the Backroom



Mick Rock and Miley Cyrus Get It Together!

by Chris Murray on April 7, 2021  |  Leave a Comment »
“Miley Cyrus, Plastic Hearts,” New York City, 2020. Photograph by Mick Rock.

Mick Rock is not only one of the finest photographers to exhibit at Govinda Gallery, he is also a terrific friend for over 30 years. So it was a great pleasure to see he created the photo art for the cover of Miley Cyrus’s new album, Plastic Hearts. That recording is a Rock & Roll album, and was released on Jimi Hendrix’s birthday, November 27th, 2020.

Miley performed last week before the start of the Final Four contest between Gonzaga and UCLA in Indianapolis. That game was one of the greatest college basketball games of all time. It makes me wonder if Miley got both teams pumped up with her medley of Queen songs and Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”. Mick did cover art for both of those bands.

Mick Rock’s cover art for Queen II and Cover Girl. Photographs by Mick Rock.

Mick started exhibiting his photographs in 1999, the ‘turn of the century,’ at Govinda Gallery. Since then his work has been featured in legendary exhibitions at Govinda as well as our traveling museum exhibition Sound and Vision: Monumental Rock & Roll Photography, organized in association with The Columbus Museum. At the Columbus Museum show which launched the exhibition, they used Mick’s “Saxaphone Sessions” image of his dear friend and collaborator David Bowie, as the signature image on its posters, invitation, and billboard in front of the museum. We also were the US distributors for Mick’s amazing limited edition books on David Bowie, Queen and Syd Barrett, all from Genesis Publications in England.

Here is a terrific ‘out-take’ from Mick Rock’s photo shoot of Miley and Mick, from the session that produced the cover image for new album.

When I spoke with Mick Rock last week he told me, “Miley was a lot of fun to shoot. She has a beautiful raw energy, allied to endless charm and intelligence. I’d certainly be happy to shoot her again, any time, anywhere! Miley Cyrus is the real deal.”

Mick Rock’s photograph Miley Cyrus, Plastic Hearts is available from Govinda Gallery at popart@govindagallery.com.

I would also like to acknowledge the great work of my Back Room ‘aide de camp’ Wilde Davis.

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How Lonnie Smith Grooved with Iggy Pop…and Donovan

by Chris Murray on March 30, 2021  |  9 Comments »

This past Saturday The New York Times published a terrific story on soul-jazz organist Dr. Lonnie Smith’s new album Breathe on Blue Note Records. The ‘punk frontman’ Iggy Pop covered two songs on the album including Donovan’s #1 hit song “Sunshine Superman.” What a strong groove it is. The NY Times called the album “joyous and intimate.” Here is that story, along with a link to a conversation between Iggy Pop and the album’s producer, the legendary Don Was. It is a terrific conversation about the album, and Iggy and Don are in great form. Don’t miss it!!

This morning, Donovan sent me a wonderful comment on the album and Iggy and Lonnie’s version of Sunshine Superman, written for his muse and wife Linda! Here it is:  

“I love this version of my song by Dr. Lonnie and Iggy singing, produced by Don Was. I wrote to all three to tell them I am honoured and so pleased. My Sunshine Super-Girl Linda loves it too, the song was composed for Linda. I particularly love the Congas. Iggy tells me it’s Venezuelan percussionist Richard Bravo. Well done Dr. Lonnie, Iggy & Don Was, the Jazz style and the video is Brill!”
Donovan & Linda

How Lonnie Smith Found an Unlikely New Collaborator: Iggy Pop

The soul-jazz organist and the punk frontman worked together on a pair of covers and discovered a musical kinship.

Iggy Pop and Lonnie Smith. The duo recorded two covers for the organist’s latest album, “Breathe.” They originally met at a gig by Smith. Credit Don Was.

By Brad Farberman
March 24, 2021

In 2018, Iggy Pop was recording a pair of covers for an upcoming album by the soul-jazz pioneer Dr. Lonnie Smith. At first, the punk icon couldn’t quite find the groove, said the guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg, who was in the studio that day. Then something clicked.

“Suddenly, in the middle of the take, it just started sounding really in the pocket, and had all this energy,” Kreisberg recalled. “I turned my head over and looked through the control room glass, to the room he was in, and he had taken off his shirt. He had become Iggy Pop.”

Pop’s covers of Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman” and Timmy Thomas’s “Why Can’t We Live Together” will appear on Smith’s joyous, intimate “Breathe,” due Friday on Blue Note Records. The rest of the album, which includes a four-piece horn section, guest vocals from Alicia Olatuja and a reconfigured Thelonious Monk tune, comes from a week of 2017 gigs at New York’s now-shuttered Jazz Standard, a run that doubled as a 75th birthday party for “Doc.”

