One more post, for now, digging back into the early days of my efforts at chronicling many of the shows I would attend, once I bought my Canon AE-1, and the Komuranon 80-210mm telephoto lens I decided that I could “afford”, in these pursuits. The Tamron telephoto zoom, on offer, at the time, cost nearly as much as the camera body – too rich for me, at the time, so I had to “make do”….
Fortunately, I would not have to use the telephoto zoom lens at too many of the club shows I would often find myself going to, once I had my own set of wheels to get around with. Every so often, I would alternate between lenses, in such situations, especially if I could not score a seat near the lip of the stage.
At this particular performance, as I recall, it wasn’t sold out, so it did not take much to find a seat near the front, for the second show, so I was able to get an unobstructed view to the proceedings, but the stage lighting was dark, so I had to break out the flash gear. As I have stated before, I did not wish to use a flash, if it could be avoided, simply because it is a distraction for the performers, and it creates less “dimension” in the images, in my opinion. On this occasion, one particular moment caught Roger McGuinn startled by the use of the flash…
Roger McGuinn, caught unprepared
It just so happened that I had been through a recent phase, lasting a few years, of Byrds-related audio-indulgence, which included the pre-Byrds “Beefeaters” recordings, which I had found during my weekly trips to the record/head shops in the Kentucky area.
An album I found in the dollar bins at one record store, back in the day…
This had led me to check out nearly every subsequent solo [or related] release by the former members, over the previous 5 years or so. David Crosby had been most active, pointing to his collaborations with C,S,N [and sometimesY], while Roger McGuinn had been busy keeping the Byrds‘ name active, as well as putting out several solid solo releases, after the final break-up of the band. I quickly have to state that my favorite Crosby release, is “If I Could Only Remember My Name”. Hands down – a masterpiece! His contributions to the Jefferson Starship lp, “Blows Against the Empire” are also noteworthy.
McGuinn had been quite busy in the early 70’s, and I was very fond of his “Cardiff Rose” lp, moreso than any of the other solo outings. That release appealed to me for a number of reasons: the stylistic variety and energy it contained; the input from Mick Ronson, of the Spiders from Mars, which lent a bit of an edge on certain tunes; and some of the ‘Englishness’ the lp also bore out, in its song selection. I’d been a fan of all things Ronson, for some time, owning both, “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” & “Play Don’t Worry”, from the time they were released…. It turns out that it was a very interesting convergence of many talents on that recording [the period of time, and collaborators]:
In fact, I had been extremely lucky to have seen him, as he toured with his short-lived group, called Thunderbyrd, when they opened for The Band, at the Gram Parsons’ Memorial Festival, in Lexington, Kentucky, on July 3, 1976.
I’d also purchased all of the solo Gene Clark lps that had been released, up to that point in time, and had grown particularly fond of “No Other”. It bore some resemblance in tone and style, to a few other artists I was also listening to, at that point in time, including Iain Matthews and Southern Comfort, and his project, Plainsong. Great songs, with ample harmonies, and some production flourishes that may have been considered a bit “over the top” by some, but for these ears, they still sound as great as they did, at first listen. It is with the passage of time, that production values that existed on recordings made by such artists as Lee Hazlewood would become the “norm” in alternative circles, by the late 1990s, and be considered more acceptable, in general, to a younger generation or two of listeners. In the late 70s, there was a backlash against “polish”, and an emphasis on “rough and ready”, instead. Be that, as it may, I was thoroughly excited to see both artists, whether with a backing band, or simply as a duo [no info was forthcoming from the adverts at the time].
Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn harmonize
A lot of my enthusiasm for “all-things-Byrds” was further fueled by friends made all through the 1970s, one of whom had promoted a middle-period Byrds‘ concert, at a time when they weren’t so much on many people’s radar…. He was an avid listener/fan of the group, and I had many a good hour of discussing the band and their influences on many other musicians, before he met an untimely, and rather unfortunate end to life, which came as quite a shock to his small circle of friends, in Lexington, Kentucky, at the time.
