michaelconen "where were you?"

concert photography and recollections

About

Before the bit about introducing myself, below, let me start by spotlighting my work, that has been published, in one-form-or-another, over the years.  All of these images are related to music, in some manner.  Like my very first images published, and credited, after my days as staff photographer for my high school yearbook staff…

Easy links to the different stories & publications:

Print Media Early 1980s
Riding the Rails 1984 Pretenders UK Tour Book
BAM Magazine Mid-1980s
Swans Book and Film
BAM Magazine Latter Half 1986
Conspiracy of Hope Tour 1986 San Francisco
Negativland Escape From Noise
Fred Frith and Henry Kaiser – With Enemies Like These Who Needs Friends?
Option Magazine – The Jesus and Marychain
Forrest Fang – World Diary CD
BBC Films: Music Moguls – Moneymakers
Sky Arts Films: Donovan and The Beatles in India
The Flaming Lips, Wayne Coyne Looks Back – Rolling Stone Magazine, June 2018

One of my university buddies, John Fogle, had invited me along to some recording sessions he was taking part in, at the time.  I had already taken performance shots of his primary band, Stryker, and he had suggested to Doug Rose, that he might want to use my work for his upcoming self-released long player [LP].  I had done very little “cameo snapshot” work, previously, but after some discussion, it was agreed that I would take the photos, in exchange for him doing some repair work on my beloved Gibson Melody Maker; mainly on the frets and neck of the guitar.

Mr. Rose was a noted luthier & guitar repairman, to begin with, and once we concluded the photo arrangements and I had delivered the pictures, he returned my repaired guitar, and at that point, earnestly urged me to sell the Melody Maker to him, as he said he fell in love with playing it.  As I had only owned it for barely 2 years, and found that it suited my needs so well, I felt that I had to politely turn him down on the offer.  I have never regretted that decision; it has only been “set up” once, in all these years, after he originally did that for me…. I have swapped out some gear on that guitar [tuning pegs and bridge], but it always played infinitely well, after his very careful work.

Soon, those days of living in Lexington were over, and I would move back to Louisville. Eventually, I would start getting much busier with my photography efforts, as well as trying my hand [briefly], at playing in a band, as well…..

Print Media Early 1980s

**

– Print Media –

The earliest “publishing” of my photos, [aside from those used on Doug Rose’s lp, above] took place within an internal newsletter for a retail music chain store, that I worked at, for a couple of years.  While this was only seen by fellow employees throughout the mid-South and Southeast of the country, it *did* manage to get my name “out there”, a wee bit.

Variety newsletter complete
The first of many record store gigs I would have, over the years – and some promotion of my work, found in the chain-wide newsletter [September of 1981].

I haven’t reworked the Foreigner images, just yet, but have touched up a few of my Stones’ images, from the ’78 tour, such as the one of Mick Jagger, found in the newsletter.

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Mick Jagger & Strat (post) SM [The Rolli
Mick Jagger, at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio [7-1-78]

The earliest examples of a true publication that chose to include photos of mine, was a Louisville newsletter, called “Mainstreet“.  The local scene was beginning to be noticed – not by the standard newspapers so much – but writers for such independent publications were devoting an increasing amount of their word allotment in their music columns, to the original bands found in Louisville’s backyard.  This would lead to one impromptu promotional band shot of The Modernheirs being used in music-beat writer Cindy Lamb‘s column, “Lamb Chops“, where she would review new music releases, as well as spotlight local gigs and musical artists.

Lamb Chops column with Modernheirs pic
My first print media photo credit, in 1982 [albeit, with my family name mis-spelled].  This would happen, again and again… The release of the film, “Conan the Barbarian”, helped a bit with people learning to pronounce it correctly, but the name is still misprinted, from time to time.
Riding the Rails 1984 Pretenders UK Tour Book

***

“Riding the Rails, For a Brief Time, Anyway”

Following my adventures in 1980-81, ping-ponging between Kinks and Pretenders‘ shows [links to follow, below], I had kept in touch with Real Records‘ head office in London, about the possible use of some of my images, since Chrissie Hynde had suggested doing so, after seeing a few examples of my work, after a Nashville show, on the 1981 tour of the States.   These communications kept up, from the time several dates had to be postponed at the end of that same U.S. tour, through the tragic events concerning Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott, and the eventual re-emergence of the group, at the end of 1983.  Once the news that the band would be booking tours again, I finally had some prints to send for consideration, and, at the last possible moment, it was relayed to me, that my photos arrived the morning that the proofs for the UK tour book were being sent to the printer’s.  That same communique informed me that upon seeing one of my images, Chrissie insisted that it replace another photo that was going to be used for the back cover!  I was stunned at this news, and very pleased to be told that I would receive a copy, as soon as they were back from printing. The downside of this set of circumstances, due to the timing, was the fact that I would not have my name included in the credits, as they had no time to correct the corresponding type, as the deadline to deliver the materials was the morning that this decision was made.  So, I was informed that there was a potential for the same image to be used in the U.S. tour book, but that decision was still to be determined, at a later point in time….

