This Past weekend a photograph of mine was used on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, to honor the life of MCA. A friend, and friend to several of my friends. I was really happy to hear the kind words from some of these folks who honored me by saying things like "Such a beautiful tribute to our old friend" and "No one captured the true essence of Adam better than you." To have this image picked to grace the cover and honor his life when so many incredible lives have been lost, in the past year, was a bit daunting.
When the Times associate photo editor hit me up I was cautious at first when asked for editorial images (no thought of a cover yet). Adam was always pretty particular about images of himself and the band over the years, and we had our disagreements at times, but in the end he always seemed to be able to get people to come around to his view, at the very least, appreciate it from his perspective.
So that said, if i was going to participate in this mainstream, end of year tribute, i'd have to be sure the image would be something worthy - i showed them some good stuff. In the last week i had been doing some extensive research in my own archive for a new book i am working on, and came across this gem of Adam, but i didn't have a scan of it to send them. A week later when she came back to me and said they were considering Adam for the cover, I thought, "What better way to have this never seen image published ? - There would be none!" I took the slide out, worked on as accurate a scan as I could at home (which is not so easy to do well from a color slide), then sent it over. They said "Everyone loved it!" So it was in the running, along with another (very old) fallen icon of the last year, and even a "type treatment" that the corniest of egomaniacal art directors always like to do.
When she told me, a few days later, after several last minute deadline meetings that they chose my image, i said "cool". Knowing in this business, I don't believe anything 'til i actually have it in my hands.
By last Thursday she actually over-nighted me a few copies while i was out of town with family. Wow ! They really used Adam on the cover and also a shot from dear old friend of Adam's and mine, Arabella Field (who shot the Pollywog Stew EP cover of the original band), inside. Very cool.
You can read the words and see the online version HERE.
So the Times then ran a blog about the story I just told you with some other details, (unfortunately besides giving disgraceful credit for the cover in the printed issue - which under other circumstances i would never allow - in the blog interview they rushed to put it up and lost some nuance and detail, so i'll add for y'all below).
Behind the Cover Photo: On Digging Up a Super-Rare Shot of Adam Yauch
By AMY KELLNER [special edit]
The cover of The Lives They Lived issue this past Sunday featured a never-before-published photograph of Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys taken by Glen E. Friedman. Amy Kellner, one of the magazine’s photo editors, talked to Friedman about the story behind that photo. Here are some of the highlights of their conversation.
On meeting the Beastie Boys:
I’ve been friends with the Beastie Boys for quite a long time. I met them through Arabella Field, our good mutual friend who grew up with Adam since they were born. (Field took the photo of Yauch with two cigarettes in his mouth, featured in the article.) I was actually living in L.A. when I met them in New York, but I was in New York a lot. It was 1981 or 1982 out in front of CBGB's.
On photographing other bands:
I had already done my first album photo at that point for the Adolescents. I had also been photographing bands like Black Flag, the Circle Jerks and the Dead Kennedys, and here in new York, The Bad Brains, The Stimulators, The Mad. It wasn't until The Beastie Boys actually came to California as a group for the first time in 1985 (opening for Madonna!), that I had done a photo session with them, because I was really inspired by them doing hip-hop. They didn’t know anybody in Los Angeles, so I brought them all around and introduced them to a bunch of people and got them on a couple of important radio shows because of my experience working with bands at that time.
On making a spontaneous photo shoot happen:
I came to California for Thanksgiving just to be with family in 1991, and I had given the Beastie Boys a call. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and they invited me down to their "G-Son" studios out in Atwater Village in Los Angeles, to just hang out and see their skate ramp, play some basketball in the studio and listen to “Check Your Head” as they were still trying to figure out it's final sequencing, before it came out. I was just totally blown away and totally inspired by the album, and so I told them that we should take some photos before I had to go back to New York. They said "sure, let’s do it, it will be like old times." We did it the next day and I was on the red-eye back to New York that night!
On the challenge of coming up with an album cover:
Unfortunately, they had said that the album cover for "Check Your Head" had already been picked (in fact it wasn't even a photo of the band), and I said that I'll try and out do that. I knew I would. So Adam had an idea, he wanted me to create for them their own version of the iconic photo on the cover of Minor Threat's Salad Days 7" single. So we met up early in the morning at the Capitol Records building and we took a roll or two of black and white right in that area. There was a picture of them sitting on the curb that we took at the end of the first roll, and I knew in my head, that was their shot, I knew that would be their version of the Salad Days photo, and it became the album cover, replacing the original one they had chosen. When I had gotten back to New York after that, and after getting all the film back and photos printed, I faxed them all the best images right away. (for me, that was the way to get it to someone quick back then). I had a really good fax machine. They got the fax of the photos on the other end and literally they liked that one shot so much, they put it on the album cover as a fax, like i had sent them (check the vinyl version of the LP and you'll see it's clearly a fax).
On shooting in an old torn-down structure:
After I took that shot of the three of them, we decided to keep shooting. We went by Adam's log cabin up Laurel Canyon, and the school yard up further on Wonderland Ave., Mulholland Drive, Got great shots everywhere. (My friend, Amery Smith was driving us around in his van, and in fact it was the first time the Beasties and 'AWOL' ever met.) Later on, for the last location, we brought them down to the Sorrento Beach parking lot, in Santa Monica, next to where there was this pool that my DogTown friends all skated back in the '70s. I knew this would be a good spot to shoot because I partially grew up around there. It had some resonance for me. And then there was this old torn-down structure right across the street (actually the PCH) from the parking lot. It was late in the day and the light was hitting it just incredibly, and I said, "Let's climb up there and let's take these photos." That shot of Adam I guess was during some downtime while we were just hanging around up there in that destroyed structure, trying to figure out some cool angles for shots... It was very close to the end of the day. (another shot i took up there made it onto the back cover of my first book) It was just an outtake, an individual image of him, and I didn?t have an individual image of anyone else up there. It just looked cool, otherworldly, it just looked like him. He was very into snowboarding at the time, and that's why you see he's wearing his down jacket, that ski hat, lift pass attached to his coat zipper, and stuff.
On digging up the photo:
When you [Amy] let me know there was a possibility of a cover for The Lives They Lived, I dug extra deep into my extensive Beastie archive to find a solo shot of Adam that had never been published or even seen by anyone else ever. This one fit the requirements well, I thought, for our hometown newspaper. My only wish is that it had been shot in New York.
Below is the home scan with more accurate end of day lighting, i sent over to the Times.
Let's hope this comes to fruition : ADAM YAUCH PARK