Jørgen Angel interview
|by Chris Groom|
|all photos copyright by Jørgen Angel ( www.angel.dk )|
Some music lovers are lucky to have seen their favourite bands play a small venue in their home town. How many of those ever got to hang out with, and photograph their musical heroes, on and off stage, with pretty much unlimited access? It's just not going to happen, right? But for Jørgen Angel, every rock fan's dream became his reality.
Living in Copenhagen, Denmark, when Jørgen joined his local youth club in the mid sixties, he already had an interest in photography. By coincidence, the organisers of the Gladsaxe TeenClub needed someone to take photos for their club magazine and Jørgen's sister pushed him forward, all on a voluntary basis of course and he had to buy his own film!
The club put on regular rock gigs in a local school hall and the 15 year old Jørgen got to hear, and using his mother's camera, photograph the likes of John Mayall, The Move, The Nice, early Deep Purple (pre-Ian Gillan) and most famously, the first ever gig by Led Zeppelin! From such illustrious beginnings, it was no surprise that Jørgen took up freelance photography, covering gigs right across Scandinavia, the UK and eventually in America, all the while selling prints to the music press, the NME and Melody Maker among them.
Sadly, by the mid-eighties the music industry had become big business and too much of the fun and enjoyment had gone; so after twenty years behind a lens, Jørgen hung up his camera, stored around 50,000 negatives in his attic and moved on.
With the passage of time, interest in the music of the sixties and seventies increased manyfold, particularly in such a comprehensive early photographic resource - who else has such early shots of Arthur Brown, Stackridge or Silverhead - and Jørgen now sells prints to books and magazines, Classic Rock, Mojo and Goldmine are recent users, and to fans via his website: www.angel.dk
I can thoroughly recommend the website, full of memorable and intimate rock photographs which only represent the tip of his image-library iceberg; some shots will be familiar to buyers of the early seventies music press, but many, many more are unpublished and until now, unseen. As is the nature of the internet, I stumbled across Jørgen's website quite by accident and found myself amazed by images of Fairport Convention that I had never seen before. Consequently, I got in touch by email and Jorgen kindly agreed to answer a few questions over the telephone
I'm glad you like my work. I have lots more of Fairport - never seen before. Some not even by me, as I didn't always make prints from the negatives at the time! I met up with the band again and again because they were such a nice bunch of people. But there was wasn't really a market for photos of them. Only in the rock mag I did at the time.
I see from your website that you started taking photographs at gigs as a 15 year old? And eventually turned it into a career - which sounds like every music fan's dream! Did you work for the music press in Europe - who probably only wanted T.Rex and the Bay City Rollers, not Family and Fairport?
I did sell to European mags back in the 70s, either via agents or direct. The NME in the UK was a regular client back then. But not for bands like Fairport or Lindisfarne. Yes, the 'Rollers were good business. There are so many sales potential bands that I still have to scan. One has to make a living
Your site already covers the big name acts, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Clapton, Bowie, Zappa et al, but there must be hundreds of other bands still to be unearthed from your archive. The obvious question from our perspective, is did you ever get to see Lindisfarne play live?
Yes, I do have shots of Lindisfarne. I have 6 rolls of film from the Roskilde Festival in 1979 and half a roll from much earlier, very early 70s. Wasn't it Lindisfarne who did Fog on The Tyne? Great song!
I got curious about that old half roll, so I did a low res scan - like proofs/contacts, only bigger. I know that they were in Copenhagen in December 1972 - playing the Gladsaxe Beatforum (not the same as Gladsaxe TeenClub, which stopped in '69) - that is probably where my shots are from.
Ray Laidlaw remembers:
"The 1972 gigs in Denmark are a complete blank, I'm afraid. I can remember gigs in Holland and Germany around that time, but no Nordic dates. I do have memories of the Roskilde Festival, however, as my wife Lesley and son Jed came along, Jed was only a few months old. The three of us spent a lot of time wandering around Copenhagen together.
I also remember Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius eating in the same hotel restaurant as Lindisfarne and some wag remarking that the three best bass players in the world could instantly be removed by one portion of dodgy seafood!"
Exactly what sort of venue was the Gladsaxe Beatforum?
It was the same kind of set up as the Gladsaxe TeenClub. When the TeenClub stopped, some other people continued to run it as the Gladsaxe Beatforum and both were held in a very good school sports hall, which was used for gymnastics, children's theatre plays and so on. Actually most of the Gladsaxe TeenClub concerts took place in the Egegaard Skole, which means Oak Farm School, in English, whereas most of the Gladsaxe Beatforum concerts took place in the Kennedy Skolen. This was a bit later, when hashish or cannabis was more a part of the scene! In the Teen Club, unless you smuggled something in past the guards, the strongest thing you had was either Coca-Cola or a Mars bar! When the concerts moved to the Kennedy school, times had changed and people were sitting around in their Afghan coats and smoking their grass and listening to the MC5 or Lindisfarne. An interesting combination but I don't think it was the same bill!
