SPIRIT IN THE NIGHT
All outlaws, but from radically different traditions. Peter Tosh, from the Jamaican cultural heritage, a Wailer for Bob Marley, is. smoking a spliff on The stage of the Bottom. John Belushi, the self-destructive motorcycle-man from Chicago, a man we all loved dearly, imitating his friend on the stage of Saturday Night Live. Joe Cocker I know less well, but I understand he springs from the English "Music Hall" tradition of entertainment. In that context, he too was a rebel, in this picture he's not ever wearing a shirt!
We are living without all three of them now.
Al Yankovic was sent down to my Greenwich Village studio by his record company to do a "Born to Run" parody. Replacing an electric guitar with an accordion was a pretty funny place to start. This was used as a poster and an advertisement for public appearances. As I write this, the American President is declaring himself a "stabile genius". I don't believe I've ever seen the man laugh, could that be a problem?
My conceit in creating these pairings is to imagine two performers who would be honored to share the stage of a page with one-another. In this case, it's Bo Diddley, "The Originator", hailing from Mississippi and Chicago, and Lou Reed, "The Transformer", from the velvet underground we who live here call Manhattan. I'm not aware if these two knew one another, but they are a pair of Rock & Roller icons, who, despite their myriad differences, seem to belong together....if only in this peculiar posture!
My perception was that these two Chicago boys, both brilliant in their way, were the very very best of friends. I witnessed one enjoying the other's company on and off stage. Steve had to leave us early. This is the very definition of Tragedy as Shakespeare meant it. How does anyone go on? 34 years on, my heart still sinks as my eyes water. Steve performed until the end, expertly picking his guitar, bald head shining under a cowboy hat, going out in style, giving us a lesson in how to die.
These two probably feel honored to be united on Steve Goodman's Wikipedia page: "In 1971, Goodman was playing at a Chicago bar called the Quiet Knight as the opening act for Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson, impressed with Goodman, introduced him to Paul Anka, who brought Goodman to New York to record......
....While at the Quiet Knight, Goodman saw Arlo Guthrie and asked to sit in and play a song for him. Guthrie grudgingly agreed on the condition that Goodman buy him a beer first; Guthrie would then listen to Goodman for as long as it took Guthrie to drink the beer Goodman played "City of New Orleans", which Guthrie liked enough that he asked to record it."
To me, this pair speaks for itself, but what is it that you are hear? I write this in early 2018, an era when everything is filtered through the lens of sexual harassment. Is the Phantom's a gesture of invited seduction, or is it an image of predation? Juxtaposed as she is, Patti Smith seems to be saying something like, "How the hell will we ever know?' Or.... "Humans make me laugh, they think that what's inside can be seen from the outside. Ha! THere's lots going on here that a photographer will never see until he puts down that damn camera!".
Betty Carter according to Wikipedia:"Detroit, where Carter grew up, was a hotbed of jazz growth. After signing with a talent agent after her win at amateur night, Carter had opportunities to perform with famous jazz artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, who visited Detroit for an extensive amount of time. Gillespie is often considered responsible for her strong passion for scatting. In earlier recordings, it is apparent that her scatting had similarities to the qualities of Gillespie's."
Friends widen our world. Richard Davis was a friend for a short spell when he played acoustic bass in Janis Ian's band; he had just come from recording Astral Weeks with Van Morrison (treat yourself to a listen to that astonishing bass line sometime). Richard also played with Betty Carter so, because of him, I went to hear her several times. The word RESPECT is what comes to mind when I think of Richard. Please see his current website and follow the trail to his "Institute for the Healing of Racism" in Madison. I am a lucky man to have had friends like these.
