Pictures Of You…

 

PattiSmithHorses

The cover of Horses is a good example of truly great rock photography (taken by Robert Mapplethorpe)

Let’s face it: it is rare to become a fan of a band simply because the music is pretty good. While, of course, the music is a massive catalyst in such a decision, we become invested in our favourite artists for a myriad of reasons – and often, the visual chops of said artist is one of these. Think about it – it is difficult to picture the early Beatles without their Pierre Cardin-designed collarless suits, glam-era David Bowie without glittery, flamboyant catsuits and bright-red platform boots, The Sex Pistols without their Vivienne Westwood designed garb, The Cure’s Robert Smith without his teased hair and copious amounts of eyeliner… But of course, it’s a little difficult to be fascinated by a band’s visual presentation without seeing them first. And unless you’ve been lucky enough to see one of the above in real life, it is at this point that the world of rock photography enters the picture. (Pun intended.)

london calling.jpg

Joe Strummer (taken by Pennie Smith)

When I mention ‘rock photography’, I do not mean the kind that consists of the unimaginative awkwardness equal to that of your Grade 5 school photo. I mean the kind that appears to effortlessly capture the spirit of what music is all about – think the cover of Patti Smith’s Horses, the freezeframe of Joe Strummer about to smash his guitar that eventually became the cover of London Calling, that photoshoot of Bowie and his lightning bolt makeup…  So today, I’m going to name and showcase a few of my favourite rock photographers – the masters of capturing the spirit of rock’n’roll – and I’ll say a few words about them, too. Though, as they always say, a picture is worth a thousand words…

Mick Rock

Most famous for photographing: David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Syd Barrett

Contrary to what regular readers may assume, I didn’t discover Mick Rock’s photography via his extensive Bowie work, but through his photoshoot for the cover of Syd Barrett’s debut solo album, The Madcap Laughs. There is something so mysterious and magical about these photos – Syd (wearing smudged kohl and a pair of old velvet flares) sits among his hazy and delightfully cluttered flat, somehow effortlessly capturing the spirit of his work.

But it was his Bowie shots that made him my all-time favourite photographer. The pictures he took of Bowie throughout the early ’70s are glittery, glamorous insights into the heady worlds of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. Each shot manages to translate the theatricality, the otherwordliness, the arty intellectuality, the freakish beauty of his work into what are (in my opinion) some of the greatest photos of all time. Of course, Bowie (well aware of the value of utilising both sound and vision) was photographed many times by countless photographers – but very few others managed to instinctively get what he was all about and freeze it within a few frames of film.

But then – then – I discovered that he took pretty much every famous picture of every iconic glam artist, too! His shots of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Brian Eno – alongside the Bowie ones – take the dangerously dark glamour of the movement and turn it into something we can still find infinitely fascinating and a little rebellious today. And apart from this, he also took a myriad of other incredible pictures of every other artist of the time you can think of – Queen, The Stones, Blondie, The Ramones, The Runaways, The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie Sioux… No wonder he is referred to as “the man who shot the ’70s”!

http://www.mickrock.com/

Bob Gruen

Most famous for photographing: New York punk, John & Yoko – but also every other artist you can think of

Even if you don’t know who Bob Gruen is, you most certainly know his work – he was the guy who not only shot that famous image of John Lennon wearing his ‘New York City’ shirt, but who actually gave John said shirt in the first place! Gruen shot almost every other iconic artist of the era as well, seemingly turning up at every show that passed through New York (where he is from). Among his other famous shots include a “multiple image” of Tina Turner and a picture of Sid Vicious with hot dog mustard all over his face, but he’s also photographed everyone from Led Zeppelin to KISS to Dylan to Green Day to the Beastie Boys to Sly Stone to Elvis Costello to [insert first artist off the top of your head here]…

