'Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen' by Bill Bentley (Oct. 24)
Perhaps more than any other genre, rock n' roll is as much about the live experience as the recorded work. From Elvis Presley wiggling his hips to the Rolling Stones causing teenagers to lose their minds and tear venues apart to Bruce Springsteen's stadium domination, live concerts are an integral part of rock's story. A new book from the Smithsonian, written by longtime music industry veteran Bill Bentley, shines a light on live music history using crowd-sourced photos, from Chuck Berry to present day. Before its Oct. 24 release, Billboard is sharing exclusive shots from Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen, along with thoughts from Bentley himself.
David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust for the last time at the Marquee Club in London in Oct. 1973.
Bentley, former VP of Warner Bros Records and A&R director of Concord, explains to Billboard how he got involved in the project. "Back in the early '90s I was a publicist for the Flaming Lips, and a guy named Matt Litts was their tour manager, so we got to be buddies. Years later, late 2015, he came to me – he's now director of marketing of Smithsonian Books – and says, 'Smithsonian has this idea for a photo book, would you like to be the writer?' This was just a dream come true to me."
Roger Daltrey photographed in Houston in 1976.
"The Smithsonian website was trying to get people to send in photos they'd taken over the years, not so much professionals, just fans of the music," Bentley explains. 'We ended up with 4,000 images. It was early 2016 when we started going through them all, picked a ton, and made a list of people who should be in the book. Even though it's a subjective history, we felt there were some bands that needed to be in the book. So we went to estates and professional photographers [for artists when there weren't fan photos] and put them all together. Every chance we had to use a fan photo we did."
Prince at the Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina on Nov. 14, 1984.
"Back in the day when people were taking cameras to shows, a lot of shows did not allow cameras in the venue. Some old stubs even say 'no cameras.' A lot of bigger bands people just couldn't shoot. Nowadays everyone shoots because of iPhones, but there was a period in the '80s when you just couldn't take a camera in. So we went to the pros."
The Rolling Stones at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. in 1972.
"Music for my generation is the modern currency when you talk about art. People don't talk about paintings, but everybody loves music," Bentley says. "If you're gonna get the people where they live and love, put books out about things like that."
Kurt Cobain on the Nevermind tour at Nachtwerk in Munich on Nov. 13, 1991.
"There's people in this book I'm friends with but I tried to be objective. Sometimes becoming friends with someone gives you an insight into how incredible they truly are. There's some things that are a little rough, you see both sides of a person, but that helped me convey true essence of who they are."
Amy Winehouse at the Octagon Centre in Sheffield, United Kingdom on March 3, 2007.
"For me, it's 90 percent of bands I truly love and that were super important in moving music forward. And that's why we included soul singers – they drifted over into influencing rock n' roll."
Red Hot Chili Peppers in Los Angeles in 1982.
"A civilian who is not a rock freak, if they pick up this book and go through it and read some of the paragraphs, they'll get a sense of where rock has been the last 60 years. We weren't able to put a lot of people in from the last 15 years – we ran out of room. Do you take out Van Morrison to include the Pixies? I don't know. It will spark some discussion."
Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore East in New York City on May 10, 1968.
"This thing was so emotional for me," Bentley admits. "My life has been defined by rock n' roll, jazz and R&B. I was a six year old in Houston when I heard 'Hound Dog' in 1956. I felt like it was my life."
Janis Joplin at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Dec. 19, 1969.
"Pictures are better than words sometimes," Bentley admits. "I'm real proud of showing things and telling this history with pictures."
The White Stripes at the Cantos Music Foundation in Calgary on June 29, 2007.
"Who couldn't be in the book" was the hardest thing for Bentley about putting this together. "There was at least 50 artists I felt should be in the book but because of page limitations and financial considerations, we had to narrow it down. It was really hard not to put in some people."
The Clash at Temple Beautiful in San Francisco on Feb. 8, 1979.
"If you love a band or artist, that's what really matters," Bentley opines. "In my career in music, I have my tastes and what I like the best. But I've always tried to keep an open mind about music. Even things I don't listen to, I could see what they were doing to their fans."
U2 at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. on 2015.
Smithsonian Rock and Roll: Live and Unseen by Bill Bentley comes out Oct. 24. Clocking in at over 200 pages, it covers 60-plus years via crowd-sourced photos to illustrate more than 125 music pioneers on stage and in their element.