33 Vintage Backstage Photos Of History’s Most Famous Musicians

Published April 5, 2018
Updated December 4, 2018

From The Beatles taking a drag to the Rat Pack cracking up, these photos give you the full VIP look at your favorite musicians backstage.

Rat Pack Backstage
Beatles Smoking Backstage
Bob Dylan And Tom Petty
Madonna Backstage
33 Vintage Backstage Photos Of History’s Most Famous Musicians
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In 1975, as the story goes, Led Zeppelin boarded a plane after playing a show in Detroit. Among the musos and crew was a reporter from the London Daily Express, whose presence was less than welcomed by the band and its management.

An argument began to rage. Guitarist Jimmy Page called the reporter a communist, someone threw a glass, and the situation quickly escalated. As tempers flared, a scuffle broke out 25,000 feet in the air.

Sensing that the scene needed to be diffused, Led-Zeppelin tour manager Richard Cole pulled out a gun and aimed it at the reporter. He was quickly backed up by two of the band's security guards.

The scene fell quiet for a moment before drummer John Bonham, likely still feeling the effects of a recent alcohol binge, yelled from the front of the plane “will you all shut up? I’m trying to get some sleep!”

Tales of excess and debauchery are almost synonymous with musicians like the members of Led Zeppelin, but it's a world seldom seen by the public. It's an alternative universe concealed behind backstage doors guarded by bouncers and rumors.

Photographs of performers in the midst of pre-show preparations or reveling in a post-gig high offer unique insights into the often murky lives of the musicians we think we know.

Whether it's an austere-looking Bob Dylan sipping on a cup of tea, Sammy Davis Jr. laughing uproariously at something Frank Sinatra said, or Gene Simmons goofing off in a wheelchair before a gig, these images offer a glimpse into the people behind the personas.

The thirty-three photos above range from the swinging 50s and counterculture revolution of the 60s to the musical zenith that was the 70s and the experimental boldness of the 80s. Each offers a powerful moment in musical history, immortalized by the click of a shutter.


Next, learn how David Bowie shattered and perpetuated rock star stereotypes. Then, meet Cynthia Plaster Caster, the groupie who made molds out of rock music’s most famous penises.

Ian Dickinson
Ian Dickinson writes about nature, history, music, beer and anything else that pays the bar tab. His work has appeared on Earth Touch, Paste, ATI, and countless restaurant napkins.
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