Sunday, November 23, 2008
Of "Daft PR Stunts" -- Photo Opportunities For Better or Worse
The Jam outside the erstwhile Starwood Club, April 14, 1978
In a wonderful and comprehensive article that is the result of having spent a year with Paul Weller, the Modfather told England's Uncut magazine about a "daft PR stunt" perpetrated by the band's US record label to "introduce" them to America. I don't know if this London bus stunt was pulled in other cities.... but it was certainly memorable - to Weller as "daft" and to me as much fun for it was my birthday and I felt as though it was part of my own party.
I was surprised at what Paul Weller remembered from 30 years ago (I have pictures to goose my memory; I guess he does too - having been photographed so much) - like The Dickies opening for the Jam at the Starwood.
So, this led me to recall some other PR stunts pulled by record companies to promote their punk rock bands.
The Jam headline over Johnny Cougar at the Whisky a Go Go in October 1977. Highlighted is the future Kid Congo Powers, right at the edge of the stage
Just six months before "introducing" The Jam via a London bus in the springtime... the record company arranged a double Polygram artist bill at the Whisky a Go Go over two nights in October 1977. Opening: Johnny Cougar (uh-huh. Mr Mellencamp to you these days), and headlining: The Jam. This gig was on October 7 & 8 (or 6 & 7?) - I remember because it was my roommate's birthday (October 7)-- and on their return trip, they played on my birthday... pretty nifty. I don't know about you, but a record company double bill is one thing -- two bands that have nothing in common is another thing entirely.
The in-store is a big PR stunt designed to, in one fell swoop both sell records and introduce the band (literally) to hundreds of people in a small window of time. As you can see from the Pretenders April 1980 (my birthday again!) in-store at the also erstwhile Tower Records... Chrissie Hynde looks a little worse for the wear.
Billy Idol was a good sport about all the PR Chrysalis arranged for him in May of 1978... and he even walked among the fans at his Licorice Pizza in-store, with Rodney Bingenheimer close at hand.
One of the most incongruous things I witnessed with the in-store appearance was the arrival of hardcore 999 in a limousine to the Tower Records Sunset Strip store. And they too were good sports about the PR stunt and posed for some really fun photos.
Dee Dee Ramone and Stiv Bators always knew what to do in front of a camera, especially when the camera is backstage. They smile and leave you with an image that will make you smile every time you see it. That's some kind of innate PR.