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  • Have Guitar, Will Travel

    haveguitarcoverHave Guitar, Will Travel
    Artist: Joe Perry
    Label: Roman Records
    Reviewed: October, 2009

    October 6th saw the release of Aerosmith’s Joe Perry’s fifth solo project, entitled, “Have Guitar, Will Travel”. For Joe Perry fans, this is a must-buy CD as it’s jam-packed full with ten butt-kicking tunes that have Joe’s trademark licks and riffs throughout. The project was recorded earlier this year In Joe’s home studio famed for having some of the latest and greatest recording gear on the planet. It was at this same studio that Perry recorded his last (and self-titled) solo project as well as Aerosmith’s Just Push Play and Honkin’ On Bobo.

    The disc kicks off with a with “We’ve Got a Long Way To Go”, which give you the feeling that you’re watching a movie in your head at quadruple fast-forward. Perry’s flawlessHav riffs provides the song with light-speed velocity that you get the impression that Joe’s guitar is a super-sonic jet that he’s piloting and we’re all barely holding on to its tail.

    “Slingshot” is the second number on the disc and has a Doors/Morrisonesque flavor to it with a healthy dose of Joe’s guitar magic thrown in for good measure. “Do You Wonder” follows , was written by Billie Perry and producer/musician/songwriter, Marti Fredrickson and could’ve very easily been on an Aerosmith project, judging by the sound of it.

    Perry’s cover of an early Fleetwood Mac tune, Somebody’s Going To Get (Their Head Kicked In Tonite), is the only other song on “Guitar” that wasn’t written by him and is delivered with reverential, rock and roll perfection. “Heaven and Hell” is a solidly driven song that I will be not at all surprised to hear playing as a musical backdrop in a movie or TV show and promises to be a true crowd pleaser when performed live. On its heels s the equally driven “No Surprise” which I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the likes of Gretchen Wilson or Sugarland picking up the tune to play in-concert.

    “Wooden Ships” is, in my opinion, the absolute best cut on the album. An instrumental dedicated to the memory of guitar legend, Les Paul, the song is a tremendous, blazing example of Perry’s legendary guitar virtuosity. This is a tune already destined for the “repeat” feature on my iPod.

    The hauntingly accoustic, “Oh Lord (21 Grams) is by far the most moving song on the album. Lauren Mack provides the perfect vocal touch that will send shivers down your spine. As with “Heaven and Hell”, this tune is destined to be picked up as TV or movie background.

    “Scare The Cat” (which is the theme song to one of my favorite pass-times) is great, straight-forward rock and roll. What more can I say. “Freedom”, a song inspired by Hunter S. Thompson’s, “Fear and Loathing”, is Perry’s view of the world during the last presidential campaign cycle. If a video was ever made of this song, it promises to be another “fast-forward” visual like the album’s opening number, “We’ve Got a Long Way To Go”.

    Joe Perry amassed a stellar commando team of musicians for “Have Guitar, Will Travel”. “Joe Perry Project” bassist, David Hull, is back. Drums are flawlessly provided by Ben Tileston (who also happens to play in TAB The Band with two of Joe’s sons, Tony on guitars and Adrian providing bass and vocals), Marty Richards, and Scott Meeder. The ivories were tickled by Willie (Boston’s “Godfather of Punk”) Alexander and the Hammond and Pipe organs (as well as some percussion) were offered up by Paul Santo. All the creative sound effects wore crafted by Glen McCarthy.

    An interesting little bit of “Have Guitar, Will Travel” trivia for you: The vocals provided on four of the tunes are provided by a German singer, Hagen Grohe, who Billie Perry (Joe’s wife) discovered quite by accident on YouTube. How cool is that?

    “Have Guitar, Will Travel” is currently available and conveniently in time to help you provide all of those darn stocking stuffers for Christmas.

  • Hit Hard

    hithardcoverHit Hard
    Author: Joey Kramer
    Publisher: Harper Collins
    Reviewed: September, 2009


    Have you ever been hit hard? I mean, say you’ve been punched so hard in the stomach that you thought you were going to die because you couldn’t catch your breath. Or, maybe somebody decked you a good one so hard that you saw those little cartoon birds tweeting around your head.

    Maybe you haven’t been physically hit hard but let’s say that you’ve been hit hard emotionally. You’ve been told that you were worthless; that you would NEVER amount to anything; that your best is nowhere near good enough nor will it ever be. Those kinds of hits take your emotional breath away or have you mentally swirling around so bad that you can’t see your way out.

    If you combine both of these scenarios, you’ll have a very good idea of what kind environment Aerosmith drummer grew up in as a kid. This is the sad story you’ll read in his very open, no-holds-barred autobiography that’s appropriately (and sadly) entitled, “Hit Hard”.

    For those of us who have been raised in a nurturing home environment by parents who properly showed love and encouragement, “Hit Hard” is a difficult book to read. You don’t want that kind of reality to come crashing in to our well-balanced world and mind but you can’t help but read it anyway. And what you’ll read is a kid’s life of loveless loneliness who wanted nothing more than to feel and know that he was unconditionally loved by his mom and dad.

    As many people do when they feel that they’re all alone in the world, they withdraw into a world of their own creation and search for something – anything – that they can excel in. To excel in that one thing, they hope to “earn” the love they so desperately need to feel.

