1978, Bon Scott and the Heathen Girls, Atlanta, GA. — Image by © 2011 Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive. “Up in his room, Bon orders one of those fancy American cocktails, then dials California for a 20 minute call with an old girlfriend. Lead guitarist Angus Young, the ‘enfant terrible’ of AC/DC, arrives closely followed by Rose Whiperr and the Heathen Girls– four stunningly beautiful, heavily made-up girls who’s singing act at the local gay bars could loosely be called ‘bizarre chic’. The girls and the band had met at the backstage party that manager Michael Browning had thrown an hour or so before at the end of a typical raging AC/DC concert.”
It was great being a part of 1st Annual NYC Motorcycle Film Festival in Brooklyn last week. Lots of great films and filmmakers were exposed to fresh eyes hungry for inspiring motorcycle art, culture, and history on the screen. An interesting after-film Q & A brought up a seminal motorcycle film of the 1960s, “The Leather Boys”, not just necessarily for the striking “Ton-Up Boys” and bikes– actually more for it’s place in history for being the first British film to be rated ‘X’ for having homosexual themes than actual nudity of a graphic nature, per se.
I was first exposed to “The Leather Boys” as a teenage fan of The Smiths (it was a very influential and transforming film for Morrissey, and many young gay men in England). Clips and images of the film and it’s stars were used in The Smiths’ video “Girlfriend in a Coma” and their single, “William, It Was Really Nothing.” In a 1988 NME interview at the Cadogan Hotel (where Oscar Wilde was arrested), Morrissey even said, “I’m almost quite speechless now, it’s a very historic place and obviously it means a great deal to me… to be sitting here staring at Oscar’s television and the very video that Oscar watched “The Leather Boys on.” (The ‘Oscar’s television’ comment, obviously an impossibility, is Moz being snarky and insulting the intelligence of the NME reporter…) Hearing “The Leather Boys” being referenced all these years later by filmmaker Eric Tretbar (Girl Meets Bike), and Paul d’Orleans of The Vintagent made me want to take a closer look at the historical influence of “The Leather Boys”, of which there is several layers.
Rita Tushingham and Colin Campbell in the iconic British film, “The Leather Boys”, 1964.
I stumbled across this write-up on Dave Stewart in The Guardian’s Observer quite by accident this weekend, and my jaw hit the floor with a thud! Right away I thought back to an odd time about 2 or so years ago when a very nice young man contacted me “on behalf of Mr. Dave Stewart”, wanting to know if I’d like to contribute a Blues piece for a magazine that he was producing. I said, “Fuck. Absolutely.” But as these things often do, it didn’t end up happening, and part of me thought…Dave Stewart? Nah. There must have been a mix-up. Surely not me he was looking for me. This made my day. Dave, please reach out anytime: firstname.lastname@example.org It’s a one-man show over here, but I’ll surely take your call!
Sept. 7th, 1976 — Joe Esposito (Elvis Presley’s Memphis Mafia buddy) wearing a Led Zeppelin 1975 Tour T-shirt at the Holiday Inn hotel with Elvis in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
“I was 14 years old when Led Zeppelin came to Memphis in 1969. As the youngest step-brother to Elvis Presley, I was living at the Graceland Mansion. My divorced mother Dee Stanley married Elvis’s widowed father Vernon Presley on July 3, 1960. Anyway, I went to the concert with a friend and was blown away. John Bonham playing his solo on Moby Dick, Jimmy Page stroking his Les Paul with a fiddle bow, John Paul Jones laying down heavy bass, and of course the driving voice of Robert Plant. While growing up as Presley’s step-brother I was no stranger to great music. But it was Led Zeppelin that became MY MUSIC while growing up the King.
I started touring with Presley in 1972 when I was 16. I always had Zeppelin’s music with me. In 1974 while at the LA Forum Led Zeppelin came to see Elvis. Later that night after the show Robert, Jimmy and John Paul came to Elvis’s suite at the hotel across the street from the Forum. I met them as they came off the elevator and walked with them to Elvis’s room. I introduced myself, shook their hands and got their autograph. Of all the people I met during my life with Elvis, it was only Led Zeppelin’s autograph that I asked for.
