On April 7, two of rock history's star witnesses will be sharing their life stories at The Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff.
Pattie Boyd is music's Helen of Troy; she has inspired many epic guitar wars. Her first husband, George Harrison, immortalized the way she moved in the Beatles' "Something," and Eric Clapton, her second husband, professed his obsession with her in "Layla." Henry Diltz is the ultimate pioneer in music photography. He started as a musician and later became the official Woodstock photographer. His hundreds of album covers include The Doors' Morrison Hotel.
With "Behind the Lens with Pattie Boyd and Henry Diltz," the photographers offer an incomparable glimpse behind the silk screen of their decadent era. Diltz's Morrison Hotel Gallery presents the exhibition as part of a 13-city touring gallery. Diltz and Boyd will share the stories behind 160 images that will be projected on a large screen, in a sort of historical tour of their memories.
We spoke with Boyd and Diltz from their stop in Phoenix. "Basically what I'm showing is my life in photographs, " Boyd says. "It starts with my modeling career, which then gave me a part in a Beatles film, and that's how I met George and the Beatles. That was a complete left-hand turn in my life. Suddenly this whole new life appeared and it was very exciting."
Diltz's entry into the world of the rich and the famous was just as serendipitous. There was a creative outpouring taking place in Laurel Canyon, the hillside community in LA where he was living in the '60s. "I was lucky enough to pick up a camera one day and start taking pictures of my friends, and they all became famous!" he says. As he delved further into music photography, his familiarity with the artists gave him an edge. "I had a fantastic sort of 'in' because I knew all these people, so they didn't really notice when I had a camera in hand," he says, laughing.
Is there an iconic moment Diltz wishes he had captured? "I never actually photographed the Beatles as a group, but luckily Pattie Boyd took care of that," he says. He did get a big opportunity when Woodstock organizer Michael Lang, who had heard Diltz's name from a friend, called him up and urged him to come shoot a massive concert during the summer of '69.
"He said, 'I'm sending you 500 dollars and an airline ticket,'" Diltz says. "So I was out there for two weeks while they built the stage at [Max] Yasgur's farm, and of course 400,000 thousand people showed up. I was standing onstage about 10 feet away from Jimi Hendrix when he played the 'Star Spangled Banner' just as the morning sun was coming up. It was quite amazing."
Similarly, Boyd recalls Beatlemania and the backlash from John Lennon's quip that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. "It was taken very seriously and it was really quite scary at the time. Of course I realized that they were very important and huge in the world, but I didn't misplace them," she says. "I didn't think of them out of context. They'd always wonder when their fame would end and people would stop buying their records. They never thought it would carry on. Unlike the Stones, who thought they would go on forever."
Many credit Boyd with introducing an element of mysticism to the Beatles' music. She regularly meditated, and says Harrison became very interested in her practice. "And then amazingly, Paul called and said the Maharishi was giving a talk in London and asked if we wanted to go," she says. "And usually when one of the Beatles went somewhere, we all went."
Boyd recalls that all four Beatles were fascinated by the guru. "At the time it was also really appropriate, because the dear manager Brian Epstein had just died, and everybody was in total shock," she says. "The Maharishi suggested we go to India for some calm and peace, while they decided what their next step would be."
There's a 1998 picture Boyd took of Rolling Stones' ladies Marianne Faithful and Anita Pallenberg, and Boyd laughs when we ask if the muses gather regularly. "No, no, no. I went to see the Stones at a small venue in London, and Marianne was saying how she hoped that she could see Mick, and Anita was sort of cool — she didn't mind if she saw them or not," she says. "They looked fabulous and I just couldn't resist taking that shot of them. I [still] might see them at a party or opening and it's wonderful."
Now every concertgoer has a phone in his pocket, but back in Boyd's and Diltz's heyday, veteran photographers were even more instrumental in documenting the happenings. "When I photographed Jim Morrison at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968 I was the only photographer there," he says. "Now there would be 200 photographers there, and every single person in the audience has also become a photographer."
Diltz also marvels at the way technology has evolved. "I used to have to carry two camera bodies, one for black and white, one for color, and about five different lenses and batteries," he says. "Now I carry a little black thing the size of a pack of cigarettes and a chip that stores 3,000 pictures. To me, that's utterly amazing!
"I loved framing the world," Diltz says. "I take pictures because it makes me feel good, and by accident — after 50 years of doing it — I now have this piece of musical history which I never intended to have. It was just those thousands of moments of feeling good by taking a picture."
"Behind the Lens with Pattie Boyd and Henry Diltz" stops at The Kessler Theater, 1230 W. Davis St., at 8 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $22-$34 at prekindle.com. Visit the kessler.org for more info.