Several weeks later, the tour book arrived in the mail, and to say that I was pleased, is not the half of it!  This was a moment of personal pride, to have my work picked to adorn promotional materials for an artist that I had been following from the very start of their arrival on the airwaves in the States – photo credit, or no photo credit!  Contact with Real Records also included a response to my request, to be officially allowed to photograph their appearance in San Francisco, on February 27, 1984.  Much time had passed since the adventures experienced on the ’81 tour, and the intervening years meant that it might be difficult to, once again, get complete permission [stage access, this time], to take my photos, as Chrissie was still not so keen on being photographed – and more so, since the press was quite primed about covering her “return” to performing live again, and prying into her personal life [which had been quite eventful during the previous years].

To make a long story short: payment for the use of the photograph, was delayed for some time, until eventually, just before the band hit town, I was informed that payment details would be concluded at the venue, when I would meet with Mr. Dave Hill.  Upon arriving at the Civic Center, I was given my press/photo pass, and told where I was to wait for further instructions.  While waiting in the halls at the front of the venue, I happened to see a familiar face, and gave a hopeful wave, which was greeted with a smile.  “Tattoo Dave”, the onstage sound engineer, made his way over, and gave me a warm “Hello!”  I told him that I wasn’t sure he’d recognize me, but he quickly assured me that he always remembered those who’d been kind to him and the crew, on previous tour[s].  He even told me that I had to seek him out, after the show, so we could catch up some more, and hang out at the gatherings sure to take place at the hotel they were staying in – he guaranteed it would be fun.  After excusing himself, as he needed to get to work, I continued waiting for word from Dave Hill.  Eventually, an assistant found me, and told me a number to call at their hotel, since he couldn’t come down to the venue, at that time…..  The phone call was “all business“:  quick pleasantries were exchanged, and then I asked what they were prepared to pay for the use of my image.  The first figure was a shock, to say the least, and I retorted that I had been waiting months to be paid, and on top of that, the picture was used on the [back] cover of the tour book; was uncredited; and upon seeing the rest of the photographs in the programme, it was easily one of the best pictures found in it [unsurprisingly, the U.S. tour book had been completely redesigned, and without my photo used, this time]!  His response was that the budget for such a publication was very small, so he was not able to offer much.  I informed him that I was aware of budgets for the printing of such publications [based on my high school yearbook duties, years earlier], and that his defense was not being that sincere.  After he heard this, he tossed off a figure that more than doubled his original quote, “… take it, or leave it!”.  Sensing that it would not be in my interest to push things any further, I accepted.  I was informed that a check would be sent, within days, from their U.S. offices, to conclude the matter.  I thanked him for arranging for the photo pass, and told him I’d send prints, in due time.

Free now, to roam the halls until the start of the show, I wandered around, and discovered the banquet area for the performers, and seeing Ms. Hynde helping herself to some salad, I was looking for an appropriate moment to approach her, to thank her for her kindness in the past [and for selecting the photo to be used on the programme].  Unfortunately, as I was finding my nerve, she suddenly raised her voice to the security personnel in the area, as to what this guy was doing, hanging around, disturbing her!!?

In rapid succession, the ever-polite Stan Tippins [tour manager], was summoned, and as Chrissie glanced at my photo pass, she told him that I was forbidden from taking photos that night!  Stan took her aside for a moment, and they held a very brief conversation, which I could see was not making matters any less tense…. Stan came back to take me from the “quarantine” of the securitymen, and escorted me to the areas outside the barriers leading backstage.  During the exchanges, he told me that he remembered me, and had been told, back in London, to expect me.  As we walked out, he told me that Chrissie had been in “a mood” since the start of the tour, and that everyone was tense, as a result.  He went on to say that he was very sorry about what had just happened, but that there was nothing he could do, to change her mind.  She had wanted me to be ejected from the premises, but Stan had somehow convinced her to allow me to stay for the show – just without any permission to shoot photos.  Chrissie also told him that I was not to come anywhere near the stage area, during the performance, or I could expect to be thrown out.  In closing, he told me to respect her wishes, and not cause any trouble, but he expected to see me after the show, at the hotel, to have a chance to catch up a bit.  I told him that “Tattoo Dave” had also told me to meet up after the show, so Stan smiled, and said he expected me to definitely be there, afterward.

Let down by what had just transpired, I roamed the outer hall, with a couple of friends, for much of the show, since there was no point in trying to find a place close enough to see and hear the performance, with any real satisfaction, and especially in that venue.   Once it was over, I made my way over to the hotel lobby, and waited until “Tatto Dave” spotted me, and then we headed into the hotel, to seek out where the parties were, after taking a short time to catch up beforehand [lots of discussion concerning what was different about this tour, compared to the previous ones, as well as how he remembered me and my pals from the ’81 tour, and more…].  I would see Stan Tippins again, briefly, once we made our way to the parties, and had the opportunity to tell him thank you for everything he did for us, back on the ’81 tour.  He told me to “best enjoy” myself, and he had to get back and take care of matters that were always a part of being a road manager. A few curious things occurred at those parties, but best kept to myself, for now.

