Tag Archives: music

Rock of Legend, Legend of Rock: Bob Gruen in Vancouver


I was lucky that Sharon Steele, a photographer friend of mine, invited to me a show in Vancouver by the legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen. She’s a music photographer herself so she had the insider knowledge about the show.

Bob Gruen is very important to me. I grew up in a very boring suburb. And when I say boring I really mean it. It was surrounded on one side by farms, on 2 sides by a big thick forest with bears, and on the 4th side by a canyon known for cougars and other wildlife. It was great in many ways but for obvious reasons parents didn’t really want us to play in the forest on our own. And there wasn’t anything else around!  Not even a movie theatre. Absolutely zip. We had to “make our own fun” which for me meant getting up in the night doing downstairs and secretly watching late night movies. I saw all the Cormans, all the Hammer Horrors, all the groovy biker movies, all the hardboiled film noir…

I guess I got used to hanging out with my imagination, which was pretty good.

Anyway, one time I was heading out on vacation with my parents and I went into a store to buy a comic book. It was a long car journey so I needed something meaty to kill the time in between fighting with my brother. But the selection was lame. Suddenly my eyes slid past Archie and Jughead, and Spiderman (yawn) to something that wasn’t exactly a comic book. It was called Creem; I picked it up. It had a lot of photos in it of people who looked frankly – by the standards of the time and place I was in – outrageous. There were other magazines on the stand – Hit Parader, and one or two others. Yes,  I blew ALL the  allowance I’d saved up for the trip and bought 3 magazines. I read and reread those zines  all the way from suburban Vancouver to Peachland to Lake Shushwap to Merritt and all the campsites in between. When I got home I took the photos I liked best and put them on my bedroom wall (mother = horrified).  Did I actually understand those articles by Lester Bangs or Robert Christgau? No, not at all. I was in elementary school! But I read a lot in general and it wasn’t any more bizarre than Brave New World, or Treasure Island which was my favourite book (and still is!).

But it wasn’t the words that made an impression. It was the photos. They showed me hard evidence of a world where you didn’t have to be lame and boring. You could in fact be edgy and fabulous. And wear whatever you liked even if it was a gender-bending freakshow. And you could have your hair any-which-way. And you could be in places like New York or London or Hollywood, and not the suburbs! And you could go there and not have to visit relatives!

And the name that appeared beside the best of the photos, the ones I was so impressed by, was almost always the name “Bob Gruen.” How could I ever forget that name? He did the mindblowing (at the time! my brother and I bowed down before it!) cover of Kiss Dressed to Kill! His pics of the Clash are the greatest ever taken of that magnificent band.

So, back to the show; I had a little chat with Gruen, who is lovely, a perfect gent (which is obvs why so many artists gave him the time to do his great shots!) , and bought myself a copy of his superb book New York Dolls. Now that’s another thing. By the time I found out about the New York Dolls they’d long been split up, but oh my god their music! And their style! I just fell for them, and am still totally fallen. I listen to them all the time (and saw them finally, many years later when they reformed, in London).  What a great, GREAT band. Glam fashion style and proper Chuck Berry rock music. Smart lyrics, killer licks.  And Gruen, again, took the best photos of the Dolls that exist.

And I still just love rock photography. Influenced by these mags, which I read right through my teens, I also took quite a lot of music photos, never as good as Bob’s or Sharon’s but good enough for my portfolio to get me into film school.

So thank you again Bob, for all the great pictures! Long make you snap that shutter!



  1. according to Wikipedia there’s going to be documentary about the history of Creem. Hope this happens.



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reflections on the death of an artist

Somehow, without realizing it, there’s a melancholy feeling in the air … and it’s not just winter casting its grey shades

It is because of the passing, the artists who are slowly but inexorably passing … and they are missed

It feels like a silent but steady rhythm of passage, first one then another, a succession of moments of sadness

it’s so difficult to confront mortality; the mortality of others, and the inevitable mortality of ourselves… yet there it is

I’m thinking now about the artists who gave us all so much, gave me so much

there have been great outpourings of grief, and rightly so, for the famous artists who touched millions of lives, who transformed whole societies, who changed history

but I feel just as sad and bereft of the passing of those who meant something to me personally. Whose bands I saw over and over again; who I shared a beer with; whom I saw working hard, so hard, at being an artist, playing music night after night for me and my friends. They too have made history.

I’m not necessarily talking about people who I am/was really close friends with. I’m just thinking about all of those who I knew and saw playing, whose music shaped me, formed me and made me the person I am. And I’m really, really grateful to them for that.

The idea of making music as giving, a huge outpouring of something transcendental, just continually giving to us… it’s kind of mind blowing. That these men and women night after night just picked up guitars and played for us. Sacrificed so much of the benefits of ‘ordinary’ life in order to give us this huge limitless bounty of art… amazing. To listen to them and feel all the pent up emotion, anger, joy, grief and adrenaline pour out of me and disperse into that incredible, vast shared emotional space that is art… I can’t express my gratitude.

It’s funny but it’s when faced with the loss, that I realised how much we have been given. How lucky I am to have lived in a time where all of this was possible.

So I suppose what I really want to say is, before it’s too late, a belated THANK YOU to all the artists whose music built my youth and made me grow. What a great thing you did. What great people you are.


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David Bowie – Heroes



Berlin Remnants of the Cold War 2012

Like many people and all of my friends, I’m sad and upset and unsettled by the death of David Bowie.

I was not a ‘fan’ in the usual sense of the word, but I think in some sense we are all Bowie fans – those of us who value creativity, progressive ideas, humanity. His music expressed all of these and more.

I love many of his songs but the one that touches me most is Heroes. The sentiment of the song is wonderful – “We can be heroes, just for one day” – and indeed we can. The music is soaring and dramatic and makes me shiver.

But also, the song expresses for me what it was like to grow up in that strange time  called the Cold War. The song spoke to me then, as it does now, of living in the shadow of politics and folly yet being able to rise above it, and love and live.

The song (and his 3 Berlin albums, Low, Heroes and Lodger) are my favourites … but can you have favourites among such a stupendous output by such a mercurial, creative, restless genius?

In any case these albums made me want to go to Berlin, and in time I did and it stays one of my favourite cities. I suppose he kind of put the city on the map for someone like me, living  in the depths of Canada… it came in to my consciousness as a place… this was probably good for Berlin, for the people there not being forgotten.

I’ve had Heroes on loop for 2 days now.

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DIET TIP #1 Regurgitate Breakfast.

This will do the trick. What money can do for YOU. “Banker’s wife to singer [sic]”  Read her inane comments and spew away.

However don’t reread it cos you might spew up lunch and dinner too and then die. I had to follow this up and I watched the video of her ‘song’ which is a whining whinge about how awful ‘men’ are … ‘sung’ in the kind of breathy little voice that untrained minor-talented school choir girls have.

Absolutely an insult to the art form of music and that it’s even  featured in the press shows how CRONYISM is in full swing. Although to be fair there is a faint tang of dry skepticism in this Standard article.

By the way her brother is the cod philosopher Alain de Botton, who is to philosophy what cheez wiz is to fromage. How can one family produce two pastiches? I mean, you’ve got philosophers, and you’ve got singers, but these 2 are neither , just pastiches of each. Weird.

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