Kelly Jay was on the cover of Rush’s Moving Pictures: he never listened to it
In 2021 Rush marked the release of the 40th anniversary edition of their classic Moving Pictures album by lifting the lid on Deborah Samuel’s cover shoot.
One of the outtakes released by the band revealed – for the first time – the face of the man carrying Rush’s iconic Starman logo portrait up the steps of the Ontario Legislature in Queen’s Park, Toronto. That man was Crowbar frontman Kelly Jay, who had died in 2019.
“You’re the first person to want to speak with me,” Kelly told us before he passed away. “Up until now nobody knew that I was on that sleeve.”
“I knew Geddy and the boys; we travelled in the same circles. We were [former Canadian PM] Pierre Trudeau’s favourite band and we had a large following, but not as big as Rush.
“We’d bump into each other, but the main connection was photographer Deborah Samuel, who I – and my wife at the time, Kerry Knickle – knew. She asked me to come and be one of the guys involved in the shoot. I didn’t know that much about Rush’s music. We were like Mozart and they were like Wagner [laughs] – they had a lot of notes!
“It was filmed in front of the Ontario Legislature. It was a Sunday and the place was closed, nobody except us in the parking lot. We were there for quite a while. My wife was the make-up lady – you’ll see her on the inside cover.
“Deborah is a phenomenal photographer and an amazing director, and the idea for the sleeve was superb: the totalitarian Russian gulag carrying the paintings around. My wife and I did a lot of fashion photography back then, because my other work with her was making feather hats. So it was just another fashion shoot! We didn’t get paid but we did favours back and forth for each other.
“Afterwards, Crowbar carried on as band, we had a lot of nice accolades, and our song Oh, What A Feeling seems to have become a classic. I’ve written five hundred songs since then.
“I’ve got a copy, but I’ve never heard the record. It’s a cool piece of art and the amazing thing about it all is that it leads people to check out why did they do it, who was involved, and you discover a lot stuff.
“However, you’re the first person to want to speak with me. Up until now nobody knew that I was on that sleeve. It used to be one of the great bar bets: who’s that on the Moving Pictures cover? The mystery seems to have lived on.”
Kelly Jay was speaking to Jo Kendall.