Like a roller coaster ride, there was a slow climb to the heights of joy, over this experience, only to come crashing back down to Earth – very quickly.  But, the landing was made less crushing, by the kindness of two souls who owed me nothing, and still gave of themselves, in a manner that made all of the difference…

Photographs of mine of the Pretenders’ U.S. tours of 1980 & 1981:
“Where Were You?” The Pretenders, at Louisville Memorial Auditorium, Louisville Kentucky [September 4, 1980] “The Preface”

“Where Were You?” The Pretenders on Tour in the U.S. [August & September 1981]

Also connected; The Kinks on tour, about the same period of time:
“Where Were You?” – The Kinks perform in Louisville, Kentucky [1980 & 1982]

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BAM Magazine Mid-1980s

***

The next chapter of this little saga, also takes place after my move to California, where, after a couple of years, I was finally settled enough to attempt an approach with another newsletter – only this publication was older, and had a much wider circulation in Northern & Southern California.  I located, and then visited, the local office for BAM Magazine [a.k.a., “Bay Area Musician“], and after showing a few examples of my work from a number of major acts who appeared in Kentucky, the editor told me that they already had a number of staff photographers who covered the major acts, but they had an occasional need for photos of new, or up-and-coming performers, who had not hit “The Big Time” yet.  That appealed to me greatly, because I was more interested in seeing performers in a club setting, where you could actually get close to the stage and really enjoy the sights and sounds! The aforementioned editor, Keith Moerer, asked if I could leave a few photos with him, for possible use later, and then after getting my contact information, he told me that he would be in touch, when some shows no one else was choosing to photograph became available.

About the time the first few assignments came along, BAM chose to use one of my photos of Dave Davies of the Kinks, in a brief “news item”, they ran, in October of 1985.

For more images of The Kinks, and my recollections on those shows, and much more:
“Where Were You?” – The Kinks perform in Louisville, Kentucky [1980 & 1982]

***

My first “big” break, was to get to see and photograph The Cocteau Twins, on their first tour of the West Coast of the U.S., when they stopped in San Francisco.  This was one of the few times that I borrowed a special lense [wide angle], in anticipation of trying to capture more, from what was becoming clear, after having done a few of these club shows; by now, I would have to “stake out” a spot, at the lip of the stage, early, and be content to stay there, for the duration of the show.

This was a conscious decision, for I wanted the best angle possble to shoot from, and to enjoy watching and listening to all of the performers who appeared on any evening’s bill.  Most of the time, I would get to a show early enough to pick out my favorite angle- left side of the stage – so I could easily frame most guitarists playing their instruments, while displaying as much of the body and neck of the guitar, as possible.

For the Cocteaus, I had not anticipated just how fervent the curious would be, and it was already crowded on the left side, so I had to camp out on the right side of the stage, instead.  As it turned out, this was a fortunate occurrance.  I was able to get some very satisfying frames of everyone on that stage, for their set, and, another shot would be used to accompany a feature story in a subsequent issue of BAM, in December, 1985.

Liz Fraser closeup hands clasped [Cocteau Twins - Wolfgang's, SF
The original image of Liz Fraser, used in the BAM article

More shots and the story are found, here: “Where Were You?” The Cocteau Twins at Wolfgang’s, in San Francisco [September 17,1985]

***

In March, 1986, the L.A. edition of BAM chose a photo I had taken of Natalie Merchant, performing with 10,000 Maniacs, in Berkeley, California, the previous year, to run with a live review of a show in Southern California.

Ten Thousand Maniacs live review BAM [3-28-86] ephemera 1
From a review, printed March 28, 1986
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Natalie Merchant hands touching at finge
10,000 Maniacs Berkeley Square Berkeley, California, in 1985

More frames of 10,000 Maniacs, from that evening’s performance:
“Where Were You?” 10,000 Maniacs at Berkeley Square, Berkeley CA [April 12th, 1986]

***

Another show that I was very curious to see [and none of the other contributing photographers was even mildly interested in, from what I remember], was Swans, when they performed at the Mabuhay Gardens, in S.F.

Again, a frame from that evening’s performance was used to accompany a short passage on the group, in July, 1986, for BAM.  This time, I attempted to work a vivid color frame into a “workable” black & white image [since color was out of the question, except for cover shots].  My darkroom skills were not really all that well-honed, but the “proof” that I gave them, was selected, in any event.  I was not complaining:  the more BAM used the images, the more shows I would get to attend!

