Friday, December 31, 2010

Good Friends We Had and Good Friends We Lost

When I was taking photographs, especially at the Palladium or the Bottom Line, there was always a group of other photographers around. One of us was usually hired by the record company to shoot, and the rest of us were there to service the magazines as freelancers. We were all competitors I guess, but we always got along and were considerate of each other. I really don't think it's that way any more. 

In the years after I stopped shooting rock and roll, I seem to have run into almost everyone I shot with at some point: Richie Aaron, Gary Gershoff, Ebet Roberts, Lynn Goldsmith, others. The only one I never bumped into was Chuck Pullin. Chuck passed away earlier this year. I always thought he was a great guy and I know he's missed.

Stiv Bators and Chuck Pullin at a party for the Rolling Stones in 1980

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Pretender (Jackson Browne)

My good friends Lisa and Tracy in LA have been going to small clubs recently to hear music ( Jacksh*t at McCabesWatkins Family Christmas at Largo) and Jackson Browne keeps showing up and joining the bands onstage. Here's hoping he shows up again the next time I visit them. It's been a while since I photographed him here in NY at the Palladium.

Jackson Browne at the Palladium, 1976

Sunday, December 19, 2010

One Way or Another (Blondie)

Deborah Harry of Blondie onstage at the Palladium in 1977

The only other person I photographed that I didn't approach in the real world when I had a chance was Deborah Harry of Blondie. I may have the paparazzi gene, but not the rude paparazzi gene. (I've been known to back off a bit when asked-- I always thought in the long run it was better to be nice-- and it always seemed to work in my favor.) 

Deborah Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie visit Mark Mothersbaugh
after a Devo performance at the Bottom Line in 1978

I saw her one day in Bloomingdales and I was about to approach her when I saw she was having an intense conversation with an older woman. It seemed very personal and I just wasn't about to intrude. I followed them while they argued and walked through the main floor without stopping, hoping there would be a moment when I could approach her (hey, i said I had the paparazzi gene), but they were totally involved in conversation, and I let them walk out the door without saying anything.

Not too long after, I was hired to photograph two Blondie video parties that were seven months apart, but the band wasn't even there. All there was to shoot were people in a club watching videos on a monitor, and record company execs with some fans who won a contest. And I made more money from those two shoots without the band than from selling photos of Blondie or Deborah Harry to magazines. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love (Van Halen)

If I had photographed a band, and saw them somewhere after that, whether days or months later, I usually went and spoke to them. Like with Elton John at the Rocket Records party. I wasn't shy and I felt that photography gave me a perfectly valid reason to start a conversation. Made for a good shoot the next time, too. 

Michael Anthony, David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen

One of the few exceptions was Van Halen. I had photographed them the night before at the Palladium. They were actually the opening act (hey, everyone has to start somewhere) and you could tell they were going to be HUGE! REALLY, REALLY HUGE. The energy. The drive. The music. (ok, their kind of music wasn't my thing, but hey, when you see a performance like that… I have to say I was impressed) The next two acts, Montrose and Journey, were incredibly tame in comparison. 

David Lee Roth of Van Halen at The Palladium in NYC, 1978

So the next day I'm in Fiorucci on 59th Street in NYC. It was a really cool boutique from Italy. I'm trying on jeans, walking around the store looking at stuff, when I look up and realize some of the guys from Van Halen are just a few feet away. Can't quite remember who was there besides David Lee Roth, (hey, it was a long time ago) but he was not alone. And just guys, no girls hanging around them either. But I stand there. I know I can go up to them, maybe start a relationship that could keep me photographing them (remember, I was sure they were going to be BIG), and I just stand there. It was way before they became known for their attitudes about women, but somehow, I think I must have picked it up. I'm guessing that deep down, I felt they'd just consider me a groupie, and, well, you know how I felt about that.

But hey, at least I got photos from the show published in three different issues of Circus magazine.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Soul Man (The Blues Brothers)

I was teaching music in the Bronx while I was shooting rock and roll at night. Teachers get 10 sick days every year, which they tend to hoard and then use mostly for mental health days. I'd use mine to work. If I'd get a call from a record company to come in and do a shoot during school hours, I'd take a sick day. As a music teacher, I wasn't responsible for a class, so I didn't feel too guilty about it. Most of my jobs were after school ended anyway.

