Paul Weller, Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler aka The Jam are still as relevant, refreshing and exciting as they were when they broke through the cloud of late 70’s musical mediocrity adorned in sharp suits and haircuts, their stand out power pop anthems propelled them to the summit of the hit parade.
One photographer that witnessed the band at close quarters was Derek D’Souza, he plucked up the courage to send in some pictures he took of the band to their fanclub which would be a life changing moment. From this point on Derek worked with the band on location, in the studio and a live setting. Here we have Derek speaking exclusively to Gigslutz as he discusses those precious times when he worked with his heroes which has now culminated in a new book In the Crowd, 40th Anniversary Edition.
Hi Derek, trusting you’re well. Can you please tell us a bit about your upbringing?
I was born in Bombay, India, and my parents moved to the UK in the early 1960s when I was two years old. I grew up in South London and Surrey, an only child, and had a normal secondary school upbringing in a suburban environment.
What was the first music you can remember hearing?
I can distinctly remember the first-time music made an impact on me. I had the measles and was feeling sorry for myself. My bedroom was the box room in our home in New Malden, and I remember two songs coming on the radio, Aretha Franklin’s “I Say a Little Prayer” and Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on By”, and I remember thinking, wow these are great! Even now the Aretha song reminds me of my mum.
What was the first serious music you can remember hearing?
I remember going to see The Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ at the cinema when I was five, and instantly fell in love with band. I’m sure like many people who never saw them, they are their favourite band, they changed everything!
How did you get into photography?
I had always been interested whenever there was an opportunity to take pictures, but money was tight and photography was expensive, so my chances were limited. My dad bought me my first camera in 1978 after passing some college exams. It was a Petri MF-1, a small Japanese 35mm Film camera, with a 50mm lens.
Did you study photography?
Sadly, I didn’t study photography formally, although I do consider myself to be a student of the medium and have been learning for the past 40 years or more. The more I learn, the more I realise I have barely scratched the surface of this fascinating subject.
Did you do any photography work before getting involved with The Jam?
The Chiswick House photo shoot was my first photo shoot for anyone! I really was a complete novice undertaking a band shoot.
I have 2 older brothers who were obsessed with The Jam as were most of the country in the late 70’s / early 80’s. What was the appeal to the band for you?
Of course, the first thing I heard was the music, I can remember hearing In The City on the John Peel Show, and then I saw them on TOTP, they wore black suits, white shirts and black ties, very different from so many bands who were punk or new wave. And they were young, a similar age to me. I was hooked immediately!
Were The Jam your favourite band of the time?
Most definitely, it was a time of change in the music industry and there were lots of great bands emerging: Dr. Feelgood, The Police, The Stranglers, The Clash, Sex Pistols and many more that I liked, but The Jam were my favourite, and even now 40 + years on, they are the best band I have seen live. It went beyond the music, they were explosive.
For the uneducated reader you took the plucky decision to photograph a picture of Paul Weller off the TV, not an easy thing to do back in those days, especially if you had a TV that you had to feed 50p’s in the back, before you sent the picture off to The Jam fanclub and had a direct reply back from Paul Weller. Can you run us through this story and what I felt like to receive a direct reply from the Modfather?
At that time in 1980, we had no video, no Sky Q. If you wanted to see something on TV, you had to be there in front of a tv to watch the show as it was being broadcast. Anyway, I took a chance, got lucky, and then decided to share the picture – along with some that I had taken of the band at gigs, and sent them off to the fan club. Of course, I never expected to get a reply, but Paul kindly signed the pictures and sent them back to me with a handwritten letter. This reminded me of Hard Day’s Night, The Beatles instructed to answer all their fan mail. Would this happen now? Probably not, possibly an email from a band’s management, or the record label…. but a handwritten letter from the artist? I don’t think so.
This was followed up with a picture session with the band in Chiswick House, how did this happen?
During the summer of 1981’s ’Bucket and Spade Tour’ I saw the band play three gigs and I also went to the soundchecks, taking photos each time. So, I sent some of the best to the fan club run by Paul’s sister Nicky and his mum Ann.
The next day I was on my way home from work and popped into a snooker club to have a beer with my dad. After a while he said, “Oh, I nearly forgot to tell you, Ann Weller phoned for you about doing a photo session for The Jam. Don’t worry, she said she’ll call you back later.” I literally ran home as quickly as I could and waited for the phone call. This was early in the week. I stayed in the next few nights but there was no phone call. I wondered whether it was a wind-up… although I hadn’t told anyone about sending the photos!
On Sunday night, the phone rang. It was Ann Weller, who apologised for not calling sooner. “Sorry I lost your number; you haven’t been waiting in, have you?” “No,” I fibbed!
Ann said, “The band really liked your pictures. John and I would like to meet up with you, see what photos you have, and discuss the possibility of doing a photo session with the band.”
I was stunned, there I was, a complete amateur (‘Absolute Beginners’ was so apt in so many ways) with amateur equipment, arranging to meet Paul’s parents, John and Ann.
The date was fixed, and I packed up some of my best photos and got on the train to Woking. Ann and John were very friendly, setting me at ease straight away. While I don’t remember too much of what we talked about, they both treated me well, the way my own parents would treat a visiting friend, with kind hospitality.
After a second visit, Ann and John arranged a date and time for me to meet the band while they were in the studio recording what would be their next single ‘Absolute Beginners’.
The appointment was set for 24 August 1981, and I would be meeting the band at George Martin’s Air Studios, overlooking Oxford Circus in London’s West End.
