I hope you all will indulge me here. I've decided to include a chunk of the early dialogue that Henry and I had before we actually started talking about "Under the Covers." I found our whole conversation very stimulating and the talk casually twists to the subject at hand. We begin our interview with the tables turned, and Henry asking me about the homepage.
HD: So you have the Joni Mitchell web page?
WB: Yes, have you seen it?
HD: No, I'm sorry to say I don't have a computer.
WB: Oh, I saw your web page and I assumed you were an oldtimer.
HD: No, a guy up in Ojai, California, gee, it's been a year and a half now, he talked me into having that web page and I said "Well, okay." I wanted to get in on the pioneering thing, but I told him that I'm not going to be able to answer anyone or do anything till I get a computer, and I've been meaning to get one but it's a question of time and money.
WB: Well, that's certainly true!
HD: Early next year, we'll be getting some royalties from the CD-Rom hopefully, and I think it'd be good to use that money to buy a nice computer set up and get into it. All my friends have web sites and do that stuff and I look over their shoulder all the time.
WB: So you don't know anything about the Joni Mitchell Homepage?
HD: I've never seen it.
WB: Well, maybe I should tell you a bit about it before we start here. When I first went on the web about two years ago, I started surfing. I searched for subjects of interest and Joni's always been my favorite musician, so I looked around for items about her. I used search engines, etc. and all I could ever find was one little picture here, or one mention there. And what I did find was not, in my opinion, up to standards. I thought to myself "Why isn't her record company promoting her this way?" So I figured I'd make it my job to do it because I've been a collector of her memorabilia for 30 years and I've got lots and lots of images and items of information. So I taught myself html language for the project; purchased a scanner and Photoshop; then I dived in and created the homepage. It's been about a year and a half now and it just keeps getting bigger and better.
HD: And you get e-mail from all over the world?
WB: All over the world.
HD: Every day?
WB: Every day. 10 or 20 a day, some days more. I've won online awards, and I've done some publicity with it. I sent my URL to Yahoo and places like that and I've linked up with other pages. In October there were 10,000 hits to the main page; this month 12,000, with a total of 200,000 hits for the whole site. It's a huge place. I've built an online biography, a discography, a section for original essays, etc. I also maintain a "What's New" page which has been very active because Joni's been getting so many accolades and awards this year.
HD: Like the National Academy of Songwriters.
WB: Right, and you're the photographer for the event.
HD: That's right, I don't have to tell you anything!
WB: Well, I do try to keep up on all the news. I've always been good at that. Lately I've also been in touch with her management office and her record company. But I heard that you were their photographer from Dan Kimpel (Creative Director of NAS). I'm really glad that it's you shooting it. Are you also covering the BMI event afterwards?
HD: No, BMI?
WB: Yes, she's receiving four BMI performance awards right after.
HD: In the same location?
HD: They'll probably use Lester Cohen. He does all the BMI trade shots. Very often we're standing shoulder to shoulder shooting the same thing for two different people.
WB: One of your buddies?
HD: Yes, I'll be shooting it for NAS and he'll be shooting it for BMI. Have you ever had any correspondence directly with Joni?
WB: It hasn't quite gotten there. Like I said, I have contacts with her record company, her management, I've talked to her art director Robbie Cavolina. Joel Bernstein (her former guitar technician) lives up here in the Bay area and he's an acquaintance of mine. I've known him for a few years. He actually was the person who told Joni about the homepage. It was just about a year ago and he told her my project was done in a heartfelt way with total respect for her and her music and so she said "Fine. Let him do what he wants."
HD: Have you heard if she's seen it or if she likes it?
WB: Well, I hear that she's not computer oriented and has no interest in getting online. Maybe in time. But everyone tells her the page is wonderful. She gets people coming up to her in the strangest places saying, "Do you know Wally and the Homepage?"
HD: Wonderful! And she has the 3-book deal that will be happening soon.
WB: Yes. Paintings, lyrics and memoirs.
HD: Boy, will that be great. I see her once or twice a year at some kind of opening or a party at someone's house and she's the Grande Dame. She sits there surrounded by people kind of sitting cross-legged on the floor and she's sitting there in a chair chain-smoking and talking and laughing and just holding court. It's great to see.
HD: God, she always told the greatest stories. Once she talked about going through customs and it was an interrogation torture where they make you sit on a stool and ask all these questions, and she'd laugh and laugh and go on and on about it. She spins an incredible yarn. It's spellbinding, it really is, when she starts in on one of her stories. So if she can translate that into a book it will be fantastic.
