Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Decade

Happy New Decade

Here's a 17-year-old Rita Hayworth hoofing her teenaged heart out, to help you celebrate New Year's Eve dancing, whether actively or vicariously. (Her best routine, the Shorty George with Fred Astaire in "You Were Never Lovelier" hasn't made it to Youtube yet.)

Happy Last Decade
Here's my list for RocksBackPages of my favorite, significant 20 releases of 2000-2009 (I was congratulated for my last choice as "brave.")

Awesome Color: Electric Aborigines
The Black Crowes: Lions
Johnny Cash: The Man Comes Around
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Dig!! Lazarus, Dig!!
Chainsaw: We Are Not Very Nice
The Detroit Cobras: Life, Love and Leaving
The Dogs:Fed Up!
The Fiery Furnaces: Gallowsbird's Bark
The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Petra Hayden Sings The Who Sell Out
MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
The Raveonettes: Whip It On Recorded in Glorious B Flat Minor
Sonic's Rendezvous Band
The Stooges: You Don't Want My Name You Want My Action
Tool: 10,000 Days
Gillian Welch: Time (the Revelator)
Brian Wilson: Smile
Amy Winehouse: Back to Black
Scott Walker: The Drift

Monday, December 28, 2009


photo (C) Heather Harris. All Rights Reserved. Judas Priest live at some metal festival in my native L.A., gawd knows when. I quite like the fringe on Rob's jacket, little bats and things. Why did I, or anyone else, shoot black and white in the pre-digital Pleistocene? Because that's what the magazine that this was going to go in was going to print it in. My high-key/high contrast choices made in the darkroom would, I knew, reproduce better than theirs with a color original.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


As fellow blogspotter Evanesco so noted, it's not Christmas until I post "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" (yes, I draw too) and my Goth tree, both from my daze of sending Xmas cards.

Friday, December 11, 2009


photo © 1989 Heather Harris. All Rights Reserved.

It was the end of the 1980's, my most lucrative decade of photographic work. Hair metal, post-punk and proto-grunge had been very, very good to me. But life events caught up with me bigtime in the last dwindling days of the decade. My graphic art business was sued and taxed out of existence by the California State Board of Equalization, who had decided that drawing art was a quantifiable product, not a service (how many yards of art would you like, sir?) My favorite cousin was diagnosed with AIDS, a death sentence then which indeed ensued. My beloved grandfather died on my birthday. My favorite local colleague and friend Suzan Carson (she did the Kill City Iggy and James Williamson pix, see LINK) died of cancer on Christmas Eve. And my close friend in England Shelley Benoit, the one who had introduced my better half and me 20 years prior to this, died on Christmas day of a completely preventable medical accident in hospital in Cornwall.

To say I was reeling in my psyche would have been an understatement. One's first flurry of personal deaths is usually the hardest. Post Christmas, I did not go to sleep for 5 days and nights in a row, 80% harrowing emotional inertia, 20% "other" (it was the 1980's and I did work in the music business.)

Then metal group Misguided, whom I had photographed in my studio, invited me to photograph their well-publicized debut at the Whisky. I noticed someone from the Group of the Hour, Guns n' Roses, hanging off the front of the stage like some kid at Altamont, a very unusual display of musical fandom from a ridiculously timely superstar. I don't normally corner stars a la paparazzo, but I felt that my clients would love a photo of themselves with the Guns guy, and he just might have enjoyed their set enough to be approachable.

So I did. At first he made a sign of the cross to get the vampire away, and then it hit me. Having been up for 5 days and nights straight, I looked like Keith Richards, the living dead, the hills have eyes, army of darkness, tales from the crypt and all decadent rock stars rolled into one, which is to say I looked like complete hell, which is to say I looked like "one of us" to the Guns' n' Roses guitarist. Who amiably said "yes."

So above is my backstage photo of Izzy Stradlin with 3 of the 4 members of Misguided. And the first paragraph should be self-explanatory as to why I don't exactly celebrate Christmas. At the Fastfilm and Mr. Twister residence during the holidays there is no tree, there are no decorations, just presents for friends to cherish the ones that are still alive.