Asides from this, Gruen was a regular at New York’s most iconic venues, CBGB and Max’s Kansas City – so consequently, he also shot a who’s-who of New York underground music throughout the ’70s and ’80s! He photographed native artists like the New York Dolls, the Ramones, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Devo, Plasmatics, Television and Blondie – on top of non-natives, like Nina Hagen, the Pistols and The Clash – performing to their equally-fascinating audiences, juxtaposing their fashions and reactions alongside the artists themselves. In a way, Gruen is to punk what Rock is to glam – he effortlessly captures the sweaty, intimate passion that defined much of the New York scene in a way that few others have mastered. But everything he’s shot has this too. His images never fail to remind you what rock’n’roll is all about…

http://www.bobgruen.com/

David Bailey

Most famous for photographing: The Stones, Lennon & McCartney

It’s probably kind of a stretch to refer to David Bailey as a “rock photographer” when most of his legacy stems around his relationship with models such as Jean Shrimpton and the like. But perhaps it is his background as a fashion photographer that makes his pictures of a few of the biggest stars of ’60s rock so interesting and great.

My favourite of his many photoshoots is the one he did with John Lennon and Paul McCartney at the beginning of 1965. The pair are photographed in the richest tones black-and-white film can produce against a starkly cold, white background – and though the photos are obviously staged, there is a candidness to the pictures, something that seems to transcend whatever a normal photo can capture. But perhaps Bailey was always more famous for picturing The Stones; asides from shooting Mick Jagger a number of times, he also took many of the band’s album covers, including their self-titled sophomore effort, US release The Rolling Stones, Now! and most famously Aftermath. Other musicians he’s shot include Marianne Faithful and Alice Cooper.

http://www.visualartists.com/artist/davidbailey/

Janette Beckman

Most famous for photographing: British punk and new wave

While Bob Gruen was capturing New York punk, Janette Beckman was busy photographing the various circles among the British musical underground at the same time. Like him, she managed to shoot a who’s-who of her scene, her work encompassing artists like Siouxsie Sioux (the subject of her first photoshoot), Public Image Ltd, The Jam, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Undertones – even The Who! She also captured a number of American artists who passed through town, too, such as Lydia Lunch, The Cramps and Debbie Harry. Beckman also shot a number of images of young people in Britain at the time, illustrating the assorted tribes – punk, mod, ska, and so on – that found themselves scattered around the country at the time, and later went on to shoot a bunch of hip hop groups in the ’80s.

In contrast to Gruen and Rock, her images rarely show her subjects performing onstage – instead opting for staged shoots and backstage candids – but this doesn’t stop her from capturing the spirit and ethos of the movements around her. Her shots capture the passion and philosophies of the artists in fascinatingly inventive ways – the way she captures the feeling of the music is perhaps only precedented by Mick Rock. Her work is quirky and endlessly interesting, an incredible document of much of the greatest music of the time.

http://janettebeckman.com/

Brad Elterman

Most famous for photographing: candid shots of a who’s-who of ’70s rock’n’roll

Unlike the other photographers in this list, Brad Elterman did not become an official photographer until a few years into his career. This is illustrated by my favourite story about him – of how, in 1976, he was denied a photopass into Bowie’s recording studio during the making of Station to Station, so instead opted to wait outside the studio and ambush Bowie and his crew as they left that night. Despite this, though, he still managed to photograph a heap of major faces in ’70s rock’n’roll, and in a way that many of his official counterparts would be incapable of.

Elterman’s shots are candid and compelling in a way that more professional photoshoots are not. He so easily shows the emotions and lives of his subjects – his pictures are relaxed and fun, and they capture a certain realism about the whole thing. He’s photographed everyone from Joan Jett to Bowie, Dylan to John and Yoko, Michael Jackson to Joni Mitchell, and there is just something so special about each! There is no-one who has shot the rock’n’roll world with his unbelievably unique eye before or since, and it is this that makes his work so great…

http://www.bradelterman.com/

And so, who are your favourite rock photographers? What are your favourite pictures of rock music? Be sure to tell me in the comments!

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN!!!