    In the case of Joey Kramer found a passion that he could master: playing drums. His passion was so great that he would sneak to band practice when he would have his own drum stored away for punishment by his parents.

    Reading “Hit Hard”, you’ll get some insight into the monstrous hit (and money) making machine we all know and love as Aerosmith. More importantly, you learn that, after stumbling through a long, painful life of drug abuse, emotional abuse, financial roller-coaster rides and emotional instability, it’s okay (read that as: necessary) to admit that one needs help.

    In 1995, Joey Kramer hit an emotionally debilitating brick wall. He could no longer bury his pain with one more snort, purchase, or one night stand. He had to come to grips with the gaping emotional hole in his psyche that he tried to fill and satisfy with “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll”. He started the road to emotional stability and healing by realizing he needed help. He also learned that, buried in the very core of his being, he needed forgive those who hurt him the most. Kramer realized that, in order to survive, he also had to separate himself from those who fed off of keeping him down and dependent. As for those he couldn’t separate from, he dealt with the underlying issues that made those relationships so toxic and emotionally damaging.

    What’s hard to read, and for some to accept, is to realize it’s okay to weep and cry as you deal with the very real pain that is driving you to self-destruction. I don’t mean in an Oprah/Barbara Walters TV Therapy session. I mean the process of hitting hard, while the tears are streaming down your face, at the inner-demons that drive you to ruin. It takes a real man or woman to push fear aside and do exactly that. There’s no greater strength, and no more fierce bravery, than to take to heart that truth.

    If you’ve been hit hard with some pretty cruel blows in life, either physical or emotional, Joey Kramer’s “Hit Hard” is a book that you must read. While you will certainly be encouraged to face your own emotional road blocks, you’ll also read some great inside stories of one of the greatest American rock and roll bands in the world today.

    (Note: This review was previewed on 09/28/09 at JoeyKramer.com as well as on Aerosmith.com and Aeroforceone.com.)

    This article written by Randy Patterson. All rights reserved and cannot not be used without written permission, which can be obtained by filling out the contact form on this site.

  • Joey Kramer

    Posted November/December, 2009

    Photo Courtesy of Rob Shanahan - RobShanahan.com

    Money.  Check.

    Fame.  Check.

    A wife and family.  Check and check.

    Clean and sober for nine years.  Check.

    Whoever this person is sounds like they have life firing on all cylinders, doesn’t?  However, this was not the case with Aerosmith drummer, Joey Kramer, back in 1995.  Just as he and the band were about to begin work on an album, Kramer had a mental and emotional breakdown.

    The months that followed involved lots of therapy that peeled back layer upon layer of deep, emotional baggage filled with hurt and pain from his childhood and most of the significant relationships in his life.  The result left Joey with some very difficult decisions to make.  Decisions that meant walking away from a lot:  a beautiful estate, an emotionally abusive marriage and other toxic relationships.  It also led to Kramer taking back the ownership of his life.

    Kramer’s book, Hit Hard (see the Boomerocity review of the book here), chronicles his childhood of emotional void and intense loneliness that learning to play drums helped him cope with.  It also details his battles with various demons in adulthood that led to his eventual breakdown and ultimate recovery.  During a recent phone conversation from his offices in the greater Boston area, I had the privilege of talking with Joey Kramer about his book and some of the stories that he shares in it

    To be sure, before talking with Joey, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that he provided the steady beat to the soundtrack of my youth on great Aerosmith songs like “Walk This Way”, “Dream On”, and “Sweet Emotions”.  After reading “Hit Hard”, it was clear that there was much more than met the eye with regards to the trappings of his success during those years.

    At 59, Kramer comes across as someone who’s at peace with himself and comfortable with whom he is.  Not really knowing what to expect, I quickly found that his warmth and approachability created a very relaxed atmosphere for us to talk.

    The conversation starts off with discussing how sales of “Hit Hard” are doing.  “They’re going okay.  Now that we’ve been off the road awhile, I’m going to be doing some book signings and some meet ‘n greets and, hopefully, up the sales a bit.”

    As someone who grew up in a nurturing environment as a kid, I shared with Kramer how his childhood was hard for me to grasp and to understand how parents could treat kids the way he was treated.  I was curious if writing the book was more painful to write or if he found it more liberating.

    With some introspection, he replies, “Um, it was very cathartic writing it.  It was very cleansing and I found that, once I began to role on a subject, it was really amazing (to find) what’s stored up in your memory as far as letting it role.  If I was talking about somebody that I went to high school with, a story about that person would connect me to somebody else or another situation and, before you know it, things are really rolling.  It’s really incredible what’s in our minds that we don’t even know is there as far as what your memory has recorded from the past.”

    I brought up the story he mentions in the book regarding a letter that he wrote to his dad.  I asked how key the role of forgiveness played in turning his life around.  His reply is enthusiastic and to the point.

    “Oh!  Very key!  Very key!  You have to forgive and you have to let go of the past because, without letting go of the past, without forgiving, you really can’t move on.  You really can’t move forward with your life in any capacity.  And as long as it takes to conjure up that forgiveness, that’s how long you stay stuck.”

