Like it was Yesterday with Brad Elterman by Discosalt
Brad Elterman’s golden rule of concerts?
“There’s always a party.” And if anyone is an authority on this, it’s Elterman.
Around a curtained corner in the posh Le Parker Meridien hotel on Manhattan’s West Side, under a neon burger sign, I sit down with prolific rock photographer, Brad Elterman. The Burger Joint is a crowded hole-in-the-wall in the middle of this luxury hotel. Elterman has suggested this place for dinner, which turned out to be apropos for the man himself.
Elterman is a sort of Everyman – a completely unpretentious, quality guy, who just happens to seat himself in the middle of decadence. At sixteen, he borrowed a friend’s camera and snapped a shot of Dylan performing on stage, launching a whirlwind career that has given him backstage access to just about every rock/punk/pop legend to grace the stage and my high school bedroom walls. He has partied with the best, and he has spent his life chronicling these adventures.
As we talk, I realize how genuinely interested Elterman is in hearing my perspective on his photos: why do I like them and what do they mean to me? He talks about music, his disgust for today’s pop culture, why he likes Lindsey Lohan. He appreciates a good burger, a good beer, a good whiskey. He just also happens to be good friends with Cherie Currie, used to party with nude girls at The Mega Mansion in Beverly Hills four times a week, and still has dinner with the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones.
Elterman’s new, limited-edition, signed, seventy-two page book, Like It Was Yesterday, which has graciously included Discosalt in the intro, is a personal collection of fifty-five provocative black and white and color glossies. Pop culture aficionados are transported back to the long gone, but not forgotten, rock-and-roll renaissance of the seventies and eighties. It’s a collection of raw, candid, often intimate snapshots of celebrities at a point in time when celebrity meant something very different than it does today. Brad’s unadulterated images manage to capture and transcend something beyond the guise of the lens: a loner slacker Joey Ramone in a parking garage; a workaholic David Bowie hustling to his car at 6am; Steve Jones showing off his “sex pistol” in a swimming pool. These are moments that can never be reproduced in a studio.
As we chew the fat about his prolific career and the book, I realize that Brad’s rule for concerts, doesn’t only apply to concerts. It’s sort of his life mantra. There is always a party, if you are looking for one. And Brad is always looking, thankfully right behind a camera.
DISCOSALT: Do you have an all time favorite photo you have shot over the years?
BRAD ELTERMAN: Probably the photo that I took of Bob Dylan backstage at The Roxy in 1976. It wasn’t just the photo, it was getting to meet Dylan, shaking his hand, chatting with him and to take his photograph with Robert DeNiro. It was really something.
D: Craziest Party you’ve ever been to?
BE: Warner Bros Records threw The Faces with Rod Stewart a party at The Green House in Beverly Hills. That was probably around 1976. I was invited by Rod’s colorful publicist Tony Toon and at one table sat Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, David Blue, Cher with Greg Allman and Paul and Linda McCartney. I did not own a wide angle lens so I just zoomed in on Dylan at the table. Floating around the party was Jimmy Page, Rod with Brit Eklund and best of all Bryan Ferry. I will never forget that evening as long as I live.
D: How is Celebrity different today than it was back in the 70’s and 80’s?
BE: Celebrity today? There is no real celebrity today. I had Dylan and The Ramones and today you have Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga. No interest to me. Pop Culture today is created in an attorney’s office in Century City. In the office is a lawyer, manager, publicist and a booking agent with some hand selected overproduced starlet. Let’s see how they are remembered in three decades.
DS: Are you still in touch with any of the musicians in the book and have you gotten any of their reactions to the photos today, looking back?
BE: I see Leif Garrett once in a while. Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols lives up the street from me and we dine from time to time. Steve adores the photograph of him jerking off in my pool in 1978. We talk about it all the time! I just saw Bebe Buell in New York last week.
D: Who would you love to shoot today?
BE: Lindsay Lohan. She is a photographers dream and she is loaded with controversy. That’s what makes a great photograph. I am sure that I will photograph her one day, but I refuse to pay her for a photo session. Instead I will share with her all of my stories and sign for her a copy of my book! I will photograph her with a roll of black and white film just like it was yesterday.
Check out the full gallery of Brad’s work on BradElterman.com