Rare Historical Photos of Rock and Roll Musicians: A Trip Through The Hall of Fame
When rock and roll hit the music scene, the world was never the same. As times goes by, we can forever enjoy the music created by all the famous rock and rollers, but another way these musical giants are commemorated and documented is through photography. With the simple snap of a camera, the feelings and emotions of an entire era are forever frozen in time. While some of the most memorable photographs of iconic musicians are captured while they passionately create magic onstage, it is also the spontaneous images of musicians when they are caught off guard and in their true element that speak volumes. From the legend Kurt Cobain crying backstage to Janis Joplin rocking the stage with the Queen of Rock Tina Turner, click here for your very own trip through rock and roll history!
1. Elton John Rocking Dodger Stadium
When Elton John performed two back-to-back shows at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium in October 1975, it wasn’t because he was a baseball fan. In fact, the Rocket Man wasn’t quite the fan of the game, but he needed the stadium to house the 100,000 fans eager to see him perform.
The English music icon became the first artist to charm fans at the stadium since The Beatles performed there almost a decade earlier, and photographer Terry O’Neill was there to capture it all. This image epitomizes the star’s legion of fans at the sold-out concert.
2. Janis Joplin and Tina Turner’s Girl Power
Janis Joplin joined Tina Turner took the stage together for an impromptu duet at Madison Square Garden on November 27, 1969 when Ike & Tina Turner were opening for The Rolling Stones. As a big Tina Turner fan, Joplin couldn’t contain her excitement and joined the singer onstage. Amelie R. Rothschild captured the image showcasing the passion of these two iconic women, which actually hangs in the Music Room at the White House. Rothschild gifted the photograph to President Bill Clinton in July 2000. It also graced the private collections of John Sykes and Lenny Kravitz.
Turner was always a favorite of Joplin’s, so much so, that the Queen of Rock and Roll’s singing style heavily influenced Joplin. During an interview on the Dick Cavett Show in 1969, Joplin was asked who she likes to see in concert to which she replied, “Tina Turner – She’s the best chick ever. Fantastic singer, fantastic dancer, fantastic show.”
3. Ziggy Stardust’s Space Oddity
David Bowie was known for totally immersing himself into the characters he created for his music such as Ziggy Stardust, the alien rock superstar – his most renowned alter ego. This photograph portrays Ziggy Stardust during Bowie’s concert tour in Los Angeles in 1973 to promote his revolutionary concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
The character was inspired by the British rock and roll singer, Vince Taylor, whom Bowie met after Taylor had a breakdown when he thought he was a cross between an alien and god. Bowie once said, “[Ziggy] wouldn’t leave me alone for years. That was when it all started to go sour … My whole personality was affected.”
4. Stevie Nicks – The Fairy Godmother of Rock
No one could rock a black shawl quite like Stevie Nicks, the leading lady of legendary rock and roll band Fleetwood Mac. Here, she gives quite a witchy bow to the crowds at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California in 1977.
Wrapped in a black silk shawl, Nicks would appear on stage signaling the arrival of “Rhiannon” or the “Gold Dust Woman” with the fine fabric draping off her shoulders. This outfit didn’t just signal the coming of a song, but more the coming of an experience. After all, Fleetwood Mac was more than just a band to fans; their lives were like a telenovela showcasing the members’ personal drama over the years.
5. Rod Stewart – The Celtic Fan
Known for his raspy voice, the English rock singer became one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He claimed a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, as well as the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2006. Turns out that singing wasn’t Stewart’s only passion, though.
He is a die-hard supporter of the Scottish soccer team Celtic FC, which he even mentions in the song “You’re in My Heart.” He also occasionally played soccer for an expat soccer team team called the LA Exiles in Palos Verdes, California, alongside Billy Duffy of the band The Cult and other British expatriates.
6. Debbie Harry of Blondie – “Car Crash Debbie”
This photo shows Debbie Harry from the band Blondie at the site of a wrecked car on 6th Avenue and 50th Street in New York City. It was taken by Bob Gruen in September 1976. Though the backstory of the photo is unknown, it is a perfect showcase of the band’s rebellious spirit.
