||The photographer and video- maker
who played such a key role in the Pet Shop
vocabulary in their early years, died unexpectedly of a
heart attack on March 9, 2012,
At the age of 56.
"It was a shock," says Neil.,Because Eric had been ill,
but nothing to do with his heart that we knew of." Eric
Watson had lived on the south coast for many years with
his partner Krysta, with whom he had a son and daughter.
(Readers of Pet Shop Boys, annually will also be aware
that at the beginning of the Pet Shop Boys' career Krysta
also looked after the Pet Shop Boys' fan mail.)
funeral was in Hastings crematorium. Both Pet Shop Boys,
who had just returned from
Los Angeles, attended. On
‘It was a beautiful day," says Chris. "Weather-wise. And
it was full. A
Good turn-out." The photos on this page
(never previously published) are a contact sheet from the
second half of 1985 for the release of the new version of
"West End girls" and were taken outside Eric's studio in
Wands worth. The photos of Chris on page2 are from another
contact sheet from a
Session earlier that year in Lime
house, London, during the shoot for the first release of
"Opportunities". Neil spoke at the service, delivering the
Eric came down from Newcastle to
London in1974. It seemed he left in a hurry. Our mutual
friend John Cooper who nowadays plays the vicar in Emmer
dale had got to know him in a youth theatre in Back worth,
near North Shields. They moved down together to a house in
We lived in Tottenham, Mount Pleasant Road,
Krysta and me and a fashion student called Bil1.
Christopher (who died in 1989) had moved out to go to
Exeter University and Krysta had moved in instead. John
Cooper came over to the flat bringing Eric with him,
opinionated, handsome, and clever.
We were quite
impressed and own feathers slightly ruffed. Eric met
Krysta and that was that.
A year later Krysta rented a
flat in South Kensington and moved in with Eric. It was a
beautiful maisonette on two floors with handsome future
and a view of a square. A couple of years later
to a room in Knightsbridge and frequently wandered down to
the flat in Evelyn Gardens.
It’s a served wine and
salami and cheese the Europa shop in the Fulham Road.
Sent to midnight double-bills at the Paris Pullman
cinema. Bloody Allen or Warmer Herzog. Drank wine and
listened to records and talked about music.
Americana which I didn't - Little Feat, Tom Waits etc. -
but we could all agree on Craftwork and Bowie and later
The Ramones and The Sex Pistols.
Eric did a foundation
course at Hornsey College of Art and then began to
specialise in photography. tern he graduated, he got a
job as assistant to Red Saunders,
photographer who worked for the Sunday Times Magazine
amongst other publications. He also assisted Greed
Markowitz who famously had photographed the Rolling Stones
in the 1960s but Red made the biggest impression on him.
Somehow along the way, Eric designed the cover for Sid
Vicious posthumous live album.
(Years previously he'd
taken me to see one of The Sex Pistols' first concerts.)
By then, I was working in publishing. As the 70s
rolled into the 80s, I was able to commission Eric to take
photographs for the TV tie-in trivia I worked on.
First, The Belly Foster Knitting Course. Eric made crisp
colour images of models in naff knitwear.
Then, for the
Madness Take It Or Leave It flitted-n, he shot each member
of Madness (at the height of their fame and handsomeness).
I took the transparencies to the designer I'd commissioned
who also designed The Face and Smash Hits magazines.
The prohibits were solemn and beautiful, rich in
colour with intense in-focus backgrounds and Dave
Hepworth, the editor of Smash I1irs, said something like:
"These are great. The music business is going to eat him
up!" At the same time he had shot several sessions with
the Scottish indy band, Orange Juice. In Eric's
photographs, they looked as beautiful as the flowers they
Some of his best work. Dave Hepworth's prediction
Eric became Smash Hits' most
commissioned cover photographer for about four years
a very creative period in pop music when the stars all had
their little manifestos
and a distinctive "look":
The Human League, Adam Ant (Eric had been at college with
him), Altered Images, Culture Club,
Goes To Hollywood, Spandau Ballet, the Jesus and Mary
Eric's approach was often
art-historical, referencing painting and American
His technique was excellent and
informed his creative thinking.
He was something of an
intellectual in a super-commercial and superficial world.
Which meant that things weren't always smooth. I also
worked for Smash Hits at this time and remember being in
the Dorchester Hotel in 1983 when Duran Duran flew in from
America to play a charity concert in the presence of
Princess Diana. All the press were there going nuts and
then the band and their press officer and me retreated to
a suite upstairs where Eric was ready to photograph them
exclusively for the cover of Smash Hits.
words to them were somewhat impertinent: "Well, for a
start, yours is all looking shiny..." Simon Le Bon shot
him an "Oh we've got a right one here" look.
same year Chris Lowe and I flew to New York to record for
the flrst time as the Pet Shop Boys. Eric very sweetly
suggested that it might be a good idea if we had some
photographs of us ready and so we did our first
photo-session. A strip of light across our faces,
illuminating our eyes.
We recorded "West End girls" in
New York and Eric played it to an A&R man at Epic Records
Thrillingly, he wanted to sign it and
Epic released it in 1984 in a colour sleeve with Eric's
photo on the front. We were on our way.
A year later we
signed to EMI records and there were many discussions with
Eric about how we would present ourselves, how we wanted
to distinguish ourselves from the mainstream of pop. Our
images would look like stills from films. We wouldn't
smile unless there was a good reason.
be maintained at all times. Eric had bought a beautiful,
long, linen coat. He suggested I acquired one so I looked
like the fake preacher in the film,
Was Blood (a film
I've still never seen). An image of us formed and, when we
started to have hits, became famous. We insisted to EMI
that Eric direct our videos and, with many misgivings,
they agreed. Less than a year later the videos were all
over MTV in America and Eric was now a photographer and a
director. By the end of the decade he was directing
commercials as well.
What I remember about this
period, apart from the exciting and sometimes panicky
momentum of it all, is how everything was discussed in
detail all the time in an often heated way. We and Eric
and our designer, Mark Farrow, shared an important
characteristic: We didn't see any need to compromise just
because we were working in the mass-market. If there was
an easy way and a difficult way to do something, we'd
probably do it the difficult way. Everything mattered.
I remember Eric telling me that the Rolling Stones
product manager had phoned him up asking to see his
showered and Eric retorted "You don't want my showered!"
and slammed down the phone.
I thought he was nuts
for behaving like this but I think what he meant was this:
there was no point in them seeing the showered, and
discussing an idea and its budget when they'd only try to
make changes and fatally weaken the original idea. So it
was simpler - and less grief - to put the phone down. In
the 90s Eric moved away from London and pop music to Rye
and landscapes and fatherhood and finally teaching. He
went through a phase of disparaging his pop work but in
recent years enjoyed seeing his work gain new appreciation
in the Thames and Hudson bo ok, Catalogue, and the
National Portrait Gallery exhibition, Icons Of Pop.
He wrote to our friend the writer, Philip Hoare, that
much of his work had been... "...about the juxtaposition
of shiny pop things and decay. The implied entropy. The
book and exhibition have given me a renewed confidence.
the book I am especially happy about. It has created a
fixed set of meanings for things that were previously
forgotten or unresolved. It is an unsettling experience
being talked about but not an unpleasant one." Eric was a
photographer and director working, for many years, in a
He was highly aware of the conditions
involved which both inspired him and drove him away.
He was an artist.