There's a photo of Suzan Carson at LINK. Below, Mr. Twister, Shelley Benoit and yours truly in London and Warwick, England, autumn, 1978

Friday, December 4, 2009


photo (C) Heather Harris. All rights reserved. Katey Sagal, pre-Married With Children, pre-Lost, pre-Sons of Anarchy, singing at the Palomino, North Hollywood, California with Jimmy Wood, god knows when. However, I do recall that she was singing "Hey Gyp" as Donovan recorded the song (also known as "Chevrolet" by its writers The Jim Kweskin Jug Band and also when covered by a solo Maria Muldaur, whose voice Sagal's somewhat resembles albeit bluesier.) A legitimate working vocalist, Ms. Sagal also was tapped by Bette Midler to sing backup as a "Harlette" for their 1979 tour.
Above, Jimmy Wood still rocking on harp 9.8.11 live with the Michael Des Barres Band.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Photo (C) 1991 Heather Harris. Sonic Youth live. Great band, great people. Their boutique label Ecstatic Peace signed and released 2 cds by my fave newish band Awesome Color (LINK.)

SHE ROK poster

SHE ROK, guess what era! This was one of my friend Mary Kay's metal bands during a hiatus from The Dogs ( She Rok are also depicted in a previous blog herein.) This was my proposal for a poster for them, based upon my studio portrait. I hand drew in the logo and the lightning bolts, as one did in those distant eons before digital manipulation...

Sunday, November 22, 2009


photo (C) 1993 Heather Harris. Paul McCartney at the 1993 Grammy's with his special award. Pack/group photography, which I hated because everyone gets the same photo. At least the subject tried to make it graphically interesting with this gesture, and the shadow he cast, kept with fill flash, made it even more so.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


A gallery of our whole photo session is posted HERE on the
James Williamson website.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


For Halloween, phenomenal guitarist Tracii Guns emotes in L.A. Guns on Oct. 24th, bassist Erin Soriano embraces the holiday spirit at the same gig in her band Riot Brides, and I appear from 41 years ago, the one in front with the undead stare and black & white hair.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I photographed James Williamson in Iggy and The Stooges live in 1973 at the Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood, with my pics published in The L.A. Weekly News, Performance, and some thirty years later, Britain's MOJO magazine. I was lucky enough to have been introduced to the Stooges' onslaught as it was first erupting by the same individual who introduced David Bowie to the band themselves. Comparatively few outside the group's native Midwest and pockets of L.A., S.F., and NYC proved sufficiently enlightened to have appreciated the Stooges during their first rocket blast ride around. Now they'll play to a festival of 30,000 in Brazil next month.

The Stooges (originals) and Iggy And The Stooges (James' incarnation) have always been my personal "go to" music (I can't bring myself to denote "happy place" with music this hellbent, but although my tastes are eclectic and demeanor low-key, I have a wild heart.) Hence a photo session with James Williamson nascent at the return to his legendary band for a "Raw Power" reunion after thirty-eight years was much anticipated fun.
James' music means a lot to a lot of people as well, so I wanted something a little different than what's been done already old or new. He looks great in person, so that was easy to get across. One addresses the thirty-eight year absence from the spotlight by making sure his recognizable star quality comes through to jog fans' memory of him onstage. One day in the 1970's he was the hotshot guitarist who most influenced the future of all the hard rock genres, cut, print, wrap and flash-forward to 2009 when he was a retiring Vice President of Sony Corporation, Division of Technology Standards and IEEE board member. (I had to ask my niece, who lives where his family and he live and works in his same field, exactly what it was that he did.)(And he's her new hero.) The artist's story is both fascinating and unique in rock for his top-of-his-field successes in two such separate lines of work, as if Jeff Beck morphed into Steve Jobs, but those ruminations are for another day, with a lot more fact-checking.

I wanted a warm but edgy look, which meant directional light with specific shadows, and the warm browns overall to emphasize his best feature noted from his prior pics, his intense eyes. I brought in an A List (private to the stars' homes) hairstylist, but no makeup. The red contrasting fresnel light matched two of the three guitars he brought. The lighting and asymmetric shadows in this setup were deliberate, bringing up what was wanted with other elements receding. James must think I'm a mute, because I don't give a lot of directions to people who know what they're doing. And top talent do. That way the result is about the natural bearing of the subject rather than the vanity of the photographer as a pose manipulator (unless that's what the subjects specify they want. I'm easy.) Being referential to what audiences remember from onstage appearances plus star quality within the artifice of the studio was the desired combination for the portrait above.

