This set of photographs triggers a lot of memories for me: many of these artists featured prominently in my record collection; the appearance was a highly anticipated one in the Bay Area, resulting in a packed house; and a later performance in San Francisco by Syd Straw and her band would be a long evening of delight and some misadventure – thoughts of which stay with me to this day.
The Golden Palominos had already released three lps by this point in time, and were touring behind their most recent release, “Blast of Silence”, which had only just come out, weeks earlier. The very first lp, was quite a different beast from the next two, and the only real constant, between their stylistic differences, was the main driver of each collaborative release, Anton Fier, the drummer. Each of these recordings would also feature musicians of note, who would not often appear at live concerts, outside of the New York City area, such as Bill Laswell, Nicky Skopelitis and Carla Bley, among others.
The first, self-titled release, came out between the last vestiges of the experimental “No Wave” scene No Wave [music] – Wikipedia entry, and the founding of the Knitting Factory Knitting Factory – Wikipedia entry venue, which would spotlight artists of this particular sphere of work for many years afterward. Several artists who figured prominently in those musical adventures, found their way to recording with Mr. Fier, and several of his key co-composers, such as Peter Blegvad, who’d previously gained quite a reputation for his works with Dagmar Krause [a particular favorite of mine], Slapp Happy and Henry Cow.
By this point in time, many people who bought and listened to these lps, were fairly divided into two camps: ones who really loved the avant-jazz leanings of the first release; and those who preferred the more song-based releases. I owned all three, and had already been introduced to several other artists who had appeared on that first lp, whom I also gained an appreciation of, such as my much-loved Tenko album Tenko – Slope [Gradual Disappearance] – Discogs entry, that had been released on RecRec Music, and also featured collaborators on the first The Golden Palominos album, such as Arto Lindsay and Fred Frith.
However, the lps “Visions of Excess” and “Blast of Silence”, had made it clear that much of the more experimental elements of the first release, had been sidelined, for the time being, and the current touring outfit would be bringing more songs to perform, and who knew?….. “maybe?” some improvisations would make an appearance, during the live set?
You have to remember: this was before the Internet was ubiquitous. At this point in time, the only advance notice of what might occur at such live shows, was via telephone calls, or the occasional Fax message – both of which were not cheap to use, at the time.
In any event, it was not certain, even to those of us who worked in record stores at that time, who would be in the line-up, but rumor had it, there would be a surprise or two, in store for those who attended. Once again, I had planned to take my position at the left side of the stage, at the I-Beam, the evening of the show, but much to my surprise, that side had already been claimed, when I arrived, so, I quickly grabbed a spot to the right side, instead.
In terms of taking photos, I was a little dismayed, but as it turned out, it would favor me, in terms of getting good images of the “surprise guest”, as well as some very good images of most of the other musicians on that occasion. Unfortunately, this would the be second time I would hear Bernie Worrell as a member of the group, but could not line up a clear image of the man during the performance – see my Talking Heads images, here: “Where Were You?” Talking Heads at San Francisco Civic Center [December 6, 1983].
Instead, I would be able to get some fine images of most of the rest of the band, including Chris Stamey, Lisa Herman, Peter Blegvad, and Syd Straw. As usual, getting really satisfying images of the drummer, and in this case, the leader of the band, was a bit difficult.
Chris Stamey, of The dB’s The dB’s – biography entry, would basically be the only musician on the crowded stage that I could photograph, mostly at will, while many of the others were almost too close for my camera range, or would be blocked by mic-stands or others in the band.
The early to mid-80s were bubbling with all kinds of great releases, and about the same time that Syd Straw appeared on The Golden Palominos records, there happened to be a Homestead Records sampler, “Luxury Condos Coming to Your Neighborhood”, that came out, featuring a track which would catch my ear – in a big way – which was her song, called, “Listening to Elvis”. The song was a great fit, between subject matter, and her voice, and, as a result, would count me as a fan, ever since. This song would later lead to the storied evening, at Slim’s, in San Francisco, a number of years later, but, I digress….. Back to the I-Beam show.
While Syd Straw commanded many of the lead vocal duties during the evening, two others were alternating during certain songs, on vocals, keyboards and guitar: Lisa Herman, and Peter Blegvad.
As mentioned earlier, the rumors had been going round, for the weeks before the appearance, as to whether or not, the special guests on the tour would include Michael Stipe, of R.E.M.
Sure enough, he would appear, about halfway through the set, and sing on at least 2, maybe 3 songs[?]… “Boy (Go)” and “Clustering Train” from “Visions of Excess”, and perhaps one more [memory fails me, on this point]. I’d like to think that they performed “Omaha”, but that could be mistaken, on my part.
Being forced to the right side of the stage meant that when Mr. Stipe made his entrance, it just so happened that I was in a nearly perfect position to take a few close snapshots, before his contributions for the evening were over with. I’ve always thought that the members of R.E.M. were continually gracious about helping to shine a spotlight on others that they worked with, or admired, themselves, in the hope that their fan-base may have opened their ears to sounds they might never have happened across, otherwise. Although R.E.M. was slated to appear at a small nightclub that I used to work the door for, and occasionally deejay at, The Beat, in Louisville, Kentucky, back in 1982, it is a subject of continual debate that they actually ever made it there [I was informed by the owners that they had cancelled, to start playing bigger venues, so I did not make my way to the club that night]. It would be years later, that I would finally see the group, with Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians opening for them. Unfortunately, it was in a cavernous echo-chamber of a venue, and was not one of my favorite shows to have attended, over the years…..
A few decent images that feature Anton Fier, in action, with the others.
Anton Fier has continued to periodically release recordings under The Golden Palominos, to critical acclaim. It is a shame that these recordings have never sold as well as they should have, in my humble opinion. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, to have witnessed this many talents sharing one small stage, at the same time. One of the many other groups of people he has worked with, over the years, was one of the Pere Ubu line-ups, featuring David Thomas and Tony Maimone. Photos I took of both of these artists, appear on this post:
In closing, one of my favorite memories of this show, was the moment, between songs, when Syd Straw looked up at the huge steel beam, on the center-back stage wall, and commented, “I beam; you beam; we all beam…”
The story involving the Slim’s show, will be noted for your amusement, over on my other page, at some point in the near future “Where Was I?” I was here, on these dates: [ongoing]
Some more useful links, to learn more about the above artists and their works:
Photos of the opening act, Eddy Ray Porter, featuring Chuck Prophet, can be seen at this link:
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.