Published on September 9th, 2014 | by Mike Ainscoe0
THE VISUAL QUEEN – Steve Emberton and Alan Perry (Wymer Publishing)
A high quality production this – comprising of a large format hardback in a slipcase containing an envelope with some additional prints, in what they usually call ‘coffee table’ format, It all points to the quality and extravagance with which Queen were hallmarked. The package serves as a photo collection from the period 1975-1979 when Queen were starting to gain the recognition and notoriety for their ever increasing flamboyance on and off stage.
The obligatory foreword this time comes from Bruce Murray – not a name particularly associated with the Queen story, yet back in the mists of pre-Queen time he was a schoolmate of the young Fred Bulsara back in India, and along with Victory Rana and Derrick Branche, made up Freddie’s first band, The Hectics.
Of the ‘authors’, although Emberton was employed as a photographer by Record Mirror, Alan Perry was more the fan with the camera and it’s interesting to read his personal comments about attending and shooting the gigs – nothing better than hearing the recollections of those who’ve been there and have that non-journalistic perspective on things. For this project, the pair have opened their archives and alongside the shots from the 1975 tour and the outdoor gig in Hyde Park, there are sets from Wembley Arena in 1978 and also the 1979 ‘Crazy Tour’ when Queen visited the provinces and played for the last time in small local theatres. Of particular personal interest are the Perry shots from Manchester Apollo in November 1979 – a gig I actually attended and which holds some fond memories… so thanks Alan!
However, the crowning glory belongs to the shots from the ‘Day At The Races’ press launch at Kempton Park racecourse in 1976. The candid offstage images show the band in a different light. For once, the posing and posturing takes a back seat as they forsake the satin and expansive flares and capes, pack away their lunchboxes and become regular everyday punters down at the track.
The appeal is centred on the rarity of the images. Many have been stored ever since they were taken and now dusted off and restored, digitally of course. “I’ve never any of these images before!” exclaims Jack Gunn from the official Queen fan club on the back cover, and although missing the sharpness, colour definition and clarity of modern day digital images, they reflect a time when rock was starting to become theatre, and ever increasingly shows were being built to make a concert an event. There may be some rather grainy and dark images which might lack focus and the chance for composition, but it’s also interesting to note Perry’s comments on his camera equipment of the time. It’s maybe best to sit back, with a coffee naturally, and appreciate how these photographs of some classic images of an iconic band will at some stage, become historical documents.