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Goner Message Board / ???? / Tom Wright, Rock Photographer
Posted: Sep 8, 2006 6:50 pm
 
next year, we're doing a GREAT 100-photo, personal tour diary retrospective of the amazing rock photographer/road warrior, Tom Wright. i've been talking with him and he's COOL AS SHIT. no lie. we're gonna have some parties! check it:


"Imagine Ansel Adams with a Nikon in one hand and a six-pack of beer, a gram of cocaine and a bag of weed in the other, while trying to keep Keith Moon out of jail..."

or...

Tom Wright and Pete Townshend met when they were teenagers at Britain's Ealing Art School in the early 60s. One day a friend at Ealing came up to Wright and said he should come out to the commons area and check out the guy there who was playing a guitar. Wright, who played a mean guitar himself, was mesmerized. He insisted Townshend come to his flat and listen to his records of Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters. It was a transforming experience for Townshend, who said if he hadn't met Wright The Who might never have existed. Townshend, a very shy English boy at the time, said Wright was the first person his age to speak to him at Ealing.

Wright found himself in the middle of what would later become known as The British Invasion, and beginning in 1967 he began touring with rock groups as their photographer and, in many cases, their road manager as well. His first tour was with The Who, and over the next 30 years it included The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and The Faces, The Eagles, Joe Walsh, Elvis Costello, Bob Seger, The James Gang, etc. He also managed the Grande Ballroom in Detroit where blah, blah, blah [insert more rock decadence and greatness here].

cool.

and i've got the girlfriend of rocker doing all the artwork.
Posted: Sep 9, 2006 3:33 am
 
Tom Wright and Pete Townshend met when they were teenagers at Britain's Ealing
yeah, I knew Pete musta learned pedophilia from someone, beside Uncle Ernie
Posted: Sep 9, 2006 7:27 am
 
no, i got be honest here: this guy took amazing photographs, he partied HARD.....and after THIRTY YEARS found himself broke, but rock rich. this is the real deal. forget all this other "i was there" rock photograhter bullshit. this giuy's was THERE. why do i value that? i don't know. maybe because t's fucking REAL.

he managed the grand ballroom IN SIXTY EIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted: Sep 9, 2006 9:03 am
 
he managed the grand ballroom IN SIXTY EIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!
dirty floor and all
Posted: Oct 23, 2006 9:22 pm
 
aw, fuck YEAH. i can feel this. life is lived.

Chapter Thirteen: The Who At The Grande

"How much further is it then?"

Roger stood down in the very front of the bus watching Jonesy, the driver, negotiate the rain and Detroit traffic. The question seemed to comfort Rodge. It required no answer. He'd asked the same question at least a thousand times in the last two weeks, it was a constant reminder the trip would never end. The rumble of the diesel bus as it inched through traffic, the slap of the oversized windshield wipers and the hiss of the air brakes were sounds we clung to when we weren't talking.

This was the 1968 headliner tour for the Who. Fifty-one cities in 59 days, launched only a few months after the Herman's Hermits opener. Unlike that last time around, on this tour, I was the designated grown-up. I told the bus driver where to go, I told the band when it was time to. The crew was small. Bob Pridden, roadie. Chris, my 17 year old cousin, roadie's assistant. Me, the band, and the bus driver. That was it. All the gear and luggage slammed underneath. Inside, it was Keith Moon meets Animal House. There were six bunks built out of 2x4s, three on each side of the bus. An early onboard restroom – basically, a porta-john bolted to the back corner of the bus – insured that we all gathered in the front.

The Who had built what felt like a big following in England and were becoming something exciting in Europe, but on their own in the U.S. it was a hard sell. They weren't sexy, not exactly cute, and they didn't match. They were four guys from different planets playing songs that sounded like plane crashes or audio crossword puzzles.

Initially, the idea had been for the Who to gain some exposure with Herman's Hermits, then venture out on their own headlining tour. The Hermits' audiences, though, had been 17 year old girls gushing over that cute Herman and his cute songs. On the road this time around, the Who were attracting older, rougher crowds definitely not into cute. These kids were into raising hell, and word was that the Who was a wild band that busted up equipment, but even that story wasn't common knowledge, more like a rumor.

