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.

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