Photo: Davis Factor
Sex Pistols' Steve Jones Re-Loads "Jonesy’s Jukebox" Podcast Following FX Series Success
"I didn't know what I was doing," the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones says of his radio show-turned-podcast. "But it turned into a great community thing." The guitarist discusses broadcasting, relationships and what the TV show "Pistol" got right and wrong.
If anyone could make podcasting feel authentically punk rock, it’s Steve Jones. The Sex Pistols guitarist — who just saw his life story depicted on screen by director Danny Boyle in FX/Hulu’s bio-drama series "Pistol"— is trying his hand at the platform as of late, presenting his popular radio show "Jonesy’s Jukebox" in a new format for a new audience on Spotify and whereever podcasts are available.
A treasure trove of memories and insights featuring conversations with iconic figures via his old radio show of the same name (broadcast first on L.A.’s now-defunct Indie 103.1 FM, then on KROQ 106.7 FM for a short stint, and finally, the classic rock stalwart KLOS 95.5 FM), "Jonesy’s Jukebox" features candid chats with everyone from the Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde (who is also featured on "Pistol") to Siouxsie and the Banshees and New York Dolls’ David Johansen, as well archived talks with old bandmates John Lydon and Glen Matlock and now-deceased manager Malcom McClaren. Conversations released so far are from the last decade, now previewed with new intros in which Jones provides post-"Pistol" context in his unconventionally honest, occasionally self-deprecating and always engaging style. There’s also brand new interviews with the "Pistol" cast and filmmaker Boyle, and more to come.
"Pistol" was based on Jones’ 2016 autobiography Lonely Boy, but it strives to be more than one man’s story; Boyle set out to chronicle both the band’s short but impactful existence and the era in which it emerged (mid-1970s London) when their music and anarchistic message changed everything. Formed with his high school friend, drummer Paul Cook, then adding bassist Glen Matlock, Jones' first group evolved quickly after he met Malcolm McLaren at his and designer Vivienne Westwood’s King Road boutique, SEX. The young troublemaker and petty thief soon became a muse for the pair and their anti-establishment ideas, which evolved as they were given a provocative new name (they started as the Strand and later the Swankers) and added singer Johnny Rotten. Matlock was later replaced with the infamous Sid Vicious.
Though they only released one record, 1977’s Never Mind the Bollocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols, the band became legends (living ones, as all are still alive except of course, Vicious, who died of a heroin overdose soon after being accused of killing his girlfriend Nancy Spungen).
Arguably, the Pistols' music and image remain symbolic for everything that "punk" stands for: intentionally tattered and deconstructed anti-fashion, loud, noisy, aggressive music, and an ethos rooted in anarchy and destruction of societal mores. The band who famously refused their induction into the Rock & Hall of Fame in 2006 never veered from their defiant legacy, which was celebrated on film in 1980 via McLaren’s The Great Rock n’ Roll Swindle, Julien Temple’s 2000 documentary The Filth and the Fury, and Gary Oldman's 1986 vehicle Sid & Nancy.
Rotten remains a recognizably irascible music figure, mostly due to his outspoken nature and as frontman for Public Image Ltd (PIL), which still plays shows and festivals. Other than the Pistol’s 1996 "Filthy Lucre" reunion tour, Cook and Matlock have stayed mostly under the radar, though Matlock is currently the touring bassist for Blondie. Jones has shown himself to be the most versatile of the bunch, playing in a few different bands over the years — the Professionals with Cook, an act called P with Johnny Depp and the Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes, and the supergroup Neurotic Outsiders with members of Guns n' Roses and Duran Duran (their self-tilted debut was just re-released last month on Supermegabot Records). He’s also had a smattering of memorable acting roles, from "Roseanne" to "Portlandia" to "Californication."
Now that "Pistol" has re-introduced Jones and his seminal rock band to a new generation, "Jonesy’s Jukebox" serves as an inimitable complement to the series — especially for those who want to learn more about the emergence and evolution of British punk and how it influenced music of all genres both within and outside the U.K.. GRAMMY.com spoke with Jones by phone about the show, his relationship with Lydon, and the band that turned rebellion and chaos into chart-topping success.
