. After a while Eric looked at me and said ?If I had known this was here I would have paid twice as much for the estate. We stayed there for over an hour talking and absorbing the transcendental quality of this unexpected discovery.
After recording the album, the band made its live debut in Hyde Park, London; a crowd estimated at 100,000 - 150,000 watch for free. At Mr. Blackwells request I extended my stay to shoot this concert. Although they were all experienced performers this coupling had never played before a live audience before. They got off to a shaky start, but soon settled in to the experienced professionals they were.
The US debut started at Madison Square Garden, NY. This was the start of a sell-out two-month US stadium tour, once called ?one of the tackiest rock
circuses of all time?, which earns a fortune, yet convinces band members that Blind Faith is musically unsatisfying. Winwood later describes the tour as vulgar, crude, disgusting and lacking in integrity. I did not accompany the US tour, but my experience in London with the band was quite pleasant. I could tell from my time in the studio with the group that there was a tiff between Eric and Ginger and that may have been the underpinnings of the band?s break up. I was not surprised when Eric Clapton went on to become a huge superstar, next to Jimi Hendrix he was the most talented, sensitive, kind and spiritually aware musician I have ever known.
Copyright © by Ron Raffaelli 2002
COPYRIGHT © 2003 PROPERTY OF MOBIUS GALLERY~ALL RIGHTS RESERVED~
ALL PHOTOGRAPHY COPYRIGHT © 1969 BY RON RAFFAELLI~ALL RIGHTS RESERVED~
<GO BACK><MOBIUS GALLERY>