Tom's Blog

April 5, 2010

Jim Marshall, Gone but Not Forgotten at all

Jim Marshall, the worlds best music photographer, in my opinion, passed on last week and it is a big loss for everyone concerned. He became a very good friend of mine from our first encounter and I am missing him dearly.

I first put a name to the photographer when Jerry Garcia died and I hung a copy of that picture of Jerry sitting on the ground after a gig with a cardboard box that says, “Dead End,” on my frig in New York City. A few years after I was to make my Debut record “North American Long Weekend” and when it came time to shoot the cover, my producer Marvin Etzioni suggested we call up Marshall.

He had shot such jazz greats as Miles Davis, Ray Charles and Coltrane to such rock and roll’s legends as Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan and The Beatles. Not to mention that famous shot of Johnny Cash giving us the finger backstage at Folsom Prison or the one of Janis Joplin in her dressing room clutching a bottle of Southern Comfort. With a few calls from our fearless A&R guy Jason Bernard and music sent to Marshall in advance, we were able to get him for the job.

We scheduled a couple of days in New York to shoot the cover and other album/press shots as well. It was to be quite a memorable experience! Marshall was a hound dog, ready to party and hold court all night, with a teddy bear nature but the bite of a lion. You never knew who was going to show up either.

The night before the first shoot day, we go have a drink in the hotel bar and it’s Cindy Crawford and he’s calling me a “little puppy” for ordering a beer and not a whisky, in front of her! Then telling her to listen to my record while i sit in silence, face in my beer. At the airport, he told me he was really into this song of mine “27,” and that it hit him a certain way because a lot of his most famous subjects, Hendix, Joplin, Morrison all died when they were 27. He asked if he could direct the video for the song, something he had never done, to which i quickly replied, “hell yeah.” Unfortunately, this was never to be as the label, Red Ant, I was on declared bankruptcy 2 weeks after the record came out!

The photo shoot started at my dad’s place in Manhattan, where we got some cool pictures of me with an upright bass and then I jammed a few with my Dad on piano. (Jim would later personally make copies of these for me that I cherish). Then Jim asked were the places in NYC that meant something to me, so we started on Riverside Drive, near where I grew up on the upper West Side of Manhattan and at a subway intersection on 72nd street and Broadway, where we got some great shots. Here is one from that series:

Then it was off to my favorite hang out and watering hole, The Corner Bistro in the West Village. We ordered some of there famous burgers, a couple shots of Powers whiskey (no way was I gonna drink beer in front of him again) and we started to shoot. Within 3 minutes Marshall says I got it, much to the chagrin of myself and the album’s art director Tom Jermann. The photo had natural light coming through the window and me sitting at a wooden bar with a beer in front of me and, of course, he shot it in his classic black and white style with that magical Leica of his. After fending off a huge Marshall fan who could’nt stop talking about the shot he took of Miles Davis in the boxing ring, we scuttled off back to the Paramount hotel where we were all staying and Marshall continued to hold court at the bar, where with his photos hung above us at every turn: John Lee Hooker and John Fogerty, and I’m thinking I’m one lucky son of a bitch!

Jim and I kept in touch, he invited me to all his openings in LA and he even came to a couple of my gigs in San Francisco and LA. He once told my wife Francie, “lets lose this puppy and take off together.” She didn’t do that but did trade one of her self portraits for the Janis photo! He was very true to his word, if he said he was going to send you something he did. I hold two of his classic prints today, that i had asked for, that one of Jerry and the one of a young Bob Dylan kicking a tire down the street in the West Village.

The last time I was to see him was at his 70th birthday party, he sent an invite to us and we flew up to San Francisco. Walking in there he was in all his glory, hanging out with Joan Baez and a flock of famous photographers paying tribute. I am reminded of Jim every day when i look over my piano and see that picture of Bob. How was Jim always there, in the right place at the right time and with such a keen eye? I think it was because, as he said it was all about the music for him, and musicians can feel that, they wanted to be around him. I can certainly vouch for that!

Rest on Jim, or party on, whatever you prefer and know that we love you, Peace, TF

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