WB: Absolutely. I hope it works out well. The first volume or the first part of the book is going to be about her trip with Charles Mingus to Mexico, and then on the way back when she stopped and visited Georgia O'Keeffe in Abiquiu.
HD: Yes, I've heard about that.
WB: Yes, the balloon race on the way back and everything. So it should be pretty cool. I know she does tell a really good story. She's very at ease now, too. It's amazing. I saw her on Rosie O'Donnell last week and she was laughing and sucking on Ricola lozenges and saying she can take her strokes now.
HD: Was she talking real colorfully?
WB: Yes, for four or five minutes anyway which is all they really give people on TV.
HD: You know, a couple of wines and a couple of cigarettes and she's really going!
WB: Well you can't smoke on TV, although if anyone could get away with it, it would be her.
HD: Then I saw her at the Troubadours of Folk Festival, the last time I saw her perform. That was a couple of years ago.
WB: June of 1993.
HD: Yeah, and I was standing right next to her, like two feet away at the edge of the stage taking pictures.
WB: You were the backstage photographer, the official one.
HD: Yes, so I was standing right next to her and it was so funny, she tried to sing one of her old songs and forgot the words, and she laughed and said "What are the words?" and about a hundred people yelled them out and she said "Thank you."
WB: Yes, I was there. That was during "Hejira."
HD: Yes, I thought it was one of her older ones. She sang one or two old ones and then the rest was all new stuff.
WB: I loved the new songs. "Big Yellow Taxi" was also very neat. I liked that one.
HD: Right. You know the group I sing with, the Modern Folk Quartet, we recorded "Big Yellow Taxi" for our Japanese CD.
WB: Oh, I'll have to get a recording of that because I collect Joni covers.
HD: Do you?
HD: Let's see, this is through Polystar in Japan and it's called "Highway 70."
WB: Is it this year?
HD: It's been maybe two years now.
WB: I'll have to look for it.
WB: The reason I wanted to do this interview for the homepage is that I really like your pictures, Henry.
HD: Thank you.
WB: You're a great photographer.
HD: You already have some of my pictures, don't you, like the one of her playing the dulcimer?
HD: Maybe I have seen your page then once down at Graphix Zone. They were just running through things, nobody kept it on the screen long enough to read anything. They were just zipping through stuff.
WB: I will say one thing about the homepage. There's a huge amount of information to read but it's also noted for it's design and moody colors. I have to say that I've been thrilled by the way one can manipulate color and shapes for the Web. I try my best to work on every image until it looks as good as it possibly can look.
HD: I remember that one picture. I remember being very impressed by the way it looked and thinking that's cool. I'm very happy with what I hear that you've done.
WB: Thanks. That's a very nice attitude. The photos I've put up on the homepage are the ones of yours that I've enjoyed for years.
HD: Anytime. I hope Jon Sidoli from Graphix Zone is going to send you some more. Whatever you want to use from the CD-Rom. I mean, don't give the whole thing away but definitely use some of my photos.
WB: Well, I've actually asked Jon to send me some so I can use them to illustrate the interview.
HD: You can't get them right off the CD-Rom?
WB: I'll be honest here, as advanced as I am on web work, I don't yet have a CD-Rom player. That's why I couldn't just write up a review of "Under The Covers." I did take it to a friend's house and I browsed through it, but he has an older, slow moving CD-Rom machine and I don't think it did your project full justice. So I'll buy myself a good one soon. I'm planning to get a Power Mac, with a CD-Rom, etc.
HD: Great, that's my plan, too. I'm going to get the same thing. We'll have to email each other.
WB: Absolutely, I would love to do that. I actually was going to email you before, but now I see you wouldn't have answered me directly anyway.
HD: I do get a lot of email and it goes to my producer/partner Peter Blatchley in Reno and he puts it on disks or prints it out and faxes it to me.
WB: So you do answer some of your email?
HD: He does. He answers it for me. So actually we have sold a couple of pictures to people that way.
WB: Well, I would certainly be willing to help you do that through the homepage sometime. We could put up a page to display some of your photos and offer them for sale there. I would love to do that for you.
HD: That would be great. Maybe after we get our computers and you get your CD-Rom.
WB: Right! Now getting back to "Under the Covers"- since this is the Joni Mitchell Homepage, how did you meet Joni and become someone who took photographs of her?
