I first started to document the Rockabilly scene in Swindon when I took my camera to a gig at a run down pub called The Greyhound. The band playing that night were North London band The Polecats who had just had a record in charts (a cover of Bowie’s John I’m only dancing) and there were a lot of rockabilly fans crammed into a dilapidated backroom. This was my first introduction to live frenzied rockabilly dancing and moshing and the energy was amazing. I think I shot a 36 exposure roll of Tri-X on the band and the dancers. My favourite photo that night was a post gig shot of the bass player leaning out of a 1960s Vauxhall Cresta window fag in hand and a slicked back James Dean hairstyle.
The Tartan Cafe
Every Saturday morning and afternoon the Swindon Rockabilly kids hung out at a 50s style Milk Bar called The Tartan Cafe on Curtis Street. I took a bunch of 7 x 5 black and white prints of The Polecats gig down there to show them and was surprised when they insisted on buying them at 50p each. I also photographed them in and around the cafe and took prints in to show and sell to them.
The Wrecking Crew
The next gig I photographed is now legendary amongst the scene. It was billed as Ivan’s 21st Birthday Party at the British Rail Staff Association Club in Swindon, the headline band were the infamous Meteors who pioneered the Psychobilly genre – a fusion of rockabilly, punk and horror inspired themes. This should have been a warning to me! They had a hardcore of avid fans known as ‘The Wrecking Crew’ who came from all over the South of England and attended all of their gigs. Their speciality was to form a violent moshing pit of stripped to the waist psychobillies who hammered hell out of each other!.
Photography in this environment was challenging but I acquired a voluntary bodyguard in the shape of a tall tough mohawk haired psychobilly who battered anyone who came near to me and my camera. I went on to shoot studio portraits of the local Goth community but soon I moved on to concentrate on motorcycle racing photography for biker magazines. I have continued to this day to photograph the Rock n Roll 50s style crowd including their American Cars, Hot Rods and motorcycles.