As he nears 80, Smith is merely doing what he’s always done: collaborating, arranging and playing organ with an understated virtuosity that prizes feeling over flash. Not a lot has changed since he released his first album, “Finger-Lickin’ Good Soul Organ,” in 1967. But new listeners — including one very high-profile rock star — are still finding Smith. And his organ hasn’t lost an ounce of soul.

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Smith started on organ when a local instrument shop owner gave him a Hammond B3. The music of Jimmy Smith and Bill Doggett found him at the same time.

“I just loved the sound” of the instrument, said Smith, who currently resides in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in a phone interview. “It’s an orchestra. It’s a bass. And it’s a soloist. I mean, you got everything right there.”

“I like the way he sounded,” Smith said of Pop’s performances on his album. Credit Frank DeBlase.

Smith moved to New York City in the mid-60s and began recording on albums by the guitarist George Benson and the saxophonist Lou Donaldson. His LP with Donaldson — most notably “Alligator Bogaloo” from 1967 and “Everything I Play Is Funky” three years later — became part of the foundation of soul-jazz, an ecstatic, organ-heavy subgenre that fused jazz with funk and R&B. Even with an abundance of fine organists on the scene in the ’60s — Smith’s contemporaries included Shirley Scott, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Reuben Wilson and Jimmy McGriff — Benson and Donaldson chose Smith. They still keep in touch; Donaldson visits and Benson had called two days before this interview.

“I liked the feel, and they must have liked the feel also,” Smith said. “I’m guessing. We had a ball when we played. You feel at home when you play with certain people. And that’s a great thing. Because everybody sound good, but they don’t feel good. Or they don’t play well together. That’s the thing about music.”

Around this time, Smith began recording his own albums, too, including a quartet of classic releases for Blue Note between 1969 and 1970: “Turning Point,” “Think!,” “Drives” and “Move Your Hand.” (Smith left the label in 1970 and returned in 2016.) His take on Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” was sampled by A Tribe Called Quest in 1990, and more recently, the title track from “Move Your Hand” became a favorite of Pop’s.

“I was listening to ‘Move Your Hand’ over and over at my family home in Florida, and the neighbor across the canal has cockatoos,” Pop said. “I was playing Barry White that day,” and the birds were quiet. “But when I played ‘Move Your Hand,’ they started screaming.” He laughed.

The collaboration between Smith and Pop arose naturally — Pop went to a Smith gig and they started talking. Later, Pop suggested the covers. He had been a fan of “Why Can’t We Live Together,” famously sampled by Drake on “Hotline Bling,” since its 1972 release. And Smith had previously covered “Sunshine Superman” on “Move Your Hand”

“I like the way he sounded,” Smith said of Pop’s performances on his album. “Natural. You know when people try to overdo it? Again? You don’t have to do that. He just did what he did.”

Pop, who turns 74 next month, had collaborated with artists on the fringes of jazz before, like the bassist and producer Bill Laswell, but never with an artist so rooted in the tradition. And true to jazz form, there was essentially no rehearsal.

“I’d never done a proper jazz session before, so I was, you might say, on my best behavior,” Pop said with a laugh. “And, you know, we do that, and then I’d watch him, and that was about it. With each one. We didn’t really talk out the arrangement as much as just watch him for cues.”

“Breathe” is technically the second time that Smith and Pop have worked together. At the show where they first met, Smith at one point picked up his DLS Electric Walking Stick, a cane and percussion instrument made by the Slaperoo company. Pop played it that night, too, and a bond was formed over the unlikeliest of instruments.

“I was playing it through the audience, and he was over there, and I let him play it,” Smith said. “And we decided to do it. Do it together. And it worked. It worked.”

Sunshine Superman 45 RPM cover, 1966. Photo by Barry Feinstein.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

“Looking To Get Lost” and Peter Guralnick

by Chris Murray on March 26, 2021  |  129 Comments »

A friend asked me the other day what I had been reading. I told him the best book I have read this year is a collection of essays by my favorite biographer, Peter Guralnick. Guralnick’s biographies of Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, and Sam Phillips are masterworks. Adventures In Music & Writing is the subtitle of Guralnick’s new book Looking To Get Lost (Little, Brown and Company), and it is an apt description of Guralnick’s life as an author.