The first headline tour was grueling. It went on for months. It was also depressing. If the crowd numbered close to a thousand at a show, that was a big deal. The dream had been to take America by storm and make a ton of cash. With the mounting bills for demolished equipment and hotel repairs, though, instead of returning to England as wealthy heroes, the Who were headed back to a mindboggling mountain of debt. This was the big picture; the little one was the endless hours on the bus, apathetic audiences, girls who wanted to know if the band had actually ever met the Beatles.

I sat next to Pete as he wiped the bus window with his sleeve. It was raining. This had to be wrong. Jonesy had stopped in front of a doorway all right, and it did say "Grande," but it was lit with what appeared to be a single one-hundred watt bulb. I ran to the front of the bus.

"You sure this is it, Jonesy?" I asked. "Have you been here before?"

Obviously he had, since he'd dropped the equipment off that afternoon. But things look different in the dark and the wet. And this was real dark. Ghetto dark. Jonesy was checking his mimeographed maps when a cop banged on the door. Roger, standing down the stairs, leaning on the door, swung the handle. The cop stuck his head in the bus. "Boy, are you mother-fuckers late." He was smiling, and seemed to form an instant allegiance with Jonesy. Come to think of it, with their nearly matching uniform caps, they looked like twin brothers in the dark.

Where was everybody? I mean, here we were in the ghetto, in the rain, Keith still wearing the pink satin suit he'd slept in for two days, Roger with his Nehru jacket, hair teased and lacquered to the sky, John looking like a homosexual undertaker, Pete all scruffy and bloodshot. And me, balancing blown nerves and no sleep with Valiums and Black Mollies. "I'll catch the door," said the cop, and dashed for what we guessed was the entrance under the dangling bulb. Pete started to exit the bus, then turned, resigned to a shitty show. "Let's just go play a quick 45 and get the hell out," he said, sounding like DeGaulle announcing to his troops that they were leaving Paris.

The guys trotted toward the front the door, Jonesy locked the bus, and I squeezed in behind the band. Once inside, we couldn't believe what we saw. The place was packed, people jammed so close together it looked like they were stuck to the walls. The smell of pot just about knocked you over. Everybody was friendly, and they knew the band immediately. The guys freaked; they weren't used to being recognized.

As we inched along, I could just see the top of the crowd. Jonesy was flat up against my back, my face was jammed into John's spine. We were bunny-hopping in slow motion across a lobby that, without the cop pushing point, we could never have hoped to penetrate.

The thick layer of smoke hanging over the crowd looked sliceable. The walls were covered with dark, gaudy DayGlo paintings. Hendrix was blaring from the wall speakers, I could hear the bass runs on the soles of my feet. I pulled up my briefcase in front of my stomach and held on with both hands. Being surrounded by people, I could only sense the size of the crowd, could only see a few people at a time. A girl with long, straight hair stuck a joint in my mouth, it stayed there. I stood on my toes to catch a glimpse of the cop's hat, I couldn't see it. A girl handed Pete a note above the crowd. She was as tall as Pete—either that or she was on somebody's shoulders.

I remember thinking that if I dropped my briefcase, I could never get it back. It was getting worse. My chest was in a vise between John's back and Jonesy's chest. The joint was burning my lips, and I tried to spit it out. It eventually fell between my briefcase and John's back. I assumed it was burning away on his coat, and I remember screaming in John's ear that he was on fire. But he didn't notice anything. It crossed my mind that "Fire" might be the wrong thing to scream at that moment.

With all the leather fringe, beads, and scarves, it looked like a masquerade party. It smelled like a hash convention in Tangier. Everybody except the cop was smoking pot. To make things stranger, a set of strobe lights went on, and I could hear Hendrix breathing between the lines of "Are You Experienced?" He must have written it here.

Finally, we wound up in a tiny dressing room. Jonesy shut the door behind me, Pridden, who'd been getting things onstage just right, came bounding in the side door. "Bloody hell!" he yelled. "What a bloody fucking mess!"

"Where's your guitar?" Bob yelled at Pete.

Pete's face fell. "Damn," he said. "It's on the bus."

Jonesy looked at his watch. "It took us 45 minutes to get here from the front door," he said. Bob had a white, re-glued Fender Strat with an electric short. It would have to do.

A tall, red-headed guy came in from the side door, his face colored with clown paint. Scary. "I'm Dave Miller," he said. "I'm the announcer." He walked over to Pete and handed him a joint. "It's a pretty good crowd, " he said, "but then it's like this every Friday."