🙂

Today is John Entwistle’s (the bassist of The Who) birthday. Happy birthday John Entw– IT’S JOHN LENNON’S BIRTHDAY! Happy birthday to you / happy birthday to you / happy birthday dear John / happy birthday to you! I’m currently wearing my John-in-New-York tee, and am listening to John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (digging ‘I Found Out’!).

If John were still here with us today, he would be 74. I wonder what he would be like? I often love to imagine what he would say about the sad, war-torn state of the world at the moment, what he would say about the poppy, auto-tuned “music” released. Would he have written with Paul again? Would he have developed his Double Fantasy style of music? What would he think of the internet? What advice would he have for budding musicians/writers such as myself? I guess we’ll never know… But today is not a day to be sad over the way John was taken from the world — I’ll save that for the 8th of December. Today is a day to celebrate John’s life, and remember his incredible achievements. So instead of writing a long essay on John, and becoming all sad and depressed, I’ll make a list. A list of some of the reasons of why I love the guy so. Of course, not everything will be covered — I think I could fill the entirety of the Harry Potter books with all my reasons! (Not that I’ve read Harry Potter…) If you’ve got any other reasons, or you just want to write about John, feel free to do so in the comments! So here we go:

  • First of all, John was nothing short of an amazing lyricist. In fact, ‘amazing’ is an understatement. Only John could write the beautiful lyrics of ‘Across The Universe’, or bare his soul to the world as he did in songs such as ‘Help!’, ‘I’m A Loser’, ‘Nowhere Man’ and ‘Yer Blues’. Only John could write the complete nonsense of ‘I Am The Walrus’. And that’s the thing. Only John could do it.
  • But John was not just a genius at lyrics — the actual MUSIC he wrote is utterly incredible, too. Though he stereotypically was the rocker of The Beatles (i.e. ‘Revolution’), many of his songs feature beautifully complex, tender melodies, of which an undereducated Beatles fan would assume were the creation of Paul. Take a listen to ‘Good Night’, ‘Julia’, ‘Norwegian Wood’, ‘In My Life’ (in my opinion, that story about Paul writing the melody of ‘IML’ is rubbish) — a few examples of many. How beautiful are the melodies? And his solo career, too — ‘Love’, ‘Mother’, ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’, ‘Look At Me’. Ditto. To quote John on the melody of ‘Love’: “It’s a beautiful melody and I’m not even known for writing melody.” Too true.
  • His voice. John had one of the most amazing voices the music industry will ever see. He could do anything, from a tender, acoustic ballad like his parts in ‘A Day In The Life’ and ‘Dear Prudence’, to raw, emotional rock like ‘Mother’ and ‘Well, Well, Well’. He had an astounding range, too — reaching from a C2 (two Cs below middle C) to a C#6 (two Cs ABOVE middle C). Wow. I can just get to one C above middle C, and I’m a girl.
  • Despite what people love to say, John was an amazing guitarist. Rhythm guitarist, in particular. If you, too, play rhythm guitar, you’ll know how damn impossible the rhythm part to ‘All My Loving’ is to play, but then there’s ‘I’m Looking Through You’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’ (don’t ask me how he played that) and ‘Help!’ and ‘A Day In The Life’ and just about every song he fingerpicked.
  • And, yeah, he was a pretty minimalistic lead guitarist, but who can forget the opening crunch of ‘Revolution’? The catchy solo of ‘Get Back’? The slide work of ‘For You Blue’? And if he did play the ‘Hey Bulldog’ solo (nobody’s sure whether it’s him or George), that’s really accomplished. And he supposedly did my beloved Zeppelinesque guitar work on ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’!
  • Other instruments he could play and/or played on his/The Beatles’ records: mouth organ (harmonica), piano/organ, bass, drums, saxophone, percussion in general… Impressive, huh?
  • He was hysterically funny. Everyone knows he was the Witty Beatle, but how many people have seen this in action? Listen to the beginning of the Blackpool Night Out performance of ‘Help!’, or read one of his books. I’ve only flicket through my dual copy of In His Own Write/A Spaniard In The Works, and I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard! Imagine what actually reading the book will be like… 🙂
  • He was really intelligent. He supposedly had an IQ of ‘well into the 150s’. To give you an idea of how high this is, an IQ of 130+ means you are a part of the 2% of the population who are gifted. 140 or above is near-genius. I don’t know how true what I read was, but I can actually believe it. I love listening to him talk, and the words he uses. I just love the way he used the English language, full stop.
  • He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. Whether it be in the form of a song (‘Woman Is The Nigger Of The World’, ‘Imagine’, ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’) or a statement in an interview (the ‘Bigger Than Jesus’ thing was just John commenting on religion), he said what he thought.
  • Although many disagree with his political views, being the leftist I am, I second them wholly. I agree with him over his views on peace and feminism and revolutions. His views in the ’70s, anyway. And before you go around calling ‘Imagine’ hypocritical, I think he was asking us to imagine a world with peace and no religion and no possessions, not asking us to give away absolutely everything we own. My take, anway.
  • Although numerous people (I’m looking at you, Albert Goldman and your large cult of followers) seem to think that John was a cruel, heartless bastard, people close to him have said differently. Quoth Paul: “The acerbic side was there but it was only part of him. He was also such a sweet, lovely man – a really sweet guy.”
  • John was really good at art. Obviously he was — he went to art school! You’ll remember that I went to see an exhibition of his artwork, and how blown away I was. His drawing really was amazing. Hey, a quick look at one of his books shows that!
  • It should probably be said that I do find John insanely handsome. But he was my favourite Beatle before I even had a clue as to what he looked like, so yeah. He was undeniably attractive, IMO, but I discovered that long after he became my favourite Beatle.
  • He was the first Beatle to experiment with session musicians, using two flutes on ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’! This makes me happy, ‘cos I play flute.
  • He discovered backmasking!
  • The bath scene in A Hard Day’s Night. Possibly my favourite scene in the entirety of film history.
  • His music inspired some of my other favourite artists, including Tame Impala and The Black Keys.
  • He is the Beatle I can relate to most. Probably why I love him so.