One on my favorite "days off" was spent at Atlantic Records in NY doing a signing photo for the Blues Brothers. The Blues Brothers were Jake and Elwood Blues (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd of Saturday Night Live fame.)  

I rode up in the elevator with Danny, who was a really nice guy who shook my hand and introduced himself to me as if he wasn't famous and I didn't already know who he was. Which I did think was really kind of cool. And down-to-earth. Not John Belushi though, he was there with a flunky who'd light his cigarettes for him. 

The Blues Brothers (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd)
sign with Atlantic Records 1978

I suggested hats, sunglasses, and cigars for the record executives, which was a bit unusual for this kind of photography. Then it got a little crazy-- records were thrown so hard they would stick in the ceiling. And fall down, usually on someone's head. It was a really fun shoot. But Belushi never got out of character for a minute, which did seem strange. Of course, we all know how things turned out for him, just a few years later. So sad.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Double Vision (Foreigner)

I spent Thanksgiving 1978 in NYC photographing the band Foreigner. First, the show in Madison Square Garden. Then backstage for your basic platinum record picture. But it was Thanksgiving, and afterward there was a party up at the Promenade Cafe at the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. After the backstage photos, the band went back to their hotel to change and I went up to the party. I scarfed down a bit of Thanksgiving turkey (standing up I must say) waiting for the band to arrive. My job was to follow them, and photograph them all with friends and family. When they got there, the band members went off in 7 different directions. And I would go from one to the other taking pictures. An interesting way to spend Thanksgiving.

But wait, where are the photos? These are tearsheets. Now it's not like I don't have photographs of Foreigner, I have plenty. I just don't have any for Thanksgiving 1978. And why is that you may ask? Good question. Well, sometimes a record company publicist would want to buy all the photos from a shoot for the label. It would pay much more than the shooting fee I'd usually get and I wouldn't have to shop the photos around myself. Sounds pretty good right? But DO NOT DO THIS! I'm sorry I did. I was young and stupid. Even though I have a ton of other backstage gold/platinum record photos with bands, I wish right now that I had them all. I can't even say I sold any other Foreigner photos, and I did photograph them again. But once you've given them up they are gone. My photos from that night ended up in the trades, and in the Atlantic Records weekly news bulletin, but all I have is a couple of tearsheets. I didn't even get a photo credit. 

So now it's Thanksgiving 2010. I'm having dinner with my family. I'm getting ready to write this story, and I tell them about the Thanksgiving I spent running after the band Foreigner and their families. "Wait a minute," my niece says. "Foreigner? My friend's father is in that band." She tells me her friend's name and I name the father. And wouldn't it have been great if I could have passed on a picture of her friend's father and grandfather?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Don't Go Breakin' My Heart (Elton John)

I have to say that the musicians I met while working were always great. Maybe because I was female, maybe because I acted in a professional manner, maybe even because I was still obviously a fan, everyone was nice to me and I had no problems taking photos backstage or at parties, whether I was hired to be there or not. 

Elton John backstage in Central Park, 1977

Everyone, that is, but Elton John. One of my pictures of him performing onstage in Central Park had been published in Circus magazine, and not long after I was shooting a party he attended. In fact, I think the party was for Rocket Records, which was the label he founded. I happened to find myself standing next to him at one point, and mentioned the photograph in Circus. "I don't read that trash" he replied with a sneer as he walked away. I was sorry that he was gone when, with 20/20 hindsight, I came up with the perfect response. "Well excuse me for trying to keep you famous."

I have heard he's a nicer person now.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It Ain't The Meat (It's The Motion) (Southside Johnny)

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. I loved to listen to them and I loved to photograph their shows. Good-time bar-band style rock and roll. Whoo hoo! Those horns'll get you moving every time! And Southside (John Lyon) was always a pleasure to shoot. (Believe me, there were plenty who weren't. Same boring pose throughout, phoning it in - not Southside). Saw him perform every year back in the day, most of the shows outdoors on a hot summer night in Central Park - the best. He came out of the same Jersey music scene as Springsteen, and I always thought he should be more famous than he is. 