Blondie pioneered the punk and American new wave scene in the 1970s and the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2006. Bob Gruen was the personal photographer of John Lennon and Yoko Ono and toured with many new wave bands such as The Ramones, The Clash, David Bowie, The Who, and Tina Turner.
7. Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret – The Female Elvis
In the ’60s, the Swedish-American actress and singer Ann-Margret was dubbed the female Elvis Presley of her day, so it’s no wonder that she performed three duets with The King of Rock himself for the 1964 film Viva Las Vegas.
The pair recorded “The Lady Loves Me,” “You’re The Boss,” and “Today, Tomorrow, and Forever,” but only the “The Lady Loves Me” featured in the final film. The other two songs were only released after Presley’s death as his manager Colonel Tom Parker was concerned that Margret’s presence would overshadow Presley’s.
8. A Material Girl’s World
Before the Material Girl’s rise to fame, Madonna was busy at work in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Pictured here is the cover of what become known as Gotham Tapes, a compilation of pop-rock demo tracks recorded in 1981 at Gotham Sound Studios in New York City.
Madonna went on to become a world famous songwriter, singer, actress, and businesswoman. She earned herself the nickname The Queen of Pop because of her successful albums that push the boundaries of music with her visual and lyrical imagery. Today, Madonna is recognized as the best-selling female recording artist of all time.
9. Pete Townshend Smashing the Guitar
Pete Townshend of rock band The Who had a knack for publicly smashing his guitar. At first, it started as an accident when his guitar hit the ceiling during a performance, but nobody really paid attention. From then on, Townshend made a point of breaking his guitar at the end of every show after pouncing all over the stage with it.
In this photograph, the lead guitarist smashed his electric guitar in half at Granby Halls in Leicester, England on March 13, 1967. The first time he broke his guitar was in September 1964 at The Railway Tavern, a hotel in London.
10. Janis Joplin Chilling At Winterland Ballroom ’68
While clutching a bottle of Southern Comfort, Janis Joplin relaxed backstage at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in April 1968. The rock star performed at the event on two consecutive nights with the rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Janice Joplin left a legacy even after her death. Her live concerts with Big Brother and the Holding Company were recorded on the albums Live at Winterland ’68 and Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968, both posthumously released in 1988.
11. Suzi Quatro – The Glam Rock Star
When Suzi Kay Quatro gained international recognition as the first female bass guitar player and rock star, she molded the future for all women’s participation in rock music. This is her sitting in her dressing room just before performing her first headlining UK tour in 1972 at The Apollo in Glasgow, Scotland.
Quatro has released 15 studio albums and her glam rock hit singles include “Your Momma Won’t Like Me,” “Can the Can,” “Daytona Demon,” “48 Crash,” and “Devil Gate Drive.” She was inducted into the Michigan Rock and Hall of Fame, otherwise known as Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame, in 2010.
12. Jimi Hendrix Rocking Royal Albert Hall
Jimi Hendrix rocked the stage at London’s Royal Albert Hall in February 18, 1969 with his larger-than-life guitar skills. His regular touring from 1967 to 1969 boosted his free-form playing and morphed him into a legend. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame described him as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”
This was one of the last European shows with his band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience. His U.S. tour would see Hendrix make his mark at Woodstock on August 18, 1969 with a new band called Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, for short Band of Gypsys.
13. An Intimate Shot of Eric Clapton
This intimate shot shows the rock and blues guitarist Eric Clapton playing his guitar at photographer Jim Marshall’s apartment on Union Street, San Francisco in August 1967. Marshall established close relationships with many musicians of the time, giving him up close and personal access to the key artists of the era.
Dubbed “the rock ‘n roll photographer”, Marshall’s close affiliation with musicians meant he could capture intimate photographs that set the tone for all future rock and roll and hippie movement images and fueled the key players’ reputations in both the movements.