Looking To Get Lost is a collection of essays on musicians Robert Johnson, Skip James, Bill Monroe, Lonnie Mack, Joe Tex, John R. Cash, Tammy Wynette, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry and more. One of my favorite chapters, toward the end of the book, is “My Father, My Grandfather, and Ray Charles,” a deeply personal account of Guralnick’s own life, his family, and his career as an author. I admire Guralnick so much that it was wonderful to read his personal story of becoming a writer.

Skip James at the Newport Folk Festival, 1964. Photograph by Dick Waterman.

Looking To Get Lost includes a collection of photographs that illustrate his essays. His “Fan Notes” at the end of the book are themselves a remarkable resource for anyone interested in the extraordinary musical artists he depicts in the book. 

I am deeply honored that Peter Guralnick contributed essays for two of my books, Between Midnight & Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive featuring the photographs and stories of Dick Waterman, and Elvis At 21: New York To Memphis featuring Alfred Wertheimer’s photographs and stories. 

In his new book, Guralnick writes about talking to Ray Charles not long before he died. Ray was describing to Peter the spiritual he had sung at Sam Cooke’s funeral. “I gave my heart to it, man,” he said. “Everything that came out of me that day was truly genuine. There was nothing fake about it.” The same can be said for Peter Guralnick’s writing. 

If you are interested in great American music, and the journey of America’s greatest music biographer, Looking To Get Lost is a treasure.

 Peter Guralnick and Chris Murray, Library of Congress, December 2nd, 2015. Photograph by Carlotta Hester.

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Sally Grossman R.I.P….”Bringing It All Back Home”

by Patrick Pearse on March 16, 2021  |  9 Comments »
Bringing It All Back Home, 1964 © Daniel Kramer

Govinda Gallery showed Daniel Kramer’s enigmatic color photograph of Bob Dylan with Sally Grossman lounging behind him, in Kramer’s first exhibition in the spring of 1991. The image was also shown at the inaugural exhibition at Seattle’s Experience Music Project Artist to Icon in 2001, the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis in 2005, as well as at Kramer’s one-person exhibition at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland in 2006. All three museum exhibitions were curated and co-organized by Chris Murray. That photograph on the cover of Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, came to be known as one of the most important album covers of the 20th century. 

Daniel Kramer’s photographs are available at Govinda Gallery.

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People Magazine, George Harrison, Barry Feinstein and Govinda Gallery

by Patrick Pearse on March 2, 2021  |  328 Comments »

This story was published by People magazine on February 25th, 2021, on the occasion of George Harrison’s birthday.

By Sam Gillette | February 25, 2021 06:05 PM

Since the 1980s, Chris Murray has championed the genre now known as “rock photography” — most recently, images of the famous English musician, George Harrison, who helped change rock and roll history forever as the lead guitarist of The Beatles. In his book, George Harrison: Be Here Now, which was published by Rizzoli, Murray features photographs by his late friend Barry Feinstein, who shot art for three of Harrison’s solo albums, including All Things Must Pass, the biggest selling solo album by a Beatle. Here, PEOPLE exclusively shares six rare photographs featured in the book in celebration of what would have been Harrison’s 78th birthday.

Credit: The Estate of Barry Feinstein

A ‘Spiritual Person’

Here, Harrison peers out a window at his home in Friar Park, England in 1970, thirty-one years before his death. 

“They used to call him the quiet Beatle, which is kind of ridiculous,” Murray tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview. “He wasn’t as talked about as John and Paul perhaps, but there’s a huge group of people out there in the world who really love this guy. These are some of the reasons why: He was a spiritual person. And these days we need spirituality. We need hope, we need love, we need community. George really expressed all those qualities.”

Credit: The Estate of Barry Feinstein

At Friar Park

Harrison, who believed in meditation and connected with the Hare Krishna movement, often found solace at his Victorian mansion, Friar Park, near Henley-on-Thames in England. (Here, the rocker gardens at his home with his then-wife Pattie Boyd in 1970.)

Murray visited Harrison there 10 years later, after Harrison became a fan of his book, Illuminations From the Bhagavad-Gita.

“George took great pleasure in gardening,” says Murray. “It made a lot of sense to me, because when people were having higher consciousness and spiritual realizations at that time through meditation, or psychedelics, or whatever, nature became such an important thing.”

Credit: The Estate of Barry Feinstein

The Rehearsal

When Harrison organized the Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1971, he created one of the most memorable rock performances of all time. But Bob Dylan’s attendance wasn’t definite. 

“Not many people know there was a rehearsal a few days before the show. Bob came to that rehearsal. They weren’t even sure if he’d come to that, but he did,” Murray remembers. (Right, Harrison and Dylan rehearse for the concert.) “His appearance was the heart of the show because they’re George and Bob, they love each other, and New York loved Bob.”