HD: Let's see. I met Joni in Los Angeles in the late 60's. Probably around the Troubadour because that's where everything was sort of centered. And I was actually a folk musician in a group called the Modern Folk Quartet. We played the Troubadour a lot, and played around the country at colleges and folk clubs. In doing that I met Stephen Stills and then also David Crosby. I remember I met Stephen Stills in New York City and he would come down to the Village Gate and watch our set and we'd go back and watch his set in the little club down the street. Then we bumped into David Crosby when he was with Les Baxter's Balladeers in Florida. I remember he had these great big knee-high boots on and I was very impressed with that. So we all met on the road as fellow folk musicians. Then it was Crosby who brought Joni around first, and I don't remember the exact moment that I met her but it probably was at the Troubadour. I know I saw her play there a couple of times in the old days. Then there was that picnic up at Mama Cass's house. I'm trying to think which came first.
WB: The picnic story is in the CD-Rom, right? Tell me a bit about that.
HD: Mama Cass had a picnic at her house one day and Joni Mitchell was there and David Crosby. David had brought Joni, and Eric Clapton was there too.
WB: You took pictures there. I've seen those.
HD: Correct. And a few other friends were there, so that was one day we kind of hung out together. Another day, Gary Burden who is my partner on "Under the Covers" was visiting with Cass. He was an architect and Cass talked him into doing her album cover- under protest. He said, "I'm an architect, I don't do album covers, " and she said, "Well, it's the same thing, you know. You just have a 12" square to work with." So he did, and Joni and Cass were friends, so that was another connection, so we were all, really, an interconnected family of people during the time Joni was writing "Ladies of the Canyon," and I was living in Laurel Canyon. On a Saturday afternoon you'd walk down the hill a little ways, and there would be the Buffalo Springfield hanging out at somebody's house playing. They were playing music and I remember they had a little dog named Clancy and then first thing you knew they had a song, "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing." And it was all just one big family. We were all flower children and sort of pot-smoking hippies, and it was peace and love, and there really was a wonderful feeling of the sun coming out, and the world is really going to change. Those old farts that are in charge, and the guys in the suits really don't have a clue of what life is really all about, and we do, and that feeling was very prevalent. So that's the background anyway.
WB: Such wonderful ideals that we all had then. Was the first thing you did professionally for Joni the two photos used in the "Ladies of the Canyon" songbook?
HD: I'm not sure. Were they taken at her house?
WB: Well, they're the ones where she's leaning out on the windowsill and then some others where she's sitting and playing the dulcimer.
HD: Unless it was at that picnic, but no, I think the first time I took her picture was at her house with Gary Burden. Gary and I went to her house and Joel was there as well. I guess maybe it was for that songbook. I'm a little sketchy on that.
WB: Too much pot there!
HD: Everything was a wonderful blur, all peace and love. But we went up to that house which was in Laurel Canyon where I lived and we kind of hung out in her house for awhile and then we kind of walked up the hill. She brought her dulcimer up the hill and kind of sat on the hillside and played. And Gary Burden and I and Joel were there, and Gary's little daughter Amy was there too. She was like three or four years old, and she sat there next to Joni and there was a whole series of photos of that, a little blonde child with curly hair.
WB: Sure, I remember those.
HD: You know, actually, Joni was real good friends with my partner Gary and she used to come over to dinner at Gary's house a lot and I'd be there, too. So everybody was always running into everybody else in those couple of years, there in the late 60s. So we took those pictures that day and those were some of the really beautiful photos that I've loved the best.
WB: Those are photos that have been a part of my life for such a long time. It's really great to talk to you cuz you're the one that took them. I used to have them up on my walls when I was a teenager. I tore them out of the songbook, you know. Now they'll be up on the homepage and be seen by the thousands of folks who visit.
HD: Wow, that's great. Then very soon after that, when she was going with Graham Nash, there was the day that we drove up to Big Bear to do the inside of the Crosby, Stills and Nash cover. You know, the one where they're sitting on the couch. On the inside, there are pictures of CSN in these fur parkas that Stephen had bought them. We took a limo to Big Bear, it was about a two or three hour drive, and in the limo were Stephen, Graham, David, Gary Burden, me and Joni Mitchell. So Gary and I were in the two jump seats, Stephen was in the front near the driver playing his guitar, and on the back seat were from left to right- David Crosby, Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash. So we were just talking, having fun and doing what we do, but Joni and Graham were doing a lot of reading and drawing and coloring and different things like that. I took some beautiful photos of the two of them together. I don't know if you've ever seen that one of Joni and Graham with their heads together?
