April 28, 2020

You know those deluxe sets we’re all becoming familiar with nowadays, as landmark albums or bands are celebrated by means of a huge box full of CDs, DVDs, books, posters, vinyl, all sorts of treasures essentially? Well courtesy of Wymer Publishing, what we have here is the equivalent to that audio concept but instead via the literary and photographic media. Any fan of a band will surely attest that, second to listening to them, the greatest joy can be found in plundering archives of vintage and sometimes never before seen photographs. What Wymer have done here is to create a beautifully thematically-matching set of glossy hardback tomes full of nostalgia and ‘Through The Keyhole’ looks at a tremendous array of stars. All with presentation boxes and lithographic prints, which are suitable for framing, to act as those ‘bells and whistles to make it all feel special, with every one being a strictly limited print run. And to make things better still, there is a chance to get any of these titles at a whopping 25% discount, exclusively for Velvet Thunder readers! But that’s at the foot of the page; let’s start first by having a look at these selections…

Pink Floyd and others gathered at the Albert Memorial in London for a bread and water lunch to draw attention to Oxfam’s Christmas appeal.

To begin with, the prog end is a good place to start our trip through this visual wonderland, as bands of that ilk have always had a knack of being visually arresting both onstage and off. Nowhere can that be more true than with PINK FLOYD, here covered by a volume entitled Captured Through Time, which does exactly as it says on the tin, or more accurately, on the spine. Even before beginning to turn the pages, this is packaged in true enigmatic Floyd fashion, with the band’s name appearing neither on the silver-embossed black presentation box nor on the front or back covers of the book. The box has only an abstract clock face, sprinkled with detached hands and Roman numerals, while the cover of the book proper has the same design backed by a sumptuous backdrop of planets and a camera lens. The rear cover has flying sheep taking off vertically. All very ‘Hipgnosis’, and all decidedly Floyd.

Once you get into the book proper, it more than lives up to that outer promise, with 130 A4-sized glossy pages crammed with photos stretching all the way back to a Church Hall show in 1966, and coming right up to the present day, through the various members’ solo activities. Along the way there are iconic live shots aplenty, along with candid offstage shots, memorabilia and posters through the years and even the odd, slightly haunting, image of a latter-day Syd Barrett. The text here is used as an add-on rather than whole pages for itself, using facts and press quotes overlaid on the photos themselves, to afford the maximum room for the visual stars of the show. Some shots from the Animals tour have never been seen before this publication. Three glossy photo prints come in the box to complete one of the definitive Floyd visual works, which is limited to only 500 copies worldwide..

Tony Banks

When talking about visual prog bands, there can surely be no escaping the huge shadow cast by GENESIS, via Peter Gabriel’s astonishing theatrical costumery and, latterly, some of the most impressive stage shows ever mounted. All of this is given lavish coverage in no less than three related offerings. Firstly we have the band themselves celebrated in Counting Out Time: A Photographic Journey, which like the Floyd volume before it crams all it can into its 130 large glossy pages, right from clippings and memorabilia from very early shows. The book is divided into three distinct sections, which will surely come as no surprise – these are the Gabriel years, the brief four-piece Hackett period and the globe-straddling trio years – though the short spell in the band by Ray Wilson is also acknowledged. Text here comes mainly in the form of a single page introduction to each period, though snippets are also scattered around the photos. The visual is the premium here, for sure, with seven photo prints included in the box and the set limited to only 500 copies worldwide.

Phil Collins with some reading matter

The Genesis nostalgia trip is only just getting started, however, as the band’s two big frontmen, PETER GABRIEL and PHIL COLLINS, are both themselves represented individually via matching volumes entitled A Life In Vision. The Collins book understandably focuses more on the post-1975 band, when he took over the mic from Gabriel and became a much more visual focus for the band, but there are photos stretching right back to his pre-Genesis band Flaming Youth and some embarrassing childhood knitting advertisements! The latter part of the book illustrates just how big his own celebrity stature became, with a dizzying list of the great and the good in the A-List world pictured with this short, balding prog rock drummer. It’s a funny old world, indeed. Three photo prints and 1000 copies worldwide.

Gabriel’s entry has a similar weighted focus toward the later years, as a portion of Genesis shots opening the book give way to a greater section concentrating on his solo career – which after all, has spanned 45 years now! There are live shots across his various tours, and plenty of offstage material highlighting his WOMAD and Amnesty International work, among others, and photos with the likes of Nelson Mandela, in case we are playing a sort of ‘Celebrity Top Trumps’ with Mr Collins here. Those who revere Gabriel’s solo work and become irritated by his association with fox heads and flower costumes, and endless reunion calls, will lap this one up, that’s for sure. Like the Collins book, this is 1000 copies only and has three photo prints.

CREAM in October 1967 with Ginger Baker top, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce in glasses

From there we move on, or rather move back, to the ‘60s with a 1000-run edition of Full Cream, dedicated to, of course, CREAM in whose ranks Eric Clapton took his big step to superstardom, along with the equally brilliant Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. With rock photography less widespread back in the 1960s, this volume has a great strike-rate of photos from that period which I for one had never seen, but it also covers the various members’ out-of-cream activities, such as West Bruce & Laing, Blind Faith and Delaney & Bonnie among a lot more. Great on and offstage shots here go together with a superb array of period memorabilia, and go right up to the latter day Cream reunion shows, which of course cannot now be repeated.

