Bob King, at AC/DC.
Bob King, at AC/DC. Bob King

Music photographer releases 50 years of iconic shots

PICTURE this - it's 1981 and AC/DC are on their first tour since the death of frontman and rock legend Bon Scott. The audience is small and doesn't quite know what to think about the new guy Brian Johnson.

On stage, Angus Young is in his trademark fake schoolboy's uniform. Sweat has stuck his hair to his forehead and his fingers work the fretboard of a guitar.

The image is one of about six million shots music photographer Bob King has captured in a career that began about the same time the Rolling Stones' did.

King has spent more than four years whittling down those captured moments and the result is a book, The Bob King Collection, showing off the biggest music performances to come to Australian shores since the '60s.

Beyonce and her dancers are in the book. So are early shots of the Beatles, taken when King was only 17. He's captured the big performers across genres and generations and been the tour photographer for AC/DC, Bon Jovi and Neil Diamond.

"In the beginning it was just a hobby," King told Weekend Magazine.

"I can remember vividly fans asking me 'why are you taking photos of the concert?'.

"I took the shots and the photos would end up in a box at home."

Those early shots are a music fan's dream - they include images such as the one of Mick Jagger in a white business shirt before he'd quite figured out how to be rock star.

There's a black and white photo of The Bee Gees relaxing in a park. King snapped the photo on his lunch break one day in 1965, and for decades after that, it was forgotten.

It wasn't found again until he began the scanning all his black and white film negatives while putting the book together. The process allowed him and his editors to rediscover negatives that were discarded when they were shot.

"I discovered a few gems," he said.

King now shoots digital and will take up to 800 shots at every concert in the brief time photographers are allowed to work.

"Since the late '80s, there's been a three-song rule come in," he said.

Though a favourite is hard to choose, he singled out a shot of Divinyls singer Chrissy Amphlett performing at Australian Made in Perth as one of his best photographs.

The 1987 image became iconic in the weeks after her death.

The Bob King Collection, published by New Holland Publishers (, RRP $99.99, is available at all good bookstores.

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