patti smith time : December 29-30-31

ok so you've had yourself a merry little xmas, but you're not really ready for a rockin' new years eve.
well i haven't been going out on new years eve for many a year. but on december 30th - that's when I venture out to celebrate the end of the old year down at NY's Bowery Ballroom.
It's Patti Smith's birthday show - the second night of her annual 3 night new years' run. Tickets are hard to get these days. Once upon a time I used to wander down to the Mercury Lounge in early december to get my ticket without ticketmonger fees. But you gotta be on top of things early these days, as these 3 nights are the best shows in town - and word's gotten around.  Last year I had to go on craig's list to get myself a ticket.

So if you've got a ticket - i'll see you there. And if you don't, mark it down in your calendar now for next year. Nothing goes on forever.
In the meantime, you can spend her birthday watching the recent documentary she and Steven Sebring made - Dream of Life -  which will be showing on PBS that night.

read about it in the NY Times here:   ny times

But there's really nothing like seeing Patti Smith do a live show. So here's a little xmas present for you: her encore from last year's birthday show - doing the Four Tops "Reach Out - I'll be There".  I can't wait to see what's coming this end of the decade year.

Happy Birthday Patti!


xmas leftovers - blasts from the past

xmas 1996

and here we go again. another year and another xmas picture. Every year - shooting and picking another new gem. But this year, I'm taking some time off to find some old gems from the archives. Some vintage black and white pix shot on my good old Leica. Yeah - a nice relaxing xmas eve thumbing through my negatives, while everyone else frets about wrapping their presents.

My presents this year are my past...

xmas 1979

xmas 1997

xmas 1993

ok just a few more...

"but I heard him exclaim,
ere he drove out of sight,
merry christmas to all,
and to all... a gezundtheit"


So Un-American: End of the Innocence

OK - more Robert Frank. Now this is interesting. Many years ago in 1989, ex-voice of the Eagles, Don Henley had a big hit on MTV with his song 'End of the Innocence'. While watching the video late one night, thinking something looked all too familiar, I taped it and re-watched it closely. It didn't take too long to separate the video from the noxious music, and realize that the whole thing was totally based on images from The Americans. I can imagine someone handing a copy of the book to the director, saying remake these photographs as a video - and by the way, do it in black and white. Of course there was no credit to Robert Frank. Not even a nod to the original source material, by way of perhaps someone carrying around a copy of the book itself. Leading me to wonder about who cleared what with whom. I couldn't really imagine that Robert Frank would allow Don Henley to remake his masterpiece into a rock video to sell records on MTV. Especially given what had happened between him and the Rolling Stones over Cocksucker Blues. Something didn't seem right. I eventually had the opportunity to ask Robert Frank about whether he ok'd the usage, and the answer was no. That it was in the hands of the lawyers. This was back in 1989 or 1990.

So I present here the Don Henley video. And a clip I compiled with Robert Frank's photographs from The Americans, and they're re-appearance in the video. I'm sure there are even more than I've pointed out. Check 'em out yourself. The audio I've laid underneath it is of Robert Frank speaking at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. last year with the exhibition's curator Sarah Greenough. It's a fabulous interview and you can listen to the whole piece here:


Oh, one more thing. I've recently found out that this video was made by David Fincher, director of Fight Club and Zodiac. I've got to think about that one...

Robert Frank pix vs. Henley video:
all photographs © Robert Frank - video © someone


American Beauty

So speaking of Robert Frank, there is a must see exhibition of all the prints from his photographic masterpiece "The Americans" at the Metropolitan Museum here in NYC . If you haven't been there yet, you only have a few weeks to catch the subway uptown to see it, because the show is closing on January 3rd - and you know that's coming up fast. You better not miss this one!

I drove myself down to Washington D.C. last year when this exhibition appropriately debuted at the National Gallery of Art. Robert Frank himself drove all over the country to take these infamous photographs in 1956. And his little book The Americans changed the whole game of photography. In 1956, there was Elvis, and there was Robert Frank. That's all you need to know.

At the time, Robert Frank was exorcised for taking out of focus, grainy, tilted ugly photographs. What he was in fact doing, was breaking the rules and changing the whole concept of what a photograph was. While Elvis was doing the same thing with "That's Alright Mama at Sun Studios, Robert Frank, as Jack Kerouac says in the intro to The Americans, "sucked a sad poem right out of America onto film".

There is an immense catalog of the exhibition compiled by curator Sarah Greenough, which includes the contact sheets from every photograph (be sure to get the hardcover edition!). It is almost encyclopedic in it's coverage of the little LP of a book that The Americans is - 83 photographs that tell the compact story of America in 1956. Tell someone you love that this is what you want for Chanukah.

Robert Frank, NYC 1980