‘From Abba to Zappa’: Michael Putland’s shots of rock royalty – in pictures

Putland, who died this week aged 72, was said to have snapped every major musical star from A-Z. His new book The Music I Saw pairs images of the many stars he captured over his 50-year career – including the Rolling Stones, the Cure and Donna Summer – with his memories of this heady era of music history

Jimi Hendrix and his band with DJ Emperor Roskoe, and the future Duke of Norfolk in 1968

This image was taken after the Woburn music festival, when Putland was asked to photograph Hendrix at Woburn Abbey, belonging to Robin Russell, who became the 14th Duke of Bedford. ‘During the concert, I had taken a roll of colour of Hendrix that Beat Instrumental used on its November cover. Then they lost the entire film roll. About 12 years ago, I told that story to a cab driver, who said, “I’ve got that issue at home.” So I offered him 50 quid for it.’ All photographs: Michael Putland.

Robert Smith of the Cure on tour in Brazil in 1987

‘I was in Brazil for Q magazine with the journalist Johnny Black to cover this South American tour by The Cure. Halfway between gigs in Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro, during a bus ride along narrow, precipitous mountain roads, we stopped at a village. I felt obliged to point out to Robert that his lipstick was rather smudged. He gave me a wordless look, which told me it was meant to be like that’

Mick and Bianca Jagger on tour in Berlin in 1973

‘I was nursing a terrible hangover and had to leave on a plane with the band at 7am from Tempelhof airport, where I stopped every now and then to sit on my steel camera case and take some deep breaths. Eventually stumbling on to the plane, I noticed Mick and Bianca were already fast asleep in the front row’

Debbie Harry with Chrissie Hynde and Viv Albertine in London in 1980

Before taking this picture of Harry in London, Putland came across her when he was based in New York: ‘This gorgeous creature came on the stage in Central Park wearing barely no dress at all, strode up to the mike, smiled at the audience, cleared her throat and spat on the stage. It was shocking somehow, especially as she looked so beautiful. It’s almost impossible to take anything other than a great picture of her’

Siouxsie Sioux in London in 1980

‘After photographing Siouxsie with Debbie Harry, Hynde et al for the “Ladies Tea Party” [hosted by Harry at a hotel], it was a pleasure to photograph Siouxsie on her own. She had the most striking eyes beneath the hair and was gentle soul’

Elton John at home Windsor in 1972

Putland witnessed John early in career, when he was working at a prolific rate, and says of this image: ‘Perhaps you can see the pressure this gifted young man was under at the time’

Donna Summer in Washington DC in 1978

Putland previously photographed Summer, in London in 1976 and photographed her many times in 1978-79

Marc Bolan of T Rex at Château d’Hérouville recording studio in France in 1972

‘I worked with Marc so many times. I’ll never forget arriving at the studio one day with not enough money to pay my builder, who was waiting. Marc turned to his bodyguard, Alfie, saying, “Look after Mike.” Big Alfie said, “How much do you want Mike?’ as he peeled off notes from a large roll in his fist’

Mick Jagger and Keith Richard at a Rolling Stones video shoot 1978

Putland was official photographer of the Stones’ 1973 tour, and shot them many times over the years

Bryan Ferry of Roxy music at his home in London in 1976

Putland has often claimed that he, ‘didn’t have a day off in the 70s’. He told AnOther magazine in 2014: ‘My style was always more photojournalistic – I didn’t want to do glossy. There are people that do take very beautiful, glossy pictures but my talent isn’t technical, if anything it’s capturing the real person’

Frank Zappa in London in 1973

Putland was one of the top music photographers of the 1960s and 70s. He first picked up a camera at the age of nine, and at 16 took on assistant jobs with established photographers. He shot Zappa multiple times

Led Zeppelin in New York in 1977

‘Groups are always so difficult to capture in the same frame when playing live,’ says Putland. ‘So I went deep down the aisle at Madison Square Garden and, using a very long lens, was lucky enough to capture this. It’s now one of my most popular shots’

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