We spoke with photographer Christian Treiber about his classic photos of performers who played at Woodstock, including The Who, Richie Havens, Joe Cocker, Mountain, Ten Years After and Jimi Hendrix, plus newer act The Kavanaghs on his Dreamscape Records label.
By Warren Kurtz
The Who: Keith Moon and Pete Townsend, all photos courtesy of Christian Treiber
GOLDMINE: Thank you for sharing all these music photos with us. How did you get into photographing musicians?
CHRISTIAN TREIBER: I got into photography totally by accident. I received a scholarship after high school for advertising design and photography. I went to school and after the second year I got a call that a woman and her husband were starting a magazine that would rival 16 Magazine. They wanted me to work as their art director and chief staff photographer. I accepted the job and started working with Bobby Vinton, Fabian and others from that era. Unfortunately the magazine folded within four months. Then I ran into a friend of mine who said that The Who were doing a tour. I called up Premier Talent and was given full access to the band. That is when it all really began with me, traveling from town to town with The Who. Total access meant that I could actually be on stage with the group, in the shadows, taking photographs, maybe three to four feet away from Pete Townshend or Keith Moon. It was their first American tour and they were wearing those crazy mod outfits. Over the years I spent a lot of time with The Who, Mott the Hoople and Badfinger and within The Who, the person that I spent the most time with was Keith Moon and we became good buddies.
GM:I am sorry on the loss of your friend. What an entertaining drummer he was. The week Keith died I had reviewed the 1978 album Who Are You, and I found out about his death when I was picking up copies of the magazine. I actually focused on other songs than “Who Are You,” based on listening to the album once, with a quick, next morning deadline.
CT: I don’t blame you. The funny thing about that is that “Who Are You” was a throwaway song. They needed one more song to fill out the album. Pete told me, the last time I talked with him, that he made more money off of that song because of the television show “CSI” playing it all the time, more than he made over his total career.
GM:That is a song that I have grown to love and certainly has become one of their most popular ones along with songs from Who’s Next, Quadophenia, and, of course, Tommy, which they featured at Woodstock, including both sides of the “I’m Free” single.
The Who: Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and John Entwistle
Flip side: We’re Not Gonna Take It
A side: I’m Free
Top 100 debut: July 19, 1969
Peak Position 37
CT: The Woodstock festival opened with Richie Havens. The time I spent photographing him was at another festival in Central Park. He certainly can get a song across. I was supposed to attend Woodstock, but I saw the helicopters getting people there and they looked, based on my veteran experience, like they were going to fall apart, so I passed on it and I’m sorry I missed it.
GM:I saw him at an outdoor show in Reno and enjoyed him. Fortunately, our daughter Brianna and I also saw Joe Cocker in Reno just a few years before he passed away and he was still powerful.
CT: He definitely was. It is weird that he was working in a gas station when somebody found him singing and guys from a recording studio said he should come to the studio to do a test vocal and from that he got his start. Then he surrounded himself by the best musicians, which you can see in the Mad Dogs and Englishmen film. I photographed him at the Fillmore East very early in his career after his first album was released with his version of “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
GM:Speaking of the Fillmore East, is that where you saw Mountain?
CT: Yes. I had a great relationship with the promoter Bill Graham. I enjoyed Mountain. Leslie West has since lost a lot of weight and is still out there performing.
Mountain: Steve Knight, Felix Pappalardi, Leslie West and Corky Laing.
GM: Plus there was Steve on keyboards, Corky on drums, and Felix, in addition to bass and production, what a beautiful voice he had. Certainly Leslie was the foundation with his guitar playing. A guitarist I was introduced to through the Woodstock film was Alvin Lee of Ten Years After.
CT: He sure was fun to photograph.
Alvin Lee of Ten Years After
GM:The big finale at Woodstock, after Sha Na Na on that final morning, was Jimi Hendrix.
CT: I think the purple photo that I did really captured Jimi Hendrix. I met him through Buzzy Linhart in Greenwich Village. Jimi was playing as the group Jimmy James and The Blue Flames before the Jimi Hendrix Experience days and I got to know him a little bit. He was a quiet, down to earth, humble guy. I was in a cab one day with him in the village and the cab stopped in front of what was Lowe’s State Theater and Jimi asked the cab driver to stop so that he could listen to this washtub and string bass band. He told the band that he liked their vibe and asked them to get in the cab so that he could take them to the recording studio and record them doing a jam with him. They were still jamming when I left at 2:30 a.m. The last time I saw Jimi was in London, maybe a week or two before he died, and he told me that he was sick and tired of the music industry and he felt like a puppet on a string. They wouldn’t let him record what he really wanted to record. He felt like the soul was taken from what he loved and he was not enjoying playing music any more. He talked about quitting and just going out and jamming with different artists and try to get that feeling back of his initial excitement.
GM:What do you have coming up?
CT: I am hoping to put out a coffee table book of my photos which will also have back stories of my time with Badfinger, Mott the Hoople and other acts.
GM:You also have a record company, Dreamscape Records, with a half dozen artists on it. I enjoy the song “Emma Peel,” by The Kavanaghs, reminding me of Badfinger and The Turtles, which I learned on your website rock-photographer.com.
CT: The Kavanaghs are very Beatles-esque and, believe it or not, are from Argentina. They have more songs coming out, too.
GM:Thank you for the old photos and the new music you continue to release.
GT: You are very welcome, and I want to thank you and Goldmine for spreading the word on my photography. I also want to thank Ken Franklin of Radioactive Talent for setting up our time together today. He has been a big supporter of my work over the decades.
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Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.