I was assigned by Liz Rosenberg at Warner Bros Records to photograph Laurie Anderson doing an "in store" record signing appearance at Sam Goody's on 6th Avenue below Rockefeller Center. As she does with her art, Laurie threw herself fully into the event, she greeted everyone with a smile and an open heart.... still it struck me as an odd mix of art and commerce. But it got much weirder when I spotted Robert Rauschenberg peaking out from behind a potted plant. He came to surprise his friend at work.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT..... first some explanation: the picture of Dolly was a publicity setup manufactured by Columbia Records. They managed to create a situation in which Dolly Parton was seen in the arms of 4 famous players for The New York Giants (coincidentally all African-American) and all this was being overseen by Gloria Steinem. I still can't imagine how this was received in the late 70's (?) among country music fans. It was a brave thing to do on Dolly's part. Searching the web now, I can't find this image though there were at least 20 photographers present. The top picture is Madonna in front of a Betsy Johnson store on Houston Street in NYC, 1982. The impulse to put them together comes from the fact that they are both female icons, and both toying with traditional expectations of that role.
When Madonna's publicist, Liz Rosenberg, sent her across to me in The West Village (she lived just to the East), she told me, "this girl is going to be the next Marilyn Monroe". I didn't believe Liz and my experience of Madonna was as a wonderful playmate in the sandbox of making pictures, I didn't see her as a star. I was wrong. But the comparison to Marilyn, about that... in my limited knowledge, Marilyn, a talented actor and formidable personality, was ultimately a victim of the forces that gathered around her magnetic attraction. There is absolutely nothing of the victim in Madonna. To her eternal credit, she forged her own path, her public self is her own creation. And I surmise that there is less of a gap between her public self and her private self than there is in most cases of extreme fame.
Odetta and Janis Ian were good friends from the time Janis was 16 until the time Odetta died in 2008. This picture of Janis is from Paris in 1968, the one of Odetta is from Max's Kansas City about 1972.. I met Odetta shortly after I picked up a camera after college, I distinctly remember sharing a yellow checker cab with her at that time. When she got out she said to me, "Have a nice day, Peter". That was the first time I ever heard that phrase, I thought it was an astonishingly kind thing to say. Janis invited me to photograph a tribute concert for Odetta in her last year, she rolled onto the stage in her wheelchair at the end and proceeded to steal the show.
After Harry prematurely passed, I coincidently ran across his brother Tom playing songs to a local kindergarten, the kids were entirely enchanted as they sang along, Pete Seeger would have been proud.. The Chapins were that kind of family. I always enjoyed Harry’s musical storytelling, once (above) on Long Island where he was from, and once at The Bottom Line. But that and other projected impressions were all I knew about the man until I read his Wikipedia piece in preparation to write something here (I recommend it, as well as others linked in this series) We all live with our preconceptions about virtually everything, and it’s good to be reminded that there’s more to this world than what we think we know. Coming in the door just now, feeling crappy, a carpenter asked how I was, I answered, I’m learning and that feels good”.
At The Bottom Line and in Hoboken, 1973/4
As a young photographer at Columbia Records in the era of Goddard Lieberson and John Hammond Sr. and Clive Davis, I was privileged to be introduced early to several performers who would go on to become international icons. Both Mr. Springsteen and Mr.Joel would play half-empty second shows in small clubs like The Main Point in Philadelphia. They ripped it up, it was completely obvious what was about to happen with both. I placed friendly wagers on which of the two would wind up their careers with more money. The jury is still out, they've both done remarkably well.
The King and the Prince of Broadway (circa 2018).
The picture of Sondheim is from the recording session in 1984 for "Sunday in the Park with George", a wonderful show he did with a friend, James Lapine. James, before he became an accomplished writer and director, was trained as a graphic designer. He used to borrow my photo lights for projects; in my studio we created together posters for his two first shows. That must have happened just after 1973 when I made this early picture of newly crowned "Prince of Broadway" when he was just another 19 year old kid crossing under the Hudson to try his luck with a record company in Manhattan. That kid, however, was noticeably grounded human being, he didn't flinch for the camera. And he had a sense of humor. This set of pictures were used as his first publicity shots; they were also my first commercial job, I made a sweet $25, which constituted a full 20% of my monthly rent at the time.
"Singer-Songwriters" get lots of attention. I know, I've fallen in love with two of them. etc etc.... What's it all about, Burt?
