The Other Side of the Lens
“My dog’s name is Ziggy Stardust and my son’s middle name is Bowie!” introduces Karrie Goldberg. “I’ve had the great fortune of working with rock legends like Duran Duran and Glen Matlock and Thomas Dolby so for me this project really is a dream come true. Being able to open a bar on Denmark Street – wow! To be able to bring music back to Denmark Street is truly an honour. Above you, as you may know, is the former 12 Bar Club so you are actually beneath where the likes of Adele and The Libertines played some of their very first gigs. Tonight I am especially thrilled to welcome the legendary Pattie Boyd.”
“Afterwards I invite you to go upstairs and try some of the killer cocktails!” Karrie concludes. We will. Joined by Pattie herself. Exile on Mainstreet, Itchycoo Park, Schoolboys in Disgrace, Technical Ecstasy… the alchemic elixirs are as memorable as their names. Band of Gypsys, Quadrophenia, Never Mind the Bollocks, Nursery Cryme. You 20th century music lovers will recognise those names. They’re song titles from Genesis, Jimi Hendrix, Sex Pistols, Small Faces, The Who and a few other every so slightly well known artists. Cheers! As for the name of the bar itself, turns out David Bowie recorded with a group called The Lower Third. Fellow model Twiggy rocks up. So does Queen drummer Roger Taylor. And writer and comedienne Kathy Lette. Some nights last forever.
“I thought it would be a good idea to just have a book of only photographs with the odd little anecdote, little joke, little story, but essentially about photographs,” says the eternally beautiful Pattie Boyd, model turned photographer. And raconteur extraordinaire. “I think very few people have got time to read everything that’s being written. It’s much easier to flick through and see the photos.” She should know. Pattie has not so much read the zeitgeist as has been the zeitgeist for decades.
Back to the Sixties. “In those days,” Pattie tells us after dark, “If you were booked for a shoot, models had to bring dark shoes and light shoes and jewellery, makeup, hair accessories, combs. We were definitely not spoiled. We were paid £4 an hour. Things have changed dramatically. The girls now have their makeup done, hair done, everything is super glamorous! My agent would give me a list of photographers to go and see to show them my portfolio. In order to get a portfolio I made friends with photographers or would-be photographers or assistants who would then photograph me on condition they would give me a few prints so it worked for both of us.”
The Lower Third is quite simply the coolest venue in Soho London. In Soho. In London. Denmark Street was developed in the late 17th century and is called after Prince George of Denmark. The Rolling Stones recorded in a studio on the street and Elton John wrote songs in one of the offices. It soon became known as London’s ‘Tin Pan Alley’, a version of New York’s famed music dominated district.
Pattie didn’t live the Sixties. She was the Sixties. “All my friends were filmmakers, artists, painters, designers, architects. I knew there was something in the air; people started changing their attitudes. There was a freedom that wasn’t there previously. Dresses were getting shorter and wilder. The boys were looking even better! Everyone was looking so cool and David Hockney was so wonderful – he was doing great paintings. I think about all the great photographers and fashion designers. David Bailey and Terence Donovan. Ossi and Biba and Mary Quant. Everybody was bursting out with huge creative talent. It was everywhere; it was wonderful. And music of course. You can’t forget that!” Pattie’s first husband was George Harrison; her second, Eric Clapton.
Never short of quips, Pattie is on a roll tonight: “I didn’t realise that I was shortsighted and in those days there was no autofocus.” We’ve swapped from being in front of the camera to behind it. “I was doing a job for Ringo photographing people on a Dracula film he a was doing and at the end of the day he wanted to see my photos.” He said, ‘They’re a bit soft focus.’ I realised I needed glasses to focus properly!”
“I was taking photos from ’64 onwards,” she remembers. “I didn’t know who I was and I loved taking photographs but I couldn’t be so bold to assume that I was a photographer because it was something I enjoyed so much. Then I had a few photographic exhibitions and they seemed to go down well. People liked what I’d taken so I’m fine with hanging onto that label of photographer. I take life as it comes to me. If you find yourself feeling dull, just change your mind.”