What made you decide to bring back "Jonesy’s Jukebox" as a podcast? Did "Pistol" spark the idea or did you already want to do it anyway?
No I was going to do it anyway, just because every other Tom, Dick and Harry does one so why not? I just remembered how great [the radio show] was…. It just happened naturally and it was just a fluke, really. But it turned into something great. I did get a lot of complaints and people would be like, "that was s—, man. I want AC/DC!"
My true passion is the other way, playing music too. I like interviewing people, don't get me wrong. That can be fun. As long as you're not asking the usual quack questions. I like opening someone up a bit and talking about different stuff.
The conversation you ran with the late Tony Wilson (of the Manchester music scene and Factory Records) was great because it went over your radio career and how it led to where you are now.
I was driving around L.A. and I came across Indie on my car radio. I'm like, ‘Oh, wow, what is this punk rock station and there's no commercials?’ I didn't realize that the reason they didn't play any commercials was because it just started and they hadn't gotten any advertising. So then I ….said "please I would like to DJ," and it kind of happened.
I didn't know what I was doing. But it turned into a great community thing. You’re driving around in LA, listening to it live, and anything can happen. Anything can change. Anyone can show up. And I could play anything. I played whatever I felt like at that moment in time. It wasn't planned out. It wasn't like radio is now, when they have a format and you have to kind of talk in between it or like on Sirius and all that. They're not playing the music live. They're just talking and then putting the songs in later. To me, that's just like work. That's not fun.
That's the one thing missing a bit, listening to your old shows now in this format, we hear you back-announce the great music that you played initially, but now it’s cut. Still, "Jukebox" maintains that spontaneous energy and great talk. I was pleasantly surprised when I first noticed it on Spotify, especially right after watching "Pistol."
When "Pistol" was coming out, we put one [podcast out] a week on a Monday and ran shows that coincided– that's why we did Tony Wilson, Malcolm McLaren, Chrissie Hynde and John Lydon, because they’re all in it.
You are now recording new interviews for this podcast and you're going to continue the podcast, which is great news. Will we be getting more old archived shows? Will you mix old and new each week? What's the plan for the rollout?
I don't know what the plan is to be honest with you. If I can't find someone to interview, maybe [I'll] pick up an old one. I mean, there's tons of it. It's good, because most people wouldn't even have heard these old ones anyway. It's a different world from when Indie collapsed in 2007-2008.
I believe some of those are on YouTube now. That's a good question. I'm not sure yet.
It’s the early days and it's loose, but I am going to pursue it as best as I can.
The looseness of those interviews is what makes them special. Speaking of, the Chrissie Hynde show was so fun and flirty. And it was a bonus to hear you two playing music together too. Is that something that you will do — pick up your guitar and jam out with more guests?
I think that's totally possible and that is a good avenue to go down. You know, just a couple of acoustics and just jam, that could be fun.
Listening back to that one and then watching your romance with her as it played out in "Pistol" made it all the more insightful and entertaining. Any comment on how your relationship with Hynde was portrayed in the program?
Well, it was definitely, you know, pushed a little more than reality. We definitely hung out a lot back in the day, but not as much as it’s portrayed in "Pistol." But it definitely was a thing. But I wasn't interested in her music, I just wanted to get busy with her.
Well, that really comes out in the interview — that it was a physical thing mostly. I think we all know when we watch movies and shows about bands in any format that certain things are exaggerated. But it was really exciting to hear you and Chrissie reminiscing about your wild days fooling around, going to parties and all of that.
The big interview everyone will definitely want to hear is the 2004 John Lydon conversation, which in the context of now, feels like an important piece of history. That was the first time you guys had talked in a very long time, and the only later era conversation on tape.
That interview with John was a good one.
It really brings another dimension to what we all see in "Pistol," which has gotten really great reviews for the most part. Has that made you happy?
