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GODS OF MUSIC,  Jim Marshall's Music Photography

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"...Jim Marshall is the rock and roll photographer...
he's totally committed; he's shot more music for more years than anyone I know."
--Annie Leibovitz, in the introduction to her book, Shooting Stars,1973

Welcome to You are about to view a body of work that, for logistical reasons, has never been seen in its entirety. In pre-Internet days, getting access to Jim Marshall's 37-year collection of music photographs was as painful as pulling teeth - a long and grueling process that involved begging a visit to his cramped fileroom and tangling with his capricious whims; then, once in the door, being confronted by more than twelve thousand rolls of film. The sheer magnitude of the collection just boggles the mind. Yes, like a visit to the dentist, a visit to Jim was something that the cognoscenti avoided except in extreme emergencies -- when someone else's second-best shot of Jimi Hendrix just wouldn't do.

When it had to be a Marshall, regardless of the risk.

For the desirous art director or the hopeful print collector, the drill went something like this: call Jim to see if he was answering the phone. If he was answering the phone, did he seem to be in a good mood? Mention cash. Set up a meet. Before ringing the doorbell, make sure a Last Will & Testament was on file somewhere. After all, this was the man who attended (the original) Woodstock Festival with a .380 Walther PPK in his belt. Who battled with Hunter S. Thompson over controlled substances. This is the man that Dennis Hopper claims to have based his character on in Apocalypse Now.

And being one of Jim's friends never made interaction with him any easier. Tenure means nothing to Marshall. Jim and Leibovitz have known each other a long time- since 1970 when she became staff photographer at Rolling Stone. In gathering material for her book, Leibovitz states, "Jim Marshall caused me the most pain. One day he'd be in the book and the next day, for reasons I could never fully understand, he'd pull out. As far as I was concerned the book meant little without him... Jim Marshall is the rock and roll photographer."

Access was the key. Never again will anyone be allowed the access to artists that Marshall was afforded. He got the photos because no one told him he couldn't. Marshall was taking his pictures before the media multiplied out of control, before the bean-counters said no, before the entourages, the bodyguards and the pimple-faced security people were there to say "you can't go down there". Jim was working before the artists believed their own PR; when an "all-access" pass meant all-access. And Marshall didn't work unless he had it. He ate with the band, drank with them, endured the planes, buses and hotels, then partied with them. "All-access" actually meant, "cleared to get crazy with the band".

Legends abound that Marshall is a dangerous lunatic, but most people who believe that have tried to cheat him. His friends take a different view: Marshall is grossly unpredictable, fabulously silly, unbelievably opinionated, completely charming, and throughly maddening. Mercifully, he always seems able to laugh at himself. And in the end, the prize - access to these amazing and intimate pictures of the gods of music- has always gone to those with patience, perseverance and a sense of humor.

Of course, things are simpler now. The Jim Marshall bottleneck has been somewhat neutralized by technology. There is no longer any need to interface with Jim on his actual turf, unless you're looking for the entertainment value (which is considerable) or his collection of 20-year-old bourbons (delicious). Instead, a quick trip through this virtual fileroom will yield treasures previously unviewable even by wives and girlfriends.

The only way he can bother things now is by pulling the plug on this server.

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LAST UPDATE: 12/30/96