Simon Cowe from Lindisfarne on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1971 performing Fog on the Tyne
A few weeks ago I discovered that the scanner at work was capable of scanning slides and negatives and ever since I’ve been wanting to find my collection of negatives which include loads of images from concerts in the late 70’s/early 80’s – mostly at the City Hall in Newcastle.
So I went off to the garage where we have lots of stuff still stored and looked through some of the boxes. I found them in an adidas box where they have been for the best part of 25 years! So I took them home and started to sort through them. Almost straight away I found the ones I took at a Thin Lizzy concert in 1979 which I decided would be the first set to be scanned.
So I took them into work and while I was digitising a 3 hour video tape I set about scanning them in on another computer. Once I had worked out how to work the scanning system which involved moving this, plugging that in and then putting the negatives in a frame I made the first preview scan. Then I had to work out how to make them bigger than 35mm by 25mm! Once I had scanned the first batch I was quite pleased with the results.
The first thing I noticed was how much better the colours were than the ones I had scanned from the original prints
Scanned from Print
Scan from Negative
It just goes to show how badly printed some of the photographs were back in the 1970’s – the colours just weren’t reproduced properly and a lot of the images had a red cast to them. I also noticed as I was going through packets of negatives how many images had been cut in the wrong place making it difficult to scan them in. So much for the golden age of photography!!
I think the problem was that photographs were developed and printed by machine and the machine would guess where black was and probably couldn’t cope with a huge expanse of it! So when I took my photographs into Boots, Turners or even Chas Eagles thinking they would be printed well they weren’t. I seem to recall that sending them away to be developed wasn’t much better.
Mention of Turners reminds me of a story. The problem I had was that sometimes, in an effort to get just one last shot out of a 24 exposure roll of film I would wind on the camera and feel a snap as the film came out of the cannister. When this happened I had a changing bag that I would put camera and one of those black film pots into. I would then take the film out of the camera and roll it up and put it into the cannister – quite tricky when you can’t see what you are doing!
Once I had got the film into the pot and the lid on I would then tape it shut and put a sticker onto it saying “loose undeveloped film – open in dark room only”. Anyway I took the film into Turners and handed it to the assistant and after I had explaned about the contents I was somewhat dismayed to see him take the lid off, look inside and then hand it back to me saying “Sorry that’s probably no good now!”
There used to be a saying that “Film is Cheap” meaning that it was better to take as many pictures as you could rather than miss the “one”. Unfortunately what with all the other demands on my cash such as concert tickets, records and beer I couldn’t always afford to buy too many films and get them developed despite the fact that I did a morning paper round, an evening one, two Sunday rounds and a Saturday job in Woolworths in addition to my pocket money.
So you will find that on a standard 24 exposure roll of (400asa) film there will be one concert at the start of the film and another at the end – like the one I just scanned which started with a couple of shots of the support band, then there were some of UFO, then from the next gig there was Steve Hillage and finally some shots taken back stage that night!
There were negatives of shows I didn’t remember taking photographs at and ones where I had 2 sets of images of different shows (UFO and Lindisfarne for example). I wish I’d taken my camera to more shows but it really depended on getting good seats and the goodwill of the bouncers on the night. I do think I was lucky as the bouncers at Newcastle would only object if you used a flash which I didn’t.
Two shows I regret not taking pictures of was Bruce Springsteen at Newcastle City Hall and Kate Bush at Manchester Apollo. I took my camera along to the Bruce gig but there was a sign on the door saying no cameras or recording devices that wasn’t usually there. So fearing I might have it taken off me I took it back to the car – of course there was no reason as security weren’t checking. The Kate Bush shows were openly hostile to photographers even before you got there. they had been saying in the press that photographs would not be allowed so I didn’t take my camera as we set off on the coach to Manchester. I did notice that the bloke next to me got a camera out of his bag, a serious camera as well, and took some shots. Seeing I had clocked him doing it, he just smiled and said “Well you have too, don’t you!” that was the night before the Thin Lizzy show that I took the photo at the top of the page at.
I really wish I had kept it up but after moving to first Manchester and then London I found it a) more difficult to get good seats and b) less camera friendly. I used to sell some of my photographs to the Durham Book Centre in Sunderland and I did at one point look into doing photography if I didn’t get into university. Still mustn’t grumble I end up doing something I love as a job anyway!