Another post, here, which was delayed for some time, simply because I could not place the exact date of this performance – and being a stickler for details, that bugs me! [Addendum: Found a page in one of my notebooks with a few show dates listed, and this was one of ’em…. cannot confirm yet, but as this was written down in the 90’s, I will roll with it, for now!]

These photos [and more, to be shared at some point in time], are the direct result of Henry Kaiser‘s generosity.  You see, he used to occasionally shop at a ’boutique’ record shoppe that I used to work at, in Oakland, California, called Asta’s Records.  Not only did we stock unusual out-of-print recordings, of all sorts, but my colleagues [John Seal and Lexy Green] and I used to make sure that we also carried “left-of-field”, or “experimental” releases, along with a healthy dose of alternative and mainstream new recordings on vinyl, and in some cases, CDs and tapes, during the mid, to late, 1980s; something which built a small, but avid group of loyal customers, as a result.

It would only be a matter of time before Mr. Kaiser would drop in, and check out the store and its contents, seeing as he lived not far away.  He would end up introducing himself, especially since he noticed we stocked titles [including his], which he was pleased by, and as time went along, he would drop in fairly regularly to see what out of print curios the owner had turned up, as well as look over our new releases.

At one point, John and Lexy initiated the idea with the owners, to start having live in-store [mainly acoustic] appearances, by local artists.  These featured short sets, over time, of performers like The Sneetches, Penelope Houston and the Birdboys, and, eventually, even Henry Kaiser would appear, solo, if memory serves, with a small array of his guitar effects in tow [on March 3rd, 1990].  These would coincide with promoting records that the aforementioned artists had just released.  There were a few other stores in the San Francisco Bay Area who had begun this tradition, earlier, but Asta’s was one of the few stores in the East Bay, at the time, which had adopted this promotional device.

Sneetches at Asta's flyer [6-10-8?]

One of the only in-store flyers, for Asta’s Records, that I still have

Since Mr. Kaiser become something of a “regular” visitor/customer, over time, discussions about music, and shows, would eventually arise, and it was during one of these discussions that our mutual appreciation for Richard Thompson‘s work, both solo, and his previous work with his wife, Linda Thompson, and also his Fairport Convention days, came up.  It was from such discussions, that eventually the subject of my fledgeling free-lance photography work arose.  The confluences of my love for music [and actively promoting it, through Asta’s]; the performance photography [and the occasional free-lance work with BAM Magazine]; led to some future work on a couple of projects that Henry Kaiser produced.

My records do not indicate if I covered the Crazy Backwards Alphabet performance, for BAM Magazine, or if it was by invitation of Mr. Kaiser.  In any event, I would later be invited to photograph a “work in progress”, at a recording session, and eventually, I would be given permission to photograph the French, Frith, Kaiser & Thompson shows, at the Ashkenaz, in Berkeley, also in March of 1990 [photos will appear on this blog, some time in the near future].

For now, enjoy the photographs taken of one version of Crazy Backwards Alphabet, which, on this occasion, featured John French [one-time member of the hugely influential Magic Band, who backed Don Van Vliet, [a.k.a. Captain Beefheart]; Andy West [founding member of Dixie Dregs]; Bob Adams [who is currently not performing music, from what I was told, but was involved in a few projects with Mr. Kaiser]; and Henry Kaiser, whose projects are too numerous to list here.  Links for these musicians, and their respective works, will follow the photos, at the end of this post.

Michael Conen - [PROOF] John French, Henry Kaiser & Andy West ho

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Henry Kaiser & Bob Adams horizontal LG [

Henry Kaiser & Bob Adams at Berkeley Square – Berkeley, California circa 1987

Michael Conen - [PROOF] John French, Henry Kaiser & Andy West ho

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Bob Adams horizontal LG [Crazy Backwards

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Henry Kaiser horizontal LG [Crazy Backwa

Michael Conen - [PROOF] John French, Henry Kaiser & Andy West ho

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Henry Kaiser & Bob Adams horizontal no 5

Michael Conen - [PROOF] John French, Henry Kaiser & Andy West ho


For further information on the artists involved in this particular project, check these following links:

Innerviews – Music Without Borders: Interview with Henry Kaiser

Starting point on John French:

John French – Wikipedia entry – Review of John French’s “Through the Eyes of Magic” book

Starting point on Andy West:

Andy West – Wikipedia entry

Andy West – Official website

Bob Adams:

Bob Adams – Discogs entry


Lastly, I want to thank Henry Kaiser for allowing me to photograph a couple of  his projects, when he did, and for being a genuinely nice guy [it’s been a long time since our last “hello”]. One of my photos [from the FFKT shows] was chosen to be included in the SST Records CD release of his collaborations with Fred Frith:

Fred Frith & Henry Kaiser – With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends? [Discogs entry]


Also, I would like the thank John French, for assisting me with identifying Bob Adams, in these photos, and for informing me of his status, as far as music is concerned.

Little did I know, in circa 1970, when I first surreptitiously heard “China Pig”, and then more, from the “Trout Mask Replica” LP,  would I one day wind up in California, and see & hear some of the many tangents that that group/recording would inspire and beget, perform live.  Good memories, and hopefully the photos will be met with a pleasant surprise for all those involved.  Constructive criticism, or corrections of the information contained in my posts, is always welcome.



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.