“At this point in his career, Paul Natkin was starting to make a name for himself as a rock photographer… enough experience to shoot with the best out there, but still young and crazy enough to actually tour with these bands as their official camera man…”
In the early 1980s, metal bands realized that by wearing black and playing loud and fast, they could attract a large crowd…but the crowd was all guys! So the heavy metal ballad came into play.
Guns & Roses – “November Rain”
Poison – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”
Bon Jovi – “I’ll Be There For You”
Skid Row – “I Remember You”
Mötley Crüe – “Home Sweet Home”
Their popularity soared! And with that, girls started showing up at their shows. That is when I jumped on the bandwagon for the great hair metal era of rock and roll. These guys loved to be photographed. I followed Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Quiet Riot, Nightranger, Bon Jovi and many others around the country for most of the 1980s, contributing to Creem, Circus, Hit Parader and many European and Japanese magazines. Some bands, like Mister Big, broke up in America, but stayed together to play a month of every year in Japan, where they made enough money to sit on their couches in California for the rest of the year and play video games.
Some, like Motörhead, never changed, and continued to soldier on in front of a bunch of guys in black tee-shirts. On one tour, they tried to add a keyboard player, and people in the audience threw bottles at him. He had to play the rest of the tour from an offstage position. But the rest gladly embraced their flowing locks and colorful striped spandex pants, and their audiences grew!
I first realized how big that kind of music had become during the Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet tour. I flew into Minneapolis to shoot a picture of the band and crew at the airport with their private jet, their seven buses and ten semi-trucks! During their Chicago stop, I noticed a bunch of guys with movie cameras following every move the band made backstage. I didn’t think much of it, until a few weeks later when my phone went crazy on a Sunday afternoon when MTV had the world premiere of the video for “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and I was in it for about 2 seconds! All the calls were from people saying they saw me on TV.
Catch you all next week… I have no idea what story I’ll tell next!
About Paul Natkin
Paul Natkin learned photography in the trenches, working with his father, the team photographer of the Chicago Bulls. He shot sports in the Chicago area for five years before he discovered music photography in 1976.
Since then, he has photographed most of the major music stars of the last half of the 20th century, shooting album covers for artists such as Ozzy Osbourne and Johnny Winter and magazine covers for Newsweek (Bruce Springsteen), Ebony (Tina Turner), People (Prince), and music magazines around the world. See his work online at natkin.net.