It’s hard to imagine rock music without photography. Because, look, as much as we love the lyrics and the chords and the arrangement, the image really does matter. At Blurb, we’re lucky to have a number of books by big-name photographers who’ve taken extraordinary, iconic images of rock musicians and put them into books. This tangibility of the rock artifact, an image that you can hold, is increasingly important in an age of streaming music and MP3s. Picking up one of these books is like opening a gatefold album cover and falling into the sheer visual cool of the music (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask your parents).
Fred Brathwaite, Debbie Harry, and Lee Quinones in Bobby Grossman’s Low Fidelity
Bobby Grossman chronicled New York’s punk/no wave/new wave/post punk scene of the late 70s and early 80s. His book, Low Fidelity, features CBGB stars like Debbie Harry, David Byrne, Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop, and Joey Ramone – along with New York art scenesters like Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat (many of the above pictured eating bowls of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes). The book was produced to accompany Grossman’s photographic retrospective at Vertu Fine Art.
Texacala Jones in John Scarpati’s Cramp, Slash, & Burn
Photographer John Scarpati captured a different scene in the ’80s – less art-school and more beauty-school-gone-to-hell. Cramp, Slash, & Burn is a collection of Scarpati’s work from the ’80s, a rock and roll rogue’s gallery featuring everyone from cult-band 45 Grave to MTV-stars LA Guns. Scarpati’s work is currently on a mad tour, having popped up so far in Los Angeles and New York, while his images of pioneering ska-punk band Fishbone are now part of the Smithsonian Institution’s collection. Scarpati also won the highest honor for self-published books in The Mohawk Show 12, a competition that honors achievements in graphic design.
Alex Harvey in Janet Mocoska’s Alex Harvey: Last of the Teenage Idols
Before most of Scarpati’s subjects were rocking outrageous, Glaswegian rocker Alex Harvey was setting the stage with music that took glam’s theatrics into a new direction. Think of a more Dickensian Alice Cooper, or an (even more) prog-rocking version of the Decemberists. Harvey’s musical storytelling is brilliantly captured in Janet Mocoska’s Alex Harvey: Last of the Teenage Idols. The book has been a Blurb best seller and has the honor of being in the permanent collection of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Jesus and Mary Chain in Andrew Catlin’s appropriately titled The Jesus and Mary Chain
The Jesus and Mary Chain were one of the loudest, most chaotic, and less reliable bands to have made a name for themselves in the 80s. Fortunately, photographer Andrew Catlin could balance on top of an amp long enough to get those perfect shots of the band during their 25-minute sets. He would also produce album art and publicity shots as the band started recording. He’s compiled the photos, along with words by Jim Reid, the group’s vocalist, into a book that’s been the subject of music blogs and tweets worldwide, from the United States to Japan.
The Jam in Martyn Goddard’s Rock ‘n Roll & Speed
Martyn Goddard put the Jam “In the City” and turned a lamp, a refrigerator, and a vacuum cleaner into “Three Imaginary Boys.” He also made iconic album covers for Sham 69, and Blondie and photographed Freddie Mercury, Vivienne Westwood, and U2. His book, Rock ‘n Roll & Speed, pairs his twin passions of music and vintage roadsters in a collection of indelible, classic album covers, and gorgeous automobiles.