I was a photo assistant for Lane Pederson in NYC. I had been processing film for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine and shooting odd little filler shots for their advertising.
One day in December of 1977, I got a phone call at the studio from Richard Cramer, the assistant AD at Interview. He asked me if I wanted to see a band from Athens, GA at Max's Kansas City, a famous NYC niteclub. I had lived in Atlanta in the early 60's so I was a little curious about this unknown Southern band.
On December 12th 1977, the B-52's played Max's Kansas City the first time. Lydia Lunch and her band, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, were the opening act.
Before the band came on stage, there was a sound of bees buzzing, then the band came on stage and began playing "Planet Claire," the music of which is a copy of "The Peter Gunn Theme," written by Henry Mancini.
The first song I ever played on guitar was "The Peter Gunn Theme." Ricky Wilson played Mosrite guitars, which are played by my other favorite band, The Ventures. If I was ever in a rock band, the B's would have been my dream band.
I asked the band to come to the photo studio where I worked, as I wanted to get a studio shot for Interview magazine. The day of the shoot, Cindy Wilson had gotten homesick and went back to Athens, GA. Maureen McLaughlin stood in for Cindy and I don't think anyone ever knew, especially the Japanese readers of Studio Voice, which subsequently published this photo.
I had offered the bands first manager, Maureen McLaughlin the use of the extra room in my NY apartment when she had to come to NYC to get bookings for the band.
One summer day in 1978, I was vacationing on my friend Billy Halsey's family farm in Watermill, Long Island. I called my apartment to check my answering machine for messages.
Ricky answered the phone.
I said, "Ricky, what are you doing there?"
He said, "We're all here."
The whole band had moved into my apartment. When I returned home, the whole apartment was so tidy, especially the bathroom.
Cindy had obviously, spent several hours, scrubbing and bleaching the bathtub and it never looked so white.
I asked the band to come back a second time to the photo studio where I worked to make a photo with the correct personnel. I had the idea to produce a 16 x 20" poster in B&W to "snipe" around the clubs, where the band would be playing.
I didn't know about wheat paste and after I had stapled posters around the block where Max's Kansas City was and got back the the point where I started, all the posters were gone.
After that I began selling the posters for 52¢ or two for a dollar.
Interview magazine published the picture with Glenn O'Brien's interview.
Two years later, the band had just been signed by Chris Blackwell of Island Records. I got a phone call from Tony Wright, the creative director of Island Records, who wanted to see all of my shots of the B-52's. When I got to his office, it was obvious that the band had already decided on using this picture. Tony asked me if he could hand-color it.
We changed the mylar ballon that Kate was holding to a matching shoes and handbag that I had bought her in a thrift shop. Tony asked me how much money I wanted for use of the shot.
I told him I had no idea.
He offered me $750, which I quickly calculated as 5 weeks of my present pay.
Tony hated the group and used the name of "Sue Absurd" as his art direction credit.
It became one of our biggest covers and won many awards.
Soon after the debut album was released, I was contacted by Rolling Stone magazine's photo editor, Lori Kratochvil. She gave me my first assignment for the magazine. I took the band to The Unisphere in Flushing Meadows, where this shot was taken. I also took the band into the studio for their third studio session.
After I got all the film back from the lab, I let the band edit the film down to one image. When I confidentally presented this slide to Lori Kratochvil, she was furious. "Where is the rest of the film? she asked.
Out of allegiance to the band, I refused to let her see the rest of the shoot.
It was the first and only job I ever had for Rolling Stone.
It was also the last time I was ever hired to photograph the band.
So much for loyalty.
Twenty years later, Warner Bros. Records used this image for the B-52's Greatest Hits package and then proceeded to lose the original negatives for this and three other shots.
Stay tuned for further legal ramifications.
- George DuBose