If you’re a fan of Rock & Roll then you’ve heard of Dick Clark. “America’s Teenager”, “World’s Oldest Teenager”, Host of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, $10,000 Pyramid, and for three decades the face of rock music.
Dick Clark was a young disc jockey in Philadelphia when the host of a popular show, Bob Horn’s Bandstand, was fired. Clark was a regular substitute for Horn, and made the show his own. It was picked up by ABC, and American Bandstand debuted on August 5, 1957 with an interview of Elvis Presley. While to many he defined a movement, according to Clark, “I played records, the kids danced, and America watched.” Pretty typical understatement of Clark.
American Bandstand brought artists to living rooms across the nation well before the age of MTV (which used to show videos), YouTube, and the like. When he broke the color barrier with Chuck Berry, many were surprised to see that the duck-walking artist was black. Soon enough, he was regularly featuring mixed race bands, had teenagers of all races sitting together in the audience, and contrary to the standards of the time, dancing together.
In addition to millions of youngsters being introduced to the latest dance craze, he was the first to feature such artists as The 5th Dimension, The Animals, Blondie, Bill Withers, Tina Turner, The Village People, and The Sugarhill Gang. He featured a live appearance each week, and hundreds of artists over thirty+ years were introduced to rocking Americans on the show. An appearance on his show was often the “break” a new band was hoping for, and performing on American Bandstand with a fresh-faced youngster proclaiming, “Its got a good beat and I can dance to it” would send people running to the record store. In an iconic moment, he invited a new band to perform with an untested lead singer, a young Michael Jackson. It was 1970. Clark still had over forty years to rock.
I had done some work with The Doors (American Bandstand 1967) and was introduced to Dick Clark through some common friends. He invited me to his office, Dick Clark Productions, in 1975. It was on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, then the center of the rock world. It was also, ironically, just blocks from where I had met The Doors at their studio. Clark was warm, gracious, and funny. Everything that has been said about him is true. One of the nicest people that I’ve ever met in the music business, and I’ve met a lot of them, from the reserved John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin to his over-the-top manager Peter Grant, the bathrobe wearing Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys to the “come on over; we’re in the pool” of Paul McCartney. Clark was a king among them, and forever thankful for the opportunity and respectful of his place in rock history.
I was invited back in 1977. I had gotten to know a fantastic band called WAR (Cisco Kid, Low Rider, Why Can’t We Be Friends?) when they were fronted by Eric Burdon of The Animals. Burdon had left the band by this point, but I got to spend a day at American Bandstand with WAR and Clark.
Rock & Roll still has a good beat, and we’re still dancing to it. Thanks, Dick.
I recently had a showing of some selected works at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. Yes, THAT Royal Albert Hall.
They had some shots of mine of Robert Plant (naturally), and some other British artists, but I got a call from The Times, which is THE paper of choice on that side of the pond. Every Sunday they come out with The Times Magazine, which is a nice, glossy print issue with cool articles about style and art.
They had seen some shots that I had taken of Iggy Pop and had to know the story. It’s kind of summarized for The Times, but here it is:
I had met Danny Sugarman (manager of The Doors) for some work that I had done during the recording of Strange Days and some later shots that I had taken of Jim Morrison. It was around 1974 and he contacted me about a new band that he was managing, Iggy & the Stooges. I was in town, they were playing at The Whiskey, so I figured what the heck. Danny told me that the singer, Iggy Pop, was a wild man and he couldn’t guarantee that Iggy wouldn’t do something outrageous. I grabbed my wife, my Hasselblad with a 120 mm lens, and headed for the club.
When we pulled up out front, my wife noticed an ambulance parked at the curb and asked about what kind of act we were seeing. I told her that I had never seen them but I understood from their manager that the singer was kind of crazy and prone to some crazy antics. Keep in mind, this was way before stage diving and elaborate stage sets. In ’74 you showed up, set up some lights, and played.
It wasn’t horribly crowded in the Whiskey so I was able to get pretty close to the stage, with Iggy practically on top of me. I knew that The Whiskey had a pretty stark setup with decent lighting, so I had gone with black and white and I knew that my gear would get some great high-contrast shots.
I was shooting away, not really paying attention to the actual action, when I caught a glint of something metallic in my viewfinder. Looking up, I saw that Iggy was clutching his microphone in one hand, had a nice-sized kitchen knife in the other, and he was covered in blood. He had slices and little stab wounds all over his chest. He jumped off of the stage and began climbing all over the audience, who seemed anxious to get covered in Iggy. I grabbed my wife and got the heck out of there!
The shot got a little bit of play at the time, but a horribly colorized version later showed up as the cover of Iggy & the Stooges: California Bleeding. I still think that the black & white version does a pretty stellar job of conveying the manic presence of Iggy and the graphic nature of his performance.
I ran into Iggy Pop a few months later, hanging out with Ray Manzarek of The Doors and Alice Cooper. Very funny, very clothed, and no visible wounds. It’s curious; over the years I’ve noticed that Alice and Iggy are two guys that I always seemed to run into. I never realized it at the time, but there they were. A few years back I was looking at the proofs from my shoot of Led Zeppelin at The Riot House. At one point I had stepped onto the balcony with Robert Plant for a quick smoke. It was a few years before the Whiskey show that formally introduced me to Iggy, but as I looked through the proofs (some 30 years later) there he was!
