“1969 to 1979 were the golden years of rock’n’roll,” says Australian rock photographer, Philip Morris. He has one of the most extensive photo archives in Australian rock music. His exhibition at Blender Gallery in Paddington, It’s a Long Way: From Acca-Dacca to Zappa 1969–1979 is a retrospective of a pivotal period in Australian music and popular culture; a time when many local acts – including AC/DC – hit the big time in Australia and overseas.
Born in Narrandera, NSW, Morris started his career behind the lens at 15. “My grandfather processed film in his laundry, and that really fascinated me. I knew I wanted to become a photographer when I left school,” he says. In the late 1960s, Morris became a contributing photographer for Go-Set, Australia’s first national pop publication. “At the time it was the only Australian music magazine, it was an outlet for me to get backstage access at concerts,” he says.
Using Go-Set as a platform, Morris became Australia’s leading music photographer, contributing to every major music magazine in the country during the ’70s.
Morris shot the stars of the era, including homegrown talent AC/DC, Billy Thorpe and Midnight Oil. He also photographed international visitors The Rolling Stones, T-Rex, Led Zeppelin and Paul McCartney. “I toured Australia with Paul [McCartney]. I was jostling with a Japanese photographer in the dressing room one day and Paul told me told me to get out of the way and give the other photographer a chance. I was just so enthusiastic to shoot an ex Beatle,” Morris says.
From sound checks to blistering guitar solos, Morris documented these iconic performers intimately. “I became close friends with many of the artists. I could really capture their character,” he says. Shooting AC/DC's first ever photo session in 1974, Morris is still the only photographer to have shot the Australian rock legends at the famed Alberts Studios in Sydney.
The images in It’s a Long Way: From Acca-Dacca to Zappa 1969–1979 have been selected by Morris. They’re an accurate representation of the hurly-burly that was rock’n’roll in Australia at the time, he says. “Its a historical document. It’s good to have these photos to show people what it was like back then, when things were really happening.” Morris captured these artists at close range, with a type of all-areas access that is unheard of today. “When I used go to concerts there were only two or three photographers in the pit. I went to Blues Festival last year and there were about 20 photographers taking photos of the same thing.”
All photographs in the exhibition are black-and-white prints, developed in a dark room from original negatives. They capture moments from Led Zeppelin at Sydney Showground in 1972, to AC/DC’s promotional shoot for High Voltage in 1975.
Morris will release his first retrospective book, also called It’s a Long Way: From Acca-Dacca to Zappa 1969–1979 at Blender Gallery alongside the exhibition. It features photographs that have never been exhibited in Australia before. Morris will be there for the occasion on November 5 and will be available for book signing and a Q&A session on Saturday November 7 at 12pm, with music journalist and author, Jeff Apter.
It’s a Long Way: From Acca-Dacca to Zappa 1969–1979 is showing at Blender Gallery, 16 Elizabeth Street Paddington, from October 31 to December 5.
The book launch is on Thursday November 5 from 6pm to 8pm, with Philip Morris.
Book signing and Q&A: Saturday November 7, 12pm with Philip Morris and Jeff Apter.