Swans BAM [June July 1986] ephemera

Michael Conen -  Michael Gira bellows [The Swans - Mabuhay Garde
A difficult image to bring to fruition, but a favorite of mine

For more about that very impressive evening, and a selection of images:

“Where Were You?” Swans – The Mabuhay Gardens, San Francisco [April 12, 1986]

Swans Book and Film

As it turns out, over the past two years [2018 & 2019], interest in my photographs from this Swans‘ performance, attracted the attention of two separate projects: one, a book on Michael Gira and Swans; the second, a documentary film on the the group.

Both projects include some of my images.

The book, “Swans – Sacrifice and Transcendence (The Oral History)” by Nick Soulsby, features a different image of mine from that evening [see below]

swans-cover-only

Michael Conen -  Jarboe, Michael Gira and Al Kizys horizontal [T
Swans, featuring Jarboe, Al Kizys & Michael Gira, at the Mabuhay Gardens, in S.F.

The above photographs, plus a few more, were used in Marco Porsia‘s film documentary, “Swans – Where Does a Body End?”.

Swans - body end promo poster

Head over to here, and look for the trailer to this special feature:
Swans – Where Does a Body End? home page/trailer

BAM Magazine Latter Half 1986

***

July, 1986, was a very busy month, as far as BAM and I were concerned…. two more pictures were used to accompany live listings for upcoming shows [images taken from earlier appearances by these artists, that I had covered, during the previous year].

The above image of Jon Langford, was taken at a Three Johns show, at the I-Beam, in San Francisco, to advertise an upcoming Mekons performance, at Club DV8, in S.F. [I also attended that performance, and captured some very pleasing shots].  Both shows, and my recollections of the evenings, are found at these links:
“Where Were You?” The Three Johns, at The I-Beam, San Francisco [May 5, 1986]

“Where Were You?” – This is the place to view some of my concert photos, and to start: Mekons

Also appearing that month, was another shot, used to promote an upcoming Tuxedomoon show.  I also captured this image of Steven Brown, at a Club DV8 date:

See more images from that evening’s performance, here:

“Where Were You?” – Tuxedomoon, Live at Club DV8, San Francisco CA [May 30, 1986]

***

As the year wound on, it would be filled with some excellent shows, and a few more images would make their way into the pages of BAM, including a brief passage on the Mekons, appearing at an acoustic in-store appearance at Reckless Records, in S.F., that I also attended [not on assignment – just because I needed to be there!].

Mekons BAM [9-5-86] ephemera
BAM spotlight on Mekons, from the September 5, 1986 issue
Michael Conen - Acoustic group bright 8 [The Mekons - Reckless R

A rollickin’ good time, every time this group appears, guaranteed!

More images taken from several appearances in the Bay Area, of Mekons:

“Where Were You?” – This is the place to view some of my concert photos, and to start: Mekons

***

Later, in September, another review would feature one of my live shots; this time, of Kim Gordon and Sonic Youth, when they performed at the I-Beam, in San Francisco.

Sonic Youth review BAM [9-16-86]

Kim Gordon & Thurston Moore moving behind 3 [Sonic Youth - I Beam, SF 7-7-86]
Nice image of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore with available lighting of Sonic Youth, on July 7, 1986

More on the Sonic Youth performance with my pictures, found here:
“Where Were You?” Sonic Youth at The I-Beam, San Francisco [July 7, 1986]

***

Conspiracy of Hope Tour 1986 San Francisco

***

Up to this point, these publications of my images, and their sequence, has been fairly chronological, but right in the middle of 1986, I would manage to wrangle my way into covering a major concert event, simply because I had caught wind of its plans, at the beginning of the year – before many others had learned of it.

As soon as I had the planned time-frame in hand, I went and informed Keith Moerer, the editor of BAM, that I wanted to get “dibs” on shooting this show, since I was letting him know, before he and the rest of the staff had learned about it taking place ….. I was told that he would do what he could – since it was only fair – now that I had been doing my bit to cover some of the alternative shows, for the past year, or more – but no guarantees were made, at that point in time…  I continued with the assignments that came up, as they came along, but each time I went to hand in my prints for consideration, I would remind Keith of what I had requested/insisted on.  At the beginning, there was little reluctance in his answers, and he kept assuring me that it would probably be okay.

In the meantime, I reasoned that I would have to compromise my usual working methods, and look into using a powerwind motor for my camera – something I had not used, since the days of shooting high school football games for the yearbook staff, over a decade before.  About a month before the June 4th date, I was told by Keith that there was mounting pressure to use one photographer from BAM, and that since I was a free-lancer, and not a veteran staff photographer, it was under consideration to give the assignment to someone else…. Not wanting to be rude [and burn my bridges], I reminded him of who had informed he [and BAM], months before the public announcement, and the request that he had entertained from me, at the time.  Luckily, for me, he went to bat for me, and managed [somehow], to make sure that I was given the gig!

I loaded up on film, and prepared, as best I could, considering this was becoming “a big deal“, with all kinds of names being tossed around, as to who would be taking part.  In addition, Bill Graham Presents [BGP], which was in charge of the juggernaut, was changing the arrangements for the press, on a seemingly daily basis….  By this time, it had become “de rigueur” practice, at all major shows, for photographers to be allowed only the first 3 songs of the headliner’s set, to take their pictures, and then they would be forced to remove themselves from the stage areas for the rest of the show [unless they had direct permission from the artist’s or their management, themselves].

