The Clash @ Bonds NYC 1981 – The Clash shows at Bonds in New York were the height of classic Clash self promotion. Well in my eyes at least. Like Joe disappearing before concert tours, or Topper’s in Topper’s out. How exactly does one “over sell” tickets to a show. You know the occupancy level of a venue, it’s a finite number. You sell X many tickets per show. How hard can that be? But not Bonds. Not this time. There were so many people packed into Bonds in the first days, the city closed down the May 30th show. The munificent and magnificent Clash said … we’ll just play more shows. Isn’t it amazing that Bonds had nothing else booked for the days those 17 shows were on? Hmmm. Nor the Clash? Hmmm.
No matter what the reason, or how it happened, the Bonds shows were the stuff legends are made of … and so much more. Thanks to Clash friend Brenda (whom I’ve mentioned in other Clash related posts) … allowed Dorothy and your humble narrator into any shows we wanted. Honestly … I don’t even remember which day Dorothy and I went together. Dorothy probably remembers … but I don’t. It was probably a Saturday show … being I had classes and work during the days. She had gone to a few more shows than I did. I only went to the one. She even took my friend Geoff Hoover to one of them. With all of the chaos going on, and my still going to school at the time at CW Post … I decided one would be enough. Stupid me! =:o
The day that Dorothy and I went was pretty much an all day affair. We got there in the early afternoon … hence the photos hanging in front of Bonds of Mick, Ari, and Viv. The show was great! But I didn’t want to go down in the crowd to shoot. The Bonds stage was so high up … the angle, even if close to the stage would have been nasty ugly! Luckily I was given access to shoot from the side of the stage. It was the first time I shot any band this way … so frontal shots of Joe or Mick were impossible. Lots of shots of Paul though. I finished off the roll of B&W I was shooting, then popped in a roll of color. I didn’t shoot too much live stuff … I was waiting to get back stage. Plus … being a student … I didn’t have a ton of money to buy film or have it developed.
Back stage was so much fun. There were a lot of press photographers there that night. So I was always fighting for access. Paul was so sweet that night and let me have a little time for my own private shoot with him. The photo I call “NG” is one of those classics moments captured for all time … one of my fave Clash photos. The photo was published as a back cover in the British magazine “Teenage Kicks” as a full back cover. Being backstage with the Clash was an experience I’ll never forget. It’s one of those times I’ll tell my (nonexistent) children and grandchildren about. So here I am telling you.
The photo of all photos was the “drawn curtain” photo of Joe Strummer I talked about in my post “The Future Is Unwritten … The Past Has Been Stolen”. I have to say without Dorothy’s help, I would have never been able to get this one.
My then girlfriend Dorothy saw I wasn’t having the best of luck trying to muscle my way into that little nook where Joe, Mick and Paul were being photographed by the press. She stood on one side of the curtain divider and called me over. “Streno! Come here! I’ll pull the curtain back and you be ready to take the picture”. And so it happened. I knew I only had one chance to take one photo. Had no idea if Joe would even look my way. Dorothy pulled back the curtain. One of us called to Joe. He turned, looked straight into my lens, I focused, framed, and pop, the photo was taken. As soon as it was done, I thanked him, and Joe pulled back the curtain and went about his business on the other side. Beyond the gorilla photo tactics needed to take the photo, there was an element of fortuitous serendipity. One of the photographers was using a flash with a slave unit. When my flash fired, so did his. Not only did it create a wonderful “star burst” of light to the left of Joe’s face, it also did back-lighting for me, making Joe just pop out of the picture, as well as throw frontal lighting on both Mick & Paul. It truly was a photograph of a lifetime …
The show itself was amazing. How could it not be … Topper was still kickin’ it hard … and it was the culmination of all that came before plus the addition of the best of Sandinista. I’m sitting here listening to one of the bootlegs of one of the shows … pretty amazing! Good sound quality too.
So here they are … my photos of The Clash and the Slits at Bonds International Casino, NYC 1981. Thanks for stopping by and …. Enjoy!
One last thing … I’m thinking of doing a book of my Clash photos. Would anyone be interested in purchasing a soft or hard cover book like this? I’d put it together as a numbered and signed limited edition run. If you think you’d be interested, leave a comment below. What would you be willing to pay for a 20 (or so) page book? $50.00? $75.00 plus shipping? Thanks for your input!
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