a little more Alex Chilton

Alex Chlton, onstage cbgb's 1977

Good to see Alex Chilton getting his due in the press this week. And honored to see my photo of him making the rounds. Been digging back through the archives, and so will share a few more pix I uncovered today, while listening to the delicious Man Called Destruction cd (Devil Girl, What's Your Sign, New Girl In School!!!). The color stuff is from the early 90's up near Grand Central Station. The b&w shots from cbgb's 77 days. 

Alex Chilton with Chris Stamey, CBGB 1977


Alex Chilton R.I.P.

Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977

I was just about to go to sleep early last night, when my 17 year old daughter came in to tell me the bad news. Sadie knew Alex Chilton & Big Star through the opening song on her fave That Seventies Show. She had met him about ten years ago (was she 7?) when I introduced her to Alex at a show he played under the Twin Towers doing a Box Tops set.  I met Alex in 1976-77 at CBGB's when he was living in the East Village. We were about the same age, which put me in high school while he was the lead singer on "The Letter." Maybe we met at the Ocean Club before CBGB's - I'm not sure. The picture I took there was definitely shot before the more famous one in the rain out on the Bowery. I don't remember whose idea it was to go out to the median strip on the Bowery to do that shot - mine or Alex's. Most certainly it was on a whim or a dare while talking over beers at the CBGB's bar. Definitely not planned too far in advance. Just run out in the rain, and try an idea out, then go back for another beer. We'd tried other shots indoors and out, but neither of was satisfied. So when I developed the film and saw that strange drop of rain that had landed on the lens in what couldn't have been a more perfect spot, I was ecstatic. That was it - and we both knew it. Soon it got used as the cover for his independent single "Bangkok" (with a great version of the Seeds' "Can't Seem to Make You Mine" on the flip side). Maybe Alex had that in mind all the time we were shooting. I don't know. 

We didn't talk a lot about music on most nights. We talked a lot about photography. His friend William Eggleston's  color show at MOMA had just shaken up the photography world. Alex, who was working with the Cramps was well aware of my low-light photography style, and made me do a shot of him and the Cramps by candlelight - a nearly impossible task that amused him to no end. He was playing around town that summer with Chris Stamey, who with Peter Holsapple would go on to form the DB's. He was producing the Cramps first album. He certainly fit right in with the burgeoning NY punk scene. Years later, I did some shots of him at Grand Central Station, when he was passing through town. He looked the same - an eternal teenager, his mind always with you and on something else both at the same time.

This morning, I spent my subway ride listening to Big Star.  Lost in the beauty of 'Thirteen' - "Won't you tell your Dad get off my back / Tell him what we said about Paint It Black...Won't you tell me what you're thinking of /would you be an outlaw for my love".  Avoiding the gaze of other passengers, I found myself teary eyed at the loss of another friend. Never to be seen again sucks.  And then on came 'September Gurls', and I was a kid again. "September gurls do so much / December boys got it bad".  We were all kids again.  I smiled and walked off the fast train.

Alex Chilton, The Ocean Club, 1976-77

Alex Chilton with the Cramps 1977


Eternal Sunshine of the Godless Mind

     Michele Gondry , NYC - March 15, 2010

Michele Gondry, director of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', came to town last night for an in depth talk at the Walter Reade Theater (NYC's best screen & projection system).  I shot some pix, listened to stories about Bjork, Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, and the Green Hornet, and got to see his black & white Levi's commercial (with a nod to Walker Evans & O. Winston Link, I believe) on the big screen.

For your viewing pleasure, I present it here...

Michele Gondry, Walter Reade Theater


waterloo sunset revisited

Terence Stamp, NYC 2009
"Changed my life"

Excuse my absence - I have been watching way too many films lately.  Gazing, like Ray Davies, on my very own Waterloo Sunset.  It's spring preview film season - the projectionist keeps throwing them up there and I keep watching. For me this happens twice a year. In the fall, it's the New York Film Festival rollout. And in the spring, it's New Directors / New Films. At a pitch of between 2 and 5 films a day - "as long as I gaze on Waterloo Sunset I am in paradise." This week alone I've been transported to the Russian Arctic, Iran in 1953, Warhol's New York and the world of Candy Darling, Costa Rica and Argentina.

This morning I spent my subway ride giving my eyes a rest, while listening - over and over and over - to Waterloo Sunset -  an astounding single that just gets better with each listening. Riding the subway, I felt as one with the lines -  "millions of people, swarming like flies round Waterloo underground." Then I recalled that the line "Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station, every Friday night", is reportedly based on Terence Stamp and Julie Christie, stars of the then current film 'Far From the Madding Crowd.' Not the theme song of the movie - just inspired by the whole notion that these two stars were in the film.  God save Ray Davies. His songs belong in films - i.e.  Wes Anderson made excellent use of "This Time Tomorrow" in his recent 'The Darjeeling Limited', and I heard he checked around with film buffs to make sure it was never used in any films before.

So last fall, when the NY Film Fest was showing 'Red Riding',  the British TV version of the very popular serial killer books by David Pearce 'Red Riding Quartet',  those in the know showed up for the one-off 6 hour screening. And one of those spotted at the theater was Terence Stamp. My job was to ask him if I could shoot a picture of him. He seems tough, but was very gracious. And though I could not get myself to ask about the Kinks song, I had to tell him that my favorite film of his was Toby Dammit, directed by Federico Fellini, based very loosely on an Edgar Allen Poe tale 'Never Bet the Devil Your Head', in which he plays a burnt out British star accepting a meaningless award in Italy in order to pick up a free Ferrari. Mr Stamps' response to my praise was - he looked me right in the eye and said "Thank you - That film changed my life". He was so sincere, I was taken aback.

And so what does all this add up to? Nothing except that Terence Stamp is way cool and Waterlloo Sunset is an amazing song.

"As long as I gaze on Waterloo Sunset I am in paradise."