(View this article on the LA Record Site)
A new photo exhibition has opened in Hollywood called Rock/Fight. Most of the shots were taken at LA’s Olympic Auditorium downtown. The idea is a pairing of 80s punks with 60s and 70s boxers and wrestlers. Half of the exhibition are action shots of leathery brawlers mostly snapped by photographer Theo Ehret in the 60s and 70s. The other half, paired with Ehret’s bruisers are of high-energy hardcore punk bands who performed at the Olympic Auditorium in the early 80s as well as a few other timeless rock n roll shots.
Host Henry Rollins explained the event to a full house.
“Rock and roll is a contact sport. Most of you here in this room have been spectators in one way or another at either sports events or at a rock show. Performing rock and roll is hard work, just like boxing or wrestling can be brutal to the body of an athlete. You see these images of both boxers and musicians in these airless, windowless Dostoyevsky-ish back stage rooms, I have been in many of these rooms and they are straight off the pages of a Dickens novel. Over there is a photo of Muhammad Ali and the heavyweight champion of rock n roll, Iggy Pop. That’s going to be the only time I’m above Iggy Pop in anything.”
The crowd laughed as Rollins gestured to photographer Edward Colver’s 1981 outtake of the cover shot from Black Flag’s “Damaged” Album, Henry punching a mirror. It’s framed above a 1972 Mick Rock snap of Iggy Pop bending backwards like a gymnast.
“That shot was taken just down the street,” Rollins told the audience, referring to the “Damaged” cover shoot.
The event was sponsored by Peligroso Tequila. I waited in the liquor line. I was eager to get a drink, but was able to survey the framed photographs on the wall next to the line. The first shot to my immediate right was the Colver photo that Rollins joked about. There it was, the outtake from Black Flag’s “Damaged” LP cover shoot in 1981.
Ed Colver was interviewed recently on website DoubleCrossXX.com where he spoke about this mythological photo shoot:
“…The “Damaged” cover photographs of Henry…I shot at what was called the Oxford house in Hollywood. I taped the entire backside of the mirror, turned it over and broke it with a hammer, then cleaned it. The “blood” I made with red India ink that I brought with me and stuff I found in the kitchen. After experimenting for a bit I came up with red ink (for color) liquid dishwashing soap (consistency) and powdered instant coffee (for color).
We did some photographs outside with a blue blanket as a background (unused, no mood) and then some inside. The best photographs in my opinion were not used (Henry’s eyes glowing red from my flash) they were deemed too demented (those photos have been “misplaced” for over 20 years).
The back cover photo of just the broken mirror was my idea and I took it at a friend’s house in Los Feliz. I photographed the mirror for the back on Rowena Ave. To have it only reflect black, I laid the mirror on a sidewalk at night and photographed it at a slight angle as to not have my camera or I show up in the reflection. Where I shot it was two blocks from the Labianca house scene of the Manson murders. My friend’s aunt that lived a block away found bloody clothes in her alley after the murders, she lived on St. George and at the time of the murders Tex Watson lived on Griffith Park Blvd.”
Below the Rollins shot was Iggy Pop, “The heavyweight champion of rock and roll.”
Seeing some of the Edward Colver shots were surreal, as I grew up poring through punk fanzines and had seen many of the classic early 80s punk photos on flyers, record covers, back covers and inserts. This one of Minor Threat was truly breathtaking to see up close and personal. My heart quickened. I could feel the energy and smell the sweat.
Growing up a fan of 1982 punk documentary “Another State of Mind” I recognized Mike Ness’ outfit from the film.
And next in line finally, waiting impatiently for a cold drink, there was John Lydon to greet me.
I was asked what I wanted to drink by the Peligroso Tequila staff. A bearded young man told me that the special was Cinnamon Tequila. He gave me a shot of that and mixed me a tequila and OJ topped with a little special syrup and a squeezed lime. The cinnamon tequila actually wasn’t bad, but as agave cactus and cinnamon are grown in separate regions of the world, I found the pairing to be odd. (With a little research I found that Mexico is the major importer of “true” cinnamon. They get it mainly from Sri Lanka, who supply about 70% of the world’s cinnamon demand. Food for thought).
