Perhaps you're wondering what this place is,
or who or what Philm Freax is, or this Phil Franks guy?
Plas Llandecwyn, Wales. 1971
(photo by Pat Mescal)
A few trunks kicking around the various basements and attics found their way along with Phil Franks through a few decades, passing from the UK through Italy and Spain, waiting for the days when he'd have the courage to open them up again and reconnect to a part of his past, buried but not forgotten.
Phil bought a computer in December 1995, found his way onto the net in May 1996 and happened into my mailbox one day that summer. I felt like I'd run into a long lost cousin. He showed me some of the pics he'd taken years before, from piles of old negatives he was sorting through and scanning... boxes and boxes of old magazines he'd worked for and rolls of film from concerts, album cover art sessions, trips to New York, New England, Spain, Italy...
I could tell what I was seeing was just the tip of the iceberg and that Uncle Phil was a cautious old hippie, gradually extending his trust, making it clear he was never in it for the money but had a strong sense of wanting to make his work available for online viewing but that he should be credited and paid fairly if others used his work in anything for profit.
We conspired to build a web site, The Philm Freax Digital Archives, and to explore ideas for prototyping a CD-ROM of some of the images. This led to the site you see here today. We're still exploring the ROM ideas.
The scope of this Web project quickly grew out of control. We'd initially thought that it'd take a month or so to toss some pictures online but the deeper we dug the more material we found and the bigger it got.
It took me a while to figure out that Philm Freax was a nickname for Phil Franks in his heyday, as he and writer Robert Greenfield were running around like Starsky and Hutch covering the likes of Woody Allen and the UK hippie "freaks" scene for Rolling Stone. An offshoot of Rolling Stone called Friends and later Frendz was his haunting ground for a few ripe years... album cover shoots for Frank Zappa, Gong, Hawkwind, Daevid Allen and Yes and his work with the legendary Barney Bubbles made his name ring a vague bell when I first met him. But the boxes of archives also yielded cultural icons like Germaine Greer, Uschi Obermaier, Abbie Hoffman, Stonehenge, Pamela Des Barres, Ronnie Scott, Miles Davis, Graham Bond and at least a handful of shots of most of the major rock artists of the late 60's and early 70's -- the Grateful Dead, Country Joe McDonald, Pink Floyd, The Who, Elton John, John Lennon, and even the legendary but obscure Pink Fairies...
A bigger picture started to emerge for me of a UK hippie era culture I'd previously not known about much as I grew up in the United States. This wasn't just a pile of pics from rock concerts... there was a political context, plus a more spiritual side to some of it. It was a not just a job, it was a way of life for Philm and his friends on Portobello Road. Friends/z apparently was ground breaking in covering the OZ obscenity trial, foreshadowing today's net censorship issues, and was active in alternative medicine, ecology, feminism, gay rights... all outrageous at the time and now just everyday "Politically Correct" ideologies. I'd heard of some UK publications like the International Times but hadn't really heard of Friends or Oz until Phil filled me in. I realized we had a lot more than just pictures in the archives and that there were some interesting stories to be told about Friends, Frendz and the environment that turned a mild mannered elevator engineer into a famous photographer and a part of history, until he wandered off to see the rest of the world.
As we started to put more material online and prototyping pages it seemed like everyone started crawling out of the woodwork. More and more old friends of Phil started turning up online. Jonathon Green offered us his interview notes from his research for his Days in the Life book on the era we wanted to cover. Old friends from Hawkwind -- Dave Brock and Nik Turner -- asked Phil to look them up on his summer vacation back to the UK (from his current home in Spain). Paul Rudolph and Twink from the Pink Fairies got in touch literally right as we wondered where they'd got to. Mick Farren turned up soon after. Suddenly a couple of pending books are wanting to use Phil's photos. And Philm's old partner Bob Greenfield turned up (having since done books on the Stones and Jerry Garcia) and offered us online reprint rights to the Rolling Stone features he did with Philm freaking at his side in a way that would have made Hunter S. Thompson proud.
So here we are, serving up pages and pages of Phil Franks, Philm Freax, Friends and friends of... and new features on our old Hawkwind mates, plus lots of unpublished pics and reprints of photos not seen in print for 25 years or so.
We still have a lot more to offer! We're just barely started but there's a lot of work ahead here... we welcome text contributions from anyone who was there or has interesting stories to complement the pictures here or still in boxes. We hope to keep rolling out new features and rounding out the history of Friends/z material to offer much more than just a gallery of images. But we're going to take our time doing it because this is a labor of love...