When the movie “Almost Famous” came out in 2000 I was the first rock chick at the screening. I imagined the reality of my life was somewhere between the characters of the nerdy rock journalist and Penny Lane, the cool groupie who saw herself more as a “Band Aid” than a girlfriend.
“Aw, man. You made friends with them. See, friendship is the booze they feed you… I know you think those guys are your friends. You wanna be a true friend to them? Be honest, and unmerciful.” ~Lester Bangs in Almost Famous
I don’t think there’s a rock journalist alive who doesn’t understand what I mean and while I always tried to be honest in the dozens of interviews I did for magazines and at the NBC Source Radio Network, I also knew where my bread was buttered. The fact was that if you wanted to get those concert tickets and backstage passes and off road access, being nice got you a lot further than being unmerciful. I could write another book about the best, the worst, the dark and the light of rock ‘n’ roll, but how do you squeeze 25 years of history into a tiny blog post? By focusing on a trio of highlights:
- Worst Interview Ever – Without a doubt it would have to be Rick Nielsen and Tom Petterson of Cheap Trick. They were the rudest men I have ever had the chore to speak with and shared my view with their label’s publicist. My hard news background had me well-prepared for any interview and rock stars were no different. I knew the difference between a Strat and a Telecaster and the fact that Nielsen often coordinated some 400 guitars to his stage wardrobe. Yet, every time I tried to talk guitars with these boobs, they shot me down like I was just the pretty chick with the camera crew. I punched back; they punched harder. I cut it short and my crew couldn’t wait to pull the plug, literally.
- Most Gracious Interview – I was sent to Wilson’s on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to chat with Genesis, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford & Tony Banks. As usual, the previous interview was running late and the label publicist told me I would only have 15 minutes instead of my requested half-hour. Was she kidding? I was doing a friggin’ cover story not a 200 word review for some no-name rag. Phil overheard the back & forth between us and put the publicist in her place. He kindly advised her that MTV could wait until I got everything that I needed. It was 20 years ago, but I will never forget that.
- All it Takes is a Smile – I not only interviewed rock stars but also photographed them, in the pits at all the major concert venues. There were some assignments I dreaded and others which yielded lots of great shots to make my superstar agent, Ginny Lohle, very happy. We happened to be on vacation in London together to see her favorite artist, Eric Clapton. She asked me if I would go shoot Robert Plant at his club for the release of his album “Now and Zen.” She begged, she pleaded, she had no one else in town. I truly didn’t want to go, having heard that Plant was a bit of a prima donna. Of course, he was a heavy metal rock god. The shoot was late to start and I was bitchin’ at the bar. I didn’t notice him walk in and Ginny urged me to follow him up to the top of the stairs. When I got there, he was leaning across the banister, waiting with the biggest smile as I reached the top step. I nearly dropped all my gear and he got a good laugh. We became friends and I shot nearly ever tour for the next five years.
The great thing about rock ‘n’ roll is that it lets grown men act like Peter Pan and grown women behave as ladies in waiting…and waiting…and waiting! Next!
Hear Lisa’s 2015 interview with Sandi Klein here.