Lynn Goldsmith falls in love with ‘Music in the ’80s’
“I hated the ’80s, except for the sex and drugs” — Iggy pop (Music in the ‘80s, by Lynn Goldsmith)
When Aspen recording artist, talent manager, fine artist, filmmaker, and rock ‘n’ roll photographer Lynn Goldsmith was first approached by one of her publishers to produce a book on music of the 1980s, she was less than enthusiastic.
“Why did I choose to do a book on the ’80s? OK, I didn’t,” she said. “For whatever reason, I had jumped to this negative conclusion of the 1980s and held on to it, right? Like, ‘Oh the ’80s.’ All you think about are the shoulder pads. You know, I just sort of dismissed it,” she said.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Goldsmith grew up exposed to and loving a variety of music genres from a young age. As a teenager, she dabbled in songwriting, acting, and joined and quit a band or two while spending time with her hometown friend Jim Osterberg, who later became performer Iggy Pop, catching every show they could at The Grande Ballroom in Detroit, which she described as “a magical place.”
After college, she made her way in 1969 to Manhattan and landed a publicity job at Elektra Records that was being vacated by Danny Fields, who became one of the most influential figures in the history of punk rock by signing and managing Iggy and the Stooges, MC5, and the Ramones. The job gave her inside access to the musicians that would eventually shape her career.
Even though she “always made pictures,” a career in photography was not top of mind.
“I was a director for ABC Television. I co-managed a band called Grand Funk Railroad. I always made pictures. I just never thought about making a living from still photography,” she said. “Many of my friends got record deals. They became artists. They needed a picture from me or something, right? But, I never thought this was the way that I was going to spend most of my time. Or, it wasn’t until I got sick of having to work in ways that needed several people. And, the camera was something that I could do on my own.”
Since then, Goldsmith has written songs and performed as Will Powers and was signed to Island Records, chronicled Bruce Springsteen’s rise, The Rolling Stones’ tours, frequently photographed Bob Dylan and Patti Smith, published 15 books, and her work has been featured on over 100 album covers.
For Goldsmith and many of her contemporaries, 1980 signified the death of the hope and optimism of the ’60s and the hedonistic spirit of the ’70s — and for good reason. The decade kicked off with the assassination of John Lennon, followed by the Reagan era, an escalating Cold War, and the AIDS pandemic. It wasn’t an era many of them were fond of, often writing it off as a lost decade.
But then, she began to change her mind.
“I started going through the pictures, and I looked at, like, Bananarama next to Barry Manilow, and music styles were all over the place; it started blowing my mind that we had so many different forms of music that all became popular,” she said. “And then, the introduction of MTV, which really changed not only how music was experienced, but it changed the relationship of various countries to each other. So, I got really excited.”
Music Television, aka MTV, launched on Aug. 1, 1981, with six words that changed the music industry forever: “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” spoken by one of the channel’s creators, John Lack. The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” was the first music video to air on the new cable-television channel, which was initially only available to households in parts of New Jersey.
MTV, whose original programming was basic music videos introduced by VJ’s (video jockeys), went on to revolutionize music, entertainment, and pop culture in the United States and, soon after, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. For the first time, young fans around the world were simultaneously exposed to everything from pop, rock, and new wave to metal, hip-hop, and everything in between.
“The ’80s were my teenage years. A car crash of styles, adolescent urges, awkwardness, and trying to find yourself. I guess the decade for me was all about that — Danceteria, Men At Work, Reagan, SCTV, Bill Murray, and big suits and big hair. There was a starkness to the glam and the hangover of the ’70s still imbued everything with a rawness that is gone today.” — Ben Stiller (Music in the ‘80s, by Lynn Goldsmith)
Goldsmith began to understand how important and influential the decade was to a generation, which she previously considered inconsequential, and wanted those fans “to also have beautifully produced books.” Plus, she conceded, “Once I start something, I need to finish it.”
As she worked on the book, she realized that she had so many photos from the ‘80s that that the project was becoming unwieldy. She made two decisions: first to organize the book by alphabet and, second, to interview artists featured in her photos and include their quotes about their viewpoint on the ‘80s, as well as some of her Gen X friends who grew up in that era, to help illustrate the complex and opposing feelings people hold about the decade.
She was especially interested in hearing how Keith Richards would answer her questions.
“He gave the perfect Keith Richards answer, which is: ‘Lynn, all decades are the same to me,’” she said.
The result of that effort is her recently published book, Music in the ’80s, which she will be supporting at Explore Booksellers at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Appearing at Explore is a natural fit since she’s called Aspen home for decades.
“It’s the only place in the world that I know of that’s small, you know, where you can walk everywhere in town and do all that, where there’s so much culture, and that’s important to me,” she said. “I do feel like I support Aspen. And, they support me.”
Limited edition fine art prints of many images in the book can be seen and purchased at http://www.rockandrollphotogallery.com.
What: Lynn Goldsmith book event, Music in the ’80s
Where: Explore Booksellers, Aspen
When: 4:30-6 p.m., Wednesday
More info: http://www.explorebooksellers.com/event