BP Fallon is holding the first ever exhibition of pictures he’s taken of some of the music legends he’s hung out with, writes Ellie O’Byrne.
When BP Fallon was a little boy, his father, a colonel in the British Army, had a photographic darkroom in their house in Germany.
“I loved sitting with him,” Fallon recalls. “Together, we’d watch the magic of the images appearing on the paper. I’ve been taking photos for as long as I can remember.” DJ, music journalist, promoter, musical collaborator: Fallon hardly needs an introduction for his many roles in the living history of Rock’n’Roll, but, he says, he’s never thought of himself as primarily a photographer.
“Photography is added jam on both sides of the bread, another addendum to the main boogaloo which is making music, writing songs and singing them and making records,” he says.
The “main boogaloo” seems to have evolved for Fallon over time: his main gigs used to be as publicist (he famously coined the term “T-Rextasy” to describe Marc Bolan mania), a promoter and a DJ but these days, at the ripe old age of 72, he’s fronting his own outfit, BP Fallon and The Bandits, and is involved in numerous other musical collaborations.
In typical Fallon-esque style, his musical CV is laden with note-worthies. In BP Fallon and the Bandits, his rhythm section are bassist Nigel Harrison and drummer Clem Burke, both of Blondie. His guitarist Aaron Lee Tasjan of the New York Dolls. He released a special-edition single for Record Store Day with DJ David Holmes. Jack White produced an EP with him, Fame #9, a collaboration that came about because, he says, White admired his ever-present black bowler hat when they met in Austin, Texas, where Fallon spends a large part of his time.
“Having a uniform makes life easy,” he says. “I asked Jack White why he invited me to go down to Nashville to make a record with him and he said, ‘I liked your hat.’ And that was something that literally changed my life, because that was me writing songs and singing them and making records.”
“I believe in Elvis Presley, I believe in Jerry Lee,” Fallon incants in one track on the 2009 EP, while the titular track is Fallon’s spoken word musings on the cult of celebrity, a subject he can certainly claim a level of expertise in.
Like a moth to the flame, Fallon has always had an unerring eye to spot star quality and has been positioned at the centre of the Rock maelstrom, from playing the tambourine with John Lennon on Top of the Pops to partying on Led Zeppelin’s jet, to supporting U2 as a DJ on their vast Zoo TV stadium tour.
His Access All Areas lifestyle is what undoubtedly gives Fallon’s new photography exhibition, The Camera & I, their insider’s iconic edge. Debbie Harry caught off-guard, a jubilant post-gig Sinéad O’Connor hanging out backstage at a Dutch festival with Shane McGowan, a late-night kebab feast with Courtney Love: they’re chance moments Fallon has captured, in line with his own first rule of photography.
“The first rule of photography is just to always have a camera, even if it’s a shite camera,” he says. “I always carry one, even when it’s a pain.”
In many of his portraits, his subjects are interacting with him: snapshot moments of a smile, a shared joke. They’re a record of Fallon’s life too, a high-flying existence alongside some of Rock’s most magnetic and alluring characters.
What he’s not happy to put on the record, though, is specific tales of wild parties and crazy excess involving his subjects He’ll allude to the madness, but he’s no kiss and tell: he’s keeping firmly schtum.
“It’s a matter of trust, and you don’t abuse it,” he says simply.
BP Fallon’s photography exhibition, The Camera & I, is at Hen’s Teeth on Fade St in Dublin for one week only, from Thursday, October 11, to Thursday, October 18.