    In commenting to Kramer that forgiveness is a hard thing for people to do and the fact that he was able to forgive the people that hurt him the most was, indeed, amazing, he mellows a bit more as he comments, “Yeah, especially in the section that concerned my father – forgiving him before he passed.  That was really important to me because, otherwise, I would’ve really been stuck there.  It really was an amazing moment for me.  After doing a lot of therapy, I just came to him and – well, the reality of it is that I was doing it for myself but for him as well.   It released him and cleaned the slate for us both before he passed.”

    People like Kramer who have a lot of international fame, money and influence, have a lot of people who derive their own power and prestige by being associated with them.  Joey was no exception.  Lots of people controlled him and filtered what he heard and who he heard it from.  This skewed his view of life.  With that thought in mind, I asked him, “Once you took control of your life and your relationships, what technique, what attitude or what actions have been successful for you in standing up to those who have wished to dominate you or new relationships that tried to dominate you, things like that?  For others that need that kind of advice, what’s been successful for you in that area?”

    “Well, that’s a very interesting question, Randy.  My answer to that would be to own yourself; to own your own feelings, your own emotions, and not let co-dependency get in the way - with co-dependency being that you’re dependent upon someone else to feel good about yourself.  It’s very important to own your own feelings and to stand up for yourself.

    “In the past, I’ve always had a difficult time standing up for myself and, by virtue of that, sometimes you establish relationships with people who are not even conscious or aware of their taking advantage of you or your emotions.  If things go a certain way for them and they get certain perks – from me anyway – they get certain perks by being your friend and then all of a sudden, when you take back the turf that you let them own, they don’t like that and it makes people very uncomfortable.  And that in itself is a very difficult thing to deal with.  But you have to own your own emotions and your own feelings and basically, for me, a big part of it was learning to stand up for myself. “

    I asked if he had been hiding behind the drums.  He replies with a laugh, “Well, where I really hid the most, I found, was in my drug addiction and in my alcoholism and once that was gone and I got rid of that, there was no place to hide.  Then I really came into the depression and the anxiety.  I think that was the lack of being able to deal with the stuff that we’ve been talking about.  Because I think depression and anxiety, which goes hand-in-hand with it, is un-dealt-with anger that reverts back inside you.  If you can’t be outward with it, then it comes in and attacks you inwardly.”

    Clearly comfortable with discussing what he’s learned, he continues, “I was just really emotionally distraught and bankrupt when I had my breakdown back in 1995.  That’s when I dealt with all of that.  I was already 9 years clean and sober. So I was really wondering, ‘Wow, I’ve been clean and sober for 9 years and now, what is this all about?’  Because people are under the impression that getting clean and sober is the answer itself which it really isn’t.  It’s only part of it.”

    I was curious if Kramer felt that he has uncovered all the skeletons in his emotional closet or was he still discovering new ones.

    “Well, no, I know what I need to work on, which is a constant battle every day.  And there’s also new stuff that comes up just as well.  So, you know, it keeps it fairly interesting.  It keeps me on my toes all the time.”

    While the letter to Joey’s father represented dealing with the pains of his past, he writes about walking away from his beautiful estate and his marriage – the symbols of his fame and his toxic relationships - in order to come to complete terms with his life.  I commented that those acts had to be incredibly tough for him to pull off.

    “Well, yeah, it was because I was very preoccupied in thinking that, in believing that being involved in an abusive relationship was just part and parcel – that was part of doing business.  I just thought that was the way it was supposed to be – the way that it is – because I didn’t know any better.

    “I was preoccupied with all my stuff:  the money, the houses and the cars.  I thought that if you have all of that then you’re happy regardless of what your relationship was like.  That’s just not what it’s about.  That’s just not the truth of the matter.  Now, when people are ready to get honest with themselves, you can get honest with yourself and that’s half of it.  Then the other half is actually doing something about it. “

    “And, boy, that you did!  And, aside from the letter to your dad, to me that was the most compelling part of the book - the stand you took in doing that.  It must have been a very tough thing to do.”

    “Yeah, it was.  It was but it paid off for me and I’m extremely happy now.”

    In past interviews relative to “Hit Hard”, Kramer has mentioned his desire to help others by telling his story.  I asked him what his “elevator speech” would be to a room full of people, kids and adults alike, who are either in homes like he was as a kid or were at their own “Miami cross-roads” as he was in 1995.

    “Well, it’s a difficult thing to just say and pull off at the same time but I think that the biggest attribute that I was able to establish for myself was honesty.  And once you’re able to be completely honest with yourself then I think a lot of things begin to fall into place.  Because, you know, we have a lot of things justified and we make excuses for anything and everything in life, whether it’s for not doing certain things that we should do or being a certain way and not correcting it or being mean to people and not being a pleasant person.

    “I mean, there are all kinds of justifications for everything but when you get down to being honest with yourself, I mean, for real, because I believe that we all have that little voice inside, you know? That little voice inside – that we know better?  Unless you’re troubled by being mentally ill in some fashion, then when that little voice talks to you, then that’s the honesty.  I know that I have that little voice inside and I’ve done a lot of work and a lot of therapy and I honor that little voice inside.”

    I asked if there were any stories that he wished he had included or if there has there been any backlash with regards to the stories he did include.