WB: I do remember that one where she's writing...
HD: Well, there's one where their heads are together and they are almost nose to nose and it's a very poetic love picture.
WB: Oh, I know which one you're talking about! I think "L'Imagerie Rock Graphics" was offering that one for a while.
HD: Right. Well, I took this picture that showed Joni and Graham sitting there and Joni was writing on a pad. It was years later when I was fooling around in a darkroom, something I don't do too often, but I zeroed in and blew up that pad and by golly she was writing, "Willie is my child, he is my father."
WB: Which was for Graham.
HD: Uh-huh. Nobody knew it at the time, it was probably another year before anyone heard that song.
WB: That's amazing.
HD: So there were pictures that day. I'm trying to remember all the times that I took her picture. A friend of mine from England, Anthony Fawcett, who had worked for John Lennon, he was an art critic, and he helped John and Yoko set up art galleries, and then after that he worked for Stephen Stills during a time when I went over to England and lived with Stephen Stills. So Anthony and I became good friends, and he came to L.A. and he said he was going to do a book on L.A. songwriters and how the area of southern California influenced their style of writing, and he wanted a couple of pictures to go along with his proposal. So I gave him a couple of pictures- CSN and the Eagles maybe, and the publishers loved the idea and loved the photos, and said "Let's have a lot more photos." So Anthony and I set out to interview and photograph all these people anew, and we did have an interview with Joni. We went up to her house, and there's a big photo in the book of her showing Anthony one of her huge paintings. It was about a four foot long painting that she'd done of a nightview of the city, and people floating around on mushrooms in the forerground. A very organic, mysterious painting. That was in there, and then we went to finish the interview and she was visiting a friend in Las Vegas and this story is on the CD-Rom- we wanted to take photos, but we didn't want the Las Vegas buildings and the hotels, and the strip in it, so we took a taxi ride out into the country and we kept going until it got real nice. We ended up in this area with sort of red mountains in the background and beautiful desert vegetation and bushes in the foreground. We took a series of pictures of her and at first I just told her to stand there in that beautiful scene. The wind was blowing and it was sort of rippling part of her dress, the sleeve or a sort of a scarf she had on. The wind was rippling that and so she stretched her arms out like a bird or a butterfly and then pretty soon she was pretending like she was flying, waving her arms around and it was very beautiful. There was a whole series of photos of that which I like very much.
WB: I know those photos, too. They're really great. I used one of them to illustrate part of Cliff Chase's original essay which first appeared on the homepage last summer.
HD: The story in the CD-Rom is about how we took photos for about an hour while the taxi waited there and then we drove back into town and found out that we didn't have enough money to pay the guy. So Joni ended up paying for the taxi ride. It was a big white taxi, I think.
WB: (Laughs) Gary Burden did the art direction on "Blue," right? I think that's the only album that he did with Joni. And you took the photos on the inside of "Miles of Aisles?"
HD: That's right.
WB: And I don't think you contributed to any other of her albums, did you?
HD: No, I didn't do any other albums.
WB: And you had some photos in the Leonore Fleisher book that came out in the mid-70s.
HD: What was that?
WB: Do you know about that book? Maybe you never got any money for that.
WB: It was called "Joni Mitchell - Her life, Her loves, Her music," it was kind of a mini-bio that came out in 1975-76.
HD: I don't think I ever saw that book.
WB: So you've known Gary Burden, who's your partner on "Under the Covers" for a long time, then.
HD: Yes, since the late sixties. Well, the way I tell it we met at a Love-in. He says we met before through a mutual friend in San Francisco, but I don't remember that. I remember one day at a Love-in I saw him walking along, and he had two friends with him, two young guys who turned out to be Russ Kunkel, the drummer, and Brian Garafolo, a bass player who played with a lot of groups like Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh and a lot of people. And they all had peace stamps on their forehead, those "ban the bomb" stamps, kind of an ink stamp on their forehead, and I took a picture of the three of them. That was the first day that I recognized that guy, but I'd seen him around. So we hung out that day and got to talking and he said he's doing a lot of graphic work, and he needed photos, so he asked me if I wanted to help do that. I don't know if that was 1966-67 but in the late sixties and early seventies, I ended up hanging out with Gary constantly, almost every day as I remember. I would go down to Hollywood, be up in Laurel Canyon and drive down the hill to Gary's house. In those days, like I said, it was such a big family we would get in the car and say "Where are we going," and they'd say "Crosby's house," and then Crosby would say, "Let's go over to Cass's house." You'd just spend the day kind of bopping around from place to place, and I'd always have my camera with me, and it was my sort of, not hobby, but my compulsion, to take pictures of everything that was going on, all my friends. I didn't think of it as photography, it was more like biting my nails. It was second nature, it was something I was hung up on doing, it was my way of passing time. I just enjoyed looking through that hole, that magic little window and capturing these scenes.