It was 40 years ago today, November 8, 1971, that Led Zeppelin released their long-awaited followup to Led Zeppelin III, the appropriately named Led Zeppelin IV (It wasn’t until 1973′s Houses of the Holy that they actually named the albums). It featured “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll”, “The Battle of Evermore”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “Misty Mountain Hop”, “Four Sticks”, “Going to California”, and “When the Levee Breaks”. The recording sessions also produced “Down By the Seaside”, “Night Flight”, and “Boogie With Stu”, but they didn’t make the album.
The decision to not name the album was a conscious one. They didn’t want to trade on the “commercial entity” that had become Led Zeppelin. Even the image on the outer sleeve was a commentary on commercialism: An old man and a city in decay. It was, according to Page, “a way of saying that we should look after the earth, not rape and pillage it.” While it peaked at #2 on the U.S. charts, it became the biggest and most durable seller in their catalog.
I was able to meet and work with Led Zeppelin many times during their career and this period was particularly exciting and fruitful. I can remember them doing a stretch at The Forum in Inglewood, California. I shot many concerts at the Forum, but shooting Led Zeppelin’s were like working in a room full of static electricity: hair constantly standing straight up. They sold out both nights at The Forum in about 3 1/2 hours. Keep in mind, this was before the Internet and smart phones!
Call it Led Zeppelin IV, or The Fourth, or The Four Symbols, or The Hermit. The name doesn’t really matter. It was and is Rock and Roll, and I call it one of the best albums ever created.
I got a phone call on a quiet Monday in February of 1973 from Led Zeppelin’s publicist. I had been working the rounds in Los Angeles and between the PR guys and record companies I had made a few good contacts. I had run into the publicist for Led Zeppelin a few weeks earlier and asked if I could have some time with the band the next time that they were in town.
The band had just come from a tour of England and was taking a month to relax before starting a big U.S. tour. They had four eponymous albums on the charts and were waiting for the release of number 5, Houses of the Holy. The album had hits in No Quarter and The Song Remains the Same. While it departed from much of their blues influences it had funky tracks in The Ocean and D’yer Mak’er. It also had a beautiful acoustic based track, The Rain Song. Much of the initial buzz, however, was about the risqué cover featuring young, naked children.
The call from Zeppelin’s people invited me to meet them at The Continental Hyatt House on the Sunset Strip. The Continental Hyatt had become a base of operations for many up and coming bands as it was close to the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and the many clubs and recording studios in West Hollywood. After spending a few evenings with bands at the Hyatt my friends and I began calling it The Continental Riot House. Led Zeppelin did much to bring about this nickname.
The lads of Zeppelin would typically rent out several entire floors for their antics. Keith Richards became famous for throwing a television out of one of the windows. Keith Moon threw a larger one out of one of the windows. Never one to be outdone, John Bonham liked to unwind with a ride on a Harley Davidson…down the hallways between the suites. Orgies with Jimmy Page, groupies chasing Robert Plant, John Paul Jones’ reserved debauchery, to Bonham being Bonzo; if you’ve read it it’s probably true.
I had hoped to catch the band for dinner and establish a rapport but when I arrived at 6:30 the night’s revelries were obviously well under way. I followed a hotel bartender with a crate of liquor and found a mostly incoherent Robert Plant holding court. I started talking to him about my ideas for some shots but found myself getting nowhere so after a half hour or so I grabbed a drink myself.
I had just about given up on an organized shoot when Peter Grant lumbered in. At 6 foot 5 and well over 350 pounds, I knew Grant’s reputation for getting things done and enlisted his help in making photography happen.
Any pictures of the band that I had seen up until this point had either been stage shots or big horizontal panoramas and I began looking for props to create something different. I found an ugly orange armchair in one of the rooms and asked Grant to help me round up the lads. My idea was a vertical grouping of the band. Newspapers and magazines would love it for the ease of a print layout and it was different than all of the other photos that I’d seen.
Plant and Page arrived and mulled participation. Jones was in another mood and Grant physically put him in place for me. Page and Plant began laughing and plopped down on either arm of the chair. Seeming to sense that he was being left out, Bonham wandered in, smoking a cigarette, and threw his arms around them.
I began furiously working my two cameras, an old favorite loaded with color and my newer Nikon with black and white. I managed to get almost 20 shots before the peace dissolved and chaos returned.
A few days later I was able to get my shots to Led Zeppelin’s publicist and they chose one of the black and whites. Through them I was contacted by Grant who made an offer to buy the whole lot of the color shots. He wanted to buy them all but I saved the best one and never showed it to them.
Since that night I’ve gone on to see the black and white in numerous books about Led Zeppelin. It’s been in magazines and even VH1’s Behind the Music. I’ve had a devil of a time tracking down publishers and receiving photographer credits but one thing is for sure. None of those guys ever had an evening like mine with Led Zeppelin at the Continental Riot House.