How Brown’s monkey face was Set in Stone

Stone Roses lead singer Ian Brown with Blackpool's Ian Tilton
Stone Roses lead singer Ian Brown with Blackpool's Ian Tilton
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THE photograph of Ian Brown’s “monkey face” is one of the most iconic in rock and roll history.

But not many know that Blackpool’s Ian Tilton is the man responsible.

Tilton first worked with Brown’s band The Stone Roses in 1987, at the age of 23, and went on to photograph them 14 times over the next three years.

Now he has published a book charting the hectic beginnings of one of Britain’s best and most enduring bands, including their first TV appearance and famous Spike Island gig.

Set in Stone features more than 400 photographs of the band, many never seen before.

“Being with the band was interesting. It wasn’t all fun, fun, fun, they were a true rock and roll band,” said Tilton.

“Every member had an individual character. They were their own men and they did it their own way and that’s the way I’ve always done it as well. I think that’s why we saw eye to eye.”

Tilton’s favourite session with The Stone Roses was a 1989 gig at the Empress Ballroom.

“I just hung out with the band the whole day. I got probably one of the best shots I ever did of Ian Brown where he put a whole orange in his mouth. I got this really iconic, funny picture of him doing that,” he said.

“Then at Spike Island, I got a shot of him holding up this globe in his hands. I got the most famous picture, the definitive shot of that gig.

“I got him to do the monkey face the first time ever and he is still doing that.”

Mr Tilton - who has worked as a photographer for more than 20 years, also photographed Nirvana after being the first European photographer to form a relationship with them and his world-famous shot of Kurt Cobain crying was voted the sixth best rock shot ever by Q magazine.

He added: “I was one of the first to photograph Guns N’ Roses. I was a big music fan and grew up in Blackpool but moved to Manchester because I loved the music scene.

“I recognised very early on The Stone Roses as a band worth covering.”

Mr Tilton will hold various talks and events around the country to celebrate the release of the book. Go to for more details