The Jam were in Studio 1 (I think) and, after the initial handshakes, as I was introduced to everyone. The band members were all there, along with Dave Liddle (Paul’s guitar technician), Pete Wilson (the producer), an engineer that was helping Pete, Kenny Wheeler (The Jam’s tour manager), Joe Awome (personal security) and John Robinson (singer/guitarist from the band The Questions). Bruce was in the booth recording backing vocals for ‘Absolute Beginners’ and the atmosphere was very relaxed, which definitely helped my nerves!
After a while they decided to take a break. Rick went to play Asteroids (an early arcade game) and Paul asked if I fancied a game of pool. “Come on, me and you against Kenny and Joe,” he said. So, there I was in Air Studios with The Jam playing pool, and me and Paul Weller are partners (OK, it was only three frames!). But we won 2–1!
When we sat down to talk about the photo session, Paul already had the location in mind. I didn’t know at the time that Paul had specifically chosen Chiswick Park knowing that The Beatles had been photographed there many years ago when making promotional videos for ‘Rain’ and ‘Paperback Writer’. Paul had the idea of wearing dark suits and felt the natural backgrounds and statues would provide a great contrast.
The session was arranged for Monday 31 August 1981. It was my first-ever photo session, for Britain’s favourite band (and mine).
What are your favourite memories of this photo shoot?
I was understandably nervous, never having done anything like this before, and being a fan of the band, but the band were great and very accommodating. They allowed me a free hand and many of the locations and shots were of my choosing. The difficult part was many of the statues Paul had mentioned were over 11 feet tall, so it wasn’t easy incorporating them into the shots. I remember Paul having his Granny Takes a Trip round sunglasses in his pocket, and I asked if he would put them on for one of the shots and he did, and it’s my favourite individual (solo, not band) shot from the session.
Were you invited to shoot the band in various concerts of the band, or did you have to apply to attend the gigs?
I did ask for photo passes, I had sneaked my camera in for the majority of the gigs I photographed the band, both before and after the Chiswick House session.
What are your favourite memories photographing the band in a live setting? They were an explosive live unit, weren’t they?
The gigs were incredible, frantic and scary, dark and loud, often violent… but the band were so exciting to hear and see, it was worth the risk to life and limb and camera! Some gigs, none of the pictures came out as there was simply no chance of standing still in the sea of fans, so everything was blurred. Under these difficult conditions with amateur equipment the times you were able to capture some of those moments were relatively limited. I think the phrase ‘lightning in a bottle’ springs to mind…. Mostly I was pleased to get anything.
How did the original book initially come to fruition?
During the production of Thick as Thieves: Personal Situations with The Jam (published 2012) by Stuart Deabill and Ian Snowball, it became clear that I had a lot of unseen images of the band, enough for my own book. With the recommendation of Jon Abnett, the first book’s designer, I was able to release my own book the following year.
Why do a revised version of the book with Soul Deep Productions?
While I was very happy with the first book, we were limited on the number of pages and the price constraints. The book was released nine years ago and sold out quite some time ago, and while copies popped up occasionally, they were few and far between which meant people were inclined to keep hold of their copies. We had a choice between a straight reprint or a new 40th anniversary edition (we started work on the book 40 years after the Chiswick House shoot). I was keen to work with the Soul Deep Productions team, having worked with Stuart Deabill before and having seen the quality of Steve Rowland’s creative work.
What can people expect with the new book that is different to the old book?
The new book will be a hardbacked version using better quality materials and litho print production and includes a high number of unseen pictures (50 in the end) and altogether a more high end photography coffee table book.
Are you still photographing bands?
Yes, having resumed after the enforced hiatus caused by Covid, I have been active working with a mixture of existing bands and artists including: From The Jam, Nancy and The Dolls, Ocean Colour Scene, Paul Weller, REWS, Stone Foundation, The Rifles, The Specials, The Stranglers and The Vapors.
I have also been working with some perhaps lesser known, and also some new and up and coming artists and bands. These include: Dr Bird, Emily Cappell, French Boutik, Georgia Crandon, Hands Off Gretal, Louise Turner, Nadia Sheikh, Regency, The Electric Stars, The Hunna, The K’s, The Molotovs, The Pearl Harts, The Sha La La La’s, The Signatures, The Wild Things and We Are Yonaka
Do you have any future plans?
While I continue to photograph bands and gigs, I would also like to try my hand at other genres of photography; portraits, wildlife, street photography. Of course, there are bands and artists I would like to photograph, so I hope that comes to fruition.
I am currently almost halfway into my ‘True is The Dream’ four-month exhibition at The Barbican Music Library, featuring my Photography and Music Memorabilia of The Jam, The Style Council and Paul Weller. There are other projects in the pipeline, and these could also include further books or exhibitions/ If there is the demand, it’s something to consider.
Finally, what’s on your turntable at present?
Dust! I have to confess a lot of my vinyl is packed away, so I tend to listen to music on my Mac, earphones or in the car…. But in terms of who I am listening to most recently, it’s The Spitfires latest and sadly last LP, the cleverly named ‘Play For Today’.
Prior to that my most recent purchases include Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’, Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros ‘Streetcore’, Paul Weller’s ‘An Orchestrated Songbook With Jules Buckley & The BBC Symphony Orchestra’, Fontaines D.C.’s ‘A Hero’s Death’, Kiko Bun ‘various tracks’, Hands Off Gretel’s ‘I Want The World’, The Wild Things ‘You’re Really Something’, Emily Capell’s ‘Combat Frock’, The Pearl Harts ‘Glitter and Spit’. Quite a mixture, and you can never have too much music!
In The Crowd can be purchased from the following link