Yeah, of course. You don't want to get a flop out there. There's always going to be naysayers. It's not a documentary, which I say all the time. It's for fun and entertainment. There's a lot of truth in it. But you're going to get these sticklers who are complaining that I don't have the right guitar strap and stuff, which is ridiculous. Just watch it and look at the big picture. And if you don't want to watch it, don't watch it. It's all good.
I think Danny did a great job. He's from the same era as me. It meant a lot to him. He was a punk when it all started. I know everyone's moaning about Disney’s involvement and blah blah blah Disney, but they stepped up to the plate. I’ve got no problem.
How much say did you have? Were you on set during any of the filming? What was your input while it was being made?
I didn't want to go to England. I had a heart attack in 2019 and it took me a long time to recover. I would get panic attacks and anxiety. Everyone was begging me to go over there when they were filming it. I actually went to the airport and I was trying to put on a brave face. I went to the airport and I literally couldn't get on the plane; I just came back. I felt disappointed that I couldn't physically do it. But it was all too much for me.
I just went recently for the premiere because I'm a lot better now than I was.
I hung out with Toby [Wallace, who played him in "Pistol"] a lot — he came to L.A. And I hung out with Craig Pearce, the screenwriter, when he came out for a couple of weeks. I gave Toby some guitar lessons. But I really didn't have a lot of input.
When they started filming, you know I'd see rushes and a few stills here and there, and I was like, "wow, it looks very authentic." But with Danny Boyle doing it, I was like just let him get on with it. That’s how he does it anyway, he don't really listen to anyone. You know, he's got his vision and I'm totally cool with that. I don't need to be poking my nose in.
That's a good point. And so sorry to hear about your heart attack. Glad that you're better now.
Yeah, that was almost three years ago. It was definitely a wake up call for me. I wasn't looking after myself. The hardest thing was having panic attacks. I never had any panic attacks or anything like that prior to the heart attack. I was never a basket case at all. And I turned into a bit of a basket case, but I'm out of it now.
Though critically acclaimed, many music snobs and punk purists also took issue with the accuracy of "Pistol," as you mentioned. What are your feelings about that?
What I liked about it, is that some people have no idea who the Sex Pistols are or they have no idea even what rock and roll is, but still they enjoyed the story.
True. And obviously, it was casted with young actors, some of whom have their own followings. So a new generation got to learn about the impact of the band. Maybe they’ll even seek out the music and you'll win new fans.
I think it's important for young people now to see what that was like back then. And how free it was back then to do whatever the hell you wanted to do, and make something happen. Just to see it, you know, you don't have to change. I'm glad it was done.
Even the band’s members don't all agree with how certain things went down. In your opinion, what was the biggest thing that "Pistol" really nailed versus what was not really very accurate?
I know that it was a big issue for Glenn. Me and my manager did push Danny to say that he wasn't fired from the band, but that he left. It’s kind of wishy washy in the show. I know Glenn is upset the way he was portrayed in it.
I think John is portrayed very good in it. It shows how great he was back in the day.
And it shows how young we were and how we created a great album at such an early age and how it was a little bit of magic for a short period of time. It captures that.
Since you mentioned John, he has been talking to the press quite a bit since "Pistol" came out, mostly negatively. We don’t know if he actually watched it, though. Have you talked to him?
I see the interviews and all that and I wouldn't expect anything less from him, but to be honest I never speak to John even though we live in the same city. I haven’t spoken to him since 2008 when we did some shows in Europe.
There was an issue with using the music in "Pistol," but ultimately you guys went to court and won against John since it was majority rules in terms of permissions right?
We didn't want to go to court. We reached out to get him involved in it. He wasn't interested for whatever reasons, maybe because it wasn't about him. He just did what John does, you know. None of us was expecting him to go along with it to be honest.
Ironically, he really does come off fairly complex, as far as his emotional depth, songwriting skill, and passion for what he believed and was doing.
I don't think he saw it at all when he was bad mouthing it. He probably thought we were doing it to just destroy him because he's obviously making it all about him again. And it was trying to tell the story as close as possible and to get the human elements of the relationship with me and him. I think that was the magic.
