What is the best photo you have ever seen of your favourite band or artist?

The chances are that it’s very likely to have been the work of Danny Clifford, one of the world’s leading rock photographers.

Now music fans are getting the chance to hear to the stories behind some of his most iconic images - from touring the world with Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd to spending weeks accompanying Pete Doherty and girlfriend Kate Moss and life in the studio with Freddie Mercury and Queen.


Danny Clifford (Picture: Lyn Clifford)

Danny Clifford (Picture: Lyn Clifford)


Next weekend Danny will be bringing Rock Stars Don’t Smile to the intimate surroundings of Barnoldswick Music and Arts Centre for the first time.

“It’s been a real slow evolution to get to this point,” said Danny who started photographing bands in and around London when he was barely in his teens.

“In the past I’ve been reluctant to put my head above the parapet. My life has been spent doing what I do and every time I would be asked by a TV company to appear on a documentary about a band I’d always turn it down.”

The seeds for the one-man show - the name comes from an altercation with Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher during a visit to a children’s hospital - were sewn when Danny was persuaded to stage an exhibition of his work in London in 2018.

On display were images of a who’s who of the music scene over the past 50 years from Frank Sinatra to Amy Winehouse and from Status Quo to Beyonce.


Amy WInehouse (Picture: Danny Clifford. danny@dannyclifford.com)

Amy WInehouse (Picture: Danny Clifford. danny@dannyclifford.com)


“It was enormous and it went on for months,” he laughed. “I was genuinely gobsmacked at the reaction. There were TV crews and journalists from all over the world.

“I’m no fool, I know it wasn’t about me, they don’t want to know about this fat, bald bloke from London. It’s about where I’ve been and what I’ve done and the people I’ve photographed.”

As a result of the exhibition Danny was invited to Sweden to talk - as he thought - to a group of photographers.

“I drove up with my wife Lyn as we love an adventure and when we got there they took me to the theatre I’d be doing my talk at - it only had about 1,500 seats. I thought I’d be speaking to about 30 people. I was best man at my brother’s wedding and I didn’t really want to speak at that let along something like this.

“But I did it and prattled on and they liked it so much they invited me back to Sweden a couple of times. Then I started to be asked to do similar things here and I thought I’d better get it organised a bit more professionally than me just turning up with 10 photos saying ‘and this is when I first met Freddie Mercury’.


Liam Gallagher (Picture: Danny Clifford. danny@dannyclifford.com)

Liam Gallagher (Picture: Danny Clifford. danny@dannyclifford.com)


“The response has been amazing. People have been travelling miles to get to one of the shows.”

Danny and his camera have been inseparable since he got his first Kodak Instamatic at the age of seven.

“I’ve still got that camera,” he said with a smile. “It had a smell all of its own as did the film and the chemicals you’d use for processing. I learned very early on that when you pull that trigger and take a photo you have frozen life, you have captured a moment in time and that hit me like a hammer.

“To me the camera was a magic machine and I still believe that today.”

By the age of 13 Danny was taking photos at every opportunity.

“I even persuaded my headmaster to let me wander round the school for a week taking pictures of the pupils and everything that was going on rather than having to go to lessons,” he said.

“I got a picture of someone who had been run over on the Zebra crossing near school, rushed home, developed the film and dropped a print off at my local newspaper the Hendon Times. They published it and I even got a credit - photo by reader Daniel Clifford.”

Danny would soon be photographing bands virtually every night of the week around London - he had found his calling.

“I hadn’t planned on it, it just happened,” he said.

Danny soon developed a reputation as a music photographer. Technically his photos were of the highest standard - this was in the days before digital cameras and everything was shot on film. But he also managed to capture the emotion and the essence of the performer.


Bob Dylan (Picture: Danny Clifford. danny@dannyclifford.com)

Bob Dylan (Picture: Danny Clifford. danny@dannyclifford.com)


“Working with film meant you had to learn very quickly,” he said. “I was eight or nine when I made my mistakes. I was living and breathing photography from then on.”

It’s almost easier to list the artists and bands Danny hasn’t photographed than the ones he has.

He remains Bob Dylan’s official photographer, he has toured with Eric Clapton and Iron Maiden spent many hours both on the road and in the studio with Queen and captured compelling portraits of Shane McGowan and Dave Grohl.

But is he ever in awe of his subjects?

“At the beginning, in truth I found it very exciting and I was in awe in the early days,” he confesses. “But I quickly realised I had to throw that attitude out of the window and just get on with the job.

“I don’t act like a fan, I’m on the side of the artist if you like which allows them to relax with me. I’m not going to pester them for an autograph when I meet them - but then I’ve just remembered that’s exactly what I did when I met bob Dylan, what a prat!

“But they know I’m a safe bet. Also to do this job you have to be able to read the room, so that they feel comfortable with you around.”

The only exception to Danny playing it cool is Sir Paul McCartney.

“I’ve known him for years. I used to go round to his house several nights a week in St John’s Wood but he’s still someone I’d stand up and salute,” said Danny. “He just laughs at me.”

Danny is great company and you can see how he puts so many star names at their ease.

He estimates he has more than five million images saved digitally and at least 1.5 million negatives which he has yet to scan in.

“I used to remember every photograph I’d taken, every band I’d worked with,” he said, “but there have been so many.

“There are no doubt some surprises waiting for me to discover.”

Given his back catalogue, is there anyone Danny would like to photograph?

“I’d love to photograph Elvis but that’s not going to happen,” he laughed. “And Jimi Hendrix. I’ve photographed all of the Beatles apart from John Lennon. I was due to go a do a photoshoot with him in New York where I was living at the time.

“I’d flown back to London with Pink Floyd when we found out he had been shot. It’s still painful thinking about it now.”

Danny Clifford is at Barnoldswick Music and Arts Centre on Sunday, June 9 at 1.30pm. Details from www.barnoldswickmusicandartcentre.com. The original Saturday date is sold out