Michael Spencer Jones: Photographing Oasis, The Verve and more

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There is no doubt that you would have heard of the iconic Oasis album Definitely Maybe (1994).

However, what you probably didn’t know was the story behind the cover photo of the album.

It is a story of both art and chaos, and it was freelance photographer Michael Spencer Jones who captured it all.

Jones moved to Manchester after graduating from a photography degree at Bournemouth and Poole College of Arts.

Speaking at his home, Jones said: “I got this dreadful job in this catalogue, photographing pencils and pencil sharpeners.”

Disheartened at working 80-hour weeks in gloomy studios for three years, Jones abandoned his job and went freelance.

It was at this time that the ‘Madchester’ music culture scene of the late ’80s and the early ’90s was prominent.

Making his own mark on the scene, Jones photographed The Happy Mondays front-man Shaun Ryder for the front cover of Avant’s issue 8, in November 1990.

Avant was a Manchester-based underground news magazine, who Jones worked for on several jobs, including the Ryder shoot.

Recalling the photo-shoot, Jones said: “I managed to photograph him [Shaun Ryder] down at Factory Records.

“I don’t know what he’d been taking, but I got him on this chair and he fell asleep whilst I was taking pictures of him!”

Shaun Ryder on the cover of Avant magazine

Shaun Ryder on the cover of Avant magazine

Jones considers his big break to have been when he began working with The Verve – photographing their first single cover, ‘All In The Mind’.

“They had just been signed to Hut Records, and the cover was like this Hieronymus Bosch style scene shot in infrared.

“Once I shot that, it caught Noel’s attention.”

Jones was working with a design agency at the time, and got given a cassette for Definitely Maybe.

Noel Gallagher then approached him to do the photography for the iconic album cover.

But it wasn’t as easy as all that, as Jones explains the many obstacles and thought processes that went into the album cover.

“I heard the demo [for Definitely Maybe]and knew that this was going to be something big,” he said.

He added: “I was really into location photography, so I was going to get somewhere really cool for the cover.”

Oasis told Jones at the time that they wanted to base the cover on The Beatles ‘Oldies But Goldies’ cover.

The idea was to have the band sit around a coffee table, however Jones had other ideas.

“They wanted to photograph it at Bonehead’s [guitarist’s] house, so I went round there.

“I wanted to know what they were going to do around this coffee table – playing cards, having a seance, or roast beef and Yorkshire pudding?”

At this point, Jones turned around and faced the living room that would eventually be the setting for the infamous album cover.

He added: “I did some test shots, and the room is really small. When I went back there for the 10th anniversary with Noel and Liam, we couldn’t believe how small it was.

“I had to use a wide-angle lens to get everyone in the shot.”

This posed its own problem for Jones, as the wide-angle shot left the floorboards of the room exposed.

Seeing this, he made a bold move and got frontman Liam Gallagher to lie down on the floor.

Jones explained how bizarre and risqué that was at the time: “I developed this passion for Egyptology.

“It came from visiting the Science Museum on Oxford Road.

“This whole notion of preserving people in a certain state came from that, so I got Liam lying on the floor, in a complete state of preservation. A rock icon preserved in time.”

He added: “That was what was going through my head at the time, but I was nervous to ask him.

“You know, asking a frontman to lie down, with his eyes closed, on the front cover of his album.

“Now it looks normal, but at the time it wasn’t normal at all. He was totally cool about it – but, if he hadn’t, it wouldn’t of been the shot it was.”

Jones went on to photograph the cover for Oasis’ hit ‘Wonderwall’ (1995) and their third studio album, ‘Be Here Now’ (1997).

For more information on Jones’ work, visit http://www.spellboundgalleries.com/

Be Here Now original cover

Be Here Now original cover

 

All photos provided by Michael Spencer Jones.

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