The recent passing of multi-talented musician David Lindley prompted me to search back though some old negatives that I had taken more than 30 years ago. In the early ‘90s, I collaborated with a gifted musician and writer named Bill Ellis to review concerts in central Japan for The Japan Times. We covered a wide variety of music, from popular to classical; mostly international artists, but some Japanese. We saw George Harrison with Eric Clapton, The Neville Brothers, The Ramones, Public Enemy, Iggy Pop, Paul Simon, Allen Toussaint, Seiji Ozawa, the Hilliard Ensemble, and even Shonen Knife, just to name a few.
I have been a fan of Lindley’s since high school when I first heard him playing with Jackson Browne, so, for me, this was one of our more memorable concerts. It was an eye-opener, with Lindley playing together with percussionist Hani Naser, introducing me to new styles of music. I had probably been expecting things like Mercury Blues. And, although the music was incredible, one of the most memorable moments was after the show listening in to Bill talking with Lindley about music.
Bill had quite a musical pedigree himself, so was always on the same wavelength with other artists on the subject of music. With Lindley, the conversation was mostly about the blues, traditional music, and restoring old instruments. Especially memorable was when Lindley shyly confessed, like a little boy who knows he has been naughty, to drilling holes in a vintage Hawaiian guitar to put in electric pickups for the lap-steel style of guitar playing that he is famous for.
The usual routine for these jobs was that I would be allowed to photograph the artist during the first two or three songs. After that I would have to stow away my cameras and just enjoy the show. Back then, I was using mostly mechanical cameras (no batteries required) with single-focal-length, manual-focus lenses. The newspaper did not print in color, so I shot with black-and-white film; usually one full roll in each of two cameras. Black-and-white was less expensive than color, and I would develop and print the film myself, packaging the prints and taking them to the post office to send to the newspaper. It was a different world back then.
I could have shot in color, but I have no regrets not doing so here. Lindley was famous not only for his unique style in music, but also for the way he dressed. However, as you can see in the above photos, his attire usually stood out more in his choice of distinct patterns rather than colors.