Dubbed Flash Harry by Brian Epstein, Mike McCartney shares some of his favourite photos of The Beatles, Liverpool and the architects of rock 'n roll at Swansea's Grand Theatre on April 25
HIS photographs of The Beatles - back when they were still combing their hair up and back like Elvis - have become iconic, and he has enjoyed a life behind the lens, as well as in the spotlight, with the satirical mischief makers, The Scaffold. Now Mike McCartney will share tales of photographing Jerry Lee Lewis and Hendrix, and growing up with 'Our Kid' in the artistic petri dish of his beloved post-war Liverpool.
He heads to Swansea's Grand Theatre with Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n Roll (I Wish). And he says you may have to forgive him a little misty-eyed nostalgia on the night.
"There are a lot of emotional moments in the show for me. My mum is in there in the photographs and she died when I was 12. And dad is there. He's gone now. And there are photos that show the extent of the bombing in Liverpool, which was terrible, though luckily I was in Walton General Hospital at the time, being born."
And of course they bring back memories of kicking about in the grubby, vibrant city from which so many rock and roll music careers began.
"Hearing Bo Diddley was one of my earliest musical memories. In between rehearsing with his band, Our Kid would play Bo Diddley records.
"When I used to go to the youth club and Our Kid would go to The Casbah in the next road, we would get three buses. He would have his amps and I would have my camera. Then afterwards I would go The Casbah and hear him playing Bo Diddley. Years later I took photos of Bo, not only with his famous oblong guitar, but also playing the drums in the place where Pete Best’s mum lived. She would be upstairs and we had music in the cellar. One night I had too much ale and I sneaked upstairs to get a soft drink. She had gone to bed but by then, but by the glow of the fire I could see a bottle of lemonade on her sideboard with the stopper half out. I started gulping it down, but not for long. It was hair lacquer. It was a memorable day, partly because I photographed Bo Diddley and partly because I drank hair lacquer."
Showing his photos, he says, is a bit like introducing his children. And a well-received exhibition is as pleasing as a hit record. But of course he has enjoyed hit records too.
"Having my photographs in the National Portrait Gallery? They are all like having number ones. Having 2.5 million people see my exhibition in the Smithsonian in Washington - particularly since the show was photos of working class Liverpool and the decimation of the city during the war - was amazing.
"I've just been on the Jools Holland radio show, doing my silly singing with the Jools Holland Orchestra. I did 3 Blind Jellyfish, a B-side of a Scaffold record that wasn't even a hit, called 2 Days Monday. I came out, turned on the Steve Wright show and he was playing our Lily the Pink. If you ask me if you'd like your legacy to be did you invade Iraq or Afghanistan or do you want to be remembered for singing Lily the Pink in The Scaffold? I know what I'd say. What more can you ask than to make people smile for a living?"