Cover versions: Abbey Road auction

Abbey Road Studios is preparing to auction off the original artwork for some of the world's most famous album sleeves. Charlotte Cripps hears the stories behind the shoots

Henry Diltz's photograph of The Doors was taken at the Morrison Hotel, in downtown Los Angeles, in 1969, for the album cover of Morrison Hotel. It shows Jim Morrison and the rest of the band peering out from behind a glass window that bears the hotel's name. It was the keyboardist Ray Manzarek's idea to pose at the hotel and he took Morrison down to see it. "We all walked into the lobby," recalls the Los Angeles-based music photographer Diltz. "The rooms were cheap and the receptionist said we had to ask the owner for permission to do a photo-shoot at the hotel. 'Damn,' I thought. Then I saw the guy leave the reception desk and go into the elevator. In the actual photograph you can see a little light in the image where the elevator has gone up. I said: 'Quick, run in there!' The band jumped behind the window and I took a roll of film and then we got out of there."

Diltz's Doors shot is one of the celebrated photographs that will go under the hammer at Abbey Road Studios next week, to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.

The band asked Diltz to do the album cover themselves – "probably because they had seen my Crosby, Stills and Nash" album cover, says the photographer. "Jim wasn't loud or brash. He seemed bemused and a little mysterious. He observed things like a poet would. Although on stage he'd be more unpredictable and show up in underwear and cowboy boots. The drugs made him more extrovert."

Diltz started doing album covers in 1966, but the shoot for the first, self-titled Crosby, Stills and Nash album in 1969 – which is also to be auctioned – has a special place in his heart.

The photograph he took for the cover shows the band sitting outside a rustic house on a sofa, in the wrong order, before they had decided on a name. "A few days later we went back to re-shoot it in the right order because they had decided on the name. I said it would take five minutes," he says. "But the house had been torn down. It was a pile of sticks, so we stayed with the original image."

Diltz had met Stephen Stills and David Crosby when he was himself in a folk group, The Modern Folk Quartet, before they joined up with Graham Nash to form the three-piece in 1968. "I photographed them a lot when they became a band... Graham is a real gentleman, David is impish like a naughty boy, and Stephen was very passionate about his music," says Diltz. "That day we were just driving around Hollywood to take publicity pictures, when Graham remembered this little house and we went there. This was one of the stops. It wasn't planned to go on the first album cover. It just worked out that way."

Other images to be auctioned include Andy Earl's contentious Bow Wow Wow cover shot for the album See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang Yeah! City All Over, Go Ape Crazy, commissioned by Malcolm McLaren for his 1980s New Wave band. It is based on Manet's Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, and shows the band's lead singer Annabella Lwin naked, sitting by a winding river in Surrey with the rest of the band in 1981. She was only 15 at the time, and her mother tried to have the image suppressed.

The auction will include a photograph of Johnny Cash at his lakeside home in Hendersonville, Tennessee, in 1987 by Alan Messer; Mick Jagger on tour with the Rolling Stones in 2003, photographed by Roger Woolman; and Eric Clapton, deep in thought on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in 1991, taken by Ian Dickson.

There's also a photograph of Bruce Springsteen taken by Frank Stefanko in 1978, which was used on the inner sleeve of Darkness on the Edge of Town. Among the more recent images is a hand-made silk-screen print of a typewriter, created by Kate Gibb for The Magic Numbers' first single "Take a Chance", is among the collection.

The photography will be auctioned at Sound and Vision 2008, Abbey Road Studios, London NW8, as part of a fund-raising evening for Cancer Research UK on 28 February (

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Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


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