You know Sid was one thing; the two of them together looked brilliant. No question about it. And John wanted Sid in because he always wanted his mate… he always felt like it was just me and Cookie [Paul Cook] and no one wanted to hang out with him.
Glenn and him didn't really see eye to eye….But the real chemistry, I think, was when I played guitar and John put words to it. However you want to look at that. And maybe a lot of people don't, but I think the show kind of tapped on that a bit. That there was something special between us.
It was and ultimately it makes the story more compelling. It also makes you wonder what happened to all of you afterward. The podcast provides some answers in that regard. Let’s talk about your other music projects. Your all-star group the Neurotic Outsiders first record was just re-released.
I think that was a great record. Around '95-96 that group started organically from just some guy who we did a benefit for at the Viper Room. We played one week and then we said "oh, that was great, let's do it again." It was John Taylor of Duran Duran, Duff Mckagan and Matt Sorum of Guns n’ Roses. We just played every Monday at the Viper Room and it became a thing.
You would often have big names sometimes jump on stage to jam with you guys right?
Any music projects currently? Working on anything?
Well, your fans probably hope that changes. Do you still play at home for pleasure?
Absolutely. Actually there was the Generation Sex thing we did somewhat recently. It was me and Billy Idol and the original bass player from Generation X and Cookie. We did a couple of shows. We did one at the Roxy, I think it was around 2019, and we did one in New York, which was a lot of fun. That's a possibility. We might be doing that again next year.
But to be very honest with you. I really don't give a s— about playing anymore live. I'm just jaded. I just don't care. I see these old bands getting back together and I think they look ridiculous. Rock n' roll, to me, is a young man’s game.
What about the Rolling Stones?
Well I mean, I would never go and see them. Don't get me wrong, I like them. They must obviously love it. They obviously don't need the money, but it's a different thing.
The Pistols, it’s a lot harder and faster tempos, it’s a lot of work. When you’re loose like the Stones I guess you can be a hundred and still be doing it. I don't know.
So the eternal question of will the Sex Pistols ever re-unite live on stage is off the table then?
I had a dream last night, funnily enough. I don't normally remember dreams anymore, but we were in a room together rehearsing. It was a new thing and we were all kind of getting along, even knowing that "Pistol" was still a thorn in John’s side. We were still rehearsing to go on the road. It was bizarre.
For a lot of music fans, that is a dream come true.
I hate saying it ain’t ever going to happen. It only pays off if I need a new kitchen or something. I guess you never know.
The Week In Music: March Madness
A field of 64 bands set to vie for ESPN's best rock band crown
March Madness is here, that captivating time of year when 68 teams set out on the Road to the Final Four in their quest for NCAA men's college basketball supremacy. This year's tournament is scheduled to get underway March 17, with brackets to be announced March 13. However, those wishing to take part in some early madness with a side of musical fun can get a head start with ESPN's Herd Rock Band Bracket, a 64-artist field devised by radio host Colin Cowherd to crown the best rock band. Formal ESPN analysis is still pending, but we'll chime in with a few first-round matchups to keep an eye on. Teen spirit and Kurt Cobain will face off against the head games of Mick Jones when Nirvana and Foreigner clash in the West: Seattle Region. It will be all pinball wizardry and anarchy when the Who and the Sex Pistols battle it out in the East: New York Region. Metal will look to bring the heat against '60s psychedelia as Metallica takes on Jefferson Airplane in the Midwest: Cleveland Region. And shred guitar prowess will duel angst-ridden prog rock as Van Halen and Tool duke it out in the Far East: London region. Upset alert: Though arguably a mismatch on paper, can Scott Stapp and the No. 16-seeded upstart Creed deliver a knockout blow to the Fab Four, the No. 1-seeded Beatles, in the Far East: London region? Fill out your brackets here. Rock's March Madness survivor will be crowned later this month.