Credit: The Estate of Barry Feinstein

The Concert for Bangladesh

The band that took the stage featured a dazzling array of musicians like Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Jim Keltner, Leon Russell and Jim Horn — and Feinstein was there to capture it all. 

“Leon Russell was crazy about Bob. And there’s Ringo playing drums,” says Murray. “There’s Eric Clapton, who was a dear friend of George’s. And so the chemistry of everybody on stage for Bangladesh was amazing.”

Credit: The Estate of Barry Feinstein

Living in the Material World

Feinstein was also one of the photographers there for the Living In the Material World photo session in Los Angeles in 1973. Harrison had created a “surreal” feast outside, says Murray. 

“All the people sitting at that table were the musicians who were playing with him: Jim Keltner, Ringo, Nicky Hopkins,” he continues. “George created this surreal kind of feast, sort of [a play] on success, and fame, and what people think it means.”

Credit: The Estate of Barry Feinstein

A ‘Mad Hatter Tea Party’

In actuality, Harrison was “pulling everybody’s leg,” Murray explains.

“The incredible songs on that album are deeply spiritual poems that he put to music,” he continues, “about becoming self-realized and about Krishna consciousness.” 

George Harrison: Be Here Now Hardcover – September 29, 2020 by Barry Feinstein (Author), Chris Murray (Author), Donovan (Preface) Publisher : Rizzoli

George Harrison: Be Here Now

One of Murray’s favorite photographs is Feinstein’s “compelling portrait” of Harrison sitting on the lawn at Friar Park surrounded by garden gnomes, which graced the cover of his triple album All Things Must Pass, which released in November 1970

“This was the first solo album. The Beatles had just broken up. The Vietnam war was going on. Civil rights. Everything was happening,” says Murray. “And here comes this first [solo] Beatles’ album, and it’s called All Things Must Pass. And there’s George with four garden gnomes, in this natural state landscape, and the cover mesmerized me.”

Credit: Carlotta Hester

The Author

Murray, who founded Govinda Gallery in 1975, had a similar reaction to another Beatles portrait years before, which started his obsession with rock photography. Before photographer Annie Leibovitz was famous, Murray hosted her first exhibition in 1984. That was when he purchased her iconic portrait of a naked John Lennon holding on to Yoko Ono. 

“It was just me and Annie and I said, ‘Annie, I’m going to buy my first photo of yours. I love John. I’m going to get the one of John and Yoko.’ And she turned to me and said, ‘You know, Chris, John was murdered the day I took that photo.’ “

Murray didn’t say anything in response, but he made a vow to himself. 

“When Annie told me that, hand to God, I didn’t say it to her, I just said it to myself, ‘Not only is this a great photo, it’s an important photo,’ ” he remembers. “At that very moment I said to myself, ‘I’m going to find more photos like this.’ ” 

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Happy Birthday George Harrison!

by Chris Murray on February 25, 2021  |  11,559 Comments »
George Harrison, Friar Park, England, 1970. © The Estate of Barry Feinstein.

Barry Feinstein’s photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

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Celebrating Barry Feinstein’s Birthday with George Harrison, Janis Joplin, Marlon Brando, and more.

by Chris Murray on February 4, 2021  |  349 Comments »
Barry Feinstein by Bob Dylan.

Today would be photographer extraordinaire Barry Feinstein’s 90th birthday. I have much to celebrate regarding Barry, especially his new book of George Harrison photographs that was my great pleasure to write the text for and edit. George Harrison: Be Here Now has just been published by Rizzoli, and has been received by the public with great appreciation. Barry’s photo of George Harrison is famously on the cover of All Things Must Pass, the first solo album by a Beatle.

Marlon Brando Marching for CORE, Venice California, 1963.  © The Estate of Barry Feinstein.

I first exhibited Barry’s photographs at Govinda Gallery in fall 2002. What an amazing exhibition it was, with remarkable images of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Marlon Brando, King Curtis, and Donovan, among many others. Donovan was so enthusiastic for Barry’s exhibition he came to the opening in Georgetown and performed an amazing acoustic set that evening in honor of Barry. Donovan also wrote the preface to Barry’s new book of photos of his friend George Harrison.

Donovan, New York City, 1964.  © The Estate of Barry Feinstein.

Also in attendance was Barry’s friend and fellow photographer Jim Marshall, who came to the exhibition with another great photographer Danny Clinch. Danny also had his first exhibition of photographs at Govinda in fall 2001. A wonderful party followed Feinstein’s exhibition launch across the street at Halcyon House, studio and home to the great sculpture John Dreyfuss. It was a memorable day all around.

