It kind of started with Ryan Richardson expressing interest in seeing Spot’s pictures of the Black Flag Polliwog Park show. That was the one where, on July 22 1979, Black Flag got on the bill for a family-friendly park event in Manhattan Beach as a Fleetwood Mac cover band. HA! Then they start playing, and it’s like “WTF!?!!” In the photos, there’s a crowd of people up front who are obviously electrified and fascinated and totally into it. Then there’s a no man’s land dividing that crowd from the angry folks who apparently did not think that Black Flag was doing a good job of covering their Fleetwood Mac favorites, and they’re screaming and throwing trash. What a moment in time! And Spot was there with his camera.
Spot’s contribution to bad-assness is already legendary in the music world, as the producer of bands like Black Flag, The Misfits, The Minutemen, Big Boys, The Dicks and Hüsker Dü.
Over time, Ryan got to know just how many photographs and negatives Spot had, and he got an inkling of how good they were. Spot was planning a move, and something had to be done about storing the collection, so Ryan offered up his home/studio. In addition to spending countless hours sorting and organizing, Ryan spent about $7,000 of his own money having the photos professionally scanned and enlarged. Ryan said he didn’t care if he ever got any of that money back, and he’s not getting any proceeds from the sale of the book – he didn’t even know there was going to be a book yet – he just had to make sure the photos were preserved. Yay for Ryan!
Sinecure Books came on board and got things rolling when Ryan approached Johan Kugelberg, whom he’d known since the 90’s through punk rock record collecting, and Johan responded with an emphatic YES.
Advance copies of the book are really rare, so I visited with Ryan at his home/studio and spent an hour or so looking at his copy and talking with him about it.
This book is so super amazing! It’s not only for people into the Southern California punk/skate/surf scene, but for photographers and people interested in the visual arts in general. It’s not just like: oh, Spot had a camera and he was there, so there’s a record of what was happening. No. It’s like: holy shit, this is every bit as good as The Americans. It’s a slice of every day life exquisitely preserved at just the right moment and with just the right light and composition . . . with the added bonus that some of the places and people went on to be iconic for the Southern California punk scene — Henry Rollins, Greg Ginn, Ron Reyes, Darby Crash, Billy Zoom, Rodney on the Roq, and more.
Some of these are very unusual, very early, and very intimate shots of future punk rock legends. For example: there’s a photo of a flower child type guy in granny glasses with long straight hair smiling sweetly in a close-up for the camera in 1970 . . . as I was looking at it, Ryan said, “can you tell who that is? You know who it is.” I looked and looked but couldn’t guess. Then, as soon as Ryan told me I could see it and I was like, “WOW!!”
The way that Spot, Johan and Ryan decided to do the captions really lends to the experience of these “wow” moments. The photos stand alone on the page, so you can drink in the image without the distraction of reading text. Then, if you’re curious, you can page back to an index that tells succinctly what’s on that page. If you’re even more curious, you can page back to “the runout” (a reference to Spot’s habit of writing some kind of text on the runout of every record he produced) and read a little bit more about what’s going on in the photo.
Spot wasn’t just photographing this scene, he was a member of it: so he elicits knowing smiles and friendly glances and punk rock glares from his subjects. As an observer of the photos, you really feel like you were there and you know these people. Ryan put it nicely in his introduction: “On page after page, we get to enjoy every bit of a sweet smile or a smirking swagger, impossibly sure we’d been there standing just outside the frame.”
The book becomes available today and you can order it here directly from the publisher. You should do this for two reasons: 1) Spot and Sinecure Books get to keep more of the proceeds than if you buy it elsewhere online, and Spot really fucking deserves to be rewarded financially for his contributions to the universe of All Things Cool; 2) Only if you buy it directly from the publisher or from a record store do you receive the 7” vinyl record with secret content I can’t reveal – and that no one else should, either – it’s meant to be a super secret toy surprise for each listener to discover on his/her own. The direct-from-publisher purchase also comes with a slipcover and a two-sided limited edition poster.
Perhaps the best news: Ryan says there are enough photographs to make three more books. Woot!