At the club shows, this was rarely an issue, as the arrangements were usually made with the venue, and if there were special requests from the artists, concerning photos [such as no flash used], they would be given to the photographers, upon arrival, and then worked out.  Well, BGP, over the course of the final week before the date, went from a “half-set” limit, to 3 songs [the norm], and then down to only the first 2 songs for each act….  The last instructions, the day before the show, required the photographers to appear at the Cow Palace parking grounds, just outside the load-in area, to meet with BGP officials, for official clearance, and final instructions.  It was only the day before the show, that I was finally informed that I was given the “go ahead” to be representing BAM [I was never sure whether or not other photographers who were on the staff, managed to secure an “in”, through other publications, or not, as I did not recognize anyone that I knew, on the day of the show, that I saw there…].  I thanked Keith for sticking to his word, when he informed me, and told him that I’d do the best I could, to justify his faith in my work.

Well, the meeting at the Cow Palace was surreal: dozens of photographers from all sorts of major publications were there, and we were made to wait for considerably longer than our 2:00 PM appointment time, which was making some of those waiting, rather annoyed/anxious.  Finally, a few people came out of the building, and brusquely informed us that there were new changes to the arrangements: the allotted time to take photos was now limited to 1 song; and everyone had to agree to be led to-and-from a separate backstage area – without exception – or they would be kicked out of the venue, if found to have not to have followed this – and any other instructions their minders gave them.  In addition, we all had to sign a release that stated that our photos could only be used in the publications that we were representing on that day, or directly for Amnesty International – only, from that day forward….. That was met with incredualous pushback from more than a few photographers [especially the non-music publications, like Newsweek, or the like], but not from me – I was determined to see this through!  As the complaints grew, the BGP representative cut things short, by telling everyone, that would have to sign the release, or pack up and leave – “take it or leave it”.  A few of us pushed forward to get the papers, and a clipboard to fill it out with, while a few others had made up their minds to take “option # 2”, and left.

Once the papers were signed, we were led inside, to the designated area; introduced to the minders and their leaders; informed/reminded again that we had one song to shoot; and, that if you were not ready at the time the minders called us to line up and follow them to the stage area, then you would not be permitted to “catch up” with the others.  Instead, you would have to wait for the start of the next set, to have another chance….  Additionally, there would be two areas on either side of the stage that all photographers would be allowed to shoot from; no one was to position themselves along the “front and center” area of the performance stage.  Again, that would lead to an immediate ejection from the premises.  After being informed of these “guidelines”, I immediately resolved to position myself near as possible, to the entry/exit area of our “pen”, in order to get first crack at positioning myself in my favorite area: stage left.

The experience was unpleasant, as far as the draconian oversight, and ridiculous time restrictions to shoot with [for some artists, like Peter Gabriel, the song would last roughly 5 minutes, or longer; whilst U2‘s opener, Eddy Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody”, barely lasted a minute — intentional on their part?  Made me wonder, I have to admit…]. In retrospect, it was a wise decision to use the powerwind, after all.

The pleasant part of the experience, was discussing the experience [and other assignments], with the assembled photographers, while we killed the time between sets, listening to the dull thud of drums, and echoes, from behind the stage area, trying to make out what songs were being performed by the different artists who assembled that night.  One photographer, whom was on assignment from Time Magazine, if I remember correctly, was quite informative about his usual assignments, and displayed no attitude, whatsoever, to this “green guy” on his first major event, of this magnitude.  There was also a moment or two of amusement, when, at a certain point before Peter Gabriel’s set, one of the professionals had noticed that I was managing to get in position, rather nimbly, and overhearing my conversations with some of the others, figured out that I probably knew “who was who” in the bands that were performing.  Just before being led out, he asked me, “Which one is Peter Gabriel?  Who should I be looking for when we get out there?”  We were called to head out, at that moment, and I hurriedly told him, “He’ll be the one playing keyboards – or standing front and center – singing!”.  This guy followed me out, and just as we hit the stage area, I turned and pointed to Gabriel, much like footsoldiers in trenches would be communicating to each other, during a battle…. which is what the whole experience was, unfortunately, remains my impression, to this day.  There was little time to take in the performances, as it was imperative to get in position, and begin firing the camera shutter, in order to get as many frames as possible, for each artist, and, at the same time, not waste any film, if at all possible, so as not to run out before the show was over…..

The following images are what were eventually published [most of them, anyway], by BAM, in October 1986.  These are scans of the original copies of BAM, that are in my possession, and keeping my word to Amnesty International, I am not posting any “upgraded” images from my negatives, as I have done above.  These published photographs would result in my biggest payday from BAM, for the duration of time that I free-lanced for them, but over the course of the next year, staff changes, and a few other circumstances would lead to me parting ways with that publication…..  Soon enough, other opportunities would arise, dealing directly with musicians in the Bay Area, which were much more satisfying, if not necessarily so profitable.

