In December 2015, the Smithsonian Institution began an ambitious crowdsourced history of rock ’n’ roll photography, calling on music fans to contribute their amateur and pro photos, launching the web site rockandroll.si.edu as a one-stop for accepting and displaying shooters’ submissions. One of the project’s organizers, Bill Bentley, was quoted in Billboard:
We talked about how it could be completely far-reaching in terms of those allowed to contribute, and hopefully help expose all kinds of musicians and periods. There really are no boundaries in the possibilities. I’d like to help spread all styles of music to those who visit the site, and show just how all-encompassing the history of what all these incredible artists have created over the years. What better way than for people to share their visual experiences, no matter on what level, to the world at large.
The project, sadly, is now closed to new submissions, but it’s reached a milestone in the publication of Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen, authored by Bentley. The book is a pretty great cull of the best the collection had to offer, full of photos rarely or never seen by the public, chronologically arranged, and dating back to the dawn of the rock era. Some of them are real jaw-droppers, like the concert shot of Richie Valens taken hours before his death, Otis Redding drenched in sweat at the Whiskey a Go Go, Sly Stone looking like a goddamn superhero at the Aragon Ballroom in 1974. From Bentley’s introduction:
Although the sheer breadth of the offerings was overwhelming, that fact only underlined the importance of an organizational strategy. The publisher sorted through the submissions, categorizing them by performer and date to create a complete historical timeline of rock and roll. Approximately three hundred photographs are included in the following narrative, many of them by amateurs whose enthusiasm and passion for their subjects are here presented to the public for the first time. The balance of the photos were taken by professional “lens whisperers,” whose shots were selected to flesh out this overview of rock and roll. The results, spanning six decades, aim for neither encyclopedic authority nor comprehensive finality, but rather an index of supreme influence.
Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen isn’t due until late in October, but the Smithsonian have been very kind in allowing Dangerous Minds to share some of these images with you today. Clicking an image will spawn an enlargement.
Blondie at CBGB, New York City, 1976. Photo Roberta Bayley /Smithsonian Books
The Clash at the Orpheum Theatre, Boston, September 19, 1979. Photo Catherine Vanaria /Smithsonian Books
Frank Zappa at Maple Pavilion, Stanford University, CA, November 19, 1977. Photo Gary Kieth Morgan /Smithsonian Books
Iggy Pop at the Whisky a Go Go, West Hollywood, CA, July 1974. Photo James Fortune /Smithsonian Books
Lou Reed at the filming of the “Legendary Hearts” video, New York City, 1983. Photo Kathy Findlay /Smithsonian Books
Patti Smith at the Longbranch, Berkeley, CA, 1976. Photo Hugh Brown /Smithsonian Books
The Runaways’ Joan Jett at Dooley’s, Tempe, AZ, 1978. Photo Dorian Boese /Smithsonian Books
Bill Lordan and Sly Stone at Balboa Stadium, San Diego, September 7, 1974. Photo Gary Kieth Morgan /Smithsonian Books
Talking Heads at the Keystone, Berkeley, CA, December 9, 1977. Photo Hugh Brown /Smithsonian Books
Fugazi at the Duncan Arena, Winnipeg, Manitoba, August 14, 1991. Photo Doug Humiski /Smithsonian Books