The man who went against all odds, fronted Genesis and brought us pop gems such as "Sussudio" is calling it a career. Following an onslaught of speculation on the reasons behind his retirement, Phil Collins surfaced this week to clear the air with "breaking news" on his website. "I'm not stopping because of dodgy reviews or bad treatment in the press," said Collins. "I am stopping so I can be a full-time father to my two young sons on a daily basis." Collins did take the press to task for painting him as "a tormented weirdo…who feels very sorry for himself, and is retiring hurt because of the bad press over the years." An eight-time GRAMMY winner, Collins assured that his retirement decision was a no "straitjacket" required proposition.
If you're a musician with an appetite for rock-solid financial planning from someone who has been there, done that, you're in luck. Former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan is launching Meridian Rock, a wealth management firm designed to educate musicians about their finances. While McKagan made a name for himself in GNR and the GRAMMY-winning rock band Velvet Revolver, he now fronts his own project, Loaded, and is fully loaded when it comes to financial credibility. After making millions with Axl, Slash and friends, in the '90s McKagan took basic finance courses at Santa Monica Community College in Southern California, and later earned a degree in finance at Seattle University. What type of clients does he think his firm can help? All are welcome, especially those musicians who may be timid. "If they're anything like me when I was 30, they're too embarrassed to ask," said McKagan. "I didn't know what a stock was [or] what a bond was."
With possibly one too many guys trying to touch her junk, Ke$ha has launched a safe-sex campaign. You may file it under just say no way, but the party animal/cannibal has issued 10,000 Ke$ha condoms with her face on them, which will be fired from a canon into the audience at her live shows (fortunately, there's nothing symbolic about that method of distribution). With Ke$ha condoms and a bottle of jack, we should be ready to go until the police shut us down, down.
When's the last time you took a ride down the western country line on a train? Better yet, when's the last time you took that ride with three indie bands? This April, GRAMMY nominees Mumford & Sons will embark on a six-stop tour with Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show. Titled The Railroad Revival Tour, these three bands will take a ride on a 1,500-foot long train featuring 15 vintage railcars pulled by two locomotives and are set to travel more than 2,000 miles across five states. The tour kicks off April 21 in Oakland, Calif., with stops in San Pedro, Calif., (April 22), Chandler, Ariz., (April 23), Marfa, Texas, (April 24), Austin, Texas, (April 26), and New Orleans (April 27). Could the railcar be the new tour bus? With gas prices these days, we're not sure if that'd be less or more costly.
While Lady Gaga was born this way, up-and-coming artist Maria Aragon was just born…10 years ago. After uploading a video of her cover of Gaga's "Born This Way" to YouTube, Aragon was invited onstage to perform a duet with the Lead Monster herself during a March 3 concert in Toronto. "Maria represents what this song is all about," said Gaga before leading into the song. "It's all about the next generation and the future and no more divisiveness, only unity." Let's hope this is a story that inspires future generations of Little Monsters. Don't be a drag, just be a queen.
Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Jennifer Lopez's "On The Floor" (featuring Pitbull) is atop the iTunes singles chart.
Any news we've missed? Comment below.
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Last Week In Music
GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Class Of 2015
The Hall adds 27 new recordings, including selections by ABBA, Bob Dylan, Kraftwerk, Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, Otis Redding, and Sex Pistols
Continuing the tradition of preserving and celebrating timeless recordings, The Recording Academy has announced the newest additions to its legendary GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. With 27 new titles, the list currently totals 987 and is on display at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles.
"With recordings dating as early as 1909 through the late '80s, this year's GRAMMY Hall Of Fame entries not only represent a diverse collection of influential and historically significant recordings but also reflect the changing climate of music through the decades," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "These memorable, inspiring and iconic recordings are proudly added to our growing catalog — knowing that they have become a part of our musical, social and cultural history."
Representing a great variety of tracks and albums, the 2015 GRAMMY Hall Of Fame inductees range from Autobahn by Kraftwerk to Lou Reed's controversial hit "Walk On The Wild Side." Also added to the highly regarded list are the 4 Seasons' "Big Girls Don't Cry," ABBA's "Dancing Queen," Neil Young's 1972 album Harvest, Chic's disco classic "Le Freak," the Sex Pistols' album Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols, and Alice Cooper's "School's Out." Other inductees include recordings by Harry Belafonte, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Otis Redding, and Hank Williams, among others.