Arguably two of the greatest American classical composers of the twentieth century - they both played The Bottom Line. They we a generation apart, I I think of this combination as a passing of the torch, a renewal, a "Rite of Spring".
I have nothing clever or new to add to what we all know about these two, just an appreciation. And a thanks to both for the music they've created together and apart. Though I've photographed Dylan in semi-public situations, I've never had a conversation with either man. It's difficult to maintain a public-facing image, we hear more than we might wish about how our heroes handle various interpersonal situations. There is, I think a vast uncontrollable desert lying between what an artists puts forward as his/her public expression, and the same individual's unknowable intimate truths. That desert is the space where the winds of gossip and mythology blow. I listen to those stories like everyone does, but sometimes I wish for a world in which the art and the artist would be considered separately. It's a big question of our time.
These pictures were made in Madison Square Garden during the 1974 2 month tour. A charming bit of gossip from the excellent Wikipedia entry: Dylan's wife, Sara, was present at those final shows. During the final show of the tour (which took place on Valentine's Day), Dylan broke from the standard setlist to play Sara's favorite song, "Mr. Tambourine Man".
On their own both Jackson and David are accomplished writers and performers. But like many other things in this life, the coming together of TWO into ONE forms something greater than either of it's parts. That's how I feel about seeing these long-time friends perform together on the stage of The Bottom Line. Of the many shows I experienced there, this was somehow the most uplifting and joyous of them all for me personally.
It was 1972 and I was a baby photographer living in Philadelphia. A new performance club, The Bijou, opened downtown. One of the first performers booked was a woman from New York named Bette Midler. Her piano player and band-leader went by the name Barry Manilow. I knew about her because I was reading The Village Voice, looking for an apartment for my move up to the big city. They wrote about her now legendary appearances at "The Baths", a center of the still unfolding gay scene in New York. Through the haze of memory I see her performances as in integral contribution to it's acceptance but even more, to a certain envy on the part of the mainstream straight community of the looseness, humor, and free sexuality of this publicly new culture.
The picture of Barry above is two years later at The Bottom Line when he was headlining his own band and making the first of many hit songs in a long professional career. My unscientific impression is that Barry found his audience more among married suburban women. While Bette, with her larger-than-life Broadway persona, eventually found a wide acceptance, the two initially appealed to very different segments of the American culture.
In researching this post, the always reliable internet told me that the two are no longer speaking. I find this very hard to believe. The approach of the inevitable has a way of sanding splintered corners, of highlighting our common life experience. Or not.
A man seeing his future,or a man staring into his past? This is Steve Forbert on stage 37 years apart: one in color recently at City Winery and the other from 1976 at The Bottom Line. (color film cost 35 cents each time I pressed the shutter, while the black and white I developed in my own darkroom.) Steve and I were both kids when we met, he more a kid than me, and we shared an interest in photography. New in town, he used to come over to my loft on Sullivan Street with his guitar and we would play around with experimental lighting effects. Meanwhile, when I wasn't looking, he was writing some of the greatest songs of his generation. And in addition, he was then and still is a truly great live performer, totally present with his audience. Audiences can feel that quality.
What interests me more generally, is how any individual can maintain a creative life over decades. To me, such an achievement points to a creative soul at the core of a being. This is not always the case with high achieving talented performers. It's true in Steve's and I hope it's true in my own.
When editing pictures our first choice is to always our best choice. I suppose it's true in other aspects of life as well (I've been married more than once). In preparing my 2017 exhibition SPIRIT IN THE NIGHT I returned to the original negatives that I was happy to find properly filed away in the dusty file cabinet where they were assigned long long ago. I found these two thin negatives of these two passionate performers, they were previously unmarked by my blue grease pencil; with the help of a modern scanner and a few turns of the photoshop dials I was able to bring them alive for the first time. How many other things in our own lives are we missing? Which among them can still be revived?
Two favorites of Allan Pepper who booked The Bottom Line. Darlene was the consummate backup singer (see "Twenty Feet from Stardom") who now takes her rightful place in the spotlight. David was a first-rung studio guitar player who went earlier than Darlene to making his own albums. He also makes violins. Now chronologically "elders", on any given night they are both still fully capable of stealing the show.