The informal look of those early shots owe much to the relaxed attitudes of the time, perfectly illustrated by this quote from Jørgen's interview with Goldmine magazine - "I didn't know I was not supposed to walk in to Eric Clapton's dressing room after a Cream concert, so I just walked in and said, "Hi, can I take a photo?" In no way did I look professional - I was a schoolboy with my mother's holiday camera. At a Yardbirds concert, in a local hall for handball, I walked on the stage - just some chip board elevated over the floor - to take some photos closer up. Nobody tried to stop me. All the roadie said was, "Mind the gear!" when I was about to step on one of Jimmy Page's guitars in an open case on the floor."
How often did the British bands come to Copenhagen?
At the TeenClub it was maybe three out of every four Saturdays in a month and we had bands like The Yardbirds, Deep Purple, Ten Years After, John Mayall, The Pretty Things, Spooky Tooth, The Nice a list just off the top of my head.
So yes, lots of British bands came to us; what they did was to play Gladsaxe and move on to play at another school on the other side of Copenhagen, also on the outskirts, called Brondby PopClub. This club was a bit more progressive; some of the bands were the same, for example Led Zeppelin, the first time around when they were the New Yardbirds, had their premiere at Gladsaxe TeenClub, then packed up their gear and drove on to Brondby and the next show.
Was it always your intention to make a career out of photography?
No, when I first started photographing the bands I was only 14 or 15 years old, not really knowing what I wanted to do; it was expected of me to go into my father's business, which was retail shops for men's clothes. Then I really got caught up in rock & roll and photography and combined the two, so when I left school I tried to make a living of it.
I thought, or rather my parents thought for me, that I should at least have an education. So since I didn't want to go into my father's business and I couldn't get a job as an apprentice in photography - it was around the time that a movie called 'Blow Up' was a huge hit and just about everybody wanted to be a photographer! - so I took the next best option which combined the retail business with photography and got a job working in a high street camera shop. In my spare time I carried on taking the rock & roll shots.
Did you ever get to work in England?
Many times yes, as a random recollection I photographed Uriah Heep several times, Maggie Bell, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Roxy Music a few times, Marc Bolan, Silverhead, Nazareth, Hawkwind, John Entwistle in fact I went to visit John Entwistle at his home, spent a nice day there looking at his guitars, taking some photos and making an interview.
I was freelancing, so I went to England, and also to America, just trying to get in touch with as many bands as I could - taking photographs, making interviews and then selling the stuff to the music magazines when I got home. It was a risky business, not knowing if I would succeed or not, but it was certainly fun, indeed those were the days.
Do you remember much about the Lindisfarne shows?
The 1972 Lindisfarne show almost certainly took place at the Kennedy Skolen, as 90% of the Gladsaxe Beatforum shows were held there. Not all of my negatives are dated, but I tracked down a list of concerts somewhere on the internet which told me that Lindisfarne were in Copenhagen in December 1972.
The other Lindisfarne photographs are from the Roskilde Festival in 1979, which is about twenty miles from Copenhagen. I always think of Lindisfarne as a cheerful band, at least that's how I remember them. To me Lindisfarne is borderline rock & roll, not really a folk band, just a great band.
Categorising bands can be a terrible thing, for example Fairport Convention have had a hundred line-ups, and some could be described as folk, but some were maybe not. I recently met up with Maartin Allcock, great guy, ex-Fairport, who has used some of my photos in a new songbook he has put together ( www.maartinallcock.com ). We met in Roskilde, the town not the festival, at a nice little club where he was playing. I have always enjoyed the company of the Fairport people, particularly Dave Pegg and Dave Swarbrick.
Often I would go to take photographs of bands for absolutely no commercial reason, I knew I couldn't sell the photos, as these weren't bands that would sell magazines, but I liked the music and most of all I liked the people in the band.
Lindisfarne were one of the bands that I loved to see and their song the 'Fog on the Tyne' often crops up in my mind. I tried to sing it to my wife the other day and she laughed - but that's probably because I'm not so good at singing! Then I realised that I don't have the song on record anywhere, so the fact that I can still remember it in my head, proves what a lasting effect it had on me.
It is always a pleasure to talk rock & roll with someone who has a unique insight into that world and Jørgen is certainly an enthusiast, still very much a fan, if you like, with a keen sense of humour.
My thanks go to Jørgen Angel for sparing time for this interview and the use of the rare images you see here; most, if not all of which are seen for the first time since the day the negatives were developed.
more photos from the 1972 show in Denmark (Copyright Jørgen Angel)