With tequila and OJ in hand, I weaved my way through the crowd to the restroom where I found the most unimpressive photo of the exhibition, a shirtless Lenny Kravitz (taken by Stephanie Pfriender Stylander). Bare chested Lenny and his six pack abs go for $950 if you’d like a 16″ x 20″ Archival digital print. As this photo was the lamest of the show (runner up being some bare boobs from Woodstock ’99 shot by Henry Diltz) – next to the crapper was a fitting place for ‘ole Kravitz. Maybe I’m being harsh, but honestly Lenny Kravitz does not deserve to be in the company of Iggy Pop, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Black Flag and Minor Threat. Just saying.
Now heading to the left, her Eminence Debby Harry shot by Bob Gruen in ’77.
Below Debby was this wonderful shot of Keef by Ethan Russel from the Stones’ ’72 US Tour.
Next to Keef we have The Who, fucking shit up at the Monterey Pop Festival.
Getting to the main dish, Ed Colver’s seminal “Flip Shot.” Colver was chatting to folks near the shot (although they seemed to be queuing up for a photo-op with Henry Rollins). I shook Colver’s hand and told him “good job,” explaining that I had used his “Flip Shot” for a flyer I made in High School for a punk show on Bainbridge Island, Washington. He seemed pretty non-plussed about my story and a little annoyed at the fact he couldn’t make a beeline for Rollins. It seemed like he had something he wanted to tell Henry, but he had to line up just like everyone else.
Rollins was telling some very-tall high heeled women an animated tale about one of his middle school teachers in DC. The women were smiling and nodding politely, waiting for their chance to ask him for a photo.
(Pasadena, CA © EDWARD COLVER, 1981)
And to the left of Sid, a real man. Wrestler Victor Rivera in Theo Ehrets 1978 shot “Bloodbath”
And a couple photos down to the left from “Bloodbath” is this gorgeous mid-air shot of Elton, circa 1973
You had this brilliant shot of a free-for-all at Olympic Auditorium, starring Andre “The Giant”
I met a man named Carlos who grew up in East LA and was an avid attendee of many of the punk shows depicted in the Colver photos. “Ed Colver is like our Van Gogh,” he told me. “We grew up with all of these albums, t-shirts, going to all of these shows. I was at both that Andre the Giant Wrestling match AND the Dead Kennedys show, both at Olympic Auditorium downtown. The openers for Dead Kennedys were Fishbone. They had this trombone player who was crazy, man. A kid stage dove off of a PA speaker and knocked into him. The trombone player tried to fight the kid. In those days they didn’t frisk you before you went into punk shows, so the kid had a fuckin’ knife. He pulls out the knife and stabs the fuckin’ trombone player from Fishbone.”
“What happened next,” I asked.
“Nothing. The show just went on. The band got the guy out of there and the Dead Kennedys just went on and played. That’s how it was in those days. At some of these punk venues we’d be leaving the show and outside would be Crips or Bloods just waiting to start shit with you. We’d be like, ‘Man, are you serious? AGAIN?’
Man, right around the corner, up here on Hollywood Blvd, used to be this club where Courtney Love used to hang out. She was a stripper at Jumbo’s at the time. One time I saw her shooting up heroin with River Phoenix in the bathroom.”
Carlos laughed. “They were just right there, man, in plain view.”
“That’s what it was like in LA back then, man. That’s what it was like.”
After another round of tequila, the place was getting pretty crowded and I headed out. On the way out I bumped into Henry Rollins. I thanked him for calling rock and roll a contact sport. I rediscovered a couple old photos of mine recently that reminded me what life was like sometimes as a touring rock and roll band on the road. I was often treated like a human piñata and could relate to what Henry had said.
I told Rollins about getting punched in the balls and choked by the crowd when my band played in Mexico City. I told him that sometimes on tour we’d listen to his book on tape “Get In The Van.” I told him that we could relate to his stories like Black Flag getting attacked by skinheads in Austria. Rollins chuckled and said, “Yeah, back then it used to be, the first thing the crowd would do, is go up to the stage and hit the singer. It’s not like that anymore, I think it’s better. You know, most people don’t understand that type of experience. After I went through that, everything else in life seemed easy, seemed like cake.”
The Rock/Fight exhibit will be on display until October 12th at Project Gallery, 1553 N. Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood.
Here’s a link to this article on the LA Record Site