Photo: Kurt Ingham

Saturday, September 19, 2009


I watched a short dvd of my 17-year-old self the other day, a student film made by my brother. It made me ponder the first passions of youth, all jumbled up in arrogance vs. insecurities, inexpressiveness despite all other exuberantly compulsive outpourings, and unrequited longing even in fulfillment. You're never going to see it via me, as my leading man (actually the Bane of my adolescence) and I are seen doing unseemly things.

So here are three romantic Youtube offerings, songs contemporary to that time encapsulating same. Note that even these skilled young songwriters occasionally sputtered with tongue-tied inarticulateness when confronting real feelings. Considering that my wild heart preferred hardest rock then and now, these three ballads really snared something in me. Special attention to masterful, psychological archaetypes of contemplative, adolescent love in the first one, sample lyrics, "...somewhere a mountain is moving, 'afraid it's moving without me...go ahead and find her, just close my eyes and she'll be there..." Ignore the graphics of the second two, turn up the sound, enjoy and recall your 17-year-old self in troubled love.

( sung here by Dusty Springfield, written by the Rascals)

Monday, September 7, 2009


photo (C) 1975 Heather Harris. A rehearsal (obviously, as Ms. Nicks did not perform onstage with her poodle dog) at the old Aquarius Theatre in Hollywood. Herbert Worthington took the eventual platinum LP band photos in the loo of same that day. By request, I expounded more on the circumstances of this photograph for the Stevie Nicks fan page, click HERE

Saturday, August 29, 2009


photos (C) 2009 Heather Harris. The Hangmen and The Zeros live at Alex Bar, Long Beach CA, 8/21/09

Once upon a time (sub-set A) The Stooges, the Stones, the Dead Boys, Gun Club and the NY Dolls loved the music of and based their initial songwriting respectively upon, amongst others, (sub-set B) The Stones, Chuck Berry, Alice Cooper, Howling Wolf and Shadow Morton. Because sub-set A innately were all topflight artists, they soon sped past sub-set B covers and borrowings to become the distinctive musicians we now know them to be or have been. But everyone comes from somewhere. It's not insulting to to have recognizable influences.

Those influences of The Hangmen are the entirety of sub-set A, a pretty cool melange to be sure. Singer/songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Bryan Small is also cursed with catchiness, which makes his songs sieved through subset A pretty damn fun to hear as well as being bluesy and rockin'. His Hangmen and he have stayed, with variations, on the scene for over twenty years but remain admirably fresh. It was a real treat to see and photograph them performing with the recently reunited (and terrific) Zeros, truly celebratory punks featuring their original lineup, inclusive of Javier Escovedo and Robert "El Vez!" Lopez.

Trivia: I featured The Zeros 30 years ago in my book "Punk Rock & Roll" (the first published on the subject in the U.S.); and attesting to his personal as well as musical appeal, you can see lipstick traces on Hangman Bryan's face in my photo above.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


photo (C) 2009 Heather Harris

Trip's, of heretofore blogged Trip Trigger, new band Hillbilly Prophet, photographed last weekend. They sound great, like Gene Clark meets Pink Floyd while partying with Metallica out in Bakersfield.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


(C) 2009 Heather Harris
Stab City, cute young power-trio from Los Angeles, session last Saturday.


photo (C) 1971 Heather Harris, photo of model originally for article "Do Writers Have Groupies?"

What are everyone's favorite extinct periodicals within one's own reading lifetime? Mine are, in no particular order:
1. Coast FM and Fine Arts ('60's/'70's entertainment media all rounder)
2. Creem (the only mag)
3. Take One (mid to late '60's film magazine- Anne Rice and Phil Ochs once wrote for it!)
4. Neon (excellent '90's Brit mag, like MOJO or Q but for movies)
5. Star (groupie/teensploitation) During more troubled times, I had to sell my copy with Sable Starr and Lori Mattix explaining how to "date" rockstars.
6. Film Threat (GENUINELY alternative film reviewing)
7. Entertainment World (published my first non-student-newsmedia piece.)
8. The Journal of Irreproducable Results (sample: an article calculated over 2,000 different English spellings of Moammar Khadaffi.)
8. National Lampoon, the P.J. O'Rourke/Michael O'Donohue/Doug Kinney years
9. Rags (Rolling Stone-sponsored, fashion commentary and photos, early 1970's)
10.All the lost British music trades...