WB: And now those photos are part of pop history.
HD: Yes, I guess they are.
WB: They are pretty famous, Henry. For people who follow pop music, anyway.
HD: The thing that kind of blows my mind now was I never once thought, gee, I'm sort of photographing these moments that will mean more later, or that will amount to some sort of collection later. It never even occurred to me, it was just something I did from moment to moment.
WB: But you DID do all that, Henry, you DID.
HD: (Laughs) You know actually, the thing that drove me to do it, the thing always in the back of my mind was always slide shows. At the time, I was still a musician, our group was still playing from time to time. We had done a single with Phil Spector. "To Be the Night" was right around those years, and we were still playing around the Strip. We opened for Donovan, for the Velvet Underground, and Roger McGuinn. So we were still playing, and a whole group of my friends loved to get together and look at slides. So I would furnish the slides for these slide shows. So in the back of my mind all week long would be "Geez, I've got to find more cool things to show." Colorful things, interesting things, far out moments, cool angles. You know I was always trying to blow peoples' minds by having some kind of new images to put on the wall really huge, we would blow them up real big, and smoke it and drink it and lay there and go "Oh, wow." That was very satisfying.
WB: Henry, so tell me a bit more about why you decided to do the "Under the Covers" CD-Rom.
HD: Well, over the years I ended up with a big collection of photographs and people began to start talking about archives and stuff. I remember I would show these slides and as there were more and more of them and the years went on, they became sort of a historical look back. People were always saying you have to do a book, and I was also shooting super-8 film much the same way, just for the fun of it.
WB: And some of those are included in "Under the Covers."
HD: Yes, they are. There were two guys in the video department, who I showed these films to and they said "Oh, man this is great! You have to do a video of these films." And we talked about it, and one of the guys there was Peter Blachley, who was working in the video department and we never got around to it, and the years went by and I knew Peter off and on as he went different places and different jobs in video. Then Gary Burdon, my old partner, had left town and moved to Colorado to be a movie writer, he wanted to produce a movie, so 10 or 20 years went by when I didn't really see Gary very much and I just kept shooting for record companies and stuff. Then kind of in the late 80s, we all got together, I can't remember really how it happened but Gary was back in town, and I kind of reconnected with Peter. And I know Peter had gone to New York and he was talking to a guy at BMG records, the guy who ran the home video department, and Peter mentioned my super 8 movies. And the guy who headed that department said, "That's exactly what we'd like to do here, you know, a look-back at some of those years." So Peter contacted me and I said let's get Gary in on it because he's got the cool taste. So the three of us kind of formed a company called Triptych Pictures. We made the deal with BMG and we were going to make this home video. We got a sizeable advance and we began interviewing people like Glenn Frey and Don Henley, and David Crosby and Graham Nash, and gee, we've interviewed Dan Fogelberg and Jimmy Webb. We had all that stuff going and we started transferring slides and super 8 movies and put them on to Beta so we could use that, and then all of a sudden, after a good part of a year of getting all this stuff lined up, BMG went through a big change at the top and they got all these new guys up at the top who cut all the programs and fired half the company including the guy who gave us our deal and so our deal went with that whole coup. So we were left with half a project, and we started looking around and talking to other people trying to finish it up and we got this CD-Rom company up in Sausalito and we negotiated a deal with them and started working with them and then they went bankrupt.
WB: Oh, no!
HD: Just by releasing some titles and not having them sell so well, and pretty soon they weren't in business anymore, but we were a little further down the road and we talked to several other companies and finally ended up at Graphix Zone. They had done the Dylan CD-Rom and the Prince CD-Rom and were anxious to do more music things, so this thing started out as a television show and then ended up as a CD-Rom. So now we are back to getting the television show produced which we're now working on. There are a lot of faxes flying around and we're talking about it. We're trying to get it all lined up again to do that.
WB: Well, with on-line going to cable soon there will be a real bringing together of TV and computer stuff.