14. Nirvana’s Nature Shot
Just before Nirvana launched their debut album Bleach in 1989, photographer Charles Peterson took the rock band for a bit of a promo photo shoot in nature in 1988. He thought this image would capture the essence of what these boys were all about before entering the rock ‘n roll scene.
The photograph features drummer Chad Channing to the left, bassist Krist Novoselic in the middle, and Kurt Cobain to the right. “They found the idea very silly and Krist started acting out, cracking up Kurt,” recalled Peterson during an interview with Time magazine.
15. Iggy Pop – The Godfather of Punk
Pictured here is James Newek Osterberg Jr., better known by his stage name Iggy pop, backstage with his punk rock band The Stooges near the end of their run in 1973. The Stooges pioneered the proto-punk genre played by garage bands, which was the predecessor of the punk rock movement.
Iggy Pop is renowned for his unpredictable and bizarre stage antics which earned him the nickname as “the Godfather of Punk”. He experimented with several musical genres besides for garage and punk rock, such as: hard rock, art rock, new wave, blues, and jazz.
16. Bebe Buell Applying Lipstick
Some might know her as Liv Tyler’s mother after her brief fling with Aerosmith’s frontman Steven Tyler, but Bebe Buell made a name for herself as a singer and fashion model in the ’70s when she landed on the pages of Playboy magazine as the Playmate of the Month in November 1974.
Here, Buell applies lipstick backstage at one of her many collaborations with rock bands. She founded bands The B-Sides in 1980 and The Gargoyles in 1985, both of which disbanded soon after their formation. Her latest works are the 12-song album she released in 2009 with the single “Air Kisses for the Masses,” and her grunge and glam rock album Hard Love, released in 2011.
17. The Sex Pistols Playing With Straws
Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Steve Jones, and Paul Cook of the punk rock band The Sex Pistols enjoyed a frivolous moment playing with straws at a café in Luxembourg in November 1977, just two years after forming their band in London.
This English band pioneered the punk movement in the United Kingdom, which even inspired many subsequent punk and alternative rock musicians in the country. Sid Vicious replaced bassist Glen Matlock in early 1977, which explains why Matlock isn’t in the photograph.
18. Joan Baez and Bob Dylan – The King and Queen of Folk Collaborate
When anyone mentions the words folk and music in the same sentence, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez immediately come to mind. Photographer Barry Feinstein captured the two collaborating in Baez’s dressing room sometime in 1964 at an unknown location in New York.
Dylan and Baez were the biggest stars of the ’60s folk scene craze. Baez was already dubbed the Queen of Folk when Dylan arrived in New York in 1961. Within two years, he ascended to join her ranks as the King of Folk, wowing audiences with their live duets.
19. Fugazi Shooting a Slam-Dunk
This photograph was taken in some gymnasium in Philadelphia during a performance by the punk rock band Fugazi. It seems as if it was a huge show with vocalist Guy Picciotto slam dunking himself, but there were only about 20 audience members at the time.
Fuazi was formed in 1987 in Washington D.C. and is famous for the unique music that band members Ian MacKaye, Guy Picciotto, Joe Lally, and Brendan Canty created. They played with some elements of dub and reggae and contrasted that with punk and hardcore-styled guitars.
20. Jim Morrison – The Lizard King of Rock and Roll
Possibly one of the most famous photographs in the annals of rock and roll history is of Jim Morrison, lead singer of the rock band The Doors, passed out on stage in during a 1968 performance in Amsterdam after a long day of consuming the city’s famous “herbal” substances.
Owing to Morrison’s distinctive voice, his dramatic poetry lyrics, and his wild stage antics and personality, music critics remember the star as one of the most iconic figures in the history of rock music. He nicknamed himself Mr. Mojo Risin, an anagram of his name, and fans called him the Lizard King from his poem “The Celebration of the Lizard King” from the 1968 album Waiting For the Sun.
21. Elvis and Priscilla – Rock ‘n Roll Royalty
The King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley is pictured here embracing his wife Priscilla and their newborn daughter Lisa Marie on February 5, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. The pair met at a party on September 13, 1959 when Presley was stationed in Germany during his service in the U.S. Army.