........ because....... because .... just because.
It's a rare performer who gets to control his own reincarnation. With the commercial passing of The New York Dolls, David Johansen transformed into what must have felt like an alternate part of his personality, he was reborn on stage as "Buster Poindexter". David performed in recent times for Stanley Snadowski's memorial service. He and three contemporaries (elder singer-songwriters) sang songs they had written in the past year. I am here to tell you that the man has still got THE MAGIC TOUCH.
Backstage at The Main Point outside Philadelphia and walking home through Sheridan Square at 2 AM after the opening night of the Bottom Line in 1974. Dave is a legend, Dylan writes about him in Chronicles, but to me he was a friend of a friend. More than thrice I found myself at a bar next to a club swilling beer with a mate who was much much more experienced than I. A dangerous situation. The first time was in The Kettle of Fish above The Gaslight on McDougal Street. While my girlfriend performing her late set in the club I was hugging the curb. Another time, in an unremembered club in Northern California, also in the darkness of early morning, the club owner was “forgetting” to come up with the money for the gig. Dave grabbed me off the barstool and dragged me out to the car loudly swearing so all could hear that we were heading out to get our guns and that we’d be back. We got paid, but once again, I got sick. Lessons learned from a great teacher.
In the Spring of 1968 I dropped out of Wesleyan University to live with my then true-love, Janis Ian, a successful singer-songwriter. She was a child of New York City as was the other teen prodigy of the time, Laura Nyro. On September 24, 1968, Laura came to dinner at our apartment on West 72nd Street. She showed up, not with flowers or a bottle of wine, but with a portable tv. Why, we wondered? Because her good friend Peggy Lipton was debuting that night on a new series, The Mod Squad. Laura wasn't certain that we would have a tv. Times have changed.
The next time I saw Laura was back up at Wesleyan the following winter. She was doing a concert and I returned with Janis to attend. At the time, her devoted manager was a William Morris agent by the name of David Geffen. As I recall, David would sit in the front row and mouth the lyrics, Laura couldn't perform without that help. After the show, the two couples went for a meal together, a double-date that was not what you might imagine. We dined on McDonald's burgers in the front and back seats of my tiny blue Datsun. The sign on the yellow arch said they had sold over 3 billion. Laura passed away in 1997, Janis lives in Nashville with her wife and is still a friend, David's love of music and attention to detail paid off, there are now concert halls and medical centers in his name in my neighborhood.
"Live at The Bottom Line" was recorded in 1988, the bottom picture was used as the primary cover image.
It was the opening night of The Bottom Line February 11, 1974. I was asked my Allan and Stanley, the proprietors, to photograph the celebrities in attendance. This gave me the creeps, the hebejibees, aka, existential dread. I was trained as an anthropologist, the role of paparazzi runs exactly counter to everything I stand for. But that night, it was my professional assignment. With great inner turmoil, I did my job, I got pictures of Stevie Wonder, Dr.John, Elton John (no relation), Pete Townshend, and Mick Jagger. When Mick got up to leave I dutifully followed hoping to get an image of him with the club name for press the next day. After this picture happened, Mick went to the door of him waiting limo and didn't get in. Instead he turned to three of us photographers and pointedly shook each one of our hands, saying a sincere "thank you". That was a big lesson. I believe he was saying that we had a symbiotic relation, photographer and celebrity, that the he needed to be photographed by us as much as we needed to photograph him.
(replace left picture) Beginning in 1978 I’ve photographed theater on and off Broadway. At about the same time, Wendall Harrington left Esquire and formed a small design company that specialized in “Projection Design” for theater. I would do jobs for Wendall in which I would provide photographic material of all sorts for her to use within the theatrical experience. The NY Knicks were one of our clients, she lit up Madison Square Garden with my images. In 198X Pete Townshend decided to support a Broadway production of his “Rock Opera”, TOMMY. Wendall was chosen as the projection designer…. one thing led to another and I wound up doing a book on the process of creating a Broadway musical, and I generated material that Wendall used within the theater, and I was the official production photographer for the musical. It was a thrilling experience. On opening night, quite a triumph for all involved, Pete’s gift to the cast and crew at the small afterparty, was to perform solo on guitar the songs he had written for Tommy.