Amnesty poster

Amnesty BAM Nevilles [7-11-86] ephemera 3
Amnesty BAM Sting [7-11-86] ephemera 4Amnesty BAM Gabriel [7-11-86] ephemera 1

***

Negativland Escape From Noise

As mentioned earlier, I had begun to meet several independent musicians at my day job – working at a small “mom and pop” record store, where collectibles would be sold, alongside new releases from all manner of genres.  Those days are memorable, because it afforded the opportunity to have some very interesting conversations with quite a variety of customers: musicians, critics, passionate music lovers, and the occasional personality,  who might stroll through the neighborhood, and take a peek at what Asta’s Records had to offer.  These discussions would lead to a few of such artist’s works to include photos of mine.  In 1987, a handfull of shots I had taken of Negativland, opening for Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel, at the I-Beam the previous year, would wind up being used for the libretto that was included on Negativland’s “Escape From Noise”.  That happened due to one of the driving forces of the band, Mark Hosler, dropping in to make sure that Asta’s was carrying their catalogue in the store’s “Experimental Music” section.  I was very pleased to have more of my work published, and especially because this release is a particulary strong one, by the group.  It was also showing that my interest in documenting what is now referred to as “alternative” artists, had instinctively been a good decision, in retrospect [see: Swans‘ book & documentary examples, above].

The images in the libretto are credited to “Eye Wonder”, rather than my formal name.  This was the result of my short-lived attempt to create a working entity, officially, as a professional photography concern; short-lived, because almost immediately after registering the name with my partner, she basically left town, and I was left, well, holding the bag…. The partnership was intended to create studio work, as well as promote my concert photography, but ’twas not to be.

More on the Negativland performance, here:
“Where Were You?” Negativland at the I-Beam, San Francisco CA [3-10-86]

Additional photos of Jim Thirlwell, as Foetus, from the same evening:
“Where Were You?” Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel – I Beam, SF [March 10, 1986]

***

Fred Frith and Henry Kaiser – With Enemies Like These Who Needs Friends?

Another “semi-regular” customer to pop into Asta’s Records, at the time, was the musician Henry Kaiser.  Many conversations with him were also related to our “Experimental Music” section, as well as other artists of mutual interest, such as Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Richard Thompson and his various musical collaborations, and some of the eclectic LPs that the owner of Asta’s would turn up with, on his weekly vinyl hunts.  Those discussions about Richard Thompson, in particular, would eventually lead to being allowed to take photos of the first appearance of the group, French, Frith, Kaiser & Thompson, when they appeared in Berkeley, California. Mr. Kaiser had seen my Richard & Linda Thompson photos from their 1982 U.S. tour, and he was also aware of Negativland‘s decision to include a few of my pictures on one of their projects, on the SST Records imprint.

After giving him a selection of the images from the FFKT performances, he was keen to use one image of he and Fred Frith, for a compilation CD-only title that SST Records was also releasing.  Of course, I was very happy to have another work of mine to “make the cut“, and be included on another musician’s production!

Fred Frith & Henry Kaiser - With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends CD insert

Michael Conen - [PROOF] Henry Kaiser & Fred Frith horizontal sep
Henry Kaiser & Fred Frith, from the French, Frith, Kaiser, Thompson performances at Club Ashkenaz, in Berkeley, California [3-8-87]

For more images of Henry Kaiser, along with John French, of Magic Band reknown, see my entry on “Where Were You?” – The Crazy Backwards Alphabet show:
“Where Were You?” – Crazy Backwards Alphabet at the Berkeley Square, Berkeley CA [circa 1987]

For those images of Richard and Linda Thompson, performing live, see here:
“Where Were You?” Richard and Linda Thompson, at The Second Story – Bloomington, Indiana [May 29, 1982]

***

OPTION Magazine – The Jesus and Marychain

About the same point in time, I had submitted a few photographs to the magazine, Option”Option Music Magazine – Wikipedia entry, hoping to draw some interest in more of the artists that I had captured images of, over the preceding few years.  They specialized in covering less-well-known artistes, so I thought it was a logical move on my part.  Indeed, there was interest, but they were operating “in the red“, as they say in the accounting world, at that time, and while they did publish at least one example of my work, there was little chance of more instances of that happening, as communications were “muted”, at best.  I would just have to keep plugging along….

Option [March April 1988] with JAMC
This image of the Reid brothers, from the  Jesus and Marychain, appeared in 1988, within this issue of “Option”
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Jim & William Reid vertical flash no 2 L
Jim & William Reid, at the I-Beam, SF [12-17-85]

***

Forrest Fang – World Diary CD

Another regular visitor to Asta’s Records, for much of the time it was open, was the musician/composer Forrest Fang.  He and I hit it off rather well, as we shared many musical tastes, and once I knew he also recorded his own compositions, we arranged to sell some of his vinyl releases, on a consignment plan, originally.  A few artists would sell their works in this manner through Asta’s, until their works could be obtained through a wholesale distributor.  Forrest’s works would continue to be stocked at the store, until the point at which the owners decided to close their doors, and sold their lease to another outfit, just as the Internet exploded, in the late 80’s.

