John Armstrong - Rebel KindMonday, November 02, 2009
I first met John Armstrong (aka Buck Cherry) around 1979. I was one of the judges for a battle of the bands type contest at Gary Taylor’s Rock Room on Howe Street. I was no expert in rock like my In One Ear associate from Vancouver Magazine. Gary Taylor liked me because I was cheap. He could buy me for the night with Perrier while some of the other judges were paid in expensive booze and white powder.
I was not prepared for a band like the Modernettes. They featured a roly-poly young man with a sneer and an American Civil War kepi (the rebel kind), a tall blonde with legs from here to Dunsmuir called Mary Jo Kopechne (she liked to explain that both she and her namesake could not swim) and a non-stopping drummer called Jughead. This trio, plaid very loud and very off-key. I hated them. I never voted for them.
But they did grow on me and learned to appreciate their fast, furious and short tunes. They did for my ears what Colman’s did for my sinuses.
The first picture you see here I have a vague idea that it might have been around 1982 and that I took it at UBC. The Modernettes and Slow (that’s Anselmi the lead singer of Slow on the far left, then John followed by Mary Jo whose hair covers part of her face). These two bands were warm-up acts for the Cramps.
Sometime at the end of the 80s I suggested to John (he had wit and lots of knowledge gained from watching TV until all hours of the night after concerts and or reading lots of novels) that he purchase a Harris Tweed jacket, a shirt and tie and go to Charles Campbell (then editor of the Straight) and ask for a free-lance writing job. This paid off, and in short order John and I were off to interview and photograph Vincent Price and Dennis Hopper.
In the early 90s writer and friend John Lekich wrote an article about alternative medical practices. I was asked by art director Chris Dahl to not only take the pictures with colour negative but he expressly demanded I print them. If that was not enough he suggested (strongly) I only use mirrors for lighting. This particular shot of Armstrong I took on Robson. It had something to do with some sort of weird self-help. Writer Lekich was next to me on the top floor of a restaurant aiming the mirror. I had asked some friends to walk around Armstrong quickly.
It was all a pain in the neck. I hated printing the pictures. I wanted to punch the art director in the nose. Looking back at those days I now know it was all good fun. Fun has now been diluted to nothing and if I ran into Dahl on the street I would hug him.