Friday, April 12, 2019

R.I.P. GARY STEWART, MUSIC MAN


Another damn obit. But this one is so sad. I photographed Gary Stewart as a record-happy young'un for an early Rhino cover (seen upper left, my wrestling pic too.) Rest in peace, lifelong music appreciator who ended up at Apple iTunes. Thematically cogent, Gary and the whole Rhino staff grasped the subtle nuances of then unfashionable American professional wrestling in the early 1970s (that's Andre the Giant sitting on a hapless grappler.) 

Gary's persona for this release was "Little Stevie Weingold," and the portrait was staged to look as amateurish as possible. This was Rhino Records' second ever record album released. I photographed and designed Rhino's #s 3,4 and 5 releases as well...

Saturday, March 30, 2019

2 SPOKEN WORD ALBUM COVERS ART DIRECTED BY ME IN the 1980s

 ↑ Art Direction by me for this Harvey Kubernik produced spoken word album, released in 1988 by New Alliance Records. I've always liked to mashup fonts for maximum effectiveness. The most thrilling part of this job for me? The chance to photograph Richard Berry, the actual songwriter of the immortal rock classic "Louie, Louie" flanked by the selfsame poets Wanda Coleman and Michelle T. Clinton, below ↓

↓ The first graphics job I did for Harbey Kubernik with his premiere spoken word compilation of L.A. poets album in 1982. Artists included Charles Bukowski, Wanda Coleman, Velvert Turner, Pleasant Gehman, Dave Alvin, Tequila Mockingbird, Richard Meltzer, Danny Sugarman, Chris D., Geza X, Joanna Spock Dean, Kari Krome, Danny Sugarman and about five dozen others. Harvey was the first  to discover, while pouring through contracts at MCA  Records, that just because a company has licensed the music of an artist, this didn't extend to spoken word performances. Whereupon he immediately started recording all sorts of actors and musicians for these compilations. Henry Rollins, Exene and others got the credit for slam poetry, but the progenitor was Harvey Kubernik.

↓ I was proud of this logo I designed for Harvey Kubernik's record company.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

3 ALBUM COVERS ART DIRECTED BY ME IN THE 1980s

↑ Art Direction by me, LP cover for 1986 compilation for Warner Special Products based on a single black and white pic, photographer unknown. Do you think it's bright enough?
   
Having black over polychrome was a surf-redolent graphic technique a la art director extraordinaire John Van Hamersveld:  it never was used in mid-1960s psychedelia, hence my contrarian application to make sure it was seen as a newer compilation.

 ↑ Art Direction by me. Another deliberately over the top retro LP cover by me with a single black and white pic as basis, probably mid-1980s. It was released by one of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band to look like a bootleg, but it wasn't. The imprecise printing registration of the flowers deliberately emulated a Warhol-ian "Pop Art" technique, one even used today by fine artist Niagara.

Art Direction by me for 1982 LP cover, the first live Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris music sanctioned by the estate. Fittingly, more respectful tone. The pic, reputedly by a girlfriend of a Rolling Stone, was in bad shape but restored by the Charles Wild Studio, and I did the airbrushing for the font.

I was working with some of the same people involved when i art-directed Sid Griffin's biography Gram Parsons: A Music Biography. It was important to them to have quality images that were rare, that Gram's public wouldn't have seen before. That's why we had L.A.'s best retouchers restore this battered photo for the album cover, and why we had a screen capture from a rare Burritos video shot in 
Marina Del Rey for the book cover.↓
 Having a genuine wooden angel hovering over this sensitive but doomed singer/songwriter was the perfect image for the Fallen Angels band. We didn't have to do the oldskool pre-digital version of Photoshop of masking something in and airbrushing the join lines out, this is the way the photo was shot. It's just that the only extant print was beat up and too rectangular, hence the retouching.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

R.I.P. KING OF THE SURF GUITAR DICK DALE

Rest in peace Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, influencer of Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix (like Dale, also a southpaw with a Fender Stratocaster.) He also inspired Quentin Tarantino to include his "Misirlou" in the opening credits of Pulp Fiction, a great financial boon to Dale. 

My two photos of Dick Dale twenty years apart: The First Surf Revival, Hollywood Palladium, 1973 appearing with The Challengers, the Surf Punks and others. Yes, he leapt on top of the piano; secondly, staying with his beach roots, playing at the Santa Monica Pier, 1994.