1979, Cleveland — Bo Diddley opened for The Clash on their US tour – Image by © Bob Gruen. In 1979, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon of the Clash asked that Diddley open for them on the band’s first American tour. “I can’t look at him without my mouth falling open,” Strummer, starstruck, told a journalist during the tour. For his part, Diddley had no misgivings about facing a skeptical audience. “You cannot say what people are gonna like or not gonna like,” he explained later to the biographer George White. “You have to stick it out there and find out! If they taste it, and they like the way it tastes, you can bet they’ll eat some of it!” via
The Clash where huge fans of Bo Diddley, as many of the formative British bands (and American too) of the ’60s and ’70s were– The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Beatles, The Yardbirds, and many more. Bo Diddley joined The Clash as their opening act on their 1979 US Tour– opening up a radical, young, new crowd to the sound of the man many consider to be one of the most important pioneers of American Rock & Roll music. Bo Diddley himself made no bones about stating that HE was THE beginning of Rock & Roll. Bo Diddley not only influenced sound– he also influenced the attitude, energy, and look of Rock & Roll for decades to come. Look at the pics here, I see the bold plaids that Diddley and other Rockers of the ’50s wore (Plaid was for hipsters, not squares, in the ’50s..), that emerged again strongly in the ’70s through the Sex Pistols (great credit due to Vivienne Westwood), The Clash and others. You can also see and hear where Jack Black got the lion’s share of his game from– no doubt Bo Diddley. The man is a legend and has never gotten his due, and the due that came, came too late. He had a well-earned chip on his shoulder, and even insisted The Clash pay him upfront, as he’d been screwed over so many times before.
“I was the cat that went and opened the door, and everyone else ran through it. And I said– what the heck, you know? …I was left holding the doorknob” –Bo Diddley
ca. 1950s — Norma Jean “The Duchess” Wofford in white blouse, Jerome Green squatting in front with maracas, and Bo Diddley with his signature rectangular Gretsch guitar. Bo and his crew were the badasses of their generation, just as The Clash were in theirs. — Image by © Michael Ochs
“If you can play– all you need is one amp, your axe, and you. “ –Bo Diddley explaining his feelings about The Clash’s monstrous wall of sound during their 1979 US tour.
Brian Duffy photograph of David Bowie for the Aladdin Sane album cover, 1973. “Bowie’s sixth studio album marked the birth of the ‘schizophrenic’ character Aladdin Sane who was a development of the space-age Japanese-influenced Ziggy Stardust. To create the compelling album cover image, Bowie collaborated with photographer Brian Duffy and make-up artist Pierre Laroche. The result was one of the most recognizable images in popular culture– a ‘lightning flash’ design which has been reproduced in multiple forms world-wide.” via
Look, there are those that revere Bowie as an ahead-of-his-time visionary who revolutionized Rock ‘n’ Roll. And there are those who see him very black & white, as a plodding opportunist who coldly studied what was happening around him (heavily borrowing from true innovators at the time like Marc Bolan), and then expertly went about merchandising himself for mass commercial consumption. Both are fucking true. Bowie is an epic genius who learned through years of toil, trial, and error how to create a magical out-of-this-world persona and artistically sell it to us on a silver platter. No one has done it better in recent memory, and it’s unlikely that anyone in our lifetime will top him. Period. End of story.
There’s an incredible account by Glenn O’Brien in the recent issue of Out Magazine. Gay or straight, get over it, go buy it, and devour the entire spread on David Bowie. It is brilliant. You can read a chunk of it here after the jump. Now go– oh, you pretty things.
