Talk about a dream job. At the age of 16, Chuck Boyd landed a job with KRLA radio in Los Angeles, one of the earliest purveyors of what we now know as classic rock (the first in Southern California to air music by The Beatles
It had been just three years earlier that Boyd had acquired a camera by way of receiving it as a gift. His job at KRLA was to shoot pictures at station events where artists for the station's weekly music newspaper, KLRA Beat
. Like I said, a dream job for somebody barely old enough to get a driver's license.
Proof was in the pictures
In 1967, Boyd's work was noticed by record producer Buck Munger, who was also the promotional director for the company that makes the Sunn amplifiers that many bands were using. "He knew who and what was happening," Munger writes in the foreword of Forever Young: The Rock and Roll Photography of Chuck Boyd
. "Chuck was a true rock insider, accepted as a fellow artist by the musicians he shot."
That his fellow artists trusted him is exemplified by one of the first photos in the book -- the first photo taken of Eric Clapton
with Pattie Boyd (no relation to the photographer) when it was still a secret that she was cheating on her husband, George Harrison
As photos of him in the book depict, Boyd was as flamboyant and daring as many of his photo subjects. "He was a wild man," former employer Munger writes, "climbing around onstage one step ahead of security to get the shot."
Photos in the book are arranged chronologically, beginning in 1965 with The Rolling Stones
, and continuing through 1978, with one of the most remarkable photos I've ever seen of B.B. King during a performance
The most striking thing to me about Boyd's photos was his ability to capture an artist's essence, personally and musically, regardless of whether the shot was posed or candid.
All of the photos were taken in the Los Angeles area, but the artists came from all over the world, and included some of the best known rock, r&b, pop, folk and blues artists.
Boyd's ability to capture artists as no one else could are especially evident in shots which, if you were thinking conventionally, should never have worked but did. One of the best examples is a shot of Steve Miller in performance
. Although half of his face is covered by his hands as he plays harmonica, and his eyes are closed, the photo described the man and his music dramatically.
There's a photo of Ted Nugent on stage, shot from below the stage at an angle you would think would reveal nothing, but it succeeds as if the man had posed for a portrait. There's Joe Walsh, shot through a tangle of mic stands and cables, totally absorbed in the music, a candid closeup of Joe Cocker in an unguarded moment, a shot of Janis Joplin in performance
but not the obligatory "scream" shot we most often see. There's Ringo lighting Paul's cigarette; Dylan at a news conference with his chin in one hand, a cigarette in the other; a shot of Crosby Stills and Nash which, although it is shot from behind them as they face the audience, and is back lit by stage lights, captures things a conventional shot couldn't touch.
Lost and found
From the time Boyd died in 1991 until 2010, the photos in Forever Young: The Rock and Roll Photography of Chuck Boyd
had been considered lost. In reality, possession of them passed among some of Boyd's friends and family until they were "discovered" and cataloged by music historian Jeffrey Schwartz
, who edited the book.
As either a keepsake for your own coffee table, or as a gift, I feel safe in saying you won't be disappointed with this photographic treasure chest. Publication date: 10-15-12, Santa Monica Press
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy