Bob Gruen

Bob Gruen

Tokyo Journal columnist Bob Gruen is one of the most well known and respected photographers in Rock and Roll. By the mid 1970s he was already regarded as one of the foremost documenters of the music scene working with major artists such as John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Elton John, Kiss, Aerosmith, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, etc., and also covering the emerging New Wave and Punk bands including The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Clash, Sex Pistols, Ramones & Blondie.

Wednesday, 01 February 2017 22:25

Blondie

BLONDIE

I clearly remember when Lisa Robinson called me to tell me to take pictures of a band called The Stilettos. She said the lead singer was very beautiful and was going to be a big star. The minute I saw Debbie Harry I knew Lisa was right! Soon after, Debbie and the lead guitarist Chris Stein formed Blondie.

Thursday, 26 January 2017 22:10

THE RAMONES

THE RAMONES

IN 1975, I attended a small showcase where the Ramones played for the press. They performed about a dozen songs for no more than 16 minutes, and I wasn't sure what had happened, but I wanted to see them again.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015 20:19

New York Dolls

Go on tour with legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen, who is one of the most well known and respected photographers in Rock and Roll.

WHEN I met John Lennon & Yoko Ono, they were working with the band Elephant’s Memory and I was soon taking a lot of photos of them. When the band chose one of my photos to use for their album cover, I went to their management office where Tony Machine, who worked for them, told me I had to come see another band they worked with–the New York Dolls, who were playing at the Mercer Arts Center. I went there and discovered a wild, exciting and shocking, downtown New York artists’ scene.

Thursday, 16 October 2014 20:38

John Lennon & Yoko Ono

New York, 1971 – 1980

I first saw John and Yoko at a benefit concert at the Apollo Theater shortly after they arrived in New York City in 1971. I’d taken a photo of them backstage and dropped off some copies to their apartment, which was around the corner from mine in the West Village, but I didn’t make any further connection with them then. A few months later I was asked to take photos of John and Yoko for a story about Elephant’s Memory, their backing band on the new album they were recording. That night I went to their recording studio, took some photos of them all together, and they soon contacted me to use them in the album package.

Tuesday, 06 May 2014 09:26

KISS Retrospective

KISS Retrospective

On Tour with Bob Gruen

I STARTED working with KISS in 1973 when they signed with Buddah Records, a company I had worked with regularly. Working with KISS proved to be a different experience from most of the bands I had photographed. It’s not just that they wore makeup; the New York Dolls did that too. It was that their makeup created a different identity, as if they were superheroes. Right from the beginning when Buddah’s president, Neil Bogart, wore makeup and had the contract handcuffed to his wrist for the photo announcing their signing, I knew this was an unusual band.

Monday, 09 December 2013 09:24

Alice Cooper Photo Retrospective

On Tour with Bob Gruen

Alice Cooper Retrospective

I first photographed Alice Cooper in 1971 when he played at the legendary Fillmore East in New York City. It was one of the most theatrical shows I have ever seen. Alice goes a lot further than just standing and singing into a microphone; he acts out each song with simple but effective props. During the show he was strapped in a straightjacket, tries to break out, and ends the show in an electric chair. In later shows the electric chair was replaced by Alice getting hanged by the neck from a gallows. Later came a guillotine, which remains part of his act today. Alice has said that his show is about being the bad guy punished for his evil deeds, like a real life horror movie with a rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack.

By 1973 I was working more with Alice, who up to that point had several top 10 hits and was becoming a well-known act. The band had rented a mansion in Connecticut and I photographed them there. One of my favorite pictures is Alice looking very comfortable wearing a jacket with stuffed white rats running up the front and on the sleeves. On another occasion Alice came to my studio with the great radio DJ Wolfman Jack to make a Christmas picture with Alice as Santa Claus and Wolfman Jack sitting on his lap like a little kid.


On Tour with Bob Gruen

Elton John Retrospective

IN 1970 I was hired to photograph a young piano player from England who was going to open a show at the New York City’s Fillmore East theatre for Leon Russell. His name was Elton John. I remember thinking how hard it is to get an interesting picture of someone playing piano. It’s a very large instrument and the player is usually just sitting behind it. But Elton John is not the usual piano player. He is one of the most exciting performers I’ve worked with. He doesn’t just sit at his piano. He jumps around it and on top of it. Sometimes he leaps straight into the air with only his hands on the keyboard. And he’s still playing! He also wears onstage the most flamboyant and colorful costumes and outrageous glasses.

I enjoyed working with Elton for the next several years. At the Fillmore in the spring of 1971 I got a nice and arty double-frame photo of him with his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin. Then I photographed him twice at Carnegie Hall, and later at Madison Square Garden. At Carnegie Hall, his mother made a surprise backstage visit.

Friday, 17 May 2013 10:08

On Tour with Bob Gruen

Go on tour with legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen, who is one of the most well-known and respected photographers in Rock and Roll.

I was 24 years old when I met Ike and Tina Turner, and they were the first well known band I worked with. A friend of mine told me I should go see them and I became an immediate fan. Soon after that I went to see them again at a club called the Honka Monka Club, and brought my camera. I took some good pictures that night and at the end of the show Tina danced off stage with a strobe light flashing. I didn’t know where to set the focus or the exposure, but I thought that maybe if I tried a one second exposure I could catch several images of Tina in the flashes of light. One of the pictures came out really well capturing the energy and excitement that is Tina Turner! A few days later when I went to another Ike & Tina show I brought the pictures to show my friends. After the show one of my friends saw Ike Turner and pushed me in front of him saying ‘Show Ike your pictures!’ Ike looked at the pictures and took me into the dressing room to show Tina. They both liked my pictures a lot and asked me to come and work with them.


Wednesday, 09 January 2013 09:49

On Tour with Bob Gruen

Go on tour with legendary rock photographer Bob Gruen, who is one of the most well known and respected photographers in Rock and Roll.

HELLO Japan! I am very happy to have been asked to make a regular feature column for the Tokyo Journal! I thought I would start with a few pictures that show where my career began.

Growing up in the 1950s, I heard rock and roll when it was first played on the radio and I was an immediate fan. After High School in the late sixties, I was living with a rock band and started my career by taking pictures of them. When they were discovered, their record company used my photos and hired me to photograph more groups.

Soon I was working for many record companies and in 1972 I was included in ‘The Photography of Rock’, the first book of rock music photos. The writer, who interviewed me for the book, liked my photos and the following week brought me to his magazine interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. John & Yoko liked the photos I took and used one in the package for their next record album. And I’ve been very busy ever since.

Staff Continued

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