Spotify Playlist: 2015 GRAMMY Hall Of Fame
This latest round of inducted recordings continues to highlight diversity and recording excellence, and acknowledges both singles and album recordings of all genres at least 25 years old that exhibit qualitative or historical significance. Recordings are reviewed annually by a special member committee comprised of eminent and knowledgeable professionals from all branches of the recording arts, with final approval by The Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees.
Additionally, The Recording Academy has continued its partnership with FX Group to publish a 120-page collector's edition book. GRAMMY Hall Of Fame 2015 Collector's Edition features in-depth insight into the 27 titles inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame class of 2015. The full-color book also highlights the work of the GRAMMY Foundation's GRAMMY Camp program and preservation and archiving initiatives, and offers a colorful look at other music halls of fame across the United States dedicated to preserving and honoring music's legacy. The book will be available online at the official GRAMMY store, at retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Target and Walmart, as well as on newsstands nationwide and at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles.
For more information on the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame, visit GRAMMY.org.
The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards will take place on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015, at Staples Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast live in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on CBS from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). For updates and breaking news, visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook.
Yoshiki of X Japan
Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
Yoshiki Talks X Japan At Coachella, David Bowie, More On "Jonesy's Jukebox"
The X Japan drummer discusses playing the popular SoCal festival at the same time as Beyoncé, his band's new documentary and his love for David Bowie
X Japan made their big Coachella debut this past weekend in Indio, Calif. On April 17, the band's drummer, Yoshiki, was the featured guest on Steve Jones' KLOS-FM radio show "Jonesy's Jukebox," where the two discussed everything from favorite rock bands, to X Japan's history, to what it was like going on stage the same time as Beyoncé's instant classic set.
"I wanted to see Beyoncé," said Yoshiki "Originally, we were supposed to be playing a few bands before Beyoncé. I'm gonna rock hard, get drunk, and then watch Beyoncé, that was my plan [laughs], but now we're playing the same time."
X Japan returns to Coachella for weekend two this Saturday, and Yoshiki teased a special guest during X Japan's set. Although he wouldn't reveal the guest's identity, he did say he is "very shocking."
Yoshiki also talked about the band's new documentary, We Are X, including the incredible story of X Japan's breakup and reunion, the mysterious death of their former guitarist, and using holograms on stage. He and Jones also discuss their mutual respect for David Bowie, who Yoshiki cited as his favorite artist, the Sex Pistols' legacy and how both artists' tumultuous childhoods led them to a find an outlet in rock and roll.
Exposing Rock And Roll
Henry Diltz, Bob Gruen and Lynn Goldsmith are among the photographers whose work is featured in new Who Shot Rock & Roll exhibit
When photographer Bob Gruen attended the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 as a fan to see one of his favorite artists, Bob Dylan, he didn't know the photos he took that day, like Dylan's songs, would become cemented in music history.
"I got a photo pass so I could get into the concert," remembers Gruen. "I [brought] a couple of photos [I took that day] to Bob Dylan's [former] manager, Albert Grossman, and [he] gave me two tickets to his next concert, which I thought was a great trade-off."
More than 45 years later, one of Gruen's photos of Dylan is among the iconic images on display in the upcoming exhibit, Who Shot Rock & Roll? — A Photographic History, 1955 To The Present, opening June 23 at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. Curated by photography author/educator Gail Buckland and originally presented by the Brooklyn Museum in New York in 2009, the showing is the first major museum exhibit to spotlight the creative and collaborative role that photographers have played in the history of music, from Gruen and Lynn Goldsmith to Danny Clinch, Henry Diltz, Annie Leibovitz, Charles Peterson, Norman Seeff, and Alfred Wertheimer, among nearly 100 others. The exhibit features more than 200 images of artists ranging from Elvis Presley and Tina Turner to David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, R.E.M., and Tupac Shakur.
The exhibit serves as evidence that photography is music's soul mate, a conduit for delivering permanent images that help document artists and their music.
