|Wendy O. Williams |
Perhaps any generation will understand and like moments lived in the past while feeling some sort of alienation in the present.
There is very little popular contemporary music that I like. One reason is that I no longer listen to it performed live. And this is particularly true in this 2020.
My first experience with rock and roll happened during an assignment for Vancouver Magazine where I was to photograph live music at a time in the late 70s when wired disco was king. It was at the Smilin’ Buddha where in my ignorance I went afraid for my life and my equipment. After five minutes of Art Bergmann and the Young Canadians I left my equipment in a corner and I pogoed with the rest of the fans. It had to do with the fact that the performance was particularly electric with the virtuoso playing of Bergmann and his guitar.
From that point on I accompanied Les Wiseman to many (as in many) concerts in places like the Commodore, the Buddha and quite a few dives. I was taught by Wiseman who wrote a monthly column called In On Ear for Vancouver Magazine to be a snob and he clued me in to the wonders of Motorhead and Lou Reed.
Quickly I learned that my photographs taken below the stage (and close to it) looked exactly like all the others taken by the many photographers present. I tried Kodak Infrared Film with mixed results as well as using a flash on my camera while using a very slow shutter. Soon enough Wiseman and I and had enough credibility that the then powerful record reps gave us access to backstage interviews with the bands. It was then that my photographs worked hand in hand with Wiseman’s excellent interviews.
We decided that we were so good that we would go to New York City and become famous with the magazines there. We saw Adam Moss at Esquire who told us that while we were good Canada was boring particularly our then Prime Minister, Joe Clark.
We decided to try our luck with Rolling Stone. I called the art director who asked me a loaded question, “Do you have concert shots?” I quickly answered, “No I have backstage interview shots.” Based on that, I was given access to the magazine as was Wiseman. When we entered the magazine we were astounded to notice that most of the men working there had glasses and looked like Elvis Costello. We were then told that Red Rider was an inconsequential Canadian band and we were shown the door.
There is one particularly pleasant fact in that I submitted some Kodachromes of Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics for a book project. My Kodachrome was used but alas! none were returned.