So that’s my list. Happy birthday, Johnny! You inspire the world, and are missed by many, but you will live on. Thank you for making the world a better place. I love you. Love tangerinetrees99 🙂

P.S. It’s also Sean Lennon’s birthday today. If you, too, are a psych rock fiend and a fan of artists such as Tame Impala, be sure to check out Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, the duo he has with his partner, Charlotte Muhl. His — and her — stuff is really good! Particularly their new album, Midnight Sun. I think John would be proud!

‘Let It Be’/Imagine The Art Of John Lennon

I believe I've posted this before, but I just had to post it again 'cause it's so cute! Taken in the Austrian whilst filming 'Help!'...

I believe I’ve posted this before, but I just had to post it again ’cause it’s so cute! Taken in the Austrian whilst filming ‘Help!’…

I wasn’t too sure what to post today, but I have a couple of Beatle-y/Lennon-y happenings to write about, so here goes! Excuse me if this post is a little mish-mashy (not a word, tangerinetrees99 – not a word), but hope you can follow along!

MY BRAND-NEW LET IT BE DVD

As I’m sure I said in my last post, I ordered a Let It Be DVD, and (of course) the day after I posted, it arrived in the mail! It only had to come from Pasadena (a suburb of Adelaide), after all… I should probably note that the disc is a bootleg – as are all DVDs of Let It Be – so tangerinetrees99 was a very naughty girl 🙂 !! As you can see – as it is far from the official Apple Corps-released (well, not in the case of A Hard Day’s Night) reissues of the other Beatles films – it does not come in a fancy glossy-cardboard gatefold, a slip-cover and a booklet. It is only packaged in a very simple plastic case, with a cover which I assume is an amateur’s Photoshop job. It does have its own charm, though! I’ll post some pictures of it below, and then I’ll write about the film itself, which I watched yesterday.