My friend Donna Balancia, editor of "California Rocker," first broke the sad story of his passing in same, according to today's online "Rolling Stone," which then was confirmed by his bassist Sam Bolle. Dale, 81, had suffered from many serious ailments in his later years, despite his active touring. In his youth he was an accomplished surfer, a real one, not a gremmie...

Friday, March 8, 2019

REST IN PEACE EROICA



Eroica, the gorgeous Scottish Deerhound who was our playdate regular visitor owned by Paul and Mary Smith and who once body-slammed an actual deer in her native Canada, did not make it through her serious illness and passed away this morning. It was a fluke variant of a disease which destroyed organs before it even presented any other symptoms that could have been treated.

Just like there are exceptional people, Eroica was the quintessential exceptional Deerhound. In a breed known for kindness, playfulness, beauty and absolute devotion, she surpassed all expectations of these traits and immediately stood out to all as a one in a million individual. I feel like I've just lost a close friend and am crying while I write this. 

Offered above is a photo of my better half Mr. Twister and Eroica, and below, this song which recently was used in the tv series "Trust" to signify a much loved, playful, exceptional soulmate who also died too young, because I have no words...

Saturday, March 2, 2019

EVERY ARTIST'S WORST NIGHTMARE BECAME ACCLAIMED, INFLUENTIAL CULT FILM 'CARNIVAL OF SOULS'


Screen captures from Carnival of Souls, a 1962 independent horror movie which cost $33,000 to make and ended up influencing George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, 1968. Above, the undead au carnival. Director Herk Harvey made industrial and educational films in Kansas, but had an advanced visual eye. This was his only feature film, which has become an acclaimed cult favorite, despite Harvey experiencing every single artist's worst nightmare happening during its production...
The image above was supposed to be the last shot of a long climactic sequence of the undead slowly and eerily rising from the waters of a half dried up lake next to an abandoned amusement park. But the development lab terminally wrecked that reel of film. The budget did not permit a re-shoot, even though the initial promo art for the film already featured an artist's concept of it.

Instead, the film is remembered for its myriad, arty visual touches, for being one of the few horror films of the era besides Hitchcock's Psycho for basing the plot on a credible female protagonist, and for being a successfully realized high concept of a commercial director who never again made another feature...


Saturday, February 23, 2019

Great film find: BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE


Recent rainy night film viewing: Bad Times at the El Royale, a great, underrated ensemble noir film with Dakota Johnson (pictured above strutting in vintage late 1960s finery,) singer extraordinaire Cynthia Erivo (below left,) Jeff Bridges (below right,) "Madman" Jon Hamm (seen at bottom in kitschy Madonna Inn type set design decor) which was written and directed by former "Lost" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" writer Drew Goddard. 

It's fun, original, violent, great looking and impossible to second guess. And then there's its great retro-late 60s soundtrack! The dvd's special features noted that Cynthia Erivo sang each take all the way through a capella while filming, sometimes up to 20 takes, with no diminishing of her high quality vocals whatsoever. Hence my qualifier "singer extraordinaire..." Special features also noted that the licensing of specific late 1960s songs was so crucial to the plot that the film's pitch to studios mandated that if they couldn't license those particular tunes, to pass on the project. 

Last trivia: the location was based on a real one, still extant although undergoing extensive renovation for modern fire safety: go to LINK *
 






*https://www.rgj.com/story/money/business/2018/08/27/tahoes-historic-cal-neva-lodge-set-renovation-old-cabins-torn-down/1111319002/?fbclid=IwAR1vjzU46l4n44Dh8QruaC7R7hdJEl8n6H12LfLUymhBn-3TILcOnGIv2EE



Sunday, January 20, 2019

EVE BABITZ WRITES FOR SOMEBODY'S SINS

photo booth candids of Eve Babitz, collection of her sister Mirandi Babitz, images circa 1976

Eve Babitz very graciously gave a reading at my first solo music photography exhibition way back when. It was a selection from "Rosewood Casket" about Gram Parsons, although he was not so named, from her amazing Eve's Hollywood book. You want emotional, deceptively simple writing boys and girls? Start by diving into this one first, although her second tome Slow Days, Fast Company remains the most lauded of her five non-fiction works and its first edition boasts that amazing cover with the Saluki dog representing all young Hollywood beauties...

