17 May 2018

A Teenage Rock Photographer Between the Covers

Longtime readers may remember me writing here of teenage adventures smuggling cameras into concerts. Sadly, in middle age, those acts still rank amongst my most daring. What I  failed to mention is that the resulting photos ended up in the pages of Bandersnsnatch, the student newspaper of John Abbott College, for which I served as entertainment editor. We were offered press screenings to Hollywood films and had tickets waiting at the Centaur Theatre box office, but music dominated our coverage. Anyone distributed by Polygram had a
A Durutti Column column
leg up because the company sent us records. The Durutti Column received more notice in Bandersnatch than all the Southam and Thompson papers combined.

Lest anyone think we teens could be bought with freebees, two non-Polygram acts, David Bowie and Gang of Four, received by far the most column inches. I penned the paper's reviews of Scary Monsters, "Up the Hill Backwards," Baal, "Under Pressure," and "Cat People," as well as reissues of his own teenage work with the Mannish Boys, the King Bees, and the Lower Third.

Gang of Four didn't have nearly so long a history. Bandersnatch was there from the beginning, praising Entertainment! and the Gang of Four EP. I wrote those reviews, and saw the band's 4 July 1981 concert at Montreal's Beer Gardens. The photos I took at that show – with smuggled camera – decorated further reviews of Solid GoldAnother Day/Another Dollar, and everything else I wrote about Gang of Four.

Going over old issues of Bandersnatch – even then, I knew to save them – I see those same photos have taken on a sepia tone. They're cleaner in Red Set: A History of Gang of Four, a new book by my friend Jim Dooley.

I first met Jim the year after those heady days at Bandersnatch came to an end. Back then, I doubt either of us would've dreamt – or even dared dream – that he'd one day write the authoritative history of this band we both loved so much. I can say with certainty that I never thought the photos I took all those years ago at the Beer Garden would feature in that same book.

I'm honoured. Jim is one of the most astute critics and music historians I've ever read.

Today marks the UK release of Red Set, published by London's Repeater Books. On June 19, the book will be available in Canada and the United States. Well worth the wait.

Again, I'm honoured.

Congratulations, Jim!

Congratulations all around!

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  1. Replies
    1. A brilliant band deserves a brilliant book. They got that with Jim's.

  2. I remember scoring a sealed copy of "Songs of the Free" at Dutchie's for just 2 bucks and thinking I'd pulled off a great score. When I opened it at home, there was no hole in the center of the record. I ended up trading it to my skinhead neighbor for a paperback of "Tales from the City".

    1. No hole! Never seen that before, though I do have a copy of Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo that has the hole off-centre. Makes everything sound even more psychedelic. My copy of Gang of Four's Hard has the label for Proof Through the Night by T-Bone Burnett on Side 1.