Priscilla was only 14 years old at the time, but her mature appearance and demeanor made a huge impression on the star who, according to close sources, acted like an “awkward, embarrassed boy-next-door” around her that night, but won her over by the end of the evening.
22. Queen Live In Action
This image shows Freddie Mercury and Brian May of British rock band Queen on stage at the Live Aid Concert on July 13, 1985. Queen’s classic line-up consisted of four band members with Mercury, May, as well as Roger Taylor and John Deacon.
The band formed in 1970, but it was the 1974 album Sheer Heart Attack and A Night at the Opera released in 1975 that earned Queen international acclaim. The latter featured the song “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which was the No.1 hit on the UK music charts for nine consecutive weeks upon its release. It was this song which also popularized the concept of music videos.
23. The Beatles’ Rooftop Concert
Legendary rock band The Beatles are pictured here giving their last live public concert on the rooftop of the band’s corporation Apple Corps. in London’s fashion district on January 30, 1969. It may not have been in front of a huge audience but footage would be viewed by many later on.
The performance was actually a spontaneous 42-minute set during which they played nine takes of five songs before the Metropolitan Police Service instructed them to turn down the volume. The footage from this show was used for a 1970 documentary film about the English rock band called Let It Be.
24. Kurt Cobain Crying Backstage
One of the most published photographs in rock and roll history is of Nirvana star Kurt Cobain crying offstage after trashing his gear during a performance in Seattle in 1990. Photographer Ian Tilton snapped the shot and knew it was a good one when he took it.
“He simply came off stage, sat down and cried for about half a minute. Then he was fine,” recalled Tilton. He went on to say that the moment captured the anxiety most performers experience during shows and that the pain is Cobain’s eyes didn’t mean he wasn’t healthy and happy at the time. He was just a passionate and energetic performer.
25. Nick Cave’s Organized Mess
This isn’t a photograph of Australian musician Nick Cave’s bedroom or dressing room, but rather his office at his loft in Yorkestrasse, West Berlin taken in 1985. By the looks of it, he is composing music as the frontman for his band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, formed in Melbourne in 1983.
The Australian rock band is one of the most celebrated bands of alternative rock and post-punk music from the ’80s. Nick Cave and Mick Harvey formed the band after the demise of their former band The Birthday Party. They joined forces with guitarist Blixa Bargeld, but the band went on to feature many other international artists throughout the years.
26. The Ramones Rocking at Eric’s Club
Ian Dickinson captured the punk rock band The Ramones live in action rocking Eric’s Club on Matthew Street in Liverpool in 1977. Dickinson was one of the key figures to chronicle the punk and rock and roll music movements from the mid ’70s through the early ’80s.
The band formed in 1974 in Forest Hills, Queens in New York City. Many music critics attribute the establishment of the punk rock sound to The Ramones because of its influence in the US and the UK where they also influenced the emergence of pop punk, hardcore pop and alternative rock genres.
27. The Byrds Strolling Through New York City
This in-the-moment photograph portrays members of the The Byrds’ walking in New York City, captured by Michael Ochs, a photographic activist renowned for his large collection of rock and roll photographs dating back to the early ’50s. The rock band’s story started out when its members collaborated for the first time in Los Angeles in 1964, but the band went through many lineup changes until it disbanded in 1973.
The Byrds achieved commercial success for a short period of time, compared to the likes of its contemporaries The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, and The Beatles, but music critics remember the band as one of the most influential of the ’60s.
28. Neil Young In the Back of His Limo
In 1967, Neil Young sat in the back of his limo with his acoustic guitar saying, “Let me play you a song, for what it’s worth.” This became a hit song of his band Buffalo Springfield with co-members Stephen Stills and Richie Furay.
