A personal “Odyssey” – and turning point – of sorts, continues….

[Excerpted from what few attempts I made at keeping a journal, this will serve as a preface to this particular episode, if you will be so kind as to permit me a slight indulgence?!  I will get to my usual recounting of the performance, and the photos that accompany the re-telling, shortly….]

By now, you have probably noticed my frequent use of ellipses?  They permit me to have a brief refrain, so as to consider my next thought, before I commit them to “ink”, or what passes for such, these days.

Now, as I was saying; from a notebook/journal entry, dated April 17, 1978:

“I’m sitting here in Transylvania University’s radio station – WTLX…. Three month’s shy of not [having] entered anything in this book for a year….

I shall attempt to recount much of what has happened to myself since.

As of the last week in February [1978], I voluntarily left work at the end of the day on a Monday [at Ford Motor Co.], which saw nearly 4 inches of snow [if I’m not mistaken] fall on the ground the night before. Well, on that particular Monday, I made a great effort to get to work – and it paid off because we were sent home an hour or so after starting time.  Not enough workers showed up [so we would get paid for a full day, as per union rules].

Well, the next day I decided not to go because it was just as nasty out[side]…. But, to my surprise enough people made it in to finish working the rest of the week… I  [finally] gave up on it [going back to work] because we were told there would be a shutdown of the plant the next week – and they would alternate this week-0n, week-off deal until the snow no longer prevented materials shipments [and I kind of expected to “coast” on the routine lay-off/unemployment scheme, that was long ago put into place, and exploited by most of the workers].

I only got to collect one week’s unemployment after quitting – I muffed it[!!] .. instead of getting myself fired – but I felt that if I wanted to welsh [sic] on my own decision, that I could always go back and beg – but I’ve made up my mind to try something else [because I could not stand the repetition of the assembly line, and the foreboding feeling that I would end up an alcoholic, or drug addict, before I reached retirement, 30-odd years later, if I continued on this path of work….].

A year or so ago [almost to the day], I purchased my first camera – a Canon AE-1, and a Komuranon 80>210mm zoom lens.

I purchased it the day of the Led Zeppelin concert in Louisville – and I actually managed to get some damn decent photos of the group – although a good deal of the pictures were of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page [see the story & photos, here: Led Zeppelin Official – Louisville, Ky 1977].

Well, afterwards, I had 8×10 copies made and sold them to friends at $5.00 a picture [color] and made enough back to pay for half the original cost of the camera [within half a year of the purchase, or so].

Since first buying the camera, I’ve used it at several concerts: the ‘77 [Kentucky] Derby, the ’77 [Louisville] Bluegrass Festival, [a good friend’s] 21st birthday party, and a few other projects.

The portfolio that I’ve since collected is somewhat impressive [to the naive 20 year old, that I was] – impressive enough to know that I have a talent for it – but no one outside of friends know.

I’ve decided to attempt to forge a career in photography for myself – and I realize it will take some doing, for the only connection [outside of the local scene] I’ve made has been with the Patti Smith Group – after having made it backstage at [their] Bogart’s [performance] in Cincinnati. Lenny Kaye, also assistant editor at <Rock Scene> [magazine] told me to forward them [the pictures I had taken] to him for inspection….. “


Well, as it turned out, I would attempt to send a handful of prints to <Rock Scene> magazine, some months later, but I never heard a response. This, no doubt, was partly due to the fact that the Patti Smith Group would become extremely busy, at about the time all of these events were unfolding. [Their tour, which coincided with the recent release of the album “Easter“, and my recent unemployment situation, which meant I had little funds to work with, in terms of the rather costly hobby of photography, all left little room for an aspiring, unknown photographer from the Mid-South, to be ‘discovered’…].

For those of you who have already read my previous post on the Patti Smith Group performance at Bogart’s [see: The Patti Smith Group at Bogart’s in Cincy], you will know that a good friend of mine from my college days, and I, managed to get backstage after the show, and do a short interview of Patti Smith.  Tom did the interview, whilst I walked about, taking  a few candids, and attempted to strike up converstation with some of the band members. Eventually, my timid questions found a receptive audience with Jay Dee Daugherty, the band’s drummer.  As it turned out, during our conversation, it became apparent that he was quite active in working with, and producing sessions with, several unknown artists in the New York scene, at that time [check out the brief mentions of his collaborations here Jay Dee Daugherty – Wikipedia entry].