“David Bowie (AKA Ziggy Stardust) wearing a sensational creation by Kansai Yamamoto. Born in Yokohama in 1944, the Japanese fashion designer was only 27 when he held his first international fashion show in London in 1971. The Japanese division of RCA records made MainMan aware of Yamamoto’s work and Bowie purchased the “woodlands animal costume” from Kansai’s London boutique– which he wore at the Rainbow Concert in August 1972 and which was later remade by Natasha Korniloff. Bowie subsequently viewed a video of a rock/fashion show that Kansai had staged in Japan the previous year and reportedly loved the costumes which were a combination of modern sci-fi and classical Kabuki theatre. Kansai and Bowie met in New York where he gifted Bowie two costumes during the 2nd US Tour. Kansai was then commissioned to create nine more costumes based on traditional Japanese Noh dramas for Bowie to pick up in Tokyo in April 1973. These were the flamboyant androgynous Ziggy Stardust costumes Bowie wore on the 3rd UK tour in 1973.” via The Ziggy Stardust Companion –photo by Masayoshi Sukita, the David Bowie archive
David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust –photo by Mick Rock via
Andy Warhol cultural icon, and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones – Image by © Ken Regan
It was spring of 1975, and The Rolling Stones were gearing up for their epic Tour Of The Americas (TOTA)– which they would later kick off in NYC by performing “Brown Sugar” on the back of a flatbed truck driving down 5th Ave. Looking for a place to rest up, rehearse for the tour, and work on songs for their upcoming album, Black and Blue, the boys rented their pal Andy Warhol’s pad (for 5k a month), and got busy being themselves. Let’s just say their presence did not go unnoticed by their buttoned-up neighbors:
“Throughout April sensationally loud music welled through the windows, into the ruts and hollows over the tangled crab-grass of an estate in Montauk, Long Island. Residents of the Ditch Plains trailer park were woken in the night – yapping dogs, even wolves, the loud grief of coyotes. From East Hampton to New York the word spread with the ferocity of a brush fire: The Rolling Stones were rehearsing!”
Kirk West is probably best known as the long-time tour manager, archivist, and photographer for the Allman Brothers Band– but before that he spent many years shooting many other musical legends while living in Chicago. Many of those images laid dormant for decades, and now with time on his hands since his 2010 retirement from ABB, the amazing images have now come to light– and many of them are stunning in their honest, fly-on-the-wall, honest energy. Being a lover of the Blues, I was instantly strike by many of his images of legends in a bygone time that I’d love to step back into.
1978 — Blues guitar great, Johnny Winter at Chicago’s Park West theatre –Image by © Kirk West There’s a famous story about a time in 1962 when Johnny and his brother went to see B.B. King at a Beaumont club called the Raven. The only whites in the crowd, they no doubt stood out. But Johnny already had his chops down and wanted to play with the revered B.B.”I was about 17,” Johnny remembers, “and B.B. didn’t want to let me on stage at first. He asked me for a union card, and I had one. Also, I kept sending people over to ask him to let me play. Finally, he decided that there enough people who wanted to hear me that, no matter if I was good or not, it would be worth it to let me on stage. He gave me his guitar and let me play. I got a standing ovation, and he took his guitar back!” via
1985 — Late guitar great, Stevie Ray Vaughan at the Chicago Blues Fest –Image by © Kirk West From Guitar World Magazine ’85 — “Vaughan remembered something that came from Johnny Winter, the first white Texas blues guitar hero, who’d preceded him down the long path. ‘He said something to me when the first record was doing so well,’ Stevie Ray recalled. ‘It made me feel a lot of respect for what we did, for the music. He said that he wanted me to know that people like Muddy Waters and the cats who started it all really had respect for what we’re doing, because it made people respect them. We’re not taking credit for the music. We’re trying to give it back.'” I dig that attitude– doing what you love, and doing it well– to give back to those who cam before you– and the music as a whole. You don’t hear enough talk like that these days. That’s real heart and soul right there.
