I don’t know where I’m from anymore. I was born in Paris, but grew up in England. I was there during Beatlemania. I’m talking about ‘61, ‘62, ‘63. It was insane. Anyone who didn’t see it, who didn’t live it, has no idea how incredible it was. I remember we all had our hair cut just so, with our fringe straight across our eyebrows, and you were either John or Paul or George or Ringo. Girls would literally scream. I mean they went wacko. I wasn’t in high school yet—I was only 10—but there was one day that I went on a school trip to see them play because the teachers wanted to see them. I couldn’t hear them. They couldn’t hear themselves. And the best part is that parents loved them too. Everybody was obsessed.
I moved to the US at one point. It was the best. I worked for the LA Times until I set out on my own and moved to New York (after a terrible breakup, of course—it’s always love that gets you). There, I worked for a number of advertising agencies, always as a freelancer. Back then, you would dump one agency and were immediately off to another one. There was work and money and ladies. I was 25 and having a great time. Things are much tougher now.
I eventually went back to Paris, where I published a few magazines. I used to ask famous people to write the editorial. I worked with some truly amazing people that way. Rudolf Nureyev wrote a piece for me three weeks before he died. He had been really sick, but I remember going to his place and spending an entire afternoon drinking tea out of Chinese cups in his living room. That’s a memory, you know. I also worked with Claudia Schiffer in the early Eighties when she was in her prime. She was really nice, not snotty at all. I remember when we went out to eat; it was like ‘forget the steak’. She was really into salads.
Fast forward 25 years and the crisis hit. I went bankrupt. But that’s all part of the story. I moved to Barcelona three months ago to open Galeria Johnson, which exhibits original rock photography, after about a year of preparation. From my previous work in publishing, I had met a lot of photographers—it’s all about who you know.
The purpose of opening the gallery is to make these unique pictures of legendary rock stars available to people. I’ve divided my clientele into two different categories: the genuine fan, who doesn’t have that much money, and the interior designer type, who has a bigger budget from their clients. The photos range in price from €300 to €3000. I’m trying to offer a variety that’s affordable for everyone.
I don’t buy from the net. I work hand-in-hand with the photographers. I’ve met most of them. Some of these guys are getting pretty old now; a couple of them are dead. No matter what format you are interested in—small or large—all the prints are numbered and most are signed by the photographer. The larger the print run, obviously the lower the price. A lot of prints are from runs of 495. This way, I can afford to keep the rates down. But there are some by people like Mick Rock, who used to be David Bowie’s personal photographer, who do print runs of up to 30 at the most. That shoots the price way up.
I don’t have a favourite print. There’s a great one of Clapton, when he was just 24, with the Stones, The Who and Lennon. It’s like a family. They were shooting the Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus, that’s why they were all together. Another one that makes an impression is of Tina Turner with Ike, her abusive stage partner and husband, standing just behind her in the band. If you look close enough, you can see bruises down her side, on her arm and under her tights.
Ok, if you must know my true favourite, it’s one of Neil Young because it’s so vintage. He’s got his classic car in the Hollywood Hills. I used to hang out there so I can relate. I’m not gonna bullshit you—I haven’t really met any of the icons. I had a drink with Bill Wyman years ago, which is barely worth mentioning. I had drinks with David Lee Roth, Bowie, Sting. But just drinks because I met them at parties.
I wouldn’t go back and live in New York or Paris or London. I’ve been there. I’ve done all I had to do there. After only three months, I have really fallen in love with Barcelona, and I’m having a lot of fun here.