Southside Johnny, Dr. Pepper Music Festival, 1978

So now it's all these years later (2008 to be exact). I'm not shooting rock any more, and I'm not going to shows much either. But Southside Johnny and the Jukes are playing B.B. King's in New York, so I got tickets with some friends. One of those bands I just wanted to see again. Got there early and we got a good table in the center, raised up in the back. I brought my camera, because hey, I could. No camera policy I could find online, and no one told me not to. So I sat there and took pictures. But I wasn't happy because I was sitting at a table, far from the stage.  So yes. I picked myself up and walked myself down there. No one said anything, no one stopped me. And before I knew it, I was at the stage, climbing on things, crouching down, shooting between the guitarist's legs, doing whatever I needed to do to get the shot. I could not help myself. I couldn't not do it. And oh, it was fun. 

Southside at B.B. King, 2008

Yeah, he looks a little older now. Aren't we all? But you can see from this picture he's not holding back at all. Still gives a helluva show. So I'm checking out Southside's website today while I'm writing this. Guess who's performing next Saturday at B.B. King? Boy that is so tempting.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Whole Lotta Love, part 2 (Led Zeppelin)

I'd been a fan of Led Zeppelin since their first album, despite the fact that I usually wasn't into any kind of arena rock. No Pink Floyd or Aerosmith in my archive. But I thought there was still a bit of bluesy authenticity to their sound, so I wanted to shoot the show at Madison Square Garden. I'd have preferred a much smaller venue, but yeah right, that wasn't about to happen. I knew someone at Swan Song, Led Zep's label, so I was able to set up a meeting at their office. For whatever reason, he couldn't give me a photo pass --I think they had all been given out by then, or maybe it was because I was only shooting on spec-- but he did give me tickets for really good seats and told me I could shoot the show from the audience. 

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, 1977

So I did. The Garden wasn't my usual venue so I was stuck in my seat, but nobody hassled me. It was a different perspective from what I was used to, and too far away for my taste, but I was still able to take pictures. I was even able to get them published in magazines like Hit Parader and Hard RockOne of the first photographs I sold through a gallery was this one of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Lately I've been getting requests for John Bonham, the drummer who died in 1980. Preferably at his drum kit. Hey, I'm looking, I'm looking.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)

Thanks to Elizabeth Avedon for featuring this blog on her blog today. Elizabeth's blog about photography and art is always worth reading and I am proud to have this photograph and others  shown there.

Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Madison Square Garden, 1977

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All the Young Punks (The Clash)

I'd see the same photographers at many of the shows, and the guys who worked the door or house security were always there too. Some photographers treated them like dirt (they were only nice to rock stars), but I felt like we were all part of a family. So I treated them with respect and they were always good to me. Most of the time I was on the list, but sometimes there was a show I wanted to shoot and I couldn't get access from the record company. The guys at the door would just let me in. Sometimes we were only allowed to shoot the first 3 songs, but the guys doing security would let me stay in the aisle. I was nice to them. They were nice to me. Nothing more than that. They were good people. I wonder what they are doing now.

The Clash onstage at the Palladium Theater in NYC in 1979

I wrote about a Clash show earlier where the guys were so helpful when the crowd started to get out of control. This shot was from a different show, but they worked just as hard at that one. No one wanted to just sit and listen to music anymore. The mosh pit was taking over. At this show, there was a kid standing behind me, moving to the music. A little too close. A little too much movement. I think he was having just a little too much fun bumping into me. Security helped me with that one, too. That boy just needed to get back to his seat before I smacked him. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Funtime (Iggy Pop)

Iggy Pop at the Palladium, NYC 1977

I've posted this photograph before, but it's here again because it's up for auction tonight at the TEXAS PHOTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY's Sixteenth Annual Collectors’ Print Auction at the Davis Gallery in Austin TX. Here's a link to the auction catalog. 
If you're in the area, stop by from 6 - 8:30 tonight. The gallery is located at 837 West 12th Street, Austin, Texas. The Texas Photographic Society is a nonprofit organization which supports "contemporary photography as a means for creative expression and cultural insight. TPS focuses on the education and artistic development of its members and the community by providing exhibitions, publications, education, and outreach programs.” It has over 1,250 active members from 48 states and 9 countries. A worthy cause. 

(If you miss the auction, you can also buy a print here. Mention you saw this post and I'll donate 10% of the purchase price to TPS.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Train in Vain (The Clash-and Ian Dury)

I photographed in New York. In December 1979, eleven rock music fans were crushed to death by the crowd at a Who concert in Cincinnati, Ohio. I wasn't there, but we were all a little freaked out. Crowds rushing the stage, aisles filled with people, we were all used to this, but now it was particularly scary. Not too long after, I was photographing a Clash concert at the Palladium. All of a sudden, the aisles were full and people were pushing towards the stage. Security had their hands full, and they were certainly outnumbered. I was in the aisle at the foot of the stage in the area that made up the photo pit and people were starting to push me. Hard. Into the stage wall. I started to wonder if this was going to be a repeat of Cincinnati. All of a sudden, one of the security guys made his way over to me and told me to sit on the stage and get away from the crowd. He helped push me up there. That's where I spent the rest of the show. Sitting on the edge of the stage. It's good to have friends in the castle.