The rock band’s song “For What It’s Worth” was written by Stills and inspired by the moment the band was on the way to hear live music on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. They were encountered by a rally of kids protesting the imminent closing of a club called Pandora’s Box as a result of commercial merchants’ complaints that all the young people walking around the area would hurt business. The song became one of pop music’s most covered songs because of its message of protest.
29. Bob Marley Playing Soccer
The reggae cultural icon Bob Marley was photographed playing soccer in 1979 backstage at the San Diego Sports Arena in November 1979 during his Survival Tour. The man joining him in a quick soccer practice was Glen DaCosta, a saxophone player who played with Marley’s band The Wailers.
Bob Marley is famous for his distinct vocal and songwriting style. After he moved to England in 1977 to pursue a solo career, he released the album Exodus which secured the reggae singer international stardom and made him one of the world’s best-selling musicians of all time.
30. Joe Strummer Relaxing Backstage
The Turkish-born English musician and actor Joe Strummer sits backstage around the time the punk rock band The Clash released its fifth studio album Combat Rock in 1982. Strummer is the co-founder of the band formed in 1976 during the time British punk was at its peak.
The Clash go down in history as one of the most influential bands of alternative rock because of the music’s rebellious nature and politicized lyrics. The members also experimented with different genres so that the music incorporated funk, rap, dub, and reggae, among other music forms.
31. Keith Richards – Backstage With the Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones have had a myriad of backstage adventures and moments since their formation in 1962, one of which led its lead guitarist and vocalist Keith Richards to apply face paint in order to look like some character out of G.I. Joe.
The Rolling Stones formed part of the cultural British Invasion, a term that refers to the mid-1960s when pop and rock musicians from the UK became super popular in the US, which in turn gave rise to the counterculture cultures mostly associated with Bohemianism and the Hippie movements.
32. Iggy Pop Crowd Surfing
Known for his wild stage antics, crowd-surfing was mere child’s play for The Stooges’s vocalist Iggy Pop during a concert at the Cincinnati Pop Festival in 1970. He drove the audience just as wild with his contagious spirit and energy, a great showcase of how rock music made people feel at the time.
Sources suggest that someone from the audience later handed Iggy Pop a jar of peanut butter, which he smeared all over himself. He must have been in a different world after using all his energy and skills onstage. What a sight to behold.
33. Kurt Cobain and Kim Gordon – A Meeting of the Minds
Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain met after she came to watch a Nirvana concert with Iggy Pop and her bandmate-husband Thurston Moore. In her memoir Girl in a Band, Gordon recalls how Moore thought the show was “amazing,” while Iggy Pop “wasn’t impressed.”
“I’m not sure why, but I felt an immediate kinship with him. When Nirvana toured with us in 1991…Kurt was funny and fun to be around, and soaked up any kind of personal attention. I felt very big sisterly, almost maternal, when we were together,” wrote Gordon. Cobain’s appreciation of early alternative rock stemmed from the music released by R.E.M and Sonic Youth, so much so, that Nirvana befriended those band members and idolized them. It was also Kim Gordon who convinced DGC Records to sign Nirvana in 1990, after which both bands toured Europe together in 1991.
34. Carlos Santana Jamming at Woodstock
Mexican Guitarist Carlos Santana was photographed here in the middle of an intense jam with bassist David Brown while performing a fusion of Latin American Jazz, rock, and African rhythms with his band Santana at Woodstock in 1969. But this was only the start of Santana’s highly successful career.
Carlos Santana became famous in the late ’60s because of the way he strummed on his blues guitar, creating a unique blend of rock music. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine listed him as No. 20 on its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
35. Lemmy Reading a Book
In this photo, Lemmy Frase Kilmister peruses a book in his dressing room at Motörhead’s 25th anniversary show. He founded and fronted the rock band in 1975 as the songwriter, singer, and bassist along with guitarist Larry Wallis and drummer Lucas Fox.
Better known as simply Lemmy, he remained the sole constant member of the band until it disbanded in 2015. Motörhead pioneered the new wave of British heavy metal in the late ’70s, the movement responsible for re-energizing the heavy metal rock genre developed in the late ’60s.
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