The front cover

The front cover

The side

The side

The back - with a completely-unrelated picture (not that I care!), a list of all the scenes and some incorrect (both grammatically and historically) information on the film

The back – with a completely-unrelated picture (not that I care!), a list of all the scenes and some slightly incorrect (both grammatically and historically) information on the film

The disc

The disc

And as for the film, I actually really enjoyed it! Despite popular belief, The Beatles are not fighting all the time (there is the famous George-and-Paul argument, after which George leaves the band for a few weeks – the latter is obviously not shown, though…), and they do smile at various points in the film. It was amazing to hear them coming up with songs such as ‘Two Of Us’ (I especially dig that electric version), ‘Octopus’s Garden’ (George was very sweet in that scene!) and ‘Across The Universe’ (again, it sounds groovy on John’s slightly-overdrive Epiphone Casino!). Heather McCartney seemed like a very cute little girl, too. And hearing Paul discuss wanting to begin touring again was interesting – John’s reaction to such mentions, too (sure, he was high on heroin at the time, so probably not a fair judgement – but still…). And of course, the Rooftop Concert! I have seen it in full once before (Mum and I YouTubed it back in January for its – *pauses to do maths sum* – forty-fifth anniversary), but last night was the first time I saw it properly, without trying to read lyrics, or wondering what song was which (that afternoon eight months ago was the first time I heard ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’, ‘The One After 909’ and ‘Dig A Pony’). I actually heard Paul’s joking end to ‘Get Back’, for example (good one, Paul!)… So to end off, I really liked the film, and whilst probably no-one but hardcore Beatlemaniacs would find it enjoyable (they might enjoy it more than, erm, Magical Mystery Tour), I would certainly recommend it! This household is in order for another Beatles Movie Marathon, I think… 🙂

 

‘IMAGINE THE ART OF JOHN LENNON’ EXHIBITION

Also yesterday, I – along with my parents and my godfather – went to see the John Lennon art exhibit I also talked about last post! It was held at Hanrahan Studios – the former home/studio of prominent Australian artist Barbra Hanrahan, and Summer-house of her widowed partner, Jo Steele (a racing-car driver and sculptor) – which was a very nice venue, I must say. John’s works (or authorised prints of them) were displayed out in the large two-story studio, and there was a rather steady stream of people (whom I would assume are fellow Lennon Lovers) going through the exhibit. And my gosh, was John a talented artist! Most of the exhibition was made up of his gorgeous drawings – some very funny puns (his ‘Owls Hooting’ one, for example), some simple ink drawings of him and Yoko, some completely random yet still beautiful – however some were prints of his handwritten lyrics to certain Beatles/solo songs (i.e. ‘Drive My Car’ – found this interesting, as ‘DMC’ is a Paul song -, ‘Day Tripper’, ‘In My Life’, ‘Gimme Some Truth’, ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’, ‘Real Love’ and – of course – ‘Imagine’). Oh, and how could I forget – there was a genuinely-signed Beatles picture, too (for $25, 000, mind you)! As you can probably guess, the prints were very expensive, and most of which were somewhat over $1000. However, there were a few unframed prints of his handwritten lyrics to some Milk and Honey songs sitting on the floor, so we brought home a gorgeous print of the lyrics to ‘I’m Stepping Out’! Here is a picture of it below, and here is their website (which I think I posted before) on which you can look at some of the pictures (it won’t let me save images off it, so I can’t put them directly on here).

Here is our print - it will be going in our living room, once the house has been painted. Too expensive to sit on the floor of my bedroom!

Here is our print – it will be going in our living room, once the house has been painted. Too expensive to sit on the floor of my bedroom!

 

So there we go – my post for the week (I will post more in school holidays, I promise)! I ‘spose I should pause ‘I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party’ (I’m listening to Beatles For Sale), and publish this. Have a fab day, and good day sunshine! 🙂