The Palladium September 21, 1979. (live recording): On this Youtube page it says: "This may be the most famous concert in the history of The Clash, the night of the "ultimate rock photo" when Paul smashed his bass and it became the cover of London Calling.."
ARGH, APPARENTLY I MISSED THAT SHOT!
Joe Strummer: Vocals, Guitar Mick Jones: Guitar, Vocals Paul Simonon: Bass, Vocals Topper Headon: Drums. NOTE TO PETER: tell the Richard Goldstein, xxxx story.
The occasion was a party thrown by Columbia Records at The Whitney Museum to mark 25 years of having Dylan on the label. Needless to say, it was a privilege to be among that crowd, the only one with a camera (in the days before ubiquitous camera-phones). In this picture we see two artists who, through the extreme high quality of their work, well deserve the iconic status they've earned in this culture; in another time they'd be considered among the thunderbolt-throwing Gods of Olympus. They've each had throngs dreaming of having an autograph or a picture like this standing beside their hero, it's somehow psychologically validating to be seen one step away from our heroes. Or it could be a selfie with the Grand Canyon, it says, "I was there". We like to show such things off to our friends, but they also function to place us in the context of history: if I'm seen with known celebrity "X", then I attain a bit of immortality, I will live as long as X is remembered. What catches my eye in this image is that Bob and David are, for a moment, allowing themselves time-off from Olympus, they are displaying very normally "human" traits in this picture, they want to be remembered with one another. And there's so much mutual respect on display as well.
"Finger-painting in the sand, how much truth can a man stand?" - Mose Allison. In other words, everything we achieve will be washed away, the cliche version is that we are staring into an abyss. The job of the artist is to express reality. it's tough sometimes. Through thin and thick, both these men made it their practice to try to face the facts .
My uncle Fritz Steinhardt was from Vienna, he and my Mom left on the last train out on the day of the Anschluss (see Marjorie Perloff's, Vienna Paradox for that story). Fritz was a Professor of Mathematics and an accomplished amateur upper-west-side violinist. He led living room chamber recitals, and he published "Lee Pocket Scores" which were reduced size orchestral scores with which concert goers could follow along with performances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. As a young teen my grandmother took me to see Arthur Rubinstein perform Beethoven's Emperor Concerto at Symphony Hall in Boston, it's a famous recording. Thus, it was no small thing when the two pictured above crossed my path as a young photographer. Covering Rubinstein's 80th Birthday party for Columbia Records was my second important paid job (after young Bruce S.). Looking back, they were both grounded in a similar way, the 19 year old kid and the 80 year old veteran, both exuded the gravitational pull of pure presence. Horowitz was another matter, RCA brought me in to document his return to the stage at Carnegie Hall after being away for many years. He was a certified "star" (as well as one of the greatest-ever musicians). People hovered around him with a mix of what seemed to me a mix of awe and fear; he was most certainly the center of all attention, but in a different way than the other two..
Andy used to come backstage regularly with his little camera. It was often the case that he and I were to two photographers recording a scene. I don't exactly know why he was doing that, it seemed to be something other than simply the gathering of material for his work. He never uttered a single word that I ever heard.
This was the only time I turned the camera on him, silly me. One of the "tricks" of being a good photographer is to quickly realize that "the moment" is happening "now" and that you are in it. Sounds like Zen-talk. Ah, perhaps the title of my next book shall be "Practical Zen". Ha!
Are Bruce and James angry here? Actors can sing, we see it on Broadway all the time. So I suppose singers can act. But these singers are also songwriters, they're performing material that they wrote themselves. Are they "acting" or are they "remembering"?
Around the pool table at 2AM I put down my camera when my partner said, "I'm finished with being Rod Stewart". The guy has been a pro's pro for a ling time, but none of us can be "on" all the time. Twenty years later Warner Bros Records hired me to spend a day with his band ending in a Saturday Night Live duet with Tina Turner.
