Photograph, from May/June 1995Over the past 20-plus years with BASS PLAYER, Art Director and photographer Paul Haggard has accumulated a shelf full of broken cameras and some dusty memories. He will recount some over the next few columns until either he can't remember any more, or they fail to be interesting— whichever comes first.
THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE OF the fence, the old saying goes, but in this particular case, please substitute snow, colder, and continent.
I am a card-carrying California boy —born and raised—and my only memory of snow falling near my home was in the background of a Kodak snapshot of myself from 1962. So I am generally more inclined to wear a T-shirt than a down parka during winter, but a parka was precisely what I found myself wearing in January 1995 as I traversed Highway 87 on my way through pillowy, white countryside to Woodstock, New York.
Prior to this, the closest I had ever gotten to Woodstock was a blurry midnight movie where there were naked hippies, more naked hippies, and, uh, clothed hippies. I didn’t really think there would be a possibilty of encountering a massive throng of flower children in the middle of this snow-covered wonderland, but I kept a wary eye out in any case. These were the years before GPS navigation—when people might actually have gotten lost at some point on a trip—and as I got nearer to my destination, I was beginning to become directionally confused. I pulled up to a gas station and asked of two greasy mechanics working on a beat-up Saab, “Which way to Woodstock?”
“You’re 25 years late!”
Jesus. Even up here, comedians.
Woodstock is a beautiful little village. It might be a hamlet, if I knew what that meant, and it is a place even a California boy could love. Tony Levin was waiting for me there with his assistant, Clem, in a quaint little house made entirely of stone (I will call him Clem, because I cannot for the life of me remember his actual name. Sorry, Clem.)
We set up in the house and shot numerous poses with backdrop and without and then went into the garage to assess other possible locations, and there was this large Harley-Davidson leaning on its kickstand, gleaming in the illumination from a single skylight. We stared at it in silence for a few seconds until an amorphous speech bubble mystically materialized above it that said “Ride me.”
Th ere seemed to be only one thing to do at this point. So Tony did.
Clem hops in behind the wheel of my rented mini-van, and I hang out the open side door with the camera. As we match Tony’s speed down the highway, I realize it is freezing-effing-cold. My puny, thin, California skin is no match for this Upstate New York wind-chill. I look over at Tony and notice he is wearing a thin jacket, no gloves, and some kind of leather skull-chiller. This man is my kind of subject. He is killing himself for the sake of the image. I don’t know if musicians have underwriters, like movie stars, but if his insurance company knew he was subjecting his valuable fingers to near-frostbite conditions, I’m sure something would have become either null or void.
I also assume there is something else going on here. There must be some genetic super-resistance to temperature long since bred out of the California beach-tanning, Jamba-Juicing gene pool. Tony is a Massachussetts man, acclimated to winters equal or worse than here. If I lived here in this beastly tundra, my West-Coast circulatory system would surely succumb to withering, frozen death.
But Tony, when you are next in California, I will challenge you to a Boosted Pomegranite Pick-Me-Up Make-It-Light drink-a-thon on the patio, in the shade. I will rule.