Jim Marshall with Wells Noonan in The Back Room. Govinda Gallery Archive.

I also featured Barry’s photographs in the traveling museum exhibition Sound & Vision: Monumental Rock and Roll Photographs, organized in association with the Columbus Museum. Feinstein’s photographs were a key component of The Revolution of Rock & Roll exhibition in Havana, Cuba, organized by Govinda Gallery in cooperation with Fototeca de Cuba, Cuba’s national photo gallery. The exhibition was a sensation! Though Barry Feinstein passed on in 2011, his spirit remains with us, and always will, through the legacy of his acclaimed photographic career.

Janis Joplin, Pearl, 1970. © The Estate of Barry Feinstein.

I end this celebration of Barry with the last paragraph from my introduction to Barry’s new book George Harrison: Be Here Now.

“George Harrison and Barry Feinstein’s paths were meant to come together. They were two creative individuals who complimented each other—one born in  Liverpool and the other born in Philadelphia. It is fifty years since All Things Must Pass was released and these photos were first taken. Harrison’s music and song have proved to be timeless, and Feinstein’s photos still delight the eye and tell their story. Their work will always remain with us in sound and vision.” – Chris Murray

George Harrison, Friar Park, 1970.  © The Estate of Barry Feinstein.

George Harrison: Be Here Now is available from Amazon and bookstores everywhere.

Beggars Banquet, front and back covers, 1968. © The Estate of Barry Feinstein.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Hank Aaron and Walter Iooss at Govinda Gallery

by Chris Murray on January 24, 2021  |  152 Comments »
Hank Aaron, Montreal, 1969. © Walter Iooss.

Govinda Gallery first exhibited this photo of Hank Aaron in the great sports photographer Walter Iooss’ exhibition Classic Baseball in April of 2003. This terrific photograph captures the spontaneous joy of Hank Aaron upon seeing the legendary Satchel Paige enter the locker room to see Hank after a game in Montreal.

Havana, Cuba, 1999. © Walter Iooss.

I also exhibited Iooss’ photo of Hank Aaron in Havana at Cuba’s national photo gallery, Fototeca de Cuba, where I brought the exhibition in March of 2004. Cuba loves baseball and Hank Aaron. They also loved Walter Iooss’ photographs, including the one above of children playing baseball on a street corner in Havana that he took in 1999, which I used on the invitation card for that exhibition.

Havana, Cuba, 2004. © Jose Filosa.

Before Iooss’ opening night for his exhibition in Havana, I explored Old Havana to see if I could find the street corner where Ioos’ photograph of the Cuban children playing ball was taken. Ioos’ had no idea where it was, but I eventually found the same corner with many of the same kids from the original photo, but five years later! It was amazing. I organized a party for the next evening at the corner, and the participants in the photo gathered again for this endearing image taken by Jose Filosa.

Walter Iooss’ photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Happy Birthday Ted Russell!

by Chris Murray on January 10, 2021  |  147 Comments »
Dylan at his typewriter, 161 W 4th St. 1964. Photo by Ted Russell.

Today is photographer Ted Russell’s birthday. Born in England in 1930, Ted Russell went on to become one of the great photographers at LIFE magazine, the ‘gold standard’ for photo journalism. Russell came to New York City in 1952 “with four cameras and $200.” In 1961 Russell took the very first professional photographs of Bob Dylan, at his apartment in Greenwich Village and at Gerde’s Folk City nightclub.

James Baldwin and Bob Dylan, December 13, 1963, New York City. Photo by Ted Russell.

It was my good fortune to come to know Ted Russell and edit and have published his book of Dylan photos, Bob Dylan NYC 1961-1964 (Rizzoli). It has also been my great pleasure to curate and organize exhibitions of Russell’s photographs of Bob Dylan in museums and galleries in Dublin, Los Angeles, Havana, New York City and Washington D.C., and with more to come.

Happy Birthday Ted!

Ted Russell’s photographs are available from Govinda Gallery.

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Dr. John and His New Year’s Eve Set List

by Chris Murray on December 31, 2020  |  103 Comments »

It was New Years Eve 2013 when I saw Dr. John perform at Hamilton Live in D.C. Wanda Jackson also was on the bill. They brought in 2014 with style. What a great set of songs he delivered!

Dr. John’s New Year’s Eve set list from the Hamilton Live
Dr. John, 1970. Copyright Barrie Wentzell.

Happy New Year!

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