THE photograph of Ian Brown’s “monkey face” is one of the most iconic in rock and roll history.

Now, Ian Tilton, who has worked as Bolton Octagon Theatre’s photographer for more than 20 years, has published a book charting the hectic beginnings of The Stone Roses — including their first TV appearance and famous Spike Island gig.

Mr Tilton first worked with the band in 1987, at the age of 23, and went on to photograph them 14 times over the next three years.

Set in Stone, which is now on sale at the Octagon, features more than 400 photographs of the band, many never seen before. He said: “Being with the band was interesting. It wasn’t all fun, fun, fun, they were a true rock and roll band. Every member had an individual character. They were their own men and they did it their own way and that’s the way I’ve always done it as well. I think that’s why we saw eye to eye.”

Mr Tilton’s favourite session with The Stone Roses was a gig at the Empress Ballroom, Blackpool, in 1989. He said: “I just hung out with the band the whole day. I got probably one of the best shots I ever did of Ian Brown where he put a whole orange in his mouth. I got this really iconic, funny picture of him doing that.

“Then at Spike Island, I got a shot of him holding up this globe in his hands. I got the most famous picture, the definitive shot of that gig. I got him to do the monkey face the first time ever and he is still doing that.”

Mr Tilton also photographed Nirvana after being the first European photographer to form a relationship with them and his world-famous shot of Kurt Cobain crying was voted the sixth best rock shot ever by Q magazine. He added: “I was one of the first to photograph Guns n’ Roses. I’m originally from Blackpool but moved to Manchester because I loved the music scene. I recognised very early on The Stone Roses as a band worth covering.”

Mr Tilton, who has more than 800 photographs of the band, had the idea for Set in Stone about 18 months ago, before the October, 2011, announcement of The Stone Roses’ reunion.

He said: “Photography books cost an awful lot of money to do. The book companies were going, there’s a recession and we are not quite sure — even though we know it will sell. As soon as the record company said The Stone Roses were getting back together they immediately said, ‘I think it’s time we do it now’.”

Mr Tilton took his first pictures at the Octagon, of Jim Cartwright’s Two, in 1989. He said: “The fact that it’s a small independent theatre and it’s still going is a testament to the people of Bolton.”

Mr Tilton is selling signed copies of Set in Stone, co-written by Claire Caldwell, with a free Stone Roses postcard until June, after which the book will be available from shops.

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