I would “tread water” for a time, until I found gainful employment at another, larger music sales store in BerkeleyAmoeba Music.  In between the closing of the one store, and becoming employed at the other, Forrest asked if I would take some casual portraits of he, and his current collaborators, for use on his next musical release, “World Diary”, his second major CD release. It was my pleasure to have been invited to take part in this project, as a friend, and as a supporter of his artistic creativity.  Not long afterward, Amoeba, would regularly stock his releases [and still do, to this day].

Just to be clear, my photographs in the libretto of “World Diary” (released in 1992), are those of Forrest Fang and the musicians Zhang Yan & Liu Qi-Chao, whilst the cover artwork and CD label are by Nina Egert, and based on a photograph by Zara Houshmand.

Forrest Fang - World Diary [photo credit & cvr]

More, on Forrest Fang‘s catalogue of works, can be found at the following link, and his works are well worth investigating:
Forrest Fang discography – Discogs website

***

BBC Films: Music Moguls – Moneymakers

Much of the 1990’s would be consumed with other matters, and my photography work would come to a sudden halt, due to the theft of my equipment.  One of the direct impacts of this, after some time, was to task myself with getting a grasp of this “digital age”.  Eventually, that would lead me to investigate computer software and hardware, in order to be able to professionally scan and digitize my archives.  What you find on this WordPress site is the fruits of those labors, over the years.  None of my concert photography was done in digital form, to begin with.

Only in the past few years, with self-publication of my work, has some wider attention been given to the images I captured over roughly 15 years [1977 – 1992].

Aside from the recent publication of Swans‘ photographs [see above], a few more film projects have included some photographs of mine in them:

In 2016, a three-part BBC series on music was produced.  In part 1, “Music Moguls – Moneymakers” a still image of the marquee in front of the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center/Freedom Hall, which featured the announcement of Led Zeppelin‘s appearance on the 1977 tour date was used, as illustration of their massive popularity [then & now].

Led Zeppelin - Freedom Hall Marquee 4-25-77 [Louisville, Kentuck

BBC Music Moguls - Moneymakers title
Title still from the BBC documentary “Music Moguls – Moneymakers”

The photograph of the marquee, above, appears shortly after the 4:30 mark in the video, as Noddy Holder of Slade comments on Peter Grant‘s management style and power.

**

Sky Arts Films: Donovan and The Beatles in India

Another film project contacted me about using one of my live images; this time, for a documentary on Donovan, focusing on his time in India, while the Beatles were also there, in 1968.  Now, I did see Donovan open for the band Yes, many years ago, but never got to see the Fab Four [although there was a sliver of a chance, as a wee lad, but the parents wouldn’t let me accompany my older cousins to see them at Shea Stadium]. So, I was not supplying photographs of any of these performers…. No, I was asked, instead, to provide a shot of Brix Smith Start, formerly of The Fall, and The Adult Net, and now performing with Brix & the Extricated, as well as keeping busy with fashion design, and the occasional solo recording.  Since the focus of the documentary was on Donovan, and Brix is one of his friends who appeared with him as they revisited the retreat in India (where several events linked to the late period of The Beatles‘ story occurred), a shot of Brix from a prime period as a member of The Fall was requested to be used in one of the segments filmed while they visited India together.

Donovan & the Beatles in India
From a Sky Arts documentary that appears on the UK Station
Michael Conen - [PROOF] Brix E. Smith closeup LG [the Fall - I B
Close-up image of Brix Smith Start that was used in the Donovan documentary

For more information on that program:
Sky Arts – Donovan & The Beatles in India [Sky UK link]

More photographs of Brix and The Fall, taken by me, can be viewed here:
“Where Were You?” The Fall – San Francisco, CA (1986 Tour) [March 14th @ The Stone & October 20th/21st @ The I-Beam]

***

The Flaming Lips, Wayne Coyne Looks Back – Rolling Stone Magazine, June 2018

In early June, of 2018, Rolling Stone Magazine published [online] another of my images for a piece which looked back at the early career of The Flaming Lips.  The photographs that this image was selected from, were taken on the night that they opened for The Jesus and Marychain, in San Francisco, during the month of December of 1985.

Michael Conen - Wayne Coyne & Richard English [The Flaming Lips - I Beam, SF Ca 12-17-85]
Wayne Coyne on guitar, and Kevin English on drums; The Flaming Lips performing at The I-Beam, in S.F., California [December 17, 1985]

Read the article at the following link:
The Flaming Lips (Wayne Coyne “Looks Back”) – Rolling Stone Magazine [June 2018]

For more of my images of The Flaming Lips, taken on that night in 1985, see:
“Where Were You?” The Flaming Lips at The I-Beam, San Francisco [December 17, 1985]

Additional photos of the band were also taken when they opened for The Three Johns, later, in May of 1986:
“Where Were You?” The Flaming Lips at The I-Beam, San Francisco [May 5, 1986]

***

To be continued…..