Friday, July 31, 2009


Here's some vintage, late 1980's shots I took of one of my friend Mary's metal bands, She Rok. Mary, a superb bassist far better known for her legendary Detroit band The Dogs and alt-power trio Kanary, has always been in great bands no matter what era.

She Rok might have been most famed of all of 'em if the original lead singer, Emi Canyn had remained in the group. Emi both fronted She Rok and sang backup while wiggling around in nurse's mufti for Motley Crue arena shows simultaneously, later marrying its guitarist, eventually drifting away to the Crue miasma fulltime. She was a looker who could really sing full on. She knew what boys liked. And the band kicked metal ass. All the right commercial ingredients at the right time and right place for a change, sigh, but for naught.
"Emi" was pronounced "Amy" and despite what myriad books say, my spelling of her name is correct as that's what she herself specified. The last She Rok pic is from their appearance in Penelope Spheeris' film just before "Wayne's World" rocketed her to A-list directors, "Thunder And Mud."(see video clip at bottom)

Here's Emi with Mary and Gerri in She Rok

Thursday, July 30, 2009


photo (C) 1989 Heather Harris

A fine photo op shot from twenty years ago: left to right Michael McClure (poet/playwright of "The Beard," a work closed by police every night it played in L.A. in the late '60's,) Mike Watt (musician extraordinaire,) Ray Manzarek (same!) and poet Michael C. Ford at one of Harvey Kubernik's Spoken Word nights at McCabes, West Los Angeles.

Harvey kick-started the whole spoken word as well as rock performances by musicians trend, by the by, from Henry Rollins onward. While at MCA, he figured out that licensing for signed music artists was still up for grabs in spoken word.

In the early 1980's Harvey produced a series of record compilations, many with Mike Watt and New Alliance, of musicians, actors, writers and assorted local characters on Los Angelo-centric releases like "Hollyword," "Black Angeles," "Neighborhood Rhythms," "Voices of the Angels" et al. I miss the cross-pollination of the punk and post-punk days in the music biz: it's now only found on cable.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


photos ©
Heather Harris 
1966, 1968.
Models: Robin Stickney, Heidi Cooper

I drew pictures from age three, always from photographs. In my early teens I became aware of copyright law, so took up photography from which to draw with impunity. Then I shot photos because it was like drawing but quicker, with your ideas still on paper like my drawings. These were not snapshots, but pictures of friends that we planned ahead. All the locations were trespassed to get these shots, and were taken with my first 35mm camera, a used Edixa with Tri-X.
Below © 1969 Heather Harris. Jim Suede at the San Gorgonio Pass (near Palm Springs CA) when the Cabazon dinosaurs first were being erected.

Below photos © 1969, 1970 Heather Harris (Suzie Mathers, Sally McMahon. For more about the model on the left see LINK.) I had finally been able to afford a Nikon camera.

I was self-taught. These were more portrait experiments with shots of friends (for how I learned available light concert/action shots, here: LINK.) I unintentionally was gravitating towards tighter "studio" cropping, higher contrast, and occasionally a cinematic feel. (Models below right, Teri Digneo and Steve Gross. I've forgotten who my 1930s-inspired Glam model visitor on the left was.) I was pushing the Tri-X for portraits now ("fast film") as well as for my live music shots.

photos © 1971 Heather Harris 

Once I was at UCLA, I had access to renting darkrooms and could manipulate the photos of my friends. Everything you all now do in Photoshop with a click, I did in a darkroom with silver nitrate, fixative chemicals and light. The above (Barbara Legarra) was shot in a dorm room in front of a poster, then converted to Kodalith for high-key effect. Below, Crickette Lum in two location shoots, not trespassed as we lived there respectively.