Oh, and while I was sitting there, Ian Dury showed up and sang with the Clash. Oddly enough, I did not remember that until I saw the negatives all these years later. Too much stress that night I guess. 

Joe Strummer and Ian Dury

But no one got hurt and that was a good thing. And I got some great pictures sitting on the stage. That was a good thing too.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lost in the Supermarket

My day job at the time was teaching music in a NYC public school in the Bronx. I  did a lot of vocal music and movement, mostly with really young kids, and I walked from class to class with my guitar. I covered the guitar case with my photo passes and band stickers. I was so upset when the guitar got stolen out of my closet at school! All those photo passes gone forever! 

But I still have a few left, old and faded but still readable. Not like today's laminated passes that are worn around the neck, these were fabric and stuck onto your clothing. I used to wear them on the thigh of my jeans-that way they didn't get in the way of the camera, which somehow would find a way to pull it off. Or leave glue forever on my leather jacket. Not a good thing. And it was the 70s. The rattier the jeans the better.

This is a photo pass from a Clash show at the Palladium. Oh the Clash, oh the Palladium. More about that show later. Oh yeah.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Talkin' 'Bout You (Hot Tuna)

Sometimes when I was shooting, I'd bring a friend to the show. I'd often get a plus-one, and though I'd be in the aisle taking pictures, (especially at the Palladium) my friend could sit in the audience and enjoy a free concert. This time I brought Sharon, who lived in my building, to see Hot Tuna. 

Hot Tuna-Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, 1976

Hot Tuna. Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady. Originally part of the Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna was  their independent project, playing blues and rock. Loudly. VERY LOUDLY. Hot F--kin' Tuna, as the audience would scream. Loud music and lots of screaming. So imagine my surprise when the show ended and I found Sharon still in her seat. Sound asleep. No one who had been sitting there could believe it. We had to wake her up so the rest of her row could leave. Hot F--kin' Tuna.

Monday, September 27, 2010

You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth

Happy Birthday Meat Loaf!

Sometimes there are stories, but sometimes there are just pictures. Here's Meat Loaf performing onstage at the Dr. Pepper Music Festival in Central Park, New York City, in 1978.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll

Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, the movie about the life of Ian Dury, was recently at the Tribeca Film Festival. I really wanted to see it, and then again, I didn't. I've photographed a lot of performers who are no longer with us, but Ian was someone I spent a day with. I'll see the film eventually I guess, but right now it just makes me sad.

We rode in a limo together to a record signing that I was hired to photograph. I found him to be a lovely English gentleman. He had a Union Jack plaque on his teeth, which he loved to show off for photographs. He patiently signed record album covers for his many fans. David Johansen showed up at the record store too, and I got to photograph the two of them together. At the end of the day, Ian gave me a small Union Jack from the limo to take home.

The next night I went to see him perform at the Bottom Line. An amazing, somewhat scary performance. I think if I had seen him perform first, I'm not sure I ever would have gotten into the limo with him.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I Will Follow

After I decided to stop shooting rock, the first show I went to see was a U2 concert from the WAR tour at the Palladium in 1983. I went with a record company exec friend who was a big U2 fan. We were sitting upstairs on the side-really good seats--but  as I was used to being at the edge of the stage, I felt like the show was a mile away. Without my cameras, I didn't know what to do with my hands. The show was great, I was in awe of the way Bono handled the crowd, but I really really missed the cameras and the ability to do something more than just watch and listen. I could see that it would have been a great show to photograph. Right then I knew I wouldn't be going to that many more live concerts, at least, not without my camera. 

My photographic interests these days are more in the gallery world. So in 2005 when a photographer friend  from my rock days invited me to go to an exhibit of photographs of U2 by Anton Corbijn at Stellan Holm Gallery in Chelsea, I knew I wanted to go to the opening and see the exhibition. And when he said the band might be there, I knew I'd bring my camera. 

