David Corio

James Brown

Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK
(May 23, 1985)

I had arranged to photograph James Brown (or Mister Brown as he insisted on being addressed) at mid-day at the Sheperd’s Bush Hilton but when I arrived, he was having his hair done. Journalist Stuart Cosgrove and I waited in the lobby for over an hour but Mr Brown then decided to go shopping. We were still unable to see him when he returned as his hair had to be styled again. Stuart and I were then instructed to meet him at the sound-check later that day. We got there and discovered that Mr Brown had not done a sound-check in over 30 years!

Finally we were allowed into his dressing room where he was having his hair done again before the show. He looked rather sweet in red curlers. Stuart got to interview him but the Godfather of Soul warned me if I got my camera out , both it and I were going straight out of the third floor window. I tried to persuade him to do some shots before he went onstage. I told him the photos would only take a minute and he agreed to do them after the show “You keep to your promise and I’ll keep to mine” were his last words before going onstage. Mr Brown was 53 and no longer performed his celebrated splits but that night he leapt into the air at the end of every third song. For some reason there were no bouncers so I shot the whole show which lasted well over two hours.

It was after midnight by the time I returned to the dressing room. Mr Brown’s hair had just been coiffed yet again. He looked at me, then at his watch and said “Go!” holding a red rose up to his face. He was giving me exactly sixty seconds! After a couple of frames I persuaded him to lower the rose and remove his sunglasses and got this one frame before I was escorted out of the room by one of his security team.

James Brown