This photo, as they say, needs no introduction. It was taken by Bob Gruen, who was a friend of John and Yoko for much of their time in New York City. It was because of this photo that I came to know Bob.
I was working in the '90s at a music merchandising company, Sony Signatures, and we wanted to use this photo for a t-shirt. It is my recollection (and every story has at least two versions, if not more!) that I did an unusual deal with Bob and Yoko Ono to license this image for a t-shirt.
I think this is worth mentioning because prior to that merchandisers typically paid a very small flat fee for photo usage, while this new arrangement acknowledged the importance of the photo itself by paying the photographer a royalty on sales. This was a step in the recognition of rock photography is an art in itself.
I bring this up, many years later, because of two things. The first is the release on PBS of Icon: Music Through the Lens, a wonderful series of programs about rock photography, a great tribute to these photographers.
And the second is, sadly, the passing of my mentor in the merch business,
Dell was a pioneer in what has become a very important business for musicians – “merch” -- especially in this era of streaming, which effectively polished off significant income from recorded music. Dell and Bill Graham had started Winterland Productions in the ‘70s, which was important in bringing merch to concerts.
Dell brought me into Winterland in the ‘80s and I ended up making a lifetime career of it, working on-and-off for Dell in four or five of his companies (it was a tumultuous time in the music business!) as he negotiated his inimitable way through the corporate scene.
Dell will be missed by the many people who worked with him as well as those who did business with him and his companies over the past five decades.
Ziggy Stardust by Mick Rock
Mick Rock (featured, like Bob Gruen, in the series Icon: Music Through the Lens) is known for his dramatically staged photos (think the headshots on the album Queen II). This live in concert shot (cropped for the shirt) captured Bowie on stage at a “decisive moment,” catching the essence of Ziggy Stardust, a hallmark of a great photographer.
In these newsletters you will find in no order or purpose whatsoever brief discussions of art and artists as I have found them after having wandered many years down the beautiful streets of art. Like my counterpart, the flaneur, I go where the fancy of the moment takes me.
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