Transition to the Louisville Memorial Auditorium gig



Just over two months later, I am still unemployed, and the Patti Smith Group is coming to town, and playing my favorite venue Louisville Memorial Auditorium!  I haven’t got a ticket, much less $30 USD to my name, and I was thinking: ‘Why not show up at sound-check, and see if there is some way to get into the gig, in order to take pictures?’

So, off to the venue I went, with 2 rolls of black & white film – and no ticket – in the middle of the afternoon, to tempt fate, and see what would happen….. I arrived at about 2:00 PM, and hung around for some time, mostly alone, because, as it so happened, this show wasn’t one of the more “talked about” gigs that passed through town at the time, in my circles at least, and you did not see the “usual suspects” hanging out for such an “outsider” group, as it were…  Even so, the single for “Because the Night” had just started to get heavy rotation on the local FM stations [having only been released, as such, the week before], and for those of us, who had already been following the band for some time, it was as if a church bell had been rung, which signalled that the singer/band had come up big – with an unexpected “hit” on its hands – confirmation that those of us who had been following the band and its earlier releases for a time in the hinterlands, had had their faith confirmed, in some respect.

 As fate would have it, after the first of the band members arrived along with their people, whilst being ushered into the backstage entrance, the usual smiles and brief waves would greet the few of us who were waiting there…. It was already a well-known and jaded fact, on the part of those of us who were a party to this ritual, that we were there – nominally – to feed into/off of, the whole ‘rock and roll show’, as it unfolded in its well-rehearsed rituals, much as it had been done countless times before, around the world, since its inception, long ago….

As I recall it, there was no sign of Patti arriving at this entrance, and each of the members basically arrived, one-by-one, and hastily rushed into the venue for the sound-check. Lenny Kaye gave a slight smile as he walked past quickly [I was to find out later, that he wasn’t feeling all that well]. Surprisingly, as Jay Dee Daugherty arrived, he was heading into the backstage door, when he saw me with my camera at my side, and he suddenly smiled and reached a hand toward me, to embrace mine in a handshake!  We briefly said ‘hello’, and in a few short moments, it became clear that he remembered our brief conversation from the gig in Cincinnati, about a month before!  I explained that I had come to the show, hoping to be able to take more photos on this occasion, and he told me to hang out, while he went inside to check on what he could do ….

Less than 10 minutes later, he came back – smiling – and quickly slapped a backstage pass on my jacket!  Completely sussed, I asked whether or not the pass would allow me to take photos during the show, to which he replied, “You can climb on the drum kit for all I care!  Take whatever pictures you want!  You’re free and clear [to do so]!”


So, after being urged inside by Mr. Daugherty, and quickly determining that I needed to stay out of the way of the hurried backstage activities, I started to get my bearings, and tried to figure out where I would base myself for taking the evening’s photographs.

The opening act: Be-Bop Deluxe

Having never been allowed entry to such a stage area before, it took a few minutes of wandering about, to see where I could find a vantage point that was discreet enough, and suited me.  In the meantime, I noticed a bit of commotion going on, between a couple of small groups of stagehands and authority figures from what I assumed were the two groups on the bill for that evening’s show.  Wanting to avoid getting involved somehow, I made my way to the right hand side of the stage, hanging at the side, out of view of the audience, and with a straight view to the band, with their backs to me, essentially. This is where I attempted to start taking photos with the last few frames I had left from a roll of color film that I had shot in the previous weeks.

The stage lights went down, and Be-Bop Deluxe took their places and began their set.

It turns out that the road manager for Be-Bop Deluxe, the opening act, had gotten into some kind of nasty argument with the Patti Smith Group’s people, and the fallout meant that no one was allowed to take pictures of Bill Nelson Bill Nelson – Wikipedia entry and his group, as a result. That was a shame, because one of my best friends had long been a champion of Be-Bop Deluxe, especially of the albums “Axe Victim” and “Sunburst Finish“, and I was looking forward to their appearance, as well. Soon enough, I was banished from the stage area, after I managed to take about 4 quick snapshots before being shut down. I wandered the floor and listened to the remainder of the set, and started off the rolls of black & white film, with one “so-so” band shot.