    His reply is resolute and confident. “No to both questions.  I pretty much put everything in there.  I made an honest attempt at doing my book and I think that’s one of the things that people recognize and identify with is the fact that its honest.  I don’t think that I left anything out, really.  I mean, I worked on that book for four years.  It’s pretty much all in there.”

    Coming close to the end of our conversation, I asked Joey what was next, project wise, after he has completed the promotion of his book.

    “I don’t know.  I have a couple of irons in some different fires that I can’t really talk about yet but – you know, there could be some other things.  Maybe another book, maybe some other projects, it all depends.  It depends on a lot of different things.”

    I relayed how pleasantly surprised I was to find that the book wasn’t another “stoner rock star” tome and that I couldn’t put the book down until I was finished.  I also shared some of the positive responses I received from Boomerocity readers.

    “Well, thank you very much.  I didn’t want it to be just your average rock and roll memoir, you know?  There’s a lot of those out there and, not only are there a lot of those out there, but it gave me the opportunity to use my celebrity to discuss things that are very pertinent subjects today which are depression, anxiety, drug addiction and alcoholism.

    “And, yeah, it’s talked about all the time but you don’t have to be in my position, you don’t have to be a rock and roll star to crash and burn.  Everybody suffers from all of those things.  And, if you don’t suffer from them yourself, you suffer with the likes of somebody you know that suffers from it and, therefore, it affects you in some way, shape or form.  So, it’s pertinent information and you know, it’s out there today.  I’m not a believer in creating a bunch of dirt that people can read about, although that’s what people want to read.  But this is the real stuff.”

    I closed out my conversation with Joey Kramer with one final question that required some heart-felt reflection on his part.  I asked how the changes in his life affected his view of the world and of life.

    “Well, it’s made me much more pleasant person to be around, I think.  I have discovered that it’s a whole lot easier to be nice than to – I use to be a fairly grumpy kind of person because there was a lot of things that I was angry about and that I was unhappy about but I didn’t really do anything about it.

    “Writing the book helped me get it out and I’ve become a better person for it.  My view of life in general is better – more positive.  I don’t let a lot of things bother me that I used to and I don’t allow people to take my power from me anymore.  It’s been a very difficult road for me but now that I’m on the road that I’m on, I’m pretty happy about it.”

    After the conversation was over, I sat in my office and reflected on the conversation that I just had.  First, I pinched myself, making sure that I just didn’t dream the conversation with a member of one of my favorite bands of my youth and adulthood.  Second, I was both amazed and thankful that Joey Kramer rid himself of his addictions, fought through the depression and anxiety, and thought enough of others to swallow his pride and share his gripping story with the world.  It’s a story that others need to hear and can benefit from.

    If you know of anyone that is fighting some sort of addiction, depression or anxiety, then do them a favor and pick-up a copy of Joey’s story, “Hit Hard”.  It’s a brilliantly written, but painful, book to read that is certain to help those that take the time to read it.

  • Rob Shanahan

    Posted March, 2010

    robshanahanringoShanahan on Drums Behind Ringo Starr - Photo Courtesy of Rob ShanahanWhile working on my interview with Aerosmith drummer, Joey Kramer, I needed some great photos of him to grace the pages of the interview.  As I was checking out various shots on Kramer’s website, I noticed that my favorite ones were shot by photographer, Rob Shanahan.

    I tracked down Shanahan to ask for permission to use his photos.  My search for him led me to a huge array of photographs of many other easily recognizable artists – not only from “my day” but many current celebrities.

    While he was gracious enough to allow me to use some of his great pictures, it reminded me of an idea that I had when I launched Boomerocity.com: Interview some of the better rock photographers who have “shot” some of the icons of our day.  After checking out Shanahan’s online portfolio of artists he’s photographed, I knew that I wanted to interview him.

    I’ve had several conversations with the 42 year-old Shanahan.  The first observation that I had was that, though he takes his craft very seriously, he’s clearly having the time of his life doing what he does.  When he mentions who all he’s had the privilege of photographing, it’s not in the spirit of name dropping but of sharing the excitement and awe just as he surely did when he first started shooting pictures at the age of fifteen.

    Since those early days, Shanahan’s work has appeared on such international publications as Rolling Stone Magazine and has been used for such album covers as Ringo Starr’s latest album, Y Not.

    Early in the conversation, Rob immediately confirmed what I gathered from his photographic portfolio:  Not only is he an incredible photographer, he’s also a professional drummer (and a darn good one, at that), having pounded the skins for 16 years with his band, the Hollywood Stones. He’s been drumming since he was 11 years old. 

    Let me stop right here to plug his band, Hollywood Stones.  The band is probably THE best Rolling Stones tribute band in existence today.  I’m a huge Stones fan and I don’t like my Stones music messed with – even by the Stones.  But these guys are REALLY good.  Seriously.

    Don’t believe me?  Well, then, will you believe accolades from the L.A. Times, NBC News or Showtime! Magazine?  Or, if you think you can’t trust the press to get it right, how about the likes of Dick Clark, Slash, and Eric Burdon?  Yeah, they’re THAT good.

    Their uncanny ability to mimic the Bad Boys of Rock ‘n Roll has taken them, not only all over the U.S., but to the U.K., South America and other parts of the world.  Did I tell you that they’re THAT good?  Well, they are.

