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

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