HD: Right, exactly. CD-Rom is not a big market, not yet, a lot of people get things online through the net, but I'm not sure how many people buy CD-Roms. They have the new DVD system coming out which I'm told expands the current CD-Rom 8 times. And when we did the CD-Rom we had a much bigger program, in other words we had a lot more album covers and stories that were already scanned and lined up and we did the audio and we were all ready to go, and then the programmer said, "You've got too much stuff here, all this won't fit."
WB: And they wouldn't give you a second volume?
HD: No, they said that will have to be another CD-Rom. Let's finish this one and then we'll get to the next one. But with DVD we can go back and put in all the other stuff we had to cut out.
WB: So there you go, more work down the line. Get the film made, have a DVD done.
HD: That would be great. I have to say one thing about Joni when I think of her or I look at my pictures of her. I often think of Elliot Roberts who was her manager, and those were the Geffen/Roberts days, and Geffen/Roberts had an office on Sunset Strip, and it became like what the Troubadour had been. You could go down there any time of the day and you'd find Graham Nash or David Blue or Glenn Frey or Joe Walsh or Joni Mitchell. You would find two or three of those people there at any time. Or you could sit there and make a few phone calls and someone would show up and you could go out to lunch and it was kind of a clubhouse. Quite a number of times I'd go down there and Joni would be there and she would always be going off for some photo session with some big named photographer and I would always think, "God, she looks so beautiful. How come I can't be that guy!" Well, I didn't do studio stuff, and it seemed like she was always going off to someone's studio. So a number of times there I would say just as she was walking out the door, "Joni, can I just take a photo of you?" and I remember one time she said "Sure," and she kind of squatted down in the back doorway and she had all black on with this blue turquoise jewelry and her blonde hair was real long and I took just two or three frames and then she walked out and went to her photo session. They are the most beautiful pictures, some of my favorites. The next day she had on a straw hat and a little summer dress and she was going to a photo shoot and as she walked down the back stairs and kind of like a groupie I guess, I said, "Joni, just let me take a couple of shots." I just kind of zeroed in on that portrait and it became a magazine cover for McLean's.
WB: Yes, I know the one you mean, from 1974.
HD: None of those were photo sessions, it was just catching her as she was going off to a photo session. Except for that one time at her house I never really did a photo session with her, and the time in the desert.
WB: What about the picture for "Miles of Aisles," the band shot, wasn't that a studio picture?
HD: They were playing at Universal Ampitheatre back in the days before it even had a roof on it. I don't remember if I was hired to do that? Very often I shoot concerts and then later people would say I'm looking for something to use, and then I would show them what I got. I would just shoot pictures anyway and then figure out later what to do with them. That worked out very well. In those days there weren't very many photographers, and so you could shoot the whole show and stay very close to the stage, and my thing was to be quiet like a fly on the wall. Nowadays there are about 20 or 30 photographers who want to shoot the show and they get two songs and they all stand up and get in the way and shove each other. It's a zoo, and in those days it was much easier. Funny thing, I was on the road with Dan Fogelberg and after Joni's album came out there was some venue, wherever that was where she drew the picture of her feet looking at the stage and I was at the same place, and I didn't realize it till I went up and did a long shot of Fogelberg during the sound check and I said, hey, this is that same picture that she drew on her cover, and this is just about where it was, with the orange seats, so I sat down and put my feet up on the chair and took a picture that looks exactly like the cover that she drew.
WB: So you recreated it.
HD: That was cool. One of the last times I took her picture was for a book called "24 Hours in the Life of L.A." They had all these photographers going out and shooting all kinds of things all day, and they asked us to come up with a list of things we'd like to do and they wanted me to shoot some artists because I knew some rock and roll people and I somehow bumped into Joni and I asked her if I could take her picture and she said "Sure, I'll be out at my beach house in Malibu where I paint. So come out there." So during the course of the day I went out there, and she had her foot in a cast. She'd injured it somehow and she had her easel set up right by the sliding glass doors looking out at the beach and I went outside and took pictures. I thought that it was so cool to see her painting with this big white cast on her foot.
WB: I don't think I've seen those, Henry
HD: And then when they put it in the book they cropped it from the waist up so you couldn't even see the cast, and I thought that was pretty dumb.
WB: Now was this book after "California Rock"?
HD: Yes, it was. It was sometime in the late 80s.
WB: That's a book I've never heard of, so I'll have to try to get a copy of that somewhere.
HD: Yes, there is one picture of her in that, and there's a couple pictures of that on the CD-Rom as well.
