Be a good boy Reg and put the kettle on while I cut Mr Olson a nice piece of Battenberg


If you didn’t see yesterday’s Observer Music Monthly then you may not come across the wonderful portraits of various rock stars snapped in the comfort of their parent’s homes. Dating from 1970-71, Life magazine’s John Olson, more renowned for his ‘nam photography, was commissioned to shoot, over a 15 month period, the biggest names in popular music.

Olson says that he had had some experience of “dealing with rock stars’ egos and unprofessionalism, but without exception, the performers behaved like regular human beings as soon as their parents were around. They were polite, on time and not stoned.”

They’re all there; Elton, Eric with his grandma, Ginger Baker, Grace Slick, Donovan, Dave Crosby, Ritchie Havens, the Jackson 5 and Zappa. See for yourself. The photos fascinate not only because they are period pieces, but because it’s the least likely place that you are ever going to see these people. You’d be less surprised seeing them in a post office queue or mooching round the Chelsea flower show, than perched on their mum’s sofa.

Grace’s mum looks like June Whitfield, Dave Crosby’s father looks like the sort of gentleman that even the straightest of teenagers would rebel against, Zappa’s parents look rather proud to be snapped with their boy, showing off their modern art collection in a purple room with a sea green carpet. Yes, you can check out their ornaments, like you do with Martin Parr’s snaps. Enjoy.


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