Wife: “Just substitute the word ‘obsession’ when you see hobby or interest.”
During a span in my life, I carried a 35mm SLR camera (Canon AE-1, and later, an A-1) just about everywhere I went. Photography filled a hole in whatever artistic bent I had in me. Mostly shot color slide or black & white print film at whatever points in the city I traveled to, or at the various sporting and musical events I attended. It seems I had to have at least one hobby or interest going on as an adult. And during the late-’70s and ’80s, this was it.
Over the years, collected a number of slides and negatives from this — sadly, most of which I’ve now likely lost. I keep an eye out among of the boxes when we have a yard or garage sale to see what turns up. Only a few of the prints created years ago have found a way to remain with me into this relatively new century. So, I’ve decided that if I can’t find the original film or slide sources, I might as well scan what I have to form an archive of sorts. The images here represent a prime example from the era, and they’ve a link to the present.
This original shot was of the drum stand on the stage at one of L.A.’s famous nightclubs, in-between sets at a musical event I attended. The Roxy Theatre, on the Sunset Strip (see lead image above), has a storied history. It opened the year after I graduated high school, 1973. Indeed, it was the first landing point in the U.S. for the British stage play, The Rocky Horror Show, in 1974. A year before it made its way into cult film status with The Rocky Horror Picture Show1 adaptation.
As well, many famous music artists — from Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, Warren Zevon, Van Morrison, David Bowie, Jay-Z, to name only a few — have played there over the years since. Its bar (On the Rox) was even the site for many stints in John Lennon‘s lost weekend period, 1973-74. Not to mention this was the last place John Belushi partied before heading back to his sad end at the nearby Chateau Marmont.
What was I doing there in the early ’80s when I took that picture? It goes back to when I started my jazz fusion period around the mid-’70s, which I’ve cataloged some on the blog. Why I still have a good many tracks by Bob James, Dave Grusin, Jean-Luc Ponty, Sadao Watanabe, and many others in my iTunes library. On this night, I came to listen to composer-arranger, west coast jazz/jazz fusionist, saxophonist (and L.A. native) Tom Scott. His New York Connection album one of the first in that genre I ever owned.
If you don’t recognize his name, you’ve still likely heard his work and didn’t realize it. If you appreciate Carole King, you know her ’74 song, Jazzman. That’d be Tom Scott performing the stirring sax riff. Ever seen Starsky & Hutch, The Streets of San Francisco, or Family Ties, whether first-run or via syndication, on TV? Their theme songs were written and arranged by him. He’s sat in and played on albums for the Grateful Dead, Kenny Chesney, The Carpenters, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Joni Mitchell, Eddie Money, Quincy Jones, and Frank Sinatra.
Scott went on to perform with 3 of the 4 ex-Beatles during their solo careers: recording with Paul McCartney and George Harrison, and band work with John Lennon.
Years later, I’d re-use this shot for an evening photography course. An old darkroom class I took at Santa Monica College when I lived in that local coastal city. In my last days of bachelorhood, though I hardly miss them. There I learned to apply lith and posterization techniques the good old fashion way — in a barely lit room that had running water, developing chemicals, and enlargers along its walls. To this day, a few businesses remain that still do this type of analog printing. But, the past is receding quickly.
The second and third prints of the original were examples of the old way of doing those techniques: manually.
Nowadays, digital photography has taken over steadily. I’m not a purist, but the production loss of Kodachrome more than five years ago hastened it. Some think it has killed photography2. Not quite there as it’s enabled more folk to capture more images. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, perhaps. What the few old darkroom masters did in those veiled, inky rooms now almost entirely relegated to the realm of raster graphics editors, like Photoshop and others. And in more people’s hands.
Today’s graphic artists, photographers, and amateurs, having mastered the 1s and 0s in the new technology, rightly sprout some stunning results these days.
The fourth shot (below, and done as a lark years ago) a crude example of that. The inverted image of the original took next to little time to produce. Digitally. In days gone by, developing my film was once second nature to me. Those old photo darkroom techniques remain a heart-warming recollection — and like film stock, disappearing from memory.
Not that I thought the drum stand photograph was any great piece of image composition, let alone fine art. Just a decent picture to work with for a darkroom exercise, and for the grade I sought. I later framed the three of them that resulted, which was how they came to live with me in my last bachelor abode.
“What’s its interconnection now, you ask?”
During our dating period in 1988, my future bride asked about these same photos I had on display. I explained all this to her back then. Figured she knew I took a date to the event and wasn’t interested in any of those details. Afterward, she let me in on some news. She was at that very same concert. Even noticed me, and my escort (we’ll leave her comments on my date’s attire and overall attitude for another time). One more of the coinkydinks she’d lay on me during our courtship. Proving, along with her bewitchment, she was nothing like any I’d known before her.
- Believe it or not, in addition to continuing to host art house cinema, the Nuart Theatre is also L.A.’s longtime home for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which still plays every Saturday at midnight. ↩
- My daughter has done her part to prevent this by digging out those old SLRs and a Rolleiflex 2¼ x 2¼ of mine. Even wanting me to buy her actual camera film so she could shoot and develop it! ↩