WB: OK, good. Then I'll get that shot on the CD-Rom.
HD: Yes, of her painting. So all these pictures that I've mentioned are pretty much in there. The desert ones, the cast one, Mama Cass's picnic, and the limo shots going to Big Bear and then the shots at her house.
WB: Now who else is on this CD-Rom besides Joni?
HD: Well, Crosby, Stills, Nash and their antecedents, you know, the Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds ...
WB: The Hollies.
HD: The Hollies. We never did a Buffalo Springfield album but during the course of talking about these album covers there are other historical pictures in there. So there's that, you know, starting with the older ones it goes back to the Turtles and Steppenwolf. Stuff like the Lovin' Spoonful didn't make it in there, some stuff got dropped. There wasn't enough room to put it all in there, but other big groups that are in there are the Eagles, and there are several good stories about the Eagles, the Desperado gunfight, and then going out to the peyote button camping trip out at Joshua Tree.
WB: And those are little films.
HD: Yes, some of my super-8 we put in there, just little snippets of it. So in the video we will probably put more of that. The Doors are in there, we did "Morrison Hotel."
WB: Is that the only album you did with them?
HD: Yes, that's the only album.
WB: I don't know if this would be acceptable in Doors collectors quarters but that's actually my favorite Doors album.
HD: A lot of people say that. Then of course, on the back of that album is the Hard Rock Cafe, which is a little wino bar in downtown LA and that actually did begin that empire. That name was actually taken off the back of that album. We tell that story in the CD-Rom. Then Jackson Browne is in there. We did his first waterbag cover.
WB: There's a copy of that hanging in Joel Bernstein's kitchen and it's autographed by Jackson Browne.
HD: Wow! Gary and I did that. The whole CD-Rom is album covers that Gary and I did together. Certainly the stories. He did some Neil Young and Joni that I didn't work on and they're mentioned in there, but not in great detail. Then I did some stuff, like "Sweet Baby James," the James Taylor cover, and that's mentioned in there, but it doesn't go into much detail. We mainly stuck to stuff that Gary and I did together. There's Jimmy Webb, the gliding thing, where we crashed in the glider. There's Dan Fogelberg's "Souveniers" cover and the story about that. There's also the Monkees.
WB: Which album?
HD: We did "Pool It," which was an album in the 80s which only 3 of them did, but previously I had shot them for a couple of years back in the 60s when they were doing the TV show and I went on a whole summer tour with them.
WB: That must have been wild.
HD: Yeah, so as a build up to the cover that we did, I show a few of the older photos and talk about that a little. And it's the same thing with David Cassidy. During the Partridge Family days I took lots and lots of photos for the teeny bopper magazines and ended up going around the world on a tour with him. Then after that Gary and I did several of his covers, so that's all in there. Then there is a whole gallery of photos and there are a lot of little places to visit.
WB: Who's idea was it to do the map of Laurel Canyon? I really enjoyed that.
HD: Well, during one of our first meetings to try and figure how to lay all this stuff out that idea had come up. Maybe Gary had the idea, but it was one of those idea sessions around the table where everybody says "Hey, that's a good idea, and hey, we could do this." He knew a real good artist, Delana Bettoli, who painted that map, and she would send in little examples of what it would look like and we'd go, "Wow, this is so great," and we'd say, "More, more, more," and it just grew and grew. Then also, there was a very fine artist named Marc Mosel, who worked at Graphix Zone, and he was responsible for the look of this thing. He took all the elements and put it together in a really beautiful way. We were very, very happy with the whole production team down at Graphix Zone. Jon Sidoli really held the whole thing together in a great way, and Frank Balogh, the producer down there in Graphix Zone. Even though we were the directors and producers of the material, they were the ones that directed and produced the interactive part of it, the part that translates it into a CD-Rom. So we learned a great deal and we're anxious to do more. I hope we can turn this into a DVD and add all kinds of other stuff that we left out.
WB: Well, good. I'm really looking forward to getting a CD-Rom player and really enjoying "Under the Covers." As I said, I saw it on a slow CD-Rom and I liked it but couldn't quite get the full effect of the movies and audio material.
HD: Yeah, it's nice when you see it on a great big machine that will do it real fast. I'm told it takes about 20 hours to see the whole thing through once.
WB: There are 1,300 screens or something like that?
HD: Yes, so there must be around that number of photos. I haven't even seen the whole thing yet. I haven't really sat down and looked at it from one end to another, but there is something for everybody, that's for sure.