1978– Johnny Winter, Bob Margolin, & Muddy Waters at Harry Hope’s, Cary IL where they recorded Muddy “Mississippi” Waters – Live –Image by © Kirk West. During early live performances, Johnny Winter would often recount about how, as a child, it was dream of his to one day play with the great blues guitarist Muddy Waters. In 1977 Winter’s his manager creating Blue Sky Records to be distributed through Columbia, Winter now had the opportunity to bring Waters into the studio for Hard Again. The album became a best-seller, with Winter producing and playing back-up guitar on the set that included Waters, and the legendary James Cotton on harmonica. Winter produced two more studio albums for Muddy Waters – I’m Ready (this time featuring Walter Horton on harmonica) and King Bee. The partnership produced Grammy Awards, a best-selling live album (Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live), and Winter’s own Nothin’ But the Blues, on which he was backed by members of Muddy Waters’ band.
The epic tales of Miles Davis and his need for speed have been on heavy rotation again lately, as they are just too damn good to die. I mean, who splits their Lambo Miura on the West Side Highway, and screams at a good samaritan responder for dumping two bags of blow for him before the cops show up? Both ankles were crushed and all Miles wants to do is jump out to see how busted-up his ride is. Cocaine is a helluva drug. The love of cars can be a vice all its own, and Miles had it bad from early on.
Miles Davis, Red Ferrari, New York City, 1969 – Image by © Baron Wolman
“…In 1955 Miles Davis dragged his quintet into the Prestige Records studio and recorded five albums in a row for the purpose of satisfying his obligations to the label. Although Davis himself had turned away from the worst of his heroin addiction, his crew was all hooked on something — from John Coltrane, who had conspicuous tracks up both his arms, to ‘Philly’ Joe Jones, who showed up to the session with just one drum and a hi-hat because he’d pawned the rest to get high — and nobody could have predicted that the group would settle down and turn out some of the greatest music in recorded history.
Miles hated Prestige. They famously paid $300 a record and didn’t seem to be familiar with the concept of residuals. The moment he had a chance to jump the fence to Columbia, he did so, and celebrated by buying a Mercedes 190SL with pretty much all the money he had at the time.
A new 190SL cost about four grand — easily four times what Davis had just cleared on the Prestige session — and it was not exactly a rapid automobile. Most of them wheezed perhaps 85 horsepower back to the swing-axled rear wheels to push the 2600lb mass. The real hot ride was the 300SL, famous today as the ‘Gullwing’ but far more popular as a convertible back in the day, but Miles would have had a hard time buying one and a harder time keeping it maintained.
Miles eventually fell in with the fast crowd, which included the Baroness Pannonica ‘Nica’ de Koenigswarter-Rothschild. She rolled in a Bentley, and she was well known among the community. PIanist Hampton Hawes recalls:
Thelonius Monk and his wife and Nica and I driving down Seventh Avenue in the Bentley at three or four in the morning… and Miles pulling alongside in the Mercedes, calling through the window in his little hoarse voice… ‘Want to race?’ Nica nodding, then turning to tell us in her prim British tones, ‘This time I believe I’m going to beat the Mother F#cker.’”
Miles Davis, Red Ferrari, New York City, 1969 – Image by © Baron Wolman
“That photo of Miles Davis and his red Ferrari (275 GTB) was taken on New York’s West Side Highway in 1969. We had just shot some portraits in his apartment near Central Park. He said he wanted to go to Gleason’s Gym to work out. He was am amateur boxer, as you probably know. Anyhow, we’re driving along and I said, ‘Miles, pull over. Let’s do some shots of you and this totally cool car.’ He said ‘yes’, we did, and then proceeded to the gym where he threatened to knock me out.” –Baron Wolman
“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”
― Jimi Hendrix
Too often in life we seek only to be heard instead of truly listening to, and understanding those who matter to us most– the ones that we love in this world. Jimi knew, and it would serve us well (me especially) to heed his wise words. At the end of the day, it’s the love that we give and receive– in other words, relationships, that make this life beautiful and worth living. Sometimes we must decrease so that the relationship can increase. After all, what’s more important– being happy, or proving how smart we are and being right all the time?
Jimi Hendrix, 1967 ― Image by © Gered Mankowitz