    Back to the Stones in a moment.

    It’s obvious that Shanahan’s role as an acclaimed professional drummer has guided him to shoot photographs that reflect not only the perspective of audiences and readers but the perspective of the artists (especially drummers) as well.  His musician’s eye guides him to produce the kinds of shots that his subjects and the readers love and are captivated by. 

    Early in our first conversation, Shanahan had me spellbound with his story of how he met Stones drummer, Charlie Watts.  The story was prompted by my comment of the pictures on his website (www.robshanahan.com) of Watts and that it must have been “a dream come true” for him.  His telling of the story reveals his almost childlike awe of the circles he travels in.

    “Unbelievable!  I should probably tell you how that came about because it’s a really great story.  Do you know Jim Keltner?  Jim Keltner is one of THE drum studio session guys.  He did all of George Harrison’s and John Lennon’s solo records.  He played drums for Lennon on ‘Imagine’ and on so many great songs we’ve all heard a million times on the radio.  He’s just a really terrific guy.

    “I met Jim through the Paiste cymbal company. I’ve become really good friends with Jim photographing him probably a half a dozen times over the years.  Every drum or cymbal ad of Jim within the last seven years, I’ve photographed.  I love working with Jim, I feel that he’s the older brother that I never had.

    “He knows my love of the Stones and I told Jim that I’d love to meet Charlie.  He made the call to Charlie and made it happen.

    “I think the first city that I went to see him was in Las Vegas at the MGM. I go to the ‘Will Call’ and I get my pass and I noticed the initials ‘C.W’ on it.  I realized that it’s Charlie Watts initials, signifying that I was his guest. 

    “I go in and get escorted to the back.  Everyone was really nice.  They knew that Charlie was coming out to meet me.  All of a sudden, Charlie comes in and I was like, ‘Holy crap!’  So, I met Charlie backstage and we had, maybe, five minutes so he asked me, ‘What are you doing the next couple of days?’

    “I’m sure that I had something going on.  I don’t remember but I said, ‘Whatever you want to do!’  He asked, ‘Why don’t you meet me in Little Rock?  I’ll have a lot more time.  I’ve got a lot going on in Vegas with ‘meet and greets’ and such.’ So, I went to Little Rock to meet up with him again.

     “So, when Charlie says, ‘Why don’t you meet me in Little Rock?’, you go!  I went and had a really good time with him there.  He took me backstage and showed me around - hung out in his dressing room.  We talked about old drummers and all the drummers that I had been working with lately – recently, etc., etc.  And then, when they came back into Los Angeles, I had an idea - to get Charlie and Ringo together – again – back together! When was the last time these guys had seen each other? 

    “So, I called Ringo to ask if he would be interested in doing a shoot with Charlie. He said (sliding into a perfect English accent), ‘Oh, that would be lovely!’

    “So, back in LA, the day before the Dodger Stadium show, Jim picked up Charlie at the hotel and came up to Ringo’s.  I was there with Ringo, waiting in the driveway for Charlie. The car pulls up and out comes Charlie.

    “Ringo yells, ‘Charlie!’ and Charlie yells, ‘Ringo!’ and they go running towards each other.  I just grab my camera and just start shooting.  I have this great sequence of them running towards each other with outstretched arms and hugging.  It’s a fantastic sequence.

    “We hung out at Ringo’s house for the afternoon, for like four or five hours.  He has a couple of rooms in the house just devoted to drum kits.  One is with an electronic kit and the other one has an acoustic kit.

    “They went back and forth and played and talked.  I shot pictures of everything and then, at about four o’clock, Ringo looks at his watch and says, ‘Oh!  It’s tea time!’  So the four of us - me, Charlie, Ringo and Jim – are sitting there, poolside, at this little table, having tea and we’re talking about drums, recording, what the Stones are doing now, family, this and that.  I had to pinch myself! 

    “What I did is I put together a book of that day and had it published.  I did just a small run of five copies.  I sent one to London to Charlie.  I gave one to Ringo, one to Jim and I have two copies here.  One that I don’t touch – it’s just tucked away and then one that I show people that sits out in my office.  People freak out and go, ‘Holy crap! Do you realize what you’ve got?’

    “The important thing is the four of us like the book.  I’ve received a call from Ringo, Charlie and Jim, all completely thrilled with the book.  It was a special day and I am thankful I was able to document it.”

    Having been immediately blown away by such an incredible story, I had to ask the obvious question: How did Shanahan break in to the rock photography field?

    “I landed in California in the summer of ’88, fresh out of school in Minnesota.  I went to Minnesota State- Mankato.  Studied Photography and business then moved to California.  I just started taking pictures of whatever I could to make money.

    “It’s a long story but I started shooting sports – I was the big long lens guy on the sidelines of the football field.  I was shooting for the NFL and Major League Baseball. I did that for about ten years. I’m really not that big of a sports fan but I love my Minnesota Vikings! 

     “I enjoyed shooting but my real passion was music.  I just felt that I really needed to start shooting music so I started poking around in the industry.  I figured that I would just go with what I know.  I know drummers and I know drums.