The gallery was full of photographers, there to shoot the band and the other guests, and didn't seem that interested in the photographs on exhibit. It was amazing how different it was from the old days. People brought ladders to shoot over the heads of the other photographers and you could barely find a place to stand. I was glad I wasn't doing this so much anymore. (I still shoot the occasional concert, but I don't mingle much with the paparazzi) 

Corbijn's photographs in the exhibit were really good. 
And I did finally get to photograph Bono. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

No Regrets

Once upon a time in a place long gone (and now NYU dorms) there was a girl who was trying to figure out what to do with her cameras. She didn't want to carry them around and make photographs in the street (how times have changed). She loved music, that good old-fashioned rock and roll music.

When people asked her what she did, she would say she shot rock and roll. Then they would say,  "oh, you're a groupie." 

Every single time.

And every single time I'd have to say "I'm not a groupie. I'm a photographer."

Somehow, that was what most people thought of female music photographers at the time, and I could name the photographers who gave us all such a wonderful reputation. (Don't ask, I won't tell)

So I felt there was a line I shouldn't cross. I was a professional photographer dammit,  and worked hard to make sure I was thought of in that way. I admit it, I crossed that line once really early on (nope, I won't tell you who), and maybe I came close a time or two, and I definitely had some good times with a record company guy I worked with (won't name names there either), but mostly I tried to separate love and work and I considered the musicians I photographed off limits.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hail Hail Rock 'N' Roll

I also photographed Lou backstage with Garland Jeffreys in November 1979. Garland had just given a concert at the Bottom Line and Lou was visiting after the show. If you don't know Garland's music, you should. Wild in the Streets is probably his best known song, but he is still an active, exciting performer, with a new CD coming out soon. Can't wait! He'll be playing a show in New York this fall. Of course, you can find videos of his songs and performances on YouTube. Go. Listen. It's worth it. 

Lou Reed and Garland Jeffreys backstage at the Bottom Line in 1979.

Here's Garland posing backstage at the Dr. Pepper Music Festival in Central Park in 1977.

And here he is performing at the Bitter End in 2007. The place was packed. And yes, he's still a man who wears many hats.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Street Hassle

I didn't see Lou Reed around anywhere when I went to the New York Photo Festival, but I did get to photograph him quite a bit back in the day. I love this shot from the stage at the Bottom Line, which was taken while Lou was touring to support the release of Street Hassle. Lou Reed smiling! And winking at me! Lou's people loved it too, and Arista Records bought 3 copies of the print. I heard they wanted to use it as his publicity photograph. But it just didn't fit with his image at the time, so there you go. The photograph did run in the June 1979 issue of the late, great Grooves Magazine

Lou Reed smiling at the Bottom Line in May 1978

Rock and Roll Heart

I don’t like opera and I don’t like ballet
And new wave french movies, they just drive me away
I guess I’m just dumb, ’cause I knows I ain’t smart
But deep down inside, I got a rock ’n’ roll heart.
- Lou Reed- Rock and Roll Heart

Copyright 2010 New York Photo Festival, LLC. All rights reserved. 

Well, Lou Reed might not like opera or ballet, but he definitely likes photography. Not only have his own photographs been published in books (Lou Reed's New York and Romanticism) and exhibited in galleries, but this weekend he's the curator of one of the exhibitions at the New York Photo Festival. His show is called Hidden Books, Hidden Stories and is shown in three parts at the festival in DUMBO, which ends today.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lust for Life

These were also taken at the Palladium, during the Lust for Life tour in October 1977. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Well, here we are in the blogosphere...

Rock and roll. New York City in the late 1970's. The Palladium, CBGB's, summer nights in Central Park. Lou Reed, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Talking Heads, Blondie. I’d shoot a show for the record companies or do it on spec for magazines and there was always someone new and exciting to photograph. So much energy! And did I mention that the record companies gave out lots of free albums?

So many years later. Working on my archive of music images, I'm reminded of some amazing stories. I will attempt to share the photos and the stories with you.
Yes, I'm still taking photographs. Visit my website - - to see what I'm shooting now. But if rock is your thing, come back soon for more.

This is a photo of Iggy Pop performing onstage that I shot at the Palladium theater (now NYU dorms!) in New York City in March 1977. No stories attached, but I do have lots of pix of Iggy. One of those performers you can't take your eyes off. And didn't he look handsome back in the day? Have you seen him lately?

All photos and text © sheri lynn behr unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved.