Who Shot Rock & Roll

So I’m talking to Clem Burke…

No, no, I’m not dropping names here. He barely gave me the time of day. Why should he. But my point is…these people are my heroes. I stood in front of the stage, they were on it. They were the people I believed could make my life work, if I could just meet them. I’d say I gave my soul to rock and roll, but really it reached out and grabbed me and saved me, made my life complete.

The only reason I went to this gig was to do a favor for Larry Solters. I thought it was a b.s. exhibition he was paid to promote, I’d show my face and then go to dinner with my usual Thursday night group. But from the moment I got there, I kept running into people I knew. Learning about this restaurant on Pico with an all meat meal, run by someone akin to the Soup Nazi, with an unlisted number and a $220 tab. And the hors d’oeuvres weren’t bad, so I scarfed them up and wrote off my dinner and got into it with Rob Light. Who kept testifying about the movie, inside. I hadn’t even seen the exhibit, that’s not why I came.

But it was hard to hear Rob, because a really good Heart cover band was playing in the background. Finally, I turned my head, to check out these incredible impostors, and was stunned to find out it was the Wilson sisters themselves! Ann’s still got the pipes! And after talking about "Rock Of Ages" and the television business and validated parking I went inside, for a run-through before I departed.

My mind was blown.

My favorite picture was the one of the Yardbirds. With Jimmy Page in a quasi-military jacket and Jeff Beck in sneakers. Once upon a time these people were not heroes, just wannabe musicians. So many of these pictures were snapped at this time.

And then there was the cover of "Dressed To Kill". Gene Simmons was wearing CLOGS! This was before the exotic boots, before they became the KISS we know today.

And there’s the original cover of "Joshua Tree" and explanations of every photo but what made my night, what truly dropped my jaw, was the movie.

Henry Diltz talked about being a folk musician, buying a camera on a whim and ultimately finding his new career. There were outtakes of the "Desperado" cover.

Guy Webster told the story of capturing the iconic bathtub shot on the cover of the Mamas & the Papas’ "If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears". They couldn’t leave the house because they were all so stoned. Hell, Guy could barely set up his tripod.

Linda Eastman McCartney got started by accident. Being chosen to be the sole photographer from a group of shooters.

But the photographer who captured the essence was Norman Seeff. I could try and explain how he described his process, but I wouldn’t nail it.

I realized that to be a rock and roll photographer, you had to be friends with people on the way up. You couldn’t just decide to work with the famous. You had to ingratiate yourself. Opportunities came thereafter, one success led to another.

And I felt left out. Hell, whenever I’m around a famous musician I tingle. I held the album cover in my hands. I know all the credits. THAT’S YOU?

But they’re just regular people. Albeit much cooler than me.

Now they validate parking, you’ve still got to pay a little, but it’s not the $34 max. And I get no kickback. But I’ve really got to implore you to go to this exhibit. The photographers were hangers-on, but they were much closer to the musicians than us. They captured not only the visage, but the identity. They made the people in these photos three-dimensional.

You look and watch and you experience that penumbra which is never seen on TV. One great photo can be the essence of rock and roll.

And they’ve got tons of them at this exhibit.

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