(We’ve all seen them. Some of Bob Gruen‘s photos are the most iconic shots in rock and roll. The stuff he did with ‘Zeppelin alone is incredible and so recognizable. He’s rubbed shoulders with almost everyone you’d ever want to hear in rock and roll. Now, his work is coming to Toronto’s Liss Gallery running until July 11. Here’s a great article from Nick Patch from the Canadian Press, where he gets a few great stories from about how the photos came together. Awesome. If you’re in Toronto, get out and see this great display of rock history. – FATS)
TORONTO — Whether hanging out on a roof with John Lennon, on a runway with Led Zeppelin, or on a subway car with the Ramones, rock photographer Bob Gruen has always had a knack for capturing the moment.
He once played bugle for the Clash, he served as personal photographer to Lennon and Yoko Ono, and his 69th birthday party last year attracted the likes of Alice Cooper, Billie Joe Armstrong and Debbie Harry.
Toronto’s Liss Gallery is hosting an exhibition and sale of the New Yorker’s most-famous work beginning Tuesday and running to July 11.
Ahead of his trip, Gruen shared the stories behind some of his most famous photographs.
Gruen took many photos of Lennon during his post-Beatles American phase, but none more famous than his shots of Lennon peering into the camera behind circular shades, lanky arms exposed under a sleeveless shirt reading “New York City.”
The shirt was a garment unique to the sidewalks of Times Square that Gruen used to buy in bunches.
He cut the sleeves off one to lend it a “New York look” and gifted it to Lennon.
A year later, Gruen was shooting Lennon on the roof of his apartment and, noticing the distinctive skyline, Gruen suggested Lennon wear the shirt, if he still had it (to Gruen’s delight, he did).
“We were friends and he felt very comfortable with me, and he looks comfortable in the picture,” Gruen said. “He’s got sunglasses on but he’s accessible and open and you could go up and talk to him. I think people relate to that.”
Gruen famously snapped the British hard rock institution coolly draping their arms over the wings of a jet bearing their name.
“They’ve got their shirts open, they look so casual and they own their own airplane,” Gruen said of the photo. “Every kid looks at that like: ‘I want to be a rock star.”‘
At the time, Gruen was flying with the band in the “very comfortable” plane, which he says had two bedrooms and a long brass bar.
But he says it was actually rented.
In fact, Gruen was later onboard the same plane when he snapped a friendly meeting between Elton John and R&B great Stevie Wonder.
Gruen got his major break when he fell in with Ike and Tina Turner.
He saw Tina perform and was so impressed, he watched her again just days later in a small club in Long Island.
At the end of the show, Tina danced offstage as a strobe light flashed and Gruen snapped his final four frames using a one-second exposure.
“Three of them are useless and one is one of my best pictures ever,” he said. “You see five distinct images of Tina. It’s so exciting, so intense, and it really captures her.”
Within a year, he was the tour photographer for the Turners.
The infamous punks were an unruly lot, and Gruen’s shots animate their erratic volatility.
One standout depicts doomed bassist Sid Vicious wielding a hot dog, with a collage of ketchup and mustard on his face. A pin on his lapel reads “I’m a Mess.”
“I picked up the camera and he (then) put mustard and ketchup all over the hot dog and smeared it all over his face,” Gruen remembered. “I was kind of shocked.
“It made the picture…. I realized he knew what he was doing.”
Gruen has positive memories of the band.
“They were young and free and rude and crude but … they had a great sense of humour.”