On opening the usual silver-embossed box for this one, one finds not only four photo prints (one of each member and a group shot), but also a wonderfully eye-catching, and suitably psychedelic, cover illustration which brings to mind the iconic Disraeli Gears artwork. In addition to that, all of the text in the book is provided by Nettie Baker, daughter of Ginger, and there is a foreword by Tony Palmer. Tremendous volume, and limited to 1000 copies in total..

From there, let’s take a slight break with the rather different ALICE COOPER book, Welcome To My Nightmare: Fifty Years Of Alice Cooper. The black/grey box design and bonus photo prints (three) are the same, but the design of the book certainly is not. In this case it’s around 240 pages, a much thicker volume, and there is a much bigger emphasis on the text, courtesy of Martin Popoff. In fact, it is in the form of a year-by-year chronological timeline, with extensive quotes from band members and other key players providing the inside story. With the extra hundred or more pages, however, there is still plenty of room for a generous amount of high quality photographic illustration, spanning the full timeline – great news, as Alice is nothing if not legendarily visual in his image and stage shows! This is also limited to only 500 copies wordwide. If you’re one for wanting the history of the subject related in an informative ‘in their own words’ kind of way, this could well prove to be the pick of the bunch. Build up your muscles however – 240 pages of such high quality paper weighs a ton!

Ritchie Blackmore, with Rainbow
Ronnie James Dio

Next up is one more in the A Life In Vision series, this time the Deep Purple / Rainbow axeman, the ‘man in black’ RITCHIE BLACKMORE. This one follows the rough template of the other Life In Vision selections, in terms of box, 1000 copy-limit and three photo prints (one Purple, one Rainbow and one Blackmore’s Night), but there is a little more in the way of text to get your teeth into, courtesy of Wymer man and well-known Blackmore expert Jerry Bloom, and it is interesting without doubt. The real meat of this is still the photographs, however, and it’s a spectacular selection, going back to his very earliest pre-Purple bands and taking in some of his typically photogenic live appearances along the way. Good Lord, this man could throw a shape! Another of my favourites from the whole selection.

One of Blackmore’s most celebrated musical partners is up next, with the magnificent vocals and lesser physical stature of RONNIE JAMES DIO celebrated in the final Life In Vision volume that we will be covering. The box design is different to the other Life In Vision entries, being a scholarly font inscribing the years 1975-2009, which is the book’s scope, and there are four photo prints this time out – one each from Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own band Dio, as well as a studio shot. The unique thing this time out is that every single one of the photos packing this particular volume are from the lens of one men: the remarkably prolific, and equally talented, Frank White. The book takes up from Ronnie’s very first Rainbow gig in 1975 through to his last appearance with Heaven And Hell shortly before his untimely demise in 2009. So, no shots of Elf or his formative bands such as The Prophets, but few could complain about the depth or quality of material that we do get. It’s a fine memorial to one of the truly great rock/metal voices of all time. This one has a run of only 500 copies.

Ozzy – who else?

With an obvious connection again to Mr Dio, we have a book dedicated to his former bandmates BLACK SABBATH. Entitled Going Through Changes, it must be stressed right away that what is covered here is the original, Ozzy Osbourne-fronted line-up of the band, from the debut album up to the Never Say Die! tour in 1978. If you want to see Dio, or Ian Gillan, or even Tony Martin you won’t find it here. Neither will you find the latter-day Bill Ward-less reunion for the 13 album. The mantra of this book is that the original is still the best, and the classic era to focus on, which, having seen two of the band’s remarkable shows in that era, gets few arguments from me. The combination of those four individuals produced a remarkable chemistry, in the visual as well as musical sense. Certainly in the mid-to-latter part of the decade, Iommi’s stoic, centre-stage persona, slightly set back, was always flanked by the hyperactive Geezer Butler to his right and the astonishing innate charisma of Ozzy. Bill Ward was always a beast behind the kit, throughout the years.There are some truly remarkable photos packed in here, many of them previously unpublished, from both sides of the Atlantic, and it is a fine memento of a decade’s output which changed the face of heavy rock music for ever. Going through changes, indeed. Five prints in this one, one of each original member and one band shot. The book is limited to a run of 500.

Zappa, Ike Willis and not a real gun…

We’re up to the last book we’re covering at this moment now, and it is a fitting one to leave to the end, as it has the latest chronological start date of any of these entries. Entitled FZ88, the subject is the late and utterly unmatched FRANK ZAPPA, with the book taking its title from the fact that it is an exhaustive photographic record of his last ever tour, in 1988, again limited to only 500 copies. Taking in rehearsal and behind the scenes photos as well as live shots – courtesy of respected Zappa photographer Sergio Albonico – the book also contains a great deal of informative text. Andrew Greenaway, author of the book Zappa The Hard Way, which told the story of this tour, contributes the narrative, and there is also an interview with Zappa himself conducted by his former secretary Pauline Butcher midway through the tour, which ended prematurely amid acrimonious circumstances. In typical Zappa style, the band were a twelve-piece and had a rehearsed repertoire of around a hundred compositions! It is sobering to reflect that Zappa, who died from prostate cancer in 1993, was only 47 years old at the time of this tour, despite seeming to have been around forever. He is someone whose like we shall truly not see again, and this book is a fine, and fascinating, epitaph.

All of the photos shown here are from the books concerned, and are used with the kind permission of Wymer Publishing. They of course give only a small flavour of their full glory in the glossy pages within!

These books are all beautifully packaged and put together, but like all such deluxe collectors’ pieces, they are not inexpensive. This, however, can be remedied by an exclusive offer which allows readers of Velvet Thunder to purchase the books direct from the Wymer Publishing website at a 25% discount, by entering the code VELVET.

Simply click on the following links:


When ordering, enter the promo code VELVET