When I initially upgraded to studio lighting (my first were tungsten!) it was immeasurably easier to take photos of my friends, as I had subconsciously been working towards a studio look since I picked up a camera, using directional light from lamps, car headlights, windows with curtains blocking what I didn't want, etc.
Below is one of the last photos I took of a friend as a portrait experiment. I had been getting work as a photojournalist since the late 1960s in college, but hadn't advertised myself as a portrait photographer until I had the studio equipment and more self-taught expertise to insure I could manufacture whatever look was called for in a studio. For these first forays, of course it helps if your friends are professional models, like these last two subjects (Leslie Kenhart above, Linda Daddy below) were!
I am no longer in touch with any of these friends from my photographic past except a handful online: few of these subjects lives in Los Angeles any more.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


There's no excuse for everyone not to check out this incredible band: they tour the U.S. generally twice a year and have two cd's available. Awesome Color are an exceptional power trio of the faster/harder/louder mien, with a few twists.

They're monsters live, there's nary a weak link, they like to entertain themselves as well as the audience (when I saw them singer/guitarist Derek used a plugged in Vox practice amp as a bottleneck slide, with raucous feedback along for the ride,) and they don't sound like anyone else on the scene, despite occasional comparisons of drummer Allison to her onetime mentor Scott Asheton of the Stooges. I love it when young bands get everything right.

Photos (C) 2008 Heather Harris. Do not duplicate, reproduce or link, unless you're Awesome Color

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Mr. Twister and I both have worked in the entertainment industry here in L.A. for rather a while, and we finally deciphered the code of how well one knows famous people. Here's the lexicon.


I know X = I've been in the same room as X.
No, really, I know X = I've spoken to X.
X is a close personal friend of mine = X spoke back to me.
X is a dear, dear, close personal friend of mine = X spoke more than two words back to me.
X and I are really tight = X didn't call security on me.
I've dined with X = we were in the same restaurant at the same time.
I've worked with X = we were both involved in the same job, production or project.
X has worked closely with me = X spoke back to me while we were both involved in the same job, production or project.
X and I partied together! = we shared the same connection. 8-)~

Now, in true mathematical word problem fashion, how would you decipher the following? (true life examples from our past):

Sample Questions:
Q: Mister Twister went to a Watts Music Festival in the early 1970's. What is his relationship with Muhammad Ali?
A: He "knows" Muhammad Ali, because the latter was also in the stadium audience with everyone else.

Q: In the pre-digital era, Clint Eastwood and I were both waiting in a Hollywood pro photo lab, and he asked me why I used Agfa Portrait 120 reversal film, as I was dropping off a quantity of it I had shot. I explained that I liked the slightly warmer tones and somewhat diffused quality.
A: Clint Eastwood and I have "worked together." (Although later we actually did. See LINK.)

Q: Ray Davies and I were both kicked out of a bar together, he for forgetting his passport ID, me for having none, being underaged at the time.

A: We are "close, personal friends." Trick question, as we both barhopped with a mutual friend!

Q: I set up a blind date between future astronaut Sally Ride and Jerry Mathers, TV's "Leave it To Beaver" when all of us were teens.
A: Defies categorization, as they hated each other.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Photos (C) 2009 Heather Harris.
First, an outtake for my tv commercial ad for Warner Special Products' "Supergirls." I appreciated the chance to take stills for a tv advert; however, they said get models who look like musicians without giving me a budget to do so. Instead, I got musicians who looked like models. Kirk Henry, left, was a well-known L.A. musician, and had been in films. He introduced me to Stacey Q, right, before her "Two Of Hearts" single broke. Warners were then gobsmacked to discover a #1 hit single artist in their own tv ad for girl groups.

Then, the inimitable Niagara Detroit, live in Los Angeles with Dark Carnival.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


I like photos that show an audience's reaction to performers. Here's Stephen Shareaux, vocalist for The Who Show (itself the most elaborate, accurately [and whimsically- Entwistle's famed leather skeleton suit makes an appearance] costumed, Who tribute band of equal instrumental prowess to its namesake heroes which offers, amongst its repertoire, an entire Tommy album, complete with French horn and extra orchestra ) as Jimmy the Mod in a Quadrophenia segment. The widespread-all ages crowd is definitely mesmerized. Photo taken three nights ago in a large civic theatre venue.

My other photo depicts Iggy Pop circa 1990 and his audience, who clearly adore him in their fashion. He's now performed for over 40 years continuing his initial smashing of barriers betwixt stage performer and crowd, having walked on a sea of peoples' hands circa 1970 or fomenting occasionally violent interaction, leaping into same to this day. In yer face indeed!
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