By Keith Sharp
At a time when the majority of any concert audience are armed with the latest triple zoom lensed smart phones who can direct top-notch quality photos and videos to their face books and websites even before the show has concluded, it’s hard to remember a time when rock photographers held an esteemed position at these events.
Calgary-based Ian Mark was one such rock photographer whose photos for Music Express magazine played a major role in the successful October 1976 launch of what eventually developed into Canada’s premiere music magazine.
When this writer decided to initiate (what started off as Alberta Music Express) as a side venture to my regular job as a sports writer for The Calgary Herald, it was clear that if I was to be successful in establishing a music tabloid similar to the British music papers I had been weened on during my time in Manchester England, I would need some great photos to go with any editorial.
As plans took shape for that debut issue, a mutual friend of mine, Sheldon Wiebe, who operated Opus 69 record shop, tipped me off about a young lad called Ian Mark who was a budding rock photographer. A meeting with Ian proved productive in that he had already taken shots of Kiss during their Canadian debut at SAIT and had even attended shows that I had recently covered, most noticeably BTO/Bob Seger at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium and T-Rex/Blue Oyster Cult at the Calgary Corral hockey venue and Rush/Nazareth at a local outdoor concert.
Being a start up operation, (Alberta) Music Express could not pay Ian but I did agree to establish him as my primary photographer for all future concerts and interviews with a long-term goal of paying him once AME became profitable. With this agreement in place, Ian virtually became my shadow in the months leading up to that October launch.
He was there, snapping over my shoulder as I interviewed the likes of Randy Bachman, Trooper, Styx, Olivia Newton John, Al Martino and David Clayton Thomas. He braved the hysteria of Scotland’s Bay City Rollers and most noticeably shot a series of incredible Who shots when they performed at Edmonton’s Northlands Coliseum, an amazing shot of Roger Daltrey gracing our premiere cover.
Through those halcyon days of the late 70’s, Ian reeled of a catalogue of amazing photos including two nights of shooting Queen March 16-17 at Calgary’s Jubilee Auditorium, Kiss at the Corral July 31 1977, Rush at the Corral September 11th 1977, Rod Stewart October 5th 1977 plus scores of other top artists who paraded through Alberta during this time period.
Having catalogued these invaluable rock classic photos into a book, `Adventures Of A 70’s Rock Photographer’, Mark found the whole process of reassembling his photos as extremely therapeutic.
A side story on the first night of the Queen show was when Mark was attacked by a patron while shooting the band. “One minute I am taking photos of Freddie Mercury just five feet away and the next I am on the floor by someone kicking my legs and chest.” Fortunately, Mark was rescued by security chief, Garth (The Bear) Werschler whose physique matched his nickname. Werschler grabbed the miscreant by his shirt collar and belt and hauled him head first through the exit swinging doors, leaving a sizeable dent in the doors.
For the second night, Mark had printed off a batch of live shots for me to hand to the band’s manager. He dutifully took the shots back into the band’s dressing room and Messers Mercury, May, Taylor and Deacon were so impressed that they invited me into the room to meet them. It was that instance which convinced me to take the magazine seriously.
Strangely enough, it was a dispute with Rush which prompted the launch of Mark’s book. “I had been selling my photos at Calgary’s annual comic convention when about four years ago I received a cease and desist letter from the band’s management about selling their photos. I wrote a letter back asking what could be worked out for me to sell their shots and send them a commission. The band liked my shots but their counter-offer was for me to sell all my shots to them for $5,000 so they would own my files.
“I rejected their offer, and prompted by one of my sons, decided to push ahead and self-publish a book of my photos.”
Around about the same time, this writer contacted Mark about obtaining archival shots for my `Music Express, The Rise, Fall And Resurrection Of Canada’s Music Magazine’ prompting Ian to start trolling his archives for shots that eventually are published in his own book.
With distribution established via a number of key Sunrise Record Store outlets in Alberta and a growing number of Chapter outlets, Mark is relying on his website www.70srockphotos.com for national distribution.
Since those glory days of the late 70’s, Music Express has enjoyed further contributions from such noted photographers as Vancouver’s Dee Lippingwell, Calgary’s Charles Hope and in Toronto, Dimo Safari, Phil Regendanz and currently Ted Van Boort but there is no doubt that Ian Mark set the Music Express ball rolling and his book is chock full of great live shots and loads of fond memories for yours truly. But don’t take my word for it – buy the book!