NOTES: Never met.... public events.... my colleague Bob Gruen..... yoko and the Dakota...... Beatles drive by.... winning meet the Beatles at a sock-hop, never one to be ahead of my time, conservative taste, just lucky to be thrust into some of the hippest scenes, it wasn't me!..................
NOTES: Met him just once, at Billy Sherril's gun showing.... find picture.... Buford Pusser.....push into pool joke......
A Nashville party in 1973: Billy Sherril, Tasmmy Wynette, Johnny Paycheck, George Jones, and Buford Pusser (the source for the "Walking Tall" movies)
NOTES: ...the unions got paid more than me.... the duchess....last? gig......stepping to the lip of carnegie hall and "singing" one note, hearing it back like I was in a small stairwell.
Radio City Music Hall May 17, 1983. Salon article.
NOTES: ....digital replacement of actors, animation to save money... this was a tour of actors in licensed costumes, they must have been paid equity minimum, what a good business plan!....
Janis Fink was a 14 year old super-smart New York City kid, a "red-diaper baby"whose parents moved from being New Jersey chicken farmers who ran a summer camp, to being an arts organizer and choir director in Manhattan. Before she dropped out she went to "Music & Art" high school which was, at the time, the source-material for the movie "Fame". Leonard Bernstein, the uniquely brilliant composer (West Side Story to name one) and conductor (The NY Philharmonic) and thinker (The Harvard "The Unanswered Question"lectures) was at the top of his game. Maestro Bernstein also had a television show; when he heard Janis' song Society's Child he put her on tv and declared her "the voice of her generation". A bold declaration, one that Janis has proved fully capable of living with. Leonard was a man who knew how to be both bold and sensitive, he knew how to work and he knew how to play. Above he's pictured after midnight and late in his life enjoying a moment with his daughter and the band "Alabama". Below, that's Janis posing for the album cover of her first Columbia album, "Stars". She was about 17 when she composed the title song which both Mel Torme and Nina Simore later covered, the percent lyric is,
"Stars, they come and go
They come fast or slow
They go like the last light
Of the sun, all in a blaze
And all you see is glory"
Two performing artists on the stage of The Bottom Line, who each birthed astonishing original songs. They weren't together on this night, but they were together long enough to also birth a son, Rufus, who went on to birth his own set of brilliant songs. I suppose that makes Kate and Loudon songwriting grandparents.
One reason I never had a child was that I perceived a binary choice between my art and my potential fatherhood. I admire these two for doing both..... more than once!
1982 for Warner Bros Records and 1985 for Columbia Records. Like eskimos famous thousand names for snow, we now have many words for strong, self-possessed women. Three decades ago, there weren't so many names for the path these women forged.
Who would have figured this guy for such a long career? He seems to gig all the time, and he seems to carry the respect of fellow musicians where've he goes, and he seems to have a life-long intimate relationship with his city, New Orleans, a place that's not exactly a "gated community". My friend Mark Hertsgaard got shot in the leg there, it floods, and it dares still have SHARED JOY as a core value... very dangerous edgy stuff. Maybe it's the food or the history or the ongoing suffering, but New Orleans inspires artists of all kinds and this guy is has been a central characterl, think of Spike Lee's documentary work or David Simon's Treme. When did I become aware of Dr.John the Night-Tripper? Wikipedia tells me it was around 1969. They also remind me of the best record title ever tossed off the lips of a session musician , "Cut me while I'm Hot".
At The Bottom Line and in Hoboken.
Within the hipster crowds I tend to hang with these days, I'm embarrassed to admit that the first record I ever bought - actually the second after The Kingston Trio - was Peter Paul & Mary's. A typical suburban white-kid of his time, that's how I learned about Bob Dylan and the Civil Rights movement. Looking back, I'd say this group changed my live by asserting a set of values in their music. (hush, don't tell anyone, that our secret). I ran into them individually in different settings over the years and it was striking how they maintained their mission as people who set a moral standard. We need them more than ever these days.