If the internet had been widely available 30+ years ago, this site would be 30+ years old. Seriously.
In the ancient ’80s, when I was 15 years old, I had an epiphany. All the rock stars I loved were, in fact — get this — real people. They went to real people places and did real people things. They didn’t have their own elevators (usually) and actually had to walk from the car or bus into the hotel or venue or wherever they were going.
Well, no duh. Sure, it’s only logical because these people are human. But still, everyone expects celebrities to be pretty much untouchable.
“They” are always on the other side of the screen and on the other side of the velvet rope. If you’re don’t know someone who can snag you a backstage pass, you’ll see them on stage during their tour, and that’s usually good enough.
Well, it wasn’t quite good enough for me. I had already read all about these people, loved their music and wanted to see them in concert.
But then, for some reason I honestly can’t really remember, I decided I wanted to meet these people.
Even though I was just a teenage kid, and didn’t have any connections or a shred of clout, I had plenty of optimism, determination, dedication — along with hyper-focus, privilege and luck.
Why couldn’t it be done? I figured I’d at least try to figure it out.
I came up with a few methods to help me meet the people I wanted to interview and/or photograph.
The first thing I did was to focus on bands/singers playing smaller venues. (Stadium concerts had too many barriers, such as parking issues and the multiple layers of security.) As it happened, most of the groups I wanted to meet were booked at clubs and theaters anyway.
Then, I would find out when the band would be going in and out of the venue. I quickly learned that soundcheck time — usually the late afternoon before the show — offered the ideal opportunity. The musicians usually had a little extra time, and only rarely were there more than one or two other fans around.
Prep was really important, because it took a lot of time, effort and money (talking babysitting cash/PT job earnings) to go see these bands, especially before I could drive.
In a typical scenario, I’d take the bus from school to the BART station, and take the train into San Francisco. Then I’d emerge downtown, walk a few blocks to catch another bus, then after that ride, I’d walk a few blocks to the hotel or venue.
The first experiment
Some friends and I decided to meet UB40 in San Francisco (Geffery Morgan tour), and meet them we did. We were backstage before the show, saw the concert, and then took a photo with the whole band in the lobby of their hotel. (The picture didn’t turn out, so you won’t see it here, but the memory is still etched in my mind.)
And that’s how it began. I started creating my own music fanzines in the mid-’80s. Sure, they weren’t widely read — only a few hundred subscribers. But writing for these ‘zines (and a couple of others) quickly became my raison d’etre.
How cool was it that I could meet and interview my favorite bands — mainly British and Australian groups — all because of my little stapled, photocopied “magazine” thingy? Very… and way more fun than homework.
Don’t think that I make any claim to being a great photographer or writer — I was just doing what I loved to do, guerilla-style.
To this day, I can’t believe some of the opportunities I had, and all of the amazing things I got to experience.
Everyone was so insanely nice to me and to my friends. So earnest and dedicated, I think they saw me as a cute little wannabe writer — not your average everyday groupie.
Yeah, I’m sure they were humoring my journalistic ambitions to a large degree, but still, I’m really grateful to all of these wonderful people my friends and I got to meet.
Hopefully, all those guys would be happy with the return on their investment of time and energy, as my teenage career as a music journalist led to a grown-up career as a journalist. T
Two decades on — albeit after a rather significant break — I was still interviewing musicians, including James Blunt, Jewel, Rob Thomas, Brandi Carlile, Howie Day, Lifehouse, Secret Machines, Missy Higgins, Jason Mraz and Snow Patrol.
Most of the resultant music-related work originally appeared on SheKnows.com, a site that I co-founded with my best buddy back in 1999. Basically, SheKnows was an offshoot of my DIY career. I sold my stake in the company several years ago, but stayed on as an editor for a few more years… long enough to see it become one of the top websites for women.
I’ve also been the editor-in-chief of two national print magazines, freelanced for several other major publications, and have worked on other projects both in print and online. (I also worked for a few years in the music business and was married to a British drummer — I met him on his first US tour — but those are stories for another time, children.)
But the stories here — that’s where it all began.
Here on andwhatsnext.com, I have compiled some of my photos, autographs, backstage passes and other assorted goodies — along with some of my recollections. It’s about time these memories came out of their boxes and into the world!
And what’s next? Well, there’s always something amazing and unexpected around the corner. Watch for it.
P.S. Have memories to share? Please post them in the comments section — there’s one for every article.