About Ray Palmer

Ray Palmer (pic Tony Mottram)

The legend known as Ray Palmer was born on November 9, 1955, in Greenwich, South East London. From a very young age, he always wanted to be a photographer. He lived in Kent until he was 15, before moving to South West London.

In 1972 he met Chris, his wife-to-be, when they were both working at the same London press agency. They married in 1974.

1981 saw Ray's photographic career veering into the world of rock, when he started working for the then-new magazine Kerrang!. He quickly established himself as an amazing character, becoming known for taking the magazine's glamourous 'Ladykillers' shots, as well as travelling all over the world. 1982 saw the birth of his and Chris' first child, Ross. Faye would follow two years later.

I met Ray in the early 90's, when I started to travel the world myself, as a freelance Kerrang! journalist. By now, Ray was a seasoned pro, while never losing his appreciation of this priveleged lifestyle. Going away with the man was some of the best fun I ever had - he would show you the ropes of basic maneouvres such as finding airport check-in counters or navigating US immigration, and regale you with anecdote after anecdote in various bars. Have one pint with Ray Palmer, and you would hear more great stories and insights than if you spent a day with 10 people - especially in the rock business, where few people would dazzle you with their conversational skills. 

Ray with wife Christine
Ray was immensely intelligent, and a wonderful mix of paradoxes. He would open a door for a lady, then comment on her backside as she passed through! He was a classy gent, but incredibly childish - in a good way. He was a photographer, yet was almost entirely blind in his left eye, due to a cataract from birth (he would attempt to freak out people who knew him, by pretending to take a picture with this eye!). He was rock 'n' roll, yet utterly professional when it came to working, explaining exactly what he was trying to achieve before making it happen. Above all, though, he was one of the warmest, most charming people you could ever hope to meet. He made people feel comfortable - unless of course they were insecure enough to feel threatened by him.

We went to Japan with the Manic Street Preachers, to Seattle with Paradise Lost (the picture to your left was taken during this trip - sadly, it's the only picture of Ray and I which I can find), Sweden with Misery Loves Co, LA with Bad Religion and a whole host more. As the '90s went on, I'd find myself praying that a trip would come with Ray's name attached.

Ray and Jason Arnopp in Seattle
By the time Ray left the magazine in 1996, we had become great friends and continued to socialise. Even without the glitz factor of staying in flash hotels, sitting in a pub with Ray Palmer was all the entertainment you needed. I met him on one of my birthdays, in a London pub. When I arrived, he was sitting there with a small cupcake, into which he had inserted a single candle. Another time, he advised me to surprise my girlfriend on Valentine's Day with a small buffet lunch when she came home from work. These were both typically thoughtful Ray Palmer touches.

We lost touch over the last couple of years - neither of us were particularly good at staying in contact. Yet Ray was one of my best friends, whether we saw each other every week or every ten years. The last time I saw him was Christmas 2000, when I surprised him in a Raynes Park pub.

Ray died on December 2, 2002. His funeral took place on December 12, and was a very small, private family affair. A non-religious ceremony, it was followed by a pub wake which saw Ray's son Ross playing Aerosmith's 'Living On The Edge', among other examples of Ray's favourite rock songs.

It's deeply tragic that Ray was taken from us at the age of 47 - and I shall miss him greatly - but there is no denying that he enjoyed life to its full potential. A former work colleague of his recently told me, "I never quite saw Ray in his 60's anyway!". While I would have loved Ray to have lived that long, maybe there's a grain of truth in that. Let's not end on a sad note, though. Ray definitely wasn't one for sad notes. Here's a picture of the man with one of the most ludicrous walrus moustaches you could ever hope to see. What was Ray Palmer thinking?

Jason Arnopp
December 16, 2002

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