Neal Preston is an insider and his images are brought alive by his insights into life as a rock and roll photographer. His new book entitled Exhilarated and Exhausted is a retrospective of a career spanning almost 50 years. It is a who’s who of rock royalty, with over 300 photographs, a visual feast and fascinating memoir.
Here, glimpses of life backstage, stressful deadlines, a 47-year-case of permanent jetlag, live performances, post-performance highs and lows, photo shoots gone awry and outtakes – many photos which have never been seen before – are accompanied by personal accounts of touring with giants of rock and roll, Led Zeppelin, The Who and Queen. Racing from gig to gig, losing police escorts; sleazy motels, groupies, egos, frighteningly high alcohol and drug intake levels, hours spent travelling, never-ending offers of sex and drugs in return for backstage passes. “Rock tours were fertile breeding grounds from which many a party would sprout,” Neal Preston says. “Call it blowing off steam, having a little fun, or taking a little break, it’s all the same. I had my share, and more. But there was still work to do.”
Legendary levels of indulgence and averaging at most two hours sleep a night gave way to tensions, too, as Neal Preston reflects: “There’s more drama on one Rolling Stones tour than in a dozen Martin Scorsese films.” In some situations, defining moments were captured forever: when a white dove landed on Robert Plant’s hand at the end of Stairway to Heaven, a rock star smoking crack in Neal Preston’s car during a national magazine shoot, flying in on the red-eye from New York to photograph Wham! in London, and back that same night to shoot Bruce Springsteen for the front cover of TIME. Neal Preston also recalls the time he received a call from Tom Petty, and within a couple of hours found himself on a “small job” with Tom, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison. Two months later Orbison died and a photo from that shoot became the Traveling Wilburys’ album cover.
Filmaker and producer Cameron Crowe, observes in his foreword to the book: “These images live on. You can feel the music, the audience, the desperate need to find a place in the world, all is there in these photos because they were curated by the guy who felt it all when he pressed the button on the camera. Neal has made a magnificent career, and more importantly a life out of the passion that lives in every frame he shoots. The artists themselves have always sparked not just to his enormous skills but to his personality. Within minutes, it seems, his subjects feel Neal’s deep knowledge of the music, his grand sense of humor and his love of every cable, and every crew member that makes a tour come alive.”
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