Friday, September 08, 2006
San Francisco - this is what you are doing on Saturday night.
The event celebrates 40 years of rock n roll...yeah - rock has been rolling for longer than that... but the event is hugging the last 40 years....
I met show curator/organizer and featured photographer Danny Nolan last winter while I was shooting a movie for Kim Fowley. A couple months later, we were in touch again, and Danny figured out I was one and the same person whose photos he recognized for years, and whom he had recently met. So he invited me to the party. I'm a bit amazed to have my work hanging within the same four walls as Jim Marshall.
When I was growing up, my idols in the rock n roll world were the photographers way more than the musicians. To this day, I'd take Linda McCartney over Beatle Paul! It was people like Jim Marshall, Linda McCartney and Annie Liebovitz who made rock n roll memorable for me! They're about 10-15 years my senior, and captured the 60s, the British Invasion, the birth of the hippies and psychedelic music... so its only natural that my circumstances would throw me into the world of punk rock. It was the organic thing. It was the music I loved and I lived. I took pictures of everything anyway.
Creem Magazine was as important to my generation as the fledgling Rolling Stone was to the 60s kids. Creem was irreverant in a different way -- Rolling Stone was counter-culture and thoughtful. Creem was ridiculous and determined to be obstreperous where and whenever possible. Their captions were a real laugh riot!
Two of the photos I am showing at the Gallery 3175/Root Division Its Only Rock N Roll Show were featured on those "Backstage" pages of Creem. I figured I needed some kind of thread for my pieces... and found one: "you saw it in Creem... see it in person!"
I chose Stiv Bators as the subject of several of the photos I am showing because he was pivotal to my life and career. The Dead Boys and I traveled together; I was their "mom." After they imploded, I continued to be Stiv's road mom, and constant roommate in several countries. He was a walking photo opportunity. He loved to have his picture taken and I will never forget the one moment that changed my life. It was the moment that defined why I always carry my camera now.
It was 1981, and The Wanderers were playing a gig in Cleveland. We couldn't afford to stay at Swingo's but we did party there. Stiv saw Todd Rundgren in the hall and invited him to the show. We were all surprised when he showed up! Because I had to get the band there on time, settle the show and do other road/tour manager duties... I didn't have my camera with me. Stiv asked to have his photo taken with Todd and I couldn't deliver. Well, I was scolded but good. My camera has always been on me ever since - no matter what I am doing. Same camera, too. An old F series Nikon... the last of the fully mechanical cameras... heavy as can be. Pure old skool.
Joan Jett also figures largely in my career path. She was my neighbor - living across the street from me during my behind-the-Whisky-a-go-go years. We'd alternate where the after-show parties were between our apartments, equidistant from the Whisky - where I worked for its last six years in its heyday. I started in the box office and ended up booking the punk shows...with some night shift management thrown in there. One of the advantages of being a night-shift manager was being able to buy bottles of liquor from the club (at the club's cost!) for our after hours parties. In California, liquor sales cease at 2 AM, and that's when we closed the club. If you didn't plan ahead for your party, you were out of party favors. But not us!
This photo of Joan Jett and Billy Idol in her apartment helped me move from the Creem, fanzine and local paper level to internationally published. It was published in 47 magazines around the world in 1978, the year it was taken. There's a never-before-published photo of Billy Idol in this show. You've seen it before on this blog, I'm sure...but I'm saving a surprise for new readers, and for the San Franciscans.
With these photos, I hope to acknowledge the three rockers who helped me in ways beyond just stopping to pose. Each of them were personal friends with whom many an adventure was had. With Joan, it was a series of neighborly parties and hanging out; with Billy, it was meeting him after so many months of talking with him on the phone whenever Pleasant and I got our hands on a KROQ phone while visiting Rodney during his show on Sunday nights; giving Billy his first tour of Los Angeles and witnessing his nice middle class boy upbringing when he not only made up the sleeper sofa but washed my roommate's and my dirty dishes when he woke up hours before we did! Had to keep that polite guy thing a secret for all these years... but people who know him will recognize their nice William Broad. Stiv...was a life-long friend... we traveled the world together, roomed together and made many creative collaborations.
I can't say how much I appreciate that younger generations are interested in 70s punk rock. Its still weird when the focus of so much pop culture product is your very own life! People get it wrong; and as much as anyone might be "expert" in the records... unless you were there, that certain something... the je ne sais quoi factor that filled the air just can't be captured. You had to breathe it. The interest in 70s punk has helped all of us who were in it though. Suddenly, we are marketable. We're venerable now, or something.
But prior to punk rock, during it, and all through the years that followed it, I have been taking pictures; it is what I do...what I've always done. Its a way to keep the fugitive moments fresh in your mind.
There are at least two movies about The Germs. A narrative feature has just been completed. A documentary is under way. In order for me to help you understand how I feel about this --- how would you feel if several filmmakers decided they were gonna make a movie about a guy who crashed on your dorm room floor? About a girl you knew in high school? Well - those are half the Germs for me.
I took photos of The Germs when Darby Crash was still called Bobby Pyn. Donna Rhia was the drummer - not Don Bolles, Nicky Beat or anyone else. The photos I took when these four friends were just goofing off in Pat Smear's garage are now iconic and no one is more flabbergasted by that than me. When we were making the photos, they were just.... well.... pictures.
This is not the Germs picture I am showing, but its from the same day. This photo has done all number of things for me, my life and my career -- good things and weird things. It gets me involved in strange conversations. Who ever knows when they are in a thing that it would mean so much to people who were yet to be born? It gets me invited to show in many exhibits too.
Its nice to be acknowledged with my peers and friends for what our generation brought into the world - especially when we were often excoriated for it. I especially like what punk rock has done to pop culture in general -- the liberation that musicians feel from music composition "rules," and the whole DIY approach, the fashion of extremity, of deconstruction, of irony and my favorite: Ramones style = black jeans, sneakers and wacky t-shirts. What punk rock brought to graphic design has revolutionized the way people appreciate presentational items. Of course, how would Poly Styrene and XRAY SPEX ever know that the world would in fact, turn Dayglo? (a registered trademark, by the way - of a company based in Cleveland, OH - DAYGLO)
In closing... this event celebrates 40 years of Rock n Roll - meaning from 1966 onwards. I just have to say that 1966 remains my favorite year for music - Blonde on Blonde, Revolver, Pet Sounds, Sunshine Superman, Ode to Billy Joe, 19th Nervous Breakdown, Its a Man's Man's World... the list is endless. Where are we in 2006? in true postmodern form, its a little bit of everything and a lot of commodification of culture and lots and lots of referencing.... you can't stop it... but you can reference the right thing!
Here are some photos of musicians working in 2006 who I think are referencing the right things...
The Lamps - pure punk thrash!
King Khan & BBQ - punk + soul + doo wop + pure rock n roll
The Dirtbombs - rock n roll / garage / soul - double shot of rhythm
Jack Oblivian & the Tennessee Tearjerkers - T-Money and Jack pictured here - the absolute best rock n roll
Viva L'American Death Ray Music / Nicholas Ray - if you put the Velvet Underground and Sparks into a blender with the best 1970's Island Records releases
The Shazam - how anyone called them a garage band is beyond me - they're like a page out of Jack Douglas's phone book - Cheap Trick meets the Move
The Reigning Sound - perfection! which is why I saved the best for last!
at 11:34 PM