Everything But The Girl, Hampstead 1988.

Monday, 25 June 2012 In my last blog post I explained how I'd found someone with a rather formidable media reputation to be, in real life, friendly and utterly charming.

Unfortunately the opposite can sometimes be the case too.

In well over 35 years of professional photography, far and away the most difficult and unpleasant photoshoot I ever had to do was with Ben Watt and Tracy Thorn - collectively known as Everything But The Girl.

In well over 35 years of professional photography, far and away the most difficult and unpleasant photoshoot I ever had to do was with Ben Watt and Tracy Thorn - collectively known as Everything But The Girl.

I’d been commissioned to photograph them for the cover of NME.  It was in 1988 and still in the early years of NME printing colour covers.  Until around 1984, the magazine had been produced on uncoated newsprint and the paper quality would not support decent colour printing.  But by the time of my shoot with EBTG the paper had been upgraded and the then editor, Danny Kelly, was most insistent that all its colour photography should actually be colourful.  All the more so for the cover, in order to better attract the eye on the weekly news stands.

(This requirement explains the approach I took to a lot of my photography in the '80s).

When I went over to Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn’s flat in Hampstead I found it to be very smart but completely colourless.  It was all white walls and black and white tiled floors.  Fans of EBTG won't be surprised to learn that they also had several black and white framed photographs of Louise Brooks on the walls.  There was virtually no colour anywhere.

I said to them “We’re going to have to take these photographs outside.”

At which suggestion, they both flew into a hissy fit and point blank refused.

I then said “Well, fine but the photos probably won’t go on the cover then.”

On hearing this I received the longest and most sustained four letter word rant I’ve ever had to endure.

It would have been very easy for me to just walk out and leave them to it.  I really wanted to.  And I really wanted to give them back a few free opinions of my own.

But neither would have been very professional.  NME would simply have commissioned someone else and it would have been a black mark against my name next time they wanted to commission some photography.

So I set up some lights and did as they asked.

I’m not exactly sure, even to this day, why they took the attitude they did.  It wasn’t particularly warm outside but the weather was fine and it wasn't raining.  I'm pretty sure it was Spring and at the end of their road was a massive park known as Hampstead Heath.  They certainly weren't big enough names to worry about being bothered by people in the street.

But they refused, absolutely, to even step an inch outside their front door.

Maybe they’d spent all morning cleaning up their flat and they didn’t want all the effort to go to waste?

What's probably more likely is that they were rather proud of their flat and they wanted everyone in the music business to see it and see what a big success they'd become.

The photos came out quite well but, as I expected, there wasn't enough colour in them and so they didn’t go on the cover.

And I got paid around about half of what I would have got, if it had.

I once mentioned the above story to a guitar tech I met that had been on an American tour with Everything But The Girl.  He told me that Ben Watt hadn’t managed to say “please” or “thank you” to him once for the entire tour.

In the July edition of The Word Magazine, in an interview with David Hepworth, Tracy Thorn talks about writing her memoirs.  She says that she's had to go back and read a lot of her old interviews to remind herself of the person she'd been back in the '80s.

Maybe I can help her out with that.

In my experience, not a very nice one.