Jiving K. Boots Reports

It was a picture-esque night for legendary rock star photographer Barrie Wentzell when he was welcomed to Portsmouth Guildhall to attend an on-going exhibition of his finest work and make a special guest appearance before an eagerly expectant live audience. (September 14th, 2023).

Cameras flashed when Barrie was introduced on stage by exhibition curator Nigel Grundy to talk about his career as one of the most celebrated figures in the world of rock music photography (writes former MM gossip columnist Jiving K. Boots).


Mr. Wentzell was joined by Chris Welch an old friend and colleague from the days when both worked for Melody Maker. Barrie was the weekly music newspaper’s much admired Chief Photographer while ‘Welchy’ was the Features Editor.

During the Swinging Sixties and well into the Hard Rockin’ Seventies they teamed up to interview and photograph some of the biggest names of two decades from the Beatles to David Bowie and from Diana Ross to Led Zeppelin.

Welchy tells me: “It was always great working with Barrie because he knew so much about music himself. He would put the artists we met and interviewed at ease with a friendly manner and great good humour.

“They also appreciated the care he took in photographing them artistically with subtle direction. No shouty commands like ‘Look over here mate, put your fingers in your ears and say cheese!’

“Whether in a hotel room or even at the star’s home environment, he would quietly take his shots, clicking his favourite Pentax camera, while they were in relaxed conversation.

“If he wanted them in close up, he might suggest they stand by a window for its subtle lighting effects and in the case of Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, alongside a brood of new born kittens. The results were exceptional and when featured on the MM’s front page or centre spreads, brought the journalist’s words to life with their visual impact”.

They were certainly appreciated by Nigel Grundy who confesses to being a lifelong fan of Barrie’s work, as he explained to reporter Chris Broom, in a special feature in the Portsmouth News. Chris B. described in his well researched piece, the ‘Icons of Rock’ a photographic exhibition that has been on display at the Guildhall since January and is now extended until the end of December, 2023.

It’s an important part of the Portsmouth Music Experience that fills a gallery with masses of fascinating memorabilia from musical instruments to rare posters, concert tickets and photos, all displayed on an eye catching Wall of Fame.


The exhibition has already showcased Wentzell images of Elton John, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Marc Bolan, Pete Townshend, Frank Zappa, Rod Stewart, Chuck Berry and Bob Dylan. More recent additions include photographs of Freddie Mercury, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Vivian Stanshall, Jeff Beck, John Sebastian and Sandy Denny.

Barrie spent a decade photographing many musicians and groups who would become legends and household names, notably The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Aretha Franklin and even Louis Armstrong.

Nigel Grundy told reporter Chris Broom: “It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Barrie on creating and now extending this exhibition. Before Barrie joined Melody Maker, music papers used stock photography supplied by record labels, meaning they all tended to carry the same images. Barrie undoubtedly changed the face of music photography, capturing some of the most iconic images of all time.”


In the mid Seventies, Wentzell moved to Canada and flew over especially to attend the Portsmouth Music Experience Exhibition with his daughter Saskia. Explained Barrie: “Before I moved to Toronto, I spent several years living on the Isle of Wight. So the Portsmouth area holds special memories for me.

“When Nigel approached me about exhibiting at the Music Experience it felt like the right time to display some of the most recognised images from my time at Melody Maker on his home turf.”

Before a talk and a question and answer session with the audience, a ten minute sequence was shown of Barrie’s film documentary Melody Makers, the Bible of Rock’n’Roll directed by Leslie Ann Coles.

‘Then Barrie and Chris shared memories of their journey on the Beatles 1967 Magical Mystery Tour, hearing Zeppelin play ‘Stairway To Heaven’ for the first time and attending the three day 1970 Isle of Wight Festival with the full MM team.

That’s when they helped provide pictures and stories about the headliners that included the Who, Ten Years After, ELP and finally the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It proved the last time many saw Jimi on stage, playing to cheering hordes under the silvery light of a midnight moon shining over the festive fields.

After the Guildhall  event, when the pair felt like rock celebrities for the night, as they were photographed and asked to sign autographs, they adjourned to the nearby Isambard Kingdom Brunel Wetherpoons bar where the reminiscing and merry making continued until midnight with Nigel, his wife and fellow curator Audrie and many more friends and MM fans.

‘Quite often in the Sixties, Welch and Wentzell found themselves locked out of hotels or consigned to sleeping on floors when rock bands abandoned them on the road or everyone simply ‘got lost’. Once at a handy Isle of Wight B&B they found themselves having breakfast with a sympathetic fellow traveller, a nice young American girl. She turned out to be Jane Fonda.

So, there was much to laugh about and the merriment continued next morning at a nearby Premier Inn, with battles to work the coffee machine and stave off the overnight effects of several flagons of ale. Mercifully Saskia came to the rescue, guiding the Rock Codgers – sorry Legends in the right direction. But did they get the pictures and the story? Every time!