***

***

You’ve made it this far, and now begins my “preface”, of sorts, to all of the above….

*

 

What a long, strange trip it has been, up to now….. from the “close and play” records I had as a child; to hearing the Beatles on the AM Radio everywhere I happened to be dragged along to; then, to seeing same on the Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964, and being riveted by the experience; it was only natural that I would be giving my attention to many more artists wafting about on the airwaves over the next few years….

To make a long story short: After an unsettling move away from those first and lasting influences on my early years, I would find myself looking for a way to stay connected to the music that gave me so much happiness.  Learning how to read it, or playing music, was not an option in those days.  Instead, I would pick up my father’s Brownie camera, and have a go at seeing what I could do with it.  That was just before high school, and it would end up steering me in the direction of wanting to learn more about working with photography — but music would never take a second seat.

In fact, many years later, I would finally put my interests into action, and actually pick up a guitar to try to learn to play.  As I mentioned earlier, I had no real formal training in music, and instead, learned to play “by ear”.

Years would go by, before I would finally be encouraged to join a band, and that first experiment would lead to a very brief, but enjoyable time with Louisville’s Poor Girls.

The Beat [club]; Louisville, Kentucky-November, 1982 flyer featuring Poor Girls; Bad Brains
The Beat [club]; Louisville, Kentucky-November, 1982 flyer
featuring Poor Girls; Bad Brains

Poor Girls Poster Halloween less sharp

A few years after a big move “west”, I would eventually find myself shooting a lot more shows, and, again, creating music in another band – only this time, the collaboration would go on for years, and not just a few months, as it had transpired with the Poor Girls.  There is much more documentation of that band – The Big Huge – which can be found at this YouTube link:

https://www.youtube.com/user/mikaelminimal/videos

But, I have digressed from the original purpose of this blog, which is all about the concert photographs, and how they came about…..

In fact, what I learned from my supplemental studies at high school, would lead to my purchasing my own camera set-up, a few years later, on April 25, 1977, with the set purpose of taking pictures of the concert taking place in town that night [view some of those images over here]: http://forums.ledzeppelin.com/index.php?/topic/17645-louisville-ky-freedom-hall-kentucky-fair-expo-center-april-25-1977/ ….which is ultimately the reason you are looking at these images today.

Lots of “trials and errors” later, what you view here, is what that experience begat.

Constructive criticism is always welcome, and I sincerely hope you get something in return for your time spent looking at the images found here, and at the other links that I provide [see below].

**

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.

Michael Conen - self portrait circa '84

You may contact me at the following email address, should you choose not to post on my blog:

michaelconen@tutanota.com

In closing, let me take a moment to inform you that photographs of the following artists, that I took over the years, will appear on this blog, in the coming weeks and months:

  • The Rolling Stones [1981 Tour] Posted  Link: “Where Were You?”: The Rolling Stones 1981 ‘Kentucky Tour’ 
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds [Posted] Link: “Where Were You?” Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, at The I Beam, San Francisco [October 28, 1986]
  • The Cocteau Twins[Posted] Link: “Where Were You?” The Cocteau Twins at Wolfgang’s, in San Francisco [September 17,1985]

The Police[Posted] Link: “Where Were You?” The Police at Rupp Arena – Lexington, Kentucky [April 4, 1982]

The Kinks √ [Posted] Link“Where Were You?” – The Kinks perform in Louisville, Kentucky [1980 & 1982]

The Pretenders [Posted] Link: “Where Were You?” The Pretenders, at Louisville Memorial Auditorium, Louisville Kentucky [September 4, 1980] “The Preface”


The Pretenders 1981 Tour ✓
[Posted] Link: “Where Were You?” The Pretenders on Tour in the U.S. [August & September 1981]

Chrissie Hynde gets excited & James Honeyman-Scott sings [The Pr
The 1981 Tour – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

….. to name just a few ……. stayed tuned!

Oh, yes, just in case you are interested, I have a partial list of all of the shows I attended, or took part in, over the years.  That page is found at this link:

“Where Was I?” [concert attendance dates]

3 thoughts on “About

    1. Hello Susan!
      First of all, thanks for the note of appreciation, and secondly: long time, old friend 😉
      I hope life has been treating you well. Gary has told me, over the years, that he’s spoken to you occasionally… It is good to be in touch again, and I’m glad the photographs were the link, as they were, originally 😉

      Like

    2. Thank you, Susan! At least those photos of the Stones, that you own, don’t have the watermarks to deal with 🙂

      I’ve written you, by email, to fill you in a bit, on what’s up! Thanks for the note of support!

      Like

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