Gruen has also helped document the visual history of artists such as Blondie, the Clash, John Lennon, and the Sex Pistols, among many others. The first time he met Lennon was in 1972 at the Apollo Theatre. "People were taking pictures as they left and John says, 'People are always taking our pictures and I never get to see them. What happens to these pictures?'" recalls Gruen. When he offered to bring some of his photos to Lennon, the former Beatle obliged. Four months later Gruen was on assignment with a journalist who was writing a story on Lennon and Ono's collaboration with Elephant's Memory and Gruen was asked to take pictures. Ono and Lennon liked Gruen's work and when he left that day Ono assured him they would always be friends.
"Every time I saw John and every time I see Yoko I've always felt that this is a very special privilege," he says.
Some of the most iconic photos of Lennon were taken by Gruen, including his photo in front of the Statue of Liberty and another of him on a rooftop wearing a sleeveless New York City T-shirt. Gruen considers the Statue of Liberty photo to be especially significant.
"When the U.S. government was trying to throw John Lennon out of the country I thought he should be welcomed and should be allowed to stay," says Gruen. "[I thought] going to the Statue of Liberty would be a good symbol of that sentiment. [But the photo] … [took] on a whole new meaning after he passed away because both John Lennon and the Statue of Liberty stand for peace, freedom and liberty in people's minds."
For Goldsmith, it was Patti Smith who was the driving force for some of the photographer's lasting work.
"She was my muse," recalls Goldsmith. "Patti is a collaborator … and the best [portraits] are collaborations. If the artist doesn't give over and help out in achieving what you are trying to do, it can't be as strong. … I was fortunate that Patti was someone who really understood the power of the image."
Also a natural in front of the camera is rapper Snoop Dogg, according to Simone Green, who photographed artists such as Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur while working as chief photographer for Death Row Records during the height of the label's success, an experience she chronicles in her recently released memoir, Time Served: My Days And Nights On Death Row Records. "I knew that as life went on [Snoop] was going to be able to reinvent himself because of his [comfort] in front of the camera," she says.
Seeff, who has photographed artist such as Herbie Hancock, Kiss, Joni Mitchell, and Stevie Nicks, among others, describes his work as "creating a relationship [and an experience] with an artist, not a concept."
For years the spirit of Madonna's worldwide tours has been captured by photographer Frank Micelotta, who says his job is to "try and capture the best image of [the artist's] vision."
According to Diltz, when we combine music and photography we are using two of our biggest senses (hearing and sight) that help us to experience the world. "Music is the soundtrack to our lives," says Diltz, who earned a GRAMMY nomination in 1969 for Best Album Cover for Richard Pryor.
Similar to Goldsmith and Gruen, many photographers have cultivated unique relationships with certain artists.
"I heard [Van Halen's] 'Runnin' With The Devil' for the first time and was like, 'Oh my God, this is insane, I want to work with this band,'" recalls noted photographer Neil Zlozower. But it was more than his passion for the music that made his collaboration with Van Halen so fruitful. "We were all the same age [and] we liked all the same things, [from] girls [to] cars, we had a lot in common," he says. "They took a liking to me and I took a liking to them and the rest is sort of history." Zlozower currently runs a photo agency, Atlas Icons, and has authored several photography books, including Van Halen: A Visual History: 1978–1984 and Eddie Van Halen.
The Recording Academy acknowledges the special synergy between music and photography given its partnership with renowned photographer Clinch. As The Academy's official backstage photographer since 2003, Clinch captures portraits of artists moments after they've won music's most iconic award.
"When you're backstage at the GRAMMYs sometimes you only have a minute to take a portrait and I feel I have a knack to get people to relax a little bit and to find their good side," says Clinch.
At its core, photography is another means for communicating music's powerful message, and that message is communicated best when artists and photographers are working in tandem.
"I think the real force behind rock and roll was not sex and drugs, [but the idea] that we can change the world," says Goldsmith.
"For me, rock and roll is about the freedom to express yourself very loudly," says Gruen. "I try to capture the feeling and passion of what's going on in my photos. I try to inspire people to express themselves. I hope to inspire people to follow their dreams."