Eve's Hollywood is laced with rock and roll, albeit discretely omitting names, and outlines so much about my demographic that has eluded capture heretofore. Los Angeles shares one gigantic parallel with London of the same 1960s/70s eras-- despite the hugeness and variety within these locales, the most interesting aspects of their social and entertainment biz' beating hearts remain accessible only if an insider invites you in. Eve's writing is an instant "Open, Sesame!" to the riches of Ali Baba's secret caves...

Happily all the fiction has been republished (there are two further non-fiction books) and is readily available negating their previous collector prices. Hollywood's Eve, her just published biography by Lili Anolik reminds why Babitz is not only important but indispensable to Los Angeles literary history.
 Image result for slow days fast company Related imageImage result for Hollywood's Eve 

P.S. The ex-husband of my friend, legendary singer Leslie Knauer (see LINK*) is the photographer in question who immortalized Marcel Duchamp posing with a young Ms. Babitz, naked, both playing chess at an art museum. This cultural godhead image can still be purchased from its maker or at the Robert Berman Gallery, Santa Monica, see LINK** .  

https://fastfilm1.blogspot.com/2016/02/leslie-knauer-jonneine-zapata-ruby.html
**  https://www.artsy.net/artwork/julian-wasser-duchamp-playing-chess-with-a-nude-eve-babitz-duchamp-retrospective-pasadena-art-museum-1






Thursday, January 17, 2019

'AMY' WINEHOUSE DOCUMENTARY

 
Can you see who this is? You knew what she looked like when she was dressed to the nines, fancy, beautiful, retro. This screen capture isn't indicative of bad times or exploitation, just security tapes of an artist looking in a mirror, alone with herself for better or worse. It was the one travail she couldn't handle, and proved lethal. 
   
It might have been a more apropos graphic to promote the 2015 documentary "Amy" directed by Asif Kapadia. The world's rarest orchids cannot survive even a cocooned hothouse without care 24/7, such is their bargain. She should have had it since, as Tony Bennett reminded us in the film, she was that important. And yes, it could have been possible. The too far gone insane and truly evil seem to be immune, but others can saved by the right experts. A physician friend reminds me that drug and alcohol addiction are harder to cure than cancer, but herein, no one in her immediate familial relationships pushed hard for medical care.

Note that the anomalous greatness is taken for granted, and all that's left for discussion is her medical/psychological plight. Explanation: not in the film, but dead on, author Nick Coleman's phrasing of Amy Winehouse's "...terrible, bone-eating pain that is always the result of too much compulsion;" i.e., the very template for superiority in the arts.

One such observation stood right out to me. One of her producers/song collaborators pushed for medical help for her when he first became aware of the problems, very early in her career. He claimed if she had gotten longterm help way before she was a media figure and subject to a very exploitative tabloid press personal harrassment every time she went outside, the whole process may have gone easier with less resistance from her and possibly put her on a better road; i.e., those who backslide repeatedly until something clicks later on and they give it a chance.

Artists are artists because we perceive life differently. Add deep seated psychological problems that one may or may not be born with to the whole miasma, and it can incubate forces which may not have been so overpowering in more ordinary lives. The documentary then adds specific, poignant evidence, like the dismissive jailbird husband asked about Amy and quoted saying directly to the camera "I can do better."  I hope that's his fu-kin' epitaph, "I can do better..." when the inevitable catches up to his future anonymity.
 Image result for Amy winehouse documentary

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

DEMONS IN THE PUNJAB thought for 2019

Writer Todd Everett reminded his Facebook friends yesterday of occasional gems on normal broadcast television with the unexpectedly moving monologue on fine art greatness on a Dr. Who rerun, "Vincent and the Doctor." 

Today's fare included this verity: "Ordinary people who have lived here all their lives, whipped into a frenzy to be part of a mob...We've lived together for decades, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh. And now we're being told our differences are more important than what unites us... I don't know how we protect people, when hatred's coming from all sides." 

This was from late 2018's "Demons in the Punjab" written by Vinay Patel, also from the time travel series Dr. Who about the tragic upheavals of the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 (two million killed, 14 million displaced,) with clear comparisons to all of today's political parties. Let it sink in for all 2019--what unites us is more important than our differences...
Background on the Partition: LINK*
Beautiful Andalusian horses standing in for India Marwari horses, with Andalusia Spain standing in for the Punjab forests and plains...
Image may contain: 1 person, riding a horse, sky, outdoor and nature *https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/05/partition-70-years-on-india-pakistan-denial
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