The John Brennan Collection is now available for auction at Boston-based RR Auction. Bidding on the 500 lots began May 10 and will conclude Thursday, May 17 (reportedly with subsequent items to be featured in the coming months).
John Brennan didn’t start out with the intention of amassing thousands of autographs. It just sort of happened–one band, one concert, one rock-n-roll icon at a time, over the past 40 years.
Brennan, 53, grew up in Shelton, Connecticut and bought his first album in 1975: KISS “Alive!”. “I was a huge record collector first,” he said. That began a lifelong and self-proclaimed obsession with rock music for him. A year later at age 11, he “dragged his parents” to see the concert film “The Song Remains the Same,” starting his “straight-up obsession with Led Zeppelin.”
Soon the young teen was sleeping outdoors to snag concert tickets, meeting new people, and getting into all the heavy hitters of rock: Peter Frampton, Ted Nugent, the Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Van Halen.
But ironically, it was an alt-pop band that would send Brennan in the direction his life would head for four decades. Brennan’s first autograph was obtained basically due to its ease: the B-52s were staying at a hotel across from the performance venue in 1979.
His interest in autographs growing, Brennan began trading with other enthusiasts. This was not without its downside. “One of the reasons I decided to go into first-person collecting was because when I was trading autographs with other people, I realized they were not always genuine.” Brennan knew if he wanted to be sure, he had to get the autographs himself.
A lifetime collection begins
From 1979 on, John began collecting autographs from every concert, waiting at stage doors, tour buses and hotels. By 1984, “it was daily life” for him, usually driving the 75 miles from his hometown to New York City, meeting every music superstar you could imagine. “I always had a target,” he said, carrying his backpack of pens and items waiting for autographs. Brennan’s time in NYC had him rubbing elbows with the most enviable celebrity roster; the names that will stand the test of time.
He soon became known as “the Dude” – a nickname given to him by other people in the hobby at the record stores he would frequent in the Village; or “Captain Sneaks” – given to him by his fellow collectors. “If you met someone and didn’t let the autograph community know, you were a ‘sneak.’ But that’s how you had to do it. It’s so different today. If social media had been around then, the last thing I’d ever do was post a pic of Kurt [Cobain] while he was still in town. Now celebrities and collectors are all posting where they are.”
Brennan would travel across the US—and the globe—countless times, following the Beatles and the Stones, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana, collecting photographs, autographs and a truly astonishing lifetime of memories. From a small town in Connecticut, to New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle; London, Paris, Germany, Holland and Canada; John Brennan has been there, experienced that.
Now he’s ready to share these amazing experiences with you.
The John Brennan Collection
For its incredible inaugural John Brennan Auction, Boston-based RR Auction worked closely with this lifelong rock-n-roll autograph collector to present you with an exceptional hand-selected sampling representing a fraction of those amassed over his four decades of following the greatest names in music across the country.
“I wanted to share some of the stuff I’ve gotten over the years with other collectors and fans that I know will really appreciate them,” Brennan said. “I’ve always been a collector first and foremost. I love music, that’s why I chased these things.”
From his early days of autograph collecting in New York City, where he met the elites of music, like the Rolling Stones, Madonna and more, to his later years in Los Angeles and Seattle, following the tours of Van Halen, Guns N Roses and Nirvana, John Brennan became known by these guitar greats and welcomed into their inner sanctums.
RR Auction is pleased to present collectors with these items—signed photographs, albums, posters and guitars–that chronicle nearly half a century of musical legends.
Remarkable cherry red Rolling Stones guitar signed by six members of the band. The Fender Squier Stratocaster electric guitar, signed on the body in black felt tip by Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Mick Taylor, and Charlie Watts, and on the pickguard by Keith Richards and Bill Wyman.
John Brennan recalled of the Stones, “They’d be in the studio until dawn. We’d be waiting outside.” In 1986, during the “Dirty Work” era; on 48th St., NYC, the Stones were recording in the studio and Mick Jagger came out. “We saw him frequently so he wasn’t uptight around us. He tried but couldn’t hail a cab, so we offered him a ride home in my white IROC Camaro. I drove; he sat in the front seat.” Brennan also revealed his diehard devotion, “I once waited outside Mick’s apartment for 18 hours in 1984.” The steadfast autograph seeker “met Keith at least 150 times,” and possesses dozens of candid pictures as momentos.
Paul, George, and Ringo signed Abbey Road album, an iconic Abbey Road flat. Released in 1969 to immediate success, Abbey Road features classic hits such as ‘Come Together,’ ‘Something,’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun.’ Moreover, this iconic cover artwork, showing the four band members in a crosswalk outside Abbey Road Studios, has become one of the most famous and imitated images in the history of popular music.
Reflecting solemnly on Harrison’s reluctance to sign following John Lennon’s 1980 murder at the hands of one-time autograph seeker Mark David Chapman, Brennan remembers “I met him around the time of his solo album (Cloud Nine), and a few times afterward. He wasn’t around much. He wasn’t against signing, per se; he was against getting killed.” Of Harrison, John says, “He was extremely reclusive. I saw him at Heathrow airport in 1988 [image shown], and near a HandMade Films set; I saw him in NYC at the studio with Clapton in the late 1980s.” And chillingly, when Brennan asked for his autograph Harrison remarked, “Sure — As long as you’re not going to kill me.”’’
Incredibly rare oversized Nirvana signed photograph. The color glossy photo of Nirvana decked out in their classic grunge fashion, signed by iconic frontman Kurt Cobain, “Kurt”; bassist Krist Novoselic, “Krist”; and drummer Dave Grohl, “If there’s one thing that would put me on the brink of total insanity, it would definitely be signing autographs all [expletive] day long. David.”
Brennan first met Nirvana in January 1992, in the lobby of NBC when they were at the Thursday music rehearsal for a “Saturday Night Live” performance. After that, he followed them everywhere, before they were famous. “I just knew.” He met them a total of 8-12 times. “In just under two years, it was all over.” He followed them all of 1992 and 1993. Drummer Dave Grohl is seen wearing a “Secret Sounds” t-shirt on the album cover for “Muddy Banks of Wishkah,” which Brennan gave him. “Dave was always difficult to deal with; Kurt was the easy one.”