"Bloody hell," said Pete, taking a big hit and holding it in.

"Could you get us a drink?" asked Keith, sounding like Peter O'Toole addressing the Queen's butler.

"Fuck no," said Dave, laughing. "We don't have alcohol here. I'll announce you, and then you come out."

The band formed a line behind Dave at the stage door. He got the last of the joint from Pete, then stepped out on the stage. "Okay," he said, looking out over the crowd, "let's" – he gave a you're-gonna-love-this grin – "welcome The Who-o-o-o!"

Bob handed Pete the guitar at the doorway, the band scrambled to their spots. My stomach tightened. The stage was about chest high. People rested their elbows on it. No cops, no security. Just wall-to-wall humanity, waiting to rock. A loud crackle came from Pete's guitar as he jammed the lead into the amp socket. Like a machine gun, they kicked off "Substitute."
Wow.

"Jonesy, look at this!" I shouted. "They're singing with the band. They know the song!" This had never happened in the States. The crowd was pulsing like a well-trained combat unit. Guys were banging their heads and hands on the stage.

The band looked at each other. This was the audience they'd worked their whole lives to find, and halfway into the first song they knew it for sure. The whole building seemed to work with them. The crowd, stoned out of their minds, was watching, approving, everything the band did. It was as if this whole tour had been a long, agonizing foot race to this, the last lap, with no one behind them. The guys got their second wind from the roar of the crowd and went full blast. For the Who, it was the perfect set.

The next day they would sell a zillion records in Detroit, disc jockeys raving. The Who had finally arrived in America; moments before they were ready to leave and never come back.

They never topped that show.
Posted: Oct 25, 2006 4:47 pm
 
and this. can you imagine dropping acid and getting on a plane??? jesus christ.



The Who were off touring the U.K. yet again. For the time being, I was stuck in New York, getting some work as a fashion and rock photographer. At the Albert Hotel, I built a massive darkroom in the master bedroom and bathroom, and put in a 15-foot stainless steel sink that'd come out of a restaurant re-sale place. I wood-paneled the other bathroom with used oak flooring until it looked like an uptown outhouse right in the middle of Manhattan. The big living room with the fireplace became my photo studio, I fogged the huge windows with white spray paint. From ten in the morning 'til early afternoon I had natural studio light – that soft, Paris skylight feel.

One day, Russ Gibb, the high school teacher/radio deejay who booked the talent into the Grande Ballroom in Detroit, called. He was opening the Cleveland Grande, he told me, on Halloween, just a few weeks away, and wanted me to come out and photograph the event – Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, some good Cleveland bands opening. He'd pay for the plane ticket and give me a couple hundred bucks.

When I'd returned to New York, I'd gone straight to the editor of Eye magazine and told him that I'd just traveled the whole country with the Who, and that the hottest music spot in the country by far was now Detroit. And now Russ Gibb wanted pictures; here was my ticket back to the Grande.

My cousin Chris, who'd helped out on the Who tour and was staying with me in New York, wanted to go too, and agreed to pay his own way. Since the Blues Magoos were booked for a bunch of college dates in New England, I didn't feel comfortable leaving all my stuff at the Albert alone. Geoff said he knew a session drummer who'd stay in the fixed-up suite for 60 bucks and a case of beer. Problem solved.

Halloween arrived, and just as we were to leave for the airport, it started to snow, the beginnings of a blizzard. Chris wasn't happy about flying in a snowstorm – but staying alone in New York City was scarier. We were packed and ready to go, but no drummer. We'd planned to take the subway to the shuttle bus to the airport. We waited and waited, but were finally running out of time. Minutes before calling off the whole thing, the drummer showed. I phoned for a cab.

As we waited for the car, the drummer took me aside. "Have you heard of Owsley acid?" he whispered. Chris was over by the window, watching for the taxi. I shook my head. "It's pure," the drummer said. "Heavy-duty, maximum-pure LSD. I've got six hits. Here, take a couple of tabs." He placed two little pieces of paper in my hand. "It's pure," he said again. "You can function. No bad trip with this shit; it's the best acid in the world."