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Be-Bop Deluxe horizontal RE [Be-Bop Delu
The trio version of Be-Bop Deluxe opens the night’s show, from the floor

The band finished their set, but not before hearing at least one favorite of mine, “Ships in the Night” [and I do not recall if they received an encore, or not – most of the time, Louisville audiences, at that time, rarely did that for the opening acts].  After the house lights went back up, I made my way back to the spot I had chosen earlier, and awaited the arrival of the Patti Smith Group, to make their entrance.

The main event…

Even though Jay Dee Daugherty had told me I could climb on the drum kit, for all he cared, I did not take him at his literal word [because I just wasn’t born a wild child], but, as you shall see, I did manage to get some ‘damned decent photos’ of the band, as they were obviously energized from the momentum the new single and lp release had given them, since the last time we crossed paths a short month ago.  I was also held back, somewhat, from doing whatever I pleased, in terms of taking pictures from whatever vantage point I deemed worthy and available to me, by the fact that the opening band’s manager took issue with my “all access” photo pass to start the evening with …..

In spite of this, the band came out firing on all cylinders, and quickly had much of the audience in rapt attention.  This was the polar opposite of the energy level displayed at the Bogart’s club performance, earlier that year.


Patiently waiting for the band to settle into the set, and wanting to get a few close shots of Jay Dee, I stayed put, in the wings of the stage, for a bit, before moving a bit for other angles to shoot from.


Michael Conen - [PROOF] Jay Dee Daugherty horizontal profile LG
Jay Dee Daugherty from the side stage

After moving about a bit more, to get better sight lines, it wasn’t too long before I decided to make my way to the orchestra pit to shoot from.

But not before I managed to capture a few images that I quite like, as Patti moved back into the bowels of the stage, while the band worked out on some instrumental passages.

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith from the stage wings closeup
Far from the lights at the front of the stage
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith in bowels of stage faint lig
Patti Smith takes refuge behind the piano; Bruce Brody is “chained”, looking on

As the performance moved along, Patti and the band would shed layers of clothing, as it got quite hot, as the night progressed.

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Lenny Kaye from the right LG [Patti Smit
Lenny Kaye from the side of the stage; Ivan Kral in the distance

Ivan Kral, early on in the set, with his jacket still on, and as the set continued

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Lenny Kaye &amp; Ivan Kral vertical no 2 LG
Lenny Kaye and Ivan Kral

Bruce Brody was on the far left side of the stage for this evening, and I did not wander over to that side, since the piano rig was blocking some of the sight lines to the back of the stage, as a result.

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Andi Ostrowe backing vocals no 2 LG [Pat
Andi Ostrowe was no longer just observing the show from the wings, and was instead providing some backing vocals & a bit of percussion on certain tunes
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith commands the mic stand LG [P
Patti has taken command of stage center
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith &amp; Lenny Kaye horizontal LG [
By this time in the performance, I was well entrenched in the orchestar pit for angles like these to capture
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith has a scratch LG [Patti Smit
Patti has a thirst to quench, by this point, and an itch to scratch
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith demonstrative with guitar LG
Patti and her Rickenbacker; vest off; tie undone
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith arm raised with Rickenbacker
Patti is making her point
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith points with pick and guitar
And just to be sure
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith, Ivan Kral &amp; Bruce Brody hor
Bruce Brody observes while Patti scrapes the strings, and Ivan Kral riffs
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Ivan Kral guitar vertical LG [Patti Smit
Ivan Kral bounces to the beat
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Ivan Kral - "It's So Hard" LG [Patti Smi
Ivan Kral takes the lead vocal on John Lennon’s “It’s So Hard”…. notice Patti’s shadow on the stack of amps
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Lenny Kaye and bass LG [Patti Smith Grou
Lenny Kaye on Gibson Thunderbird bass guitar

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith relaxed vertical LG [Patti S
Patti has shed the vest and tie
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith hand to chest singing LG [Pa
Patti with hand held close – those hands have always been ever so expressive, in my humble opinion
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith vocals hands raised LG [Patt
Those hands again
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith shimmy vocals LG [Patti Smit
The hands have it
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Jay Dee Daugherty profile in motion RE [
Jay Dee Daugherty closeup from stage
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith intense moment LG [Patti Smi
Patti is emphatic
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Ivan Kral on bass LG [Patti Smith Group
Time for Ivan Kral to play the Gibson Thunderbird bass guitar