    “Every time I‘d look through a drum magazine, I would think, ‘I should be doing these photographs. Why shouldn’t a drummer be the one to photograph drummers?”

    “So I got busy shooting in the music industry.  The next thing you know, I’m shooting more drummers and more ads, then other musicians– and the phone started ringing. It just kinda goes from there, you know?  You never really set the path – it just kind of happens.”

    My next obvious question:  How did he manage to not only meet, but become the personal photographer and a friend of, Ringo Starr?

    “I met Ringo through Sheila E. I photographed her for a Paiste cymbal ad and she really loved the ad.  Ever since then, she’s called me for all of her stuff. I’ve shot her record covers and her drum and cymbal ads.  Whenever she needs photos, she calls me. 

    “She was out on tour with Ringo in ’06 for the All Starr tour. When they came through L.A., she called and said, ‘Rob, you’ve got to come, take pictures.  I’d love to get some shots live, backstage with Ringo, etc.’ I was so nervous.  I was about to meet Ringo.  I couldn’t believe it!

    “At the time, in the band, were Billy Squier, John Waite, and Richard Marx. So, I’m back in her dressing room and those guys are popping in and out, saying, ‘hi’.  She’d introduce me and I’m, like, ‘Hi, Billy, how’s it going?  I’m a big fan.’ ‘Hi, John, I love The Babys and all that stuff.’  ‘Hey, Richard . . .”

    “The whole time, I’m thinking about Ringo.  Where the heck is Ringo?

    “Finally, he comes in and she (Sheila) goes, ‘Hey, Ringo, this is Rob.’  The first thing he says to me, and this is hilarious, ‘Oh, so you’re Sheila’s photographer.’  That’s all he said to me and he walks out.

    “I’m, like, ‘Okay, that went well.’”  I thought, ‘That’s Ringo!  I was in the same room!’  I freaked out.

    “Anyway, everything went fine.  After the show, I’m hanging out and talking to Eric Singer, the drummer for KISS. I’d never met him before so it was cool sitting and talking to him.  Ringo’s publicist came up to me and introduced herself and said, ‘Hey, Ringo wanted to know if you would be interested in shooting the next couple of shows for him – a band photo and some things for the press.  He wanted me to ask you.’  I’m like, ‘Holy crap! Yeah, of course!’

    “So, that was it.  I drove down to San Diego the next day for the show down there.  I brought lights, brought the back drop and did the band group photos after the sound check and before the show.

    “I remember Elizabeth, Ringo’s publicist, telling me in San Diego, ‘Just do your thing.  Whatever you want to shoot during rehearsals, sound check; if you want to be up on the drum riser – whatever you want to shoot.’

    “I’m up on the drum riser shooting, three feet from Ringo while he’s playing.  I can feel the drums and he’s playing with the camera.  We had a good relationship from the beginning, you know?”

    Shanahan also enjoyed the unique privilege of traveling with Ringo during his trip to his home town Liverpool a couple of years back. While Rob shot around 1,900 photos of the historic shows that took place in England, he also accompanied Ringo and Barbara on their visit to Ringo’s high school and his two childhood homes on Madryn Street and on Admiral Grove.

    While we were chatting about all of that, Rob also mentioned that he was traveling with Ringo the following week to New York City for a PR tour for Ringo’s new record, Y-Not, which Rob also photographed the cover.  While he was in New York City, he also had a shoot with Steely Dan’s drummer, Keith Carlock, as well as shoot Ringo’s various appearances there (The Jimmy Fallon Show, Jon Stewart, TV and print media interviews, and the like).

    I asked Rob the same question that I asked Bob Gruen: Were there any photo gigs that “got away” that you regretted missing.  Again, his answer was revealing in ways that I wasn’t counting on.  He indicated that, while he hasn’t really missed any photo shoots that he regretted, he did miss the chance to do some drum session work for KISS’s Gene Simmons. 

    However, what Rob DID get to do is play drums for Ringo Starr at his Eden Prairie, Minnesota, All-Starr stop during the 2008 tour. He played on the last two songs (All You Need Is Love and Give Peace A Chance) while Ringo was singing up front of the stage.  Shanahan says of the event, “This was near my hometown so there were approximately 50 family and friends in the audience, including my high school band director and his wife.  For all of them to see me play drums on stage with Ringo, Billy Squier, Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Colin Hay, Hamish Stuart and Gregg Bissonette was a dream come true!”

    Is this guy living the dream or what?

    One of the more surreal moments of Shanahan’s career was when he got to meet one of his other drummer idols, Mitch Mitchell, of Jim Hendrix Experience fame.

    I pick up the story as Rob tells of catching the Experience show at the Greek Theater.

    “I went to their gig at the Greek Theater last fall.  I met up with Mitch during the sound check and had a photo shoot with him with his brand new DW drum kit that he was so excited about.  It was the day before his birthday and he was getting birthday cards and calls from family.  He was in really great spirits.

    “We were talking about his new drum kit from DW and the photo shoot went great.  Then we had dinner with Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, who was playing guitar on the tour. I’m telling you, that was a trip!  It was really a great experience.

     “The show was fantastic.  Then, three or four days later, I’m driving home from the gym and I hear on the radio, ‘This just in: Mitch Mitchell was found dead in his hotel room.’   I couldn’t believe it!”