Those discussions had me very eager to check out Gene Clark, performing live, for the first time, and to be able to enjoy the harmonizing with Roger McGuinn and his 12-string playing, was also going to be a treat.
Gene Clark switches to a Telecaster for this number, with McGuinn duetting
As it would turn out, since this was the late show, of two performances that evening, I had learned that it was sometimes possible to linger around after the show, and sometimes the artists would venture out from the upstairs “backstage” area, and hand out in the restaurant area at the front of Bogart’s, whether just to catch a meal, have a beer, or meet the public…. As luck would have it, they were both pretty quick to take a place in the restaurant, and started to meet with some local press people.
I found an opportunity, to hang out on the fringes of this gathering of maybe 10 people, and just listened for a bit, a table’s length away from Gene Clark, as Roger McGuinn was the center of attention, for the moment. From the outset, it was clear that McGuinn wasn’t very happy with the line of questions being thrown his way: “Dylan” this…… and “Dylan” that.…. hardly ever mentioning any of his own career or compositions. This went on for some time, with about four different interviewers, with their tape recorders and notebooks, prodding for answers to questions that anyone who paid attention, would have noticed, were getting nowhere with the interviewee…
After a short time, I noticed that no one was asking Gene Clark any questions, so I worked up the courage to break the ice, and make a couple of comments of my own, regarding his career, in hopes of getting some of his attention, and maybe lightening the atmosphere, somewhat…. I seized the chance to tell him that I had purchased his “No Other” lp, and thought it was a truly fine record, with one great song after another. He briefly turned his attention away from the small circus going on at the next table, and politely said something along the lines of “That’s nice of you to say”. I emphasized that I thought “Silver Raven”, the title song, and “From a Silver Phial” were such tremendous compositions to listen to, repeatedly. He looked quite distracted [and probably not that interested in chatting with a 20-something male fan], and responded, “I wish I had a silver phial, right about now”, while looking me right in the eyes.
I had no real idea what he was referring to, simply because I was not yet really exposed to that side of the rock ‘n’ roll life yet, in which tiresome hours – days and weeks at a time – would be broken up by interludes shifting between, or even blurring together, dalliances with adoring fans, willing to go to great lengths to get close to their idols, if only for one night, and the pills and powders that often are found in the shadows of the same times and places these performers would inhabit for a short while. In short, his retort caught me “off guard”, and it was in that delayed moment, that Roger McGuinn decided that he’d had enough, and called out to the road manager that it was “time to go”, and my attempt to praise Mr. Clark’s work, came to an abrupt end.
Gene Clark in an unflattering light, sadly revealing some of the weariness he must have been experiencing, at the time.
While there was a bit of hesitation about the exact date of this performance, thanks to my lackadaisical record-keeping, I am fairly certain of this date, thanks to some research on the Internet, which turned up some photos and video footage, from a possible earlier booking, which could not be this night, due to Roger McGuinn‘s length of hair, in those other images, from 1977.
For example, have a look at footage from a short time earlier….
A review from the early show, in the local paper:
On a side-note, an article / interview with Chris Hillman, which has some relevance:
It would be remiss of me, not to mention that so much great material came out, within years of these tours, and shortly before and after his untimely death. His range of material, from working with the Gosdin Brothers, and The Dillards, and his more popular work, simply speaks to the restless spirit that he was. We are fortunate that his voice has been recorded so much, for posterity. One of the many artists, along with his occasional writing and singing partner, Roger McGuinn, that I was fortunate to see & hear perform live. My only regret, is not to have seen the later trio of McGuinn, Clark & Hillman perform! Here’s hoping you enjoy the photographs.
An intermittent blog about Roger McGuinn:
Since I first posted this entry, it was a pleasant surprise to be contacted by the kind person who runs this very nice website, dedicated to the life and work of Gene Clark. She has been gracious enough to ask to use a few of my photos on her boards, and I would encourage you to take some time and visit the site. It is most informative and time well-spent:
NOTE: A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE WATERMARKS ON MY WORK
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.