WB: Is there anything else you want to say about "Under the Covers?"
HD: No, not really. Just that it's like an electronic coffee table book. I think it does capture the feeling of those times. We tried to do that. There is also a lot of stuff in there about some of the Love-ins and things that were around at those times, so we tried to capture the feeling of where people were at in those days. We also have Woodstock, both Woodstocks. I was the official photographer for both 1969 and 1994.
WB: Oh, I didn't know that!
HD: Yes, I was hired by the producer.
WB: Michael Wadleigh?
HD: Michael Lang. Michael Wadleigh did the movie, Michael Lang is the one who did the festivals. So I was there at both of them and we kind of compare them together, and there are a lot of pictures from that. You know, we wanted to have Joni singing "Woodstock" and have all these images show as she sang the song, but as we got more and more stuff shoved into this CD-Rom, we learned that there wasn't enough room, not enough megs left to do it that way. There's a lot of things you have to learn about creating a CD-Rom but it's very hard to have one continuous piece of music play while pictures change.
WB: So you had Joni's permission to do it, but you couldn't do it.
HD: Right. We couldn't do it in the end, there wasn't enough time and space to do it that way, so we do have part of the song in there and we do have a lot of Woodstock images, but if we do the DVD version, we'll try to get that right, because I think that's one of the most wonderful songs that Joni or anybody wrote. I just think it's a beautiful, beautiful song, and it really captures a feeling of what we all felt in those days.
HD: You know, children of God, and gotta get back to the garden, and that was the feeling.
WB: And like she says, she let somebody else have her hit with it.
HD: Right, and as much as I love CSN, I really prefer her version.
WB: Oh, that's cool, because I know a lot of people in the Joni-phile world feel that way, but I wasn't sure if others did.
HD: Oh, yeah, Jimmy Webb is one of my favorite songwriters, everyone else has done his songs, but when you hear him do them, they really touch your heart.
WB: Have you heard his new album where he's redoing the old songs? I haven't found it yet, but I want to get it.
HD: Yeah, it's beautiful. It's really great to hear Jimmy doing his own stuff, and it's the same with Joni.
WB: Well, I wish you luck with this. How long has it been out?
HD: Since the end of October, so it's only been a bit over a month.
WB: Well, we'll see what we can do to help you with this.
HD: Thanks, and I'm looking forward to seeing Joni on Wednesday night at the National Academy of Songwriters Dinner. You know they are going to do a whole story on her in their magazine "Song Talk."
WB: No, you'll have to keep me abreast of that.
HD: They've arranged to do this, and after years of trying apparently it's going to happen. I think hopefully the next issue, maybe not the one right after the new year, but the one in February or March.
WB: Well, I'll have to find that because any Joni memorabilia, I really collect it all, and now of course it's great to share it with all these thousands of people on the Web all around the world. Okay, I look forward to your photo shoot this week, and I look forward to helping you with "Under the Covers," and I thank you very much for talking with me.
HD: Okay, Wally, let's keep in touch, and when I get hooked up, we can keep in better touch.
WB: Sure, Henry, let's do that. Bye!
HD: Bye, Wally!
The title of the "Under the Covers" CD-Rom refers to the many album covers designed by photographer Henry Diltz and art director Gary Burden. Henry and Gary have worked with many musical artists such as Joni Mitchell, C S & N, Neil Young, James Taylor, The Doors, The Eagles, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, and so on. Henry also photographed the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and it's heavily-hyped sequel Woodstock '94. "Under the Covers" has 1,300 screens and includes over a thousand photographs from album sessions, live shows, etc. There are also clips from 8mm movies filmed and narrated by either Henry and Gary or the particular artist discussed in that section, as well as video and audio interviews with Graham Nash, Don Henley, Ray Manzarek, David Crosby and others. Also included are essays in text form by Ben Fong-Torres and other scribes about the featured performers and the times. Sound clips of music from Jackson Browne, Joni and other artists play while you're browsing through this disc which will give you many, many hours of viewing and listening pleasure. In-house designer Marc Mosel worked very hard on the artwork, look and lay-out of this CD-Rom, and Graphix Zone has released "Under the Covers" as a successor to their critically acclaimed release by Bob Dylan called "Highway 61 Interactive."
My thanks to Susan McNamara for transcribing the interview from tape to text
Printed from the official Joni Mitchell website. Permanent link: http://jonimitchell.com/library/view.cfm?id=1370
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