    “After the initial shock and disbelief, my first thought was that I may have the last photos of him alive. And it turns out that I do – the last real photo shoot.  He had a show after the L.A. show in Seattle and there were a photographer from the local paper that had a few live shots that went around on the news wire.  But, my shots were the last one-on-one posed shots. I had a few on Getty Images’ website that went world-wide but I didn’t really want to exploit them, you know.  His wife, Dee, called me to see some photos.  I sent her a real beautiful print, and also sent one to Drum Workshop – the company that made his drum kit.  They got Mitch’s kit back after the tour was over, and have it displayed at their showroom up in Oxnard.  It’s really beautiful.  They have it under beautiful lights, on display, along with my picture of him sitting with that very kit. I wish I could tell his daughter how much the birthday card she sent had meant to him. He proudly carried it around and was showing everybody that night I was with him”

    What hasn’t Shanahan done that he wants to do, photography-wise?

    “I’m still dying to do some work with all of the Stones – the whole band.  I would love to be able to be their number one photographer – their go-to guy.  I think that would be fantastic!  Kind of like I do for Ringo.

    “There was a rumor going around the internet a couple of months ago that Charlie Watts was retiring, was quitting the Stones.  He didn’t want to tour any more.  I immediately got on the phone and called five drummers, friends of mine who had worked with the Stones, Curt Biscara (Jagger’s solo records), Charlie Drayton (Keith Richard’s old band, Expensive Wino’s), and I called Jim and I said, ‘Man, if the Stones are going out on tour and they need a drummer, obviously, I would LOVE to do the gig!’ That would really be my all-time goal.

    “Curt has seen my band play and he said, ‘Dude!  You have to do that!  Nobody else can do that but you.  You would have to do it!’ So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  It’s a far out dream but, you know, hey?”

    As our chat progressed, Rob drops another gem into my ear canal.

    “I should tell you about my working with Paul and Ringo together.  It was at the Love - Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas. I was hired by Apple Corps to do photos for the one year anniversary. Paul was there; Ringo, Olivia and Yoko; George Martin; all the Apple people; all the EMI people; all of the record execs.  It was a pretty big thing.

    “So, all I did was follow Ringo and Paul around the whole day. Larry King was there and they taped a show. Just before we were going on to the Larry set I asked them, ‘So, when was the last time you guys danced?’  They looked at each other and started spinning around so I started shooting.  I have this really great photo sequence of the two of them having a dancing moment.”

     “So, fast forward to June of this year when the Beatles’ Rock Band was coming out.  They hired me to do the promo photos for the cover of USAToday.  It was downtown at the USC Galen Event Center.  It was the official press launch for Beatles Rock Band. CNN as there; USAToday, CBS, NBC, etc. – all the biggies.

    “We’re waiting for Paul and he walks in.  He’s the last to arrive. He eventually walks over to where I had a studio set-up and says ‘Hey, Rob, how’s it going?’  I’m thinking, “Wow.  This is Paul McCartney and he just remembered my name!  He’s freaking me out!  He then asks, ‘How ya doin’?  How ya been?  I’m glad you’re on this!’

    “I put him and Ringo in the white background and started shooting.  They started clowning around – their usual selves.  It was fun to shoot those two again.  I realized that, whenever those two get together, I get the call.  It’s a good feeling.  It’s something special.”

    No doubt, this speaks volumes of Rob’s work and his respect for his clients who then become friends.

    Still speaking about that particular photo shoot, Rob continues, “Paul actually wanted to go through and pick out the shots with me.  So, immediately after the photo shoot, while he went off to do interviews, I uploaded the pictures into my laptop.  I quickly edited the shots down to about 40 before he came back to view them.”

    “Paul and I then went through them and picked out 10 shots – it was just me and Paul, working at my computer.  It was a trip, man!  It was funny because he was chewing gum during the photo shoot, which is a big no-no, and you could see it in the corner of his mouth on a few of the shots.  Of the ones we liked, you could see the gum!

    “So, he asked me, ‘So, can you remove the chewy?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, of course!’ So, I retouched out the gum. Did my magic with PhotoShop. The photo ended up on the cover of USAToday.  I couldn’t have been prouder than getting a copy of USAToday and seeing my photo with my photo credit with Paul and Ringo on the cover.  I thought it was going to be on the cover of the music section but it was on the cover of the ‘A’ section, the front page, above the fold – like BIG!”

    With Rob’s legacy in the business, he obviously has a vast collection of photos of a myriad of people playing a wide variety of instruments across all genres of music.  As has already been mentioned, Shanahan has been shooting all the top talent who endorse Drum Workshop drums.  It was during one of the calls with Rob that he mentioned that the company wants to publish a book of his photos of their artist.

    While describing the book project, he says, “Unfortunately, it’s not going to be the definitive collection of all of my drummer photos.  Since it’s a Drum Workshop book, they only want to use the drummers that play their drums, of course.  There won’t be any of my ‘Ringo’ or any of the non-DW drummers, although, some day, I’ll have THAT book out.

