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In a new series of articles, I talk to our photographers about their lives' behind the lens and feature a couple of great shots. First up is Tony Mottram, who spent years on the road with bands, shooting for Sounds and lots of magazines.
It's 1984 and Deep Purple's comeback album, Perfect Strangers album has gone Gold in the UK. So I get a call from Polydor Records. They want me to go down to Heathrow and take photos of the lads being presented with their gold discs. Why they wanted to do this at Heathrow, I've no idea - but that's record companies for you - always full of daft ideas. Back then they were also stuffed with money, so a few hundred quid in my pocket for a couple of hours work, was not going to be a problem for them. Sweet.
So I head down there in a taxi just in time to see the Purps boys getting off their plane looking decidedly, tired and emotional. Some record company exec thrust the gold records into their hands and I get down to work with the old snappy snappy. Now that I think about it, maybe Polydor wanted to do this at the airport because it was the only time they'd all be together in one place. Anyway, the resulting photos show the weary rockers holding onto their framed gold records with little enthusiasm. You must become blase about it after a while, I guess. Job done, we headed back into town and were soon in the pub toasting some easily earned money. They ended up being used pretty much only for the trade press, Music Week and Billboard.
Within a year I was back in orbit around planet Purple when they played Knebworth, on what was easily one of the wettest days any gig has ever been held in the history of rock n roll. The stage was sodden and so was everyone there. Meatloaf had virtually been bottled off. People pelted the stage with big clods of mud - one of which even managed to turn off Meatloaf's guitarist's amp!
We were down in the photographer's pit getting trench foot all day long, however, when it came to Purple's set, we were told to get out and shoot from the crowd. I'm not sure why this was now. Blackmore was wearing wellies, so maybe it was something to do with that. I mean that seriously, too!
So we had to shoot the gig from the audience, but it was no good at all because everyone was in the way. To be honest, I was feeling a bit grumpy at being treated like this. I was working for Sounds at the time and even though I'm a big Deep Purple fan (I still have my original vinyl copy of Made In Japan) I made up my mind to get a good shot and then leg it home before the rest of the crowd.
I only took about 8-12 shots of the band with my 200ml lens set on f4 but as soon as I'd taken them, I knew I had the one. In such testing conditions, it was part professional skill, part luck. But you know when you've got it - it's a photographer's sixth sense.
Each of the members of the band was illuminated in a pool of light and I was so far away that I could get all of them into the single photograph. As soon as I took it I knew it was right and it remains one of my favourite photos to this day. You can still see the puddles on the stage and and if you look closely, you can still see Ritchie's wellies.