“It’s a hun­dred per cent true”

Vet­eran rock pho­tog­ra­pher’s book takes you on the road and on the in­side with Zep, Queen and more.

Classic Rock - - The Dirt - Neal Pre­ston: Ex­hil­a­rated and Ex­hausted is pub­lished by Reel Art Press (£45/$75). More at reelart­press.com This month The Dirt was com­piled by Mar­cel An­ders, Si­mon Bradley, Lee Dor­rian, Jamie Hib­bard, Rob Hughes, Han­nah May Kil­roy, Dave Ling, Scott Munro

Ex­hil­a­rated And Ex­hausted is the ti­tle of the new book by Amer­i­can rock pho­tog­ra­pher Neal Pre­ston which chron­i­cles the high­lights of his 48-year ca­reer in mu­sic. Dur­ing that time

Pre­ston has pho­tographed just about ev­ery­body in pop­u­lar mu­sic, in­clud­ing David Bowie, Led Zep­pelin, The Who, the Rolling Stones, Fleet­wood Mac and Bruce Spring­steen.

“I’ve a vast collection of books on mu­sic, and the ones I didn’t own I or­dered from Ama­zon – a whole car­ton full of them ar­rived,” Pre­ston tells Clas­sic Rock. “They all seemed to suf­fer from the same dis­ease: for ex­am­ple, a nice photo of Bruce Spring­steen eat­ing a cheese­burger, and, whad­dya know, he turns out to be a great guy. My book is di­a­met­ri­cally op­po­site to all of that.

“Its con­tent is based around my job,” he con­tin­ues. “Most peo­ple think I have a dream vo­ca­tion, but it’s not as glam­orous as it seems. I re­veal the mon­u­men­tal amounts of stress, the jet-lag I’ve ac­crued that will never go away, a bit of the ego man­age­ment that’s nec­es­sary, and some of how to be­come a f ly on the wall; the more in­vis­i­ble you make your­self, the eas­ier it is to be­come part of the fab­ric of a tour. It’s how to nav­i­gate through that stuff, com­bined with some pretty amaz­ing rock’n’roll sto­ries.”

Pre­ston was on stage with Queen at Live Aid, and dur­ing the 1970s worked with Led Zep­pelin as their tour pho­tog­ra­pher. His book is bro­ken down into sec­tions, in one of which, The In­ner Sanc­tum, he de­tails the back­stage area.

“For the rock fans, that place is the holy grail,” he says with a chuckle. “They will of­fer cash, mer­chan­dise, drugs and sex to get there. The book has a healthy amount of self-dep­re­ca­tion. Of course I’ve said yes to a few of those things, and ev­ery­thing I wrote is one hun­dred per cent true, noth­ing has been em­bel­lished.”

Hav­ing let sev­eral cats out of the bag, does Pre­ston live in fear of a phone call from some irate rock star friends who might feel that their trust has been be­trayed?

“No,” he says, “be­cause the sto­ries em­anate from me. It’s not a tell-all. It men­tions three peo­ple who take co­caine, all of whom have gone on record for do­ing so. One was Gregg All­man and an­other was Sly Stone, who was free­bas­ing in my car at one p.m. as we rolled down the Santa Mon­ica Free­way. And the third per­son was me!

“There’s a story about a party in Or­lando that got out of hand,” he con­tin­ues. “Robin Zan­der from Cheap Trick was a lit­tle drunk. The po­lice were called, and my pic­ture shows a fe­male cop turned up to in­ves­ti­gate. The badge re­veals her name – Of­fi­cer Deborah Beaver. Long story short, Zan­der was led away in hand­cuffs.”

Of the many hun­dreds of as­sign­ments Pre­ston has taken on over the years, he is in no doubt about who was the most dif­fi­cult to work with.

“There’s more drama on one Rolling Stones tour than you’d get in a dozen films by Martin Scors­ese,” he notes drily. “And while we’re talk­ing about the most chal­leng­ing, let’s not for­get tak­ing pho­tos of a hoarse Randy New­man. Randy can say more [of sig­nif­i­cance] in a few sen­tences than some man­age in a life­time, but he turned up for a two-hour ses­sion with a sign say­ing: ‘Good to meet you

– I can’t talk, doc­tor’s or­ders’.”

Asked to choose his favourite of the many of his pho­to­graphs that il­lus­trate the book, Pre­ston plumps for the Led Zep­pelin one on the left.

“I love the one with the dry ice, taken dur­ing the piano in­tro to No Quar­ter,” he says. “Jimmy [Page] was tak­ing a drag on a ci­garette, look­ing right at me. Af­ter I shot the frame, he walked to­wards me, and my gut told me: ‘This isn’t go­ing to end well.’ In fact what Jimmy said was:

‘Is that the tour doc­tor in the front row

[of the au­di­ence]?’ I told him that it was in­deed Dr Larry [Dr Lau­rence Bad­g­ley], sur­rounded by six hot blondes. Jimmy sim­ply replied: ‘Fuck me, he pulls more birds than any­one in this fuck­ing band.’”

And what would Pre­ston like peo­ple to take away from his book?

“I want the reader to feel as closely as pos­si­ble what it’s like to be on the road with Led Zep­pelin, Queen or Spring­steen. I hope they will feel that sense of ex­hil­a­ra­tion and ex­haus­tion. It’s why I chose the ti­tle.” DL

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