Dennis Morris on the Admiral Ken Sound System

We love our books, exhibitions and collections of all kind, but sometimes one photo and some captivating words is more than enough to put you in the space. Legendary London music photographer Dennis Morris did exactly that this week regarding the above shot of the Admiral Ken Sound System.

Arguably best known for his published an exhibited works photographing The Sex Pistols as well as Bob Marley, Dennis Morris isn’t someone we’d immediately think of regarding sound system history, but rather one of the key shooters in London’s established music and pop culture footprint. So it definitely makes sense, and we’d love to see more similars from his archive if they exist.

In a breakdown of the photograph he talks briefly about the role of ’60s sound systems, Hackney at the time, and even a bit of his own history in capturing the culture.

Published on Dazed earlier this week via writer Anna Cafolla, you can check Morris’ words on the photo (currently residing on the walls of the Sonos Studios in London) below, and the full original post here:

“Admiral Ken was one of the big sound system owners at the time, and was very highly respected. In the foreground is Dennis Andreas. I used to go to the local youth club and he was always punching a punchbag. We never took much notice, but years later he actually fought Hitman Hearns. He got knocked down about eight times but Hitman’s manager said he had never seen such spirit.

This would have been on a Sunday morning, and I was just out and around with my camera when I came across them loading the equipment back into the van after a Saturday night party, so it was just a random shot really.

Those guys that you see, they were the box men, the guys that I suppose in rock and roll you call the roadies. In sound system you call them box men. Admiral Ken would’ve been the selector and you knew he played the tunes and soul at what they call the booze parties. They were a way for people to unwind and for people to meet and to exchange stories about their week, how they were progressing in England and what was also happening back in Jamaica. The music played was coming from Jamaica, and the music was like a social comment in the same way rap music is a social comment on black lives in America. That was the importance of the sound system, of the music and the records in those days.

Put it this way, people didn’t go to Hackney. Black taxis didn’t stop for you, or would drive off if you wanted to go to Hackney. It was a very depressed area in terms of living conditions, but there was a very vibrant community there, and a lot of love and optimism within the area. Opportunities for immigrants were few and far between, so after hard weeks these nights were something everyone looked forward to. Each night had their own sound, like Shaka in the south, and Chicken the Thunderstorm, where the bad boys went.

I would have been about 16 or 17 here. I was not employed as a photographer by anyone actually, I was kind of just hanging around. I did my stints shooting Bob Marley and the Sex Pistols and that there was no one that I could identify. I was expected to work in a factory. I was a total outcast for doing what I loved. I loved photography, movies and shows like Coronation Street that helped me understand the British identity as someone from Jamaica.

Young people today don’t understand how hard it was for us back then, doing what we wanted, even getting a council flat. When I took this photograph, I was trying to find my place in society.”