    While it’s obvious that Rob’s formal education in photography has served him well, his business studies from his college days has come in handy, too.  In listening to him describe some of the agreements and licensing deals that he has negotiated, it caused my inner business geek to salivate with envy.  The guy is certainly no dummy, that’s for sure.  Case in point, while discussing the cover shots for Ringo’s latest album, Rob shares the following story:

    “I was able to negotiate a licensing deal with Universal Music because they wanted to use the cover art for t-shirts.  So, that was in addition to what Ringo paid me for the album and the design.  Universal came out and said, ‘Hey, we really like the cover.  Ringo wanted us to contact you to find out about licensing the image and the art.’  That was actually a nice bonus surprise that I really wasn’t thinking about.

    “So, as a result, I’m more keenly aware of licensing opportunities and doing stuff like t-shirts and merchandise and limited edition prints and stuff like that.”

    As the old Ronco commercials used to say, “But wait!  There’s more!”  Rob shares this story about the events leading up to the retrospective/gallery show of Ringo’s career in the historic “Studio A” at Capitol records.

    “Ringo, Barbara and I got together at his house, looking through a bunch of photos on my laptop.  We needed to pick some photos to display at the Walk of Fame event at Capitol Records. Ringo was getting his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and having a party in Studio A. We ended up picking ten, and of those ten, seven were mine and three were from a collection I got from Apple Corps in London. I had all ten of these photos printed 4x5 feet and hung on display for the party.

     “In dealing with Apple, they sent me their FTP site and password and all of that.  I got into the folder and I’m looking at these photos that I realized have never been released!  Old Beatles photographs that, through the years and for whatever reason, have been sitting in their archives.

    “A lot of them have been digitized – probably just scanned and sitting in this folder at Apple.  It was amazing going through these because I’d never seen 80% of them.  It was their own private collection - pretty amazing stuff.

     “I showed them a ‘before and after’ of what I did with one of the photos.  They go, ‘Wow, we really need to have you do that (the restoration).  It would be great to have you restore them for historical purposes.’”

    Later in the conversation he shares this story about the iconic, “Abbey Road” photo and its restoration.

    “I zoomed in really close and started looking around in that photo, which is kind of eerie because I know that the license plate means something to a bunch of people.  Paul’s barefoot.  There’s a guy standing on the right side of the frame, looking at them.  There’s all these little things going on in that photo that, through the years, the total Beatles freaks have claimed to be some iconic meaning.

    “So, I’m diving into that photo in super high res, seeing that picture big on my 30” monitor.  I zoomed in on that thing at 400% or 500%.  I noticed that there was trash on the right side of the frame in the gutter – like wrappers or an empty cup or something. 

    “I realized that I could clean up trash on the curb and I could clean up the photo a little bit. But do I really want to alter the historical significance?  So I decided not to and left that one pretty much alone.  But the other ones – there’s a photo of Ringo playing drums – an old black and white photo that Ringo really liked.  But it was a scan from a black and white print that was made in an old dark room.  You can see a bunch of dust specs and little hairs.”

    The story begged the question:  Was there a particular photo that he saw and restored that had a particular impact on him?

    “Let’s see.  There’s one shot of Ringo sitting on his drum riser, like it might be between takes on a TV set or something.  He’s got the classic black oyster pearl drum kit up on the drum riser.  The drum riser looks like it’s about five feet tall.  Ringo’s sitting on the drum riser – on the high hat side. He’s got a cigarette in his hand, just kind of leaning down, looking at the floor. 

    “It’s a moment that the photographer captured, in the middle of the mayhem and the screaming and the Beatlemania.  This looked like this is one of the only places that Ringo felt truly safe – on his drum riser - his place of Zen. I had a good time studying that photo.  It was good to see my friend, Ringo, enjoy a little peacefulness in the middle of the madness that was his life at that time.”

    How does Ringo compare to the other drummers Rob knows?

    “To compare Ringo to other drummers is really hard for me because, of all the drummers that I’ve met over the years – and I’ve met a lot of them – I don’t think any of them can relate to what Ringo has gone through.  To be a member of the Beatles, the British Invasion and all of that stuff, I don’t think anyone can relate, except, maybe, Charlie Watts.

    “I would say that Charlie is really quite different than Ringo.  Ringo has a real outgoing personality.  Very funny and witty.  He likes talking to people and interacting with people.  What he doesn’t like is people coming up to him and asking for a photo or to sign stuff. 

    “Charlie, on the other hand, is really quiet – in his own little space.  He doesn’t like all the adulation.  He would rather be playing in a jazz band in Harlem somewhere with 50 people in the audience.  He’d be happy with that.”

    It’s clear that Rob knows it photographic subjects from a perspective that I would dare say no other rock photographer does:  From their place on the stage whether it be the microphone, the keyboards, guitar or drum riser.  When you couple that with the profession respect and awe that Shanahan brings to the photo shoot, one understands why he connects with his subjects in a rare and refreshing way. 

    Rob will, no doubt, continue to make his incredible mark in the realm of Rock photography.  You can keep up with his work by visiting www.robshanahan.com.  As hinted at previously, keep your eyes open for books that showcase his incredible work.

Featured Photo

 

 

george lynch

Our Featured Photo by Boomerocity friend and famed rock photographer, Rob Shanahan (robshanahan.com), is of Dokken's George Lynch! Check out more of Rob's work at RobShanahan.com!

 

 

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