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Art of Punk and New Wave Exhibition

Confession time. In December I was lucky enough to go to a very special photography exhibition. Offbeat Lounge presents The Art of Punk and New Wave. It was my full intention to write up on it and share the wonderous event for you lovely lot but unfortunately time ticked away a little too much and I felt that perhaps I’d left it too long.

However, today NME prints it’s last weekly issue. The paper, that’s delivered music news to us for the last 66 years, will be sorely missed. I remember, in the late 90’s, and my early teens, being on a camping trip with school and one of the lads buying a copy from local newsagents. I was just getting into alternative music at the time and I remember thinking how very cool it was. New Musical Express. THE music news.

It wasn’t, however, as cool as it was in the late 70’s. When Denis O’Regan and Chalkie Davies were photographing some of the most iconic punks of the era.

Photograph of John Peel

The exhibition, held at Snows BMW in Hilsea, was at the time, the final night of a nationwide tour, although more nights have been added, the latest being in Peterborough in April. The tour takes the guys and their work around the country, with limited edition prints for sale and VIP tickets giving pretty special access to an intimate talk and Q&A, with them revealing some pretty spectacular moments and incredibly earthy and humble fashion. Chalkie Davies said of his first meeting with Denis O’Regan that he “knew he was working in an office because he turned up in a white shirt and a black tie to a punk gig.”

There was free alcohol on offer, to a room full of delicious alternative types, swooning over pictures of an unstoppable Iggy Pop or seductress Debbie Harry and reminiscing the glory days. For me, one of the highlights was that wonderful picture of John Peel with his feet up on the desk in his studio. Not only was the photography an amazing insight, but there were wonderful snippets of history. For example, John Peel not only playing the music of unknown bands but if he really liked it, he’d send them money to get a proper recording done.

Art of Punk and New Wave Exihibition
Photograph of Adam Ant

These photographers found themselves in the most incredible positions. Denis O’Regan toured with David Bowie for two years. He joked that he’s been asked by a surprising number of teenagers “What did David Bowie smell like.” Chalkie Davies only got to know Lemmy because he was their dealer. When asked by one of the curious guests if he ever asked for an autograph his response was simple “I’ve never asked for an autograph in my life, why would I? It’s insulting.”

These photographers found themselves in the most incredible positions. Denis O’Regan toured with David Bowie for two years. He joked that he’s been asked by a surprising number of teenagers “What did David Bowie smell like.” Chalkie Davies only got to know Lemmy because he was their dealer. When asked by one of the curious guests if he ever asked for an autograph his response was simple “I’ve never asked for an autograph in my life, why would I? It’s insulting.”

Chalkie went on to make a rather poignant point when discussing the difference to photography that new technology was playing. He sighed, “I do not understand why the audience doesn’t watch the group, they hold their phone up, or even worse, turn their back to the group and get a selfie.” Wise words indeed, Mr Davies.

The pair of photographers being interviewed

Talking a walk around a posh environment like a BMW showroom, gazing at punk history may seem like a little too much of a contradiction. But let’s not forgot the organic nature of punk, the fierce persistence of human fire. Before the end of the night there were people on the cars, there were people in the cars, the elegant evening had broken down into a slightly more fragmented and raucous event. It was mighty fun, and I felt that it was perfectly in keeping. No one forgot their respect to those shining heroes of the day, the heroes of the music and those that brought them to our knowledge.

Thank you Denis O’Regan, Chalkie Davies and everyone at NME for your contribution to music. At what feels like the very sad end of an era, we salute you.

Photograph of Debbie Harry
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