I put the tabs into the watch pocket of my jeans as Chris whistled that the cab had pulled up. We grabbed our bags and headed out the door. "What was that all about?" Chris asked in the elevator. "He gave us some LSD," I said. "Can we take it?" Chris asked. What the hell, I thought. I gave him a tab and swallowed the other. We washed them down with vodka, my camera bag vodka.

We rolled through the snow waiting for things to happen. About 30 minutes into the ride the first wave hit. I glanced over at Chris; he looked like he was in shock. We both realized we were in trouble, my heart shifted into passing gear. After awhile we were standing in front of the United Airlines entrance, fascinated by the snow. Slipping, sliding, and tripping we made it inside, but by then the pale yellow walls were made of butter. And they were moving.

Ten minutes... to flight time... we started running for Gate 13... wait a minute... Halloween... terminal... gate 13...

We galloped to the counter, picked up our tickets, and were the last ones to board. I wanted to scream and run back out of the plane; instead, we found the only two seats left and strapped in. We both made unsuccessful attempts at looking normal, reading the brochures and magazines upside-down, gleaning all sorts of meaning from the graphics. The plane didn't move, thanks to the horrible weather. For 45 minutes we sat there, no A/C, no cigarettes, no drinks, now in the middle of a full-blown acid trip.

By the time we took off, I was sure that my cousin's skin was not only paper-white, but had hints of green around his face. Finally, we pulled above the thick, snowy cloud cover and broke into clear, purplish-black sky. A full moon at eye-level just outside the window was a big white face. "I see you, you're on acid, aren't you?" the moon chastised, "you are a couple of very bad boys."

Chris and I pounded drinks as fast as the stewardesses could bring them, and smoked cigarettes one after another. We still couldn't speak to each other, but we didn't need to; we were in the same seat spiritually. After an hour, people began to talk and loosen up, the stewardesses pulled and pushed their big cart down the aisle and collected refuse from the trays. The worst of the acid wave seemed to be over.

Suddenly, the plane lurched forward, then went into a nose-dive straight down. I thought at first it was the acid, but the screams of 200 people around me told me otherwise. I leaned out into the aisle and could see the stewardess on her knees, clutching the drink wagon, shrieking as blood spurted from her forehead. The old guy sitting next to the window pulled out a bottle of scotch, downed about a third of it and handed it to me. I couldn't manage to get it far enough in the air to pour. Out the window I could see highways and headlights so close I could tell what make the cars were.

Just then, the plane's nose came back up and the G-force shoved us back down into our seats. It felt like the wings were curving up so far the tips were going to touch over the fuselage. I was sure impact was only seconds away. Instead, we barreled down the runway at full speed, until the engines reversed, throwing our bodies forward. As the engines roared, the screaming in the cabin was replaced with loud sobbing. Finally, we jerked to a halt and the lights in the cabin went out.

"Welcome to Cleveland," the stewardess warbled wanly over the speaker. After a few people up front were taken out on stretchers, passengers covered in spilled drinks, potato salad, and vomit filed silently out of the cabin that was streaked with the stewardess's bloody handprints. Now everybody looked like they were on acid.

We all stumbled into the terminal at Cleveland, which was filled with hundreds of college kids in Halloween costumes. Nixon in a blue suit flashing the peace sign. Castro in fatigues smoking a huge cigar. Gaggles of witches and devils. All hurling glitter and yelling. The passengers from our flight didn't seem to notice a thing; Chris and I were freeze-dried in acid.

We wandered with the rest toward the United counter where a guy in shirt and tie was saying what a great pilot we had, that the plane had lost cabin pressure and he had just a few seconds to get the plane down or the whole aircraft would've imploded. There'd been no time to make an announcement.

Still nearly paralyzed, Chris and I somehow made our way out front and hailed a cab.

"What do you think of LSD now?" I asked him.

"I don't think I need to do this again," he said as he stared out the window at the crystal moon hanging over Cleveland.


I returned to New York to find my apartment broken into, furniture ripped up, radios, record players and telephone all gone. Twenty guitars were smashed, and what hadn't been destroyed had been stolen. Everything I owned was gone.

The next day I went to the Eye offices, only to find plywood over the windows and the door bolted shut. Everyone at the magazine had been busted for cocaine.

I phoned Russ Gibb. I wanted to return to Detroit to manage the Grande, I told him. He agreed.

I built a loft in the back of the club, and lived there for almost a year and a half.
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