By Ian & Lauren Wright
As it is, after five years and 241 performances of “Red Piano,” Sir Elton will pack his 101 Vuitton trunks and cases before heading down Interstate 15’s Yellow Brick Road to adventures afresh. His last concert at Caesar’s Palace is April 22, and at midnight the decree nisi will be absolute.
Reflecting on this got me going through my old negatives “PDQ” to unearth this little gem of circumstance. My first set of Elton photographs was taken exactly 30 years ago at The City Hall in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It was March 21, 1979, and I was invited to photograph the “dress rehearsal” for his first-ever “One Man And His Piano” show for the upcoming “Live To Russia” tour in April.
After the first half of his solo, Elton was joined by percussionist Ray Cooper, who accompanied him on the Soviet tour. This show premiered Elton’s new “Cossack” look, with a specially designed wardrobe of long fur coats, Ushanka fur hats and military boots, all well and good as it was freezing cold the morning he left for Moscow from London’s Heathrow Airport.
His arrival behind the “Iron Curtain” was to blistering record temperatures of 100 degrees. As you can imagine, Elton remained unfazed. Swaddled from head to foot in furs, he posed for press photographers on the Aeroflot steps looking just like Dr Zhivago.
Regarded as “The Man Who Was There WHEN,” Ian Wright’s fabulous 50-year career as a celebrity photographer began in 1960 as a 15-year-old junior photographer for “Teenage Special” a new supplement to a newspaper in the northeast of England.
Too young to drive, Ian strapped the heavy plate-camera equipment to his bicycle, pedaling to local ballrooms, theaters and nightclubs, photographing emerging pop stars and celebrities. “Photograph everyone on the bill; you never know who’s going to become famous and keep all your negatives,” was the brief given by his editor, the now illustrious editor/publisher, Sir Harold Evans.
Consequently, teenage photographer Ian Wright was unwittingly on hand to photograph the creation of the Swinging ’60s. Wright photographed everyone on the scene. His intimate back-stage portraits show eager young performers unsure of whether they would flop or ascend to fame and fortune.