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith on one knee singing LG [Patt
This shot would suggest that someone has a photograph of me photographing them, on the other side of the stage, with Patti Smith as the focal point in the frame
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith "Space Monkey" RE LG [Patti
Patti Smith and “Space Monkey” from earlier in the set
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith "You Light Up My Life" RE LG
Patti with a lit cigarette, and her rendition of “You Light Up My Life”
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith "We're Gonna Have a Real Goo
Patti, from early in the set, and “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together”, from the Velvet Underground
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith vertical hands in pockets LG
Considerably later in the set, Patti has made herself more comfortable

To say that I am quite proud of most of these images, is an understatement.  It has taken a very long time for these images to be prepped for viewing, under conditions that I wanted considerable control over, and now it is possible to share working images, or “proofs” of digital scans, in exactly those conditions.  Many are the reasons for not being able to reproduce these images for wider consumption, before now, but, as they say, “better late, than never”.

As Patti Smith has been quoted as saying, “A writer, or any artist, can’t expect to be embraced by the people [but] you just keep doing your work — because you have to, because it’s your calling.”  It has been hard to keep at this, over the years, but I keep coming back to it, because the value is in the work, itself, for me. IF you love it, you *have* to do it….. and I do.

Equally important to remember: “Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful — be concerned with doing good work and make the right choices and protect your work. And if you build a good name, eventually, that name will be its own currency.” [Patti Smith quote]

None of these images you see here now, would have been possible, if it hadn’t been for the graciousness of Jay Dee Daugherty, way-back-when… He remembered a young kid, asking sincere questions about what he was up to, living in NYC, and being in the center of a hotbed of activity that many would still be writing about, and pointing to, as a pivotal period of time, in contemporary music history… and I owe you for that considerateness, Jay Dee.  At least, now, I can thank you, from afar.

Moreover: I was exceptionally lucky to have captured the band just as their fortunes would turn a corner, and a large wave of attention would fall on them. It would be some time yet, before spirits would flag, and the feeling that the ride was over, would take hold. On this particular night, many of those “possibilities are endless” were in evidence: with each song, a different guise would appear, and I was fortunate to be able to catch but a few of those fleeting moments.

Here’s hoping that each of you that happens across my blog, enjoy the images you found here, and if you wish to share some constructive criticism, please do, as I’d love to hear more of what people think about my “work”.

In closing, here are a couple more of my favorite images from the show:

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Jay Dee Daugherty closeup LG [Patti Smit
Jay Dee Daugherty. Not picture-perfect, but the feeling is just right
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Patti Smith all angles and lines RE LG F
Patti Smith crouches on one knee and becomes all angles and lines


Patti Smith official

Jay Dee Daugherty – Wikipedia

Bruce Brody – official

Just for a bit of fun….

dA-Zed Guide to Patti Smith

Another fun read [with many, many more words…

The Beat Patrol – Patti on the Rolling Stones

And, for a slice of the earlier phase of the group:

Patti Smith Group – live in Stockholm, 1976 [complete with interview segment]

Lenny Kaye website




While many of you who arrive here, to look at these photographs may get turned off to my use of watermarks [thinking they ruin the image], let me explain why I choose to do this.

No one paid for my camera equipment but me. No one paid for the film I used to take these photographs.  On occasion, when I free-lanced for a free monthly newsletter, and they published a photo of mine, the payment for each photograph barely paid for the fuel to get my vehicle to the show [when I *did* have a vehicle], and the film I used on that night. 

Not too many of my photos were published, at the time, because the artists I chose to capture images of, were not hugely popular then.  Hence, the old dictum, “Supply and Demand”; I had the supply, but the demand [pre-Internet], was not there. You can argue the relative merits of the quality of my work, and that is precisely what a blog offers:  a venue for discussion.

Back to the watermarks: no one is subsidizing my time to scan and then clean up the images I am presenting here. Start to finish, each negative will take approximately an hour-and-a-half to reach “proof” quality – which is what you will see here.  This is my labor of love, and until there is some measurable return on my efforts, what you see is what you get.