After reading all the warm and witty tributes included here, you might think there isn’t much to add about the world’s greatest rock photographer.
But there are just a few words I would like to add of my own, because it seems to me that, despite all the well-meaning wishes of his many and various friends and acquaintances, and all the very funny stories they have to tell about him, there is something everybody so far has forgotten to say – or perhaps not thought of mentioning. And that is what a genuine, warm-hearted, deeply soulful man Ross Halfin is. You’re probably waiting for the punch-line here but there isn’t one. You’ll find no irony in this tribute. For Ross proved to me long ago that there is more to him than the blustering, jibe-throwing caricature he allows himself to be portrayed as elsewhere on this website.
Yes, I could regale you with some genuinely side-splitting stories of our many years on the road together but it seems there are enough of those here already. And yes, I could tell you some horrendously gruesome anecdotes about the times he gave a “tuning up” to some utterly deserving rock biz toss-bag. But again, there are plenty of those already floating around in the ether. You only have to read his blog to see that Ross has lost none of his edge as the years have rolled by.
But like I say, I would prefer to try and tell you something about Ross that hasn’t been said yet. Namely, what a great human being he is. What an honest, open-hearted, ridiculously generous man he is – and how cleverly he has learned to disguise these attributes, aware as he is of the price to be paid by anyone in this business that dares show a sensitive side when all about them are grown men and women behaving like sickeningly spoiled children.
I don’t travel much these days with Ross. I just can’t take the pace anymore, hate being backstage and would rather swallow my own cock than have to put up with the bullshit that surrounds the so-called artists. I used to envy my friend (photographers earn so much more money than writers). Now I thank god I never learned how to use a camera in the fantastically stylish way he does, because that would mean still having to follow these bands around and, apart from a wrinkly old body and shit-spattered mind, I simply don’t have the guts anymore. Cos that’s what it takes to do what Ross does – not just brains and talent, which he has in abundance, but sheer bloody-minded guts. I read his blog now and when I’m not laughing I’m shaking my head, wondering how he puts up with it all. The flights, the fights, the nutters boozing and drugging and talking shit; the ass-crawlers, wannabes and sad fucks in their forties who still grow their thinning hair long.
Make no mistake, Ross has always lived the high life and his week beats your year by some considerable distance. But I wouldn’t trade with him for anything. By rights, after nearly 30 years of this shit he should be one of the biggest nutters of all. You might even be mistaken for thinking him so when you read his blog or what all the other correspondents here have to say about him. And yet, as I say, he remains the most grounded, most sensible, most trustworthy and sober person (in all bar money) I have ever met in this turgid little boy’s business. A giant surrounded by pygmies, Ross is as real as it gets.
Let me give you just one example. When the shit hit the fan for me in the early 90s – I mean, really hit and the phone may as well have been disconnected it rang so seldom – there was literally one person left in the whole world who still stayed in touch with me, come shit or shine, and that was Ross Halfin. He not only stayed in touch on a regular basis at a time when all my other rock biz pals had ditched me like some groupie left to sleep it off in a hotel room, he kept trying to find me work, kept mentioning me to people for whom I had literally become The Unmentionable… in short, kept my name alive at a time when everyone kept telling him it was deader than a UFO reunion. He didn’t have to do this. I certainly didn’t ask, nor expect him to. He just did it because he was my friend and that’s what real friends – as opposed to music biz party pals – do for you.
It wasn’t just me, either. I don’t want to embarrass anybody by mentioning names, but I can think of at least two other people Ross has done this for consistently over the years, no matter what anyone else might have to say or think about it. Guys like me who, often through every fault of our own, ended up on the wrong side of the dressing room door, prematurely retired and struck off the guest-list just as the going was supposed to be getting good.
It would have been easy to walk away then but Ross has never walked away from anything he didn’t want to. That’s why I say, despite all the warm and wonderful things his many other friends and admirers have to say about him here, I felt it was important that one of us at least mentioned that, at heart, Ross is really someone very special, who cares very much about the people he works with, and always but always does the best job he can. If there were more people like that in the music business it would be a far nicer, happier place to be – and Ross would be able to calm down at last and actually start to enjoy himself.
Remember that, all you record company dick-shakes who can’t wait to stick your head up some singer or guitarist’s arse. The next time Ross calls and tells you what flight he wants to take or which hotel he wants to stay in, or which pass he needs to get the job done properly, unlike you he’s not kidding around, he means it. So do yourselves a favour and help him out. If you’re lucky, you might get to know him better. And if you’re really lucky, you might even end up friends.
I have never had a better one.
Mick Wall, Oxfordshire, England, July 2005