John Scheele Q&A on Dylan Basement Tapes Cover Session, Pts. 1-2
Parts 1 and 2 of an Exclusive 4-Part Interview About the Legendary 1975 ‘Basement Tapes’ Cover Session with Bob Dylan & The Band
LOS ANGELES – Multimedia pop culture archival company Rare Cool Stuff Unltd. (http://www.rarecoolstuff.com), in association with EARL Company (http://earlcompany.com/), presents the first half of an exclusive video interview with Photographer John Scheele.
John Scheele was the sole documentary photographer during preparations for Bob Dylan & The Band’s “The Basement Tapes” album cover photo shoot at the Hollywood YMCA in 1975.
In this interview, Scheele reveals how Reid Miles assembled the cast of Dylan’s characters and what it was like to be part of the Basement Tapes cover session.
EARL Company is now accepting orders for “The Basement Tapes Photo Session Folio,” a limited-edition, signed and numbered set of duotone lithographs, printed with archival inks on museum-quality paper, of Scheele’s photographs from the session. This is the first time these images have been made available to the public for purchase. Click here to order.
Folio orders will be delivered by the end of Februrary 2015, and orders placed before Dec. 25 will come with a bonus 12″x18″ one-sheet of all 36 photographs shot by Scheele during the photo session.
Today, Scheele is a visual effects supervisor whose credits include “Blade Runner,” “Batman Returns,” “Batman Forever” and many other films.
Click the Start button to watch Part 1:
Here’s the transcript for Part 1 of the John Scheele interview about the Basement Tapes cover session:
Stephen K. Peeples: … and I’m speaking with photographer John Scheele, who took some of the photographs that are in “LO & Behold.” That’s the companion book accompanying the Bob Dylan & The Band “The Basement Tapes Complete” boxed set released by Sony/Legacy in November 2014. Mr. Scheele has photographs in this book. How did that come about?
John Scheele: It was in 1975. I remember when the music was recorded in ’67. My brother Bill and I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. A great friend, Jonathan Taplin was road-managing The Band and had gotten in touch with Bob Dylan when he was recording that music. Even in ’67 and ’68, we were hearing this music, hearing “The Basement Tapes.” I was still in 10th grade when they were being recorded.
Wind forward a few years – Bill, my brother, had gone to work for The Band and was their longtime equipment manager, working on their tours starting in 1969 when they played at Winterland up in San Francisco, forward to the fantastic 1974 tour with Bob Dylan. It was a power tour, it was all the music that all of us missed, 1965-66. Bob came out in ’74 with The Band, never sounding better, on their amazing tour.
And right in the wake of that tour, 1975, was when Bob and Robbie (Robertson) and the team brought together all of their recordings from those days and put out “The Basement Tapes” album that we all knew and loved.
And the photographs included a set of pictures that were shot in the basement – not in Big Pink, not in Woodstock, not in Saugerties – but the actual great location where the music was made. It was shot in the basement of the Hollywood YMCA. Reid Miles was the photographer, an album designer who did the Blue Note Records (covers), some great jazz albums – a fantastic person.
He was like Fredrico Fellini. He would know people, he would find characters, he would pull people off the street and put together a cast of characters. He worked with Bob and assembled a whole set of people that were in the songs, [like] Mrs. Henry and the Eskimo. It was like a carnival, like a party, and he brought them all together in this pool room in the Hollywood Y, upstairs. They had programs set out and clothes set up, and all of The Band came together. Bob was there in ’70s clothes. It was a funny thing to look back at the photographs and recognize what dorks we all were back then. We all met in the ’70s.
Now (Dylan) puts on a hat, puts on an outfit, a costume – and you can just see the change. It was remarkable.
In later years, I think it was Jeff Rosen’s interview that really brought this out to the surface – how much Bob Dylan put on a mask, put on a character in his music and in his songs and his changes, and that was one of those moments. He went from being this quiet, shy, intense but quiet person to being this personality, stepping out. He wrangled that group of people together, positioned them, found their places in the photograph and made a fantastic picture that day.
It really captured, in my opinion and in everybody who was there, a little bit of the spirit of what “The Basement Tapes” was like – that carnival atmosphere.
Peeples: You were carrying a camera also, weren’t you?
Scheele: I had my camera along. I was a photographer and still in college in those days, and went on to do, in my career, visual effects. I’ve always been involved in photography. I had a documentary role on that day only. It was Reid Miles’ shoot, but he was very cool with me taking some pictures along the way of people getting dressed, getting ready, preparing. So I went along and took those pictures, and got in the photo myself at the end.
Click the Start button to watch Part 2:
Here’s the transcript for the John Scheele interview about the Basement Tapes cover session, Part 2:
Peeples: On the 1975 release, are you in that picture?
Scheele: Yeah, I’m in the background. I’m here next to Levon (Helm), next to Richard (Manuel), in the back row. I look, to me, a little spaced out and strange. I know we were all really high. It was a fantastic day. Everybody was just having a great time with this picture, and I was really happy to step into the picture and be a part of it.
I was working for The Band then, my brother Bill and I both, and it was the strangest sensation. To describe it, it was like stepping into a mirror. There was this tableau of characters and people, and frankly, people whom I love and admire the most. Bob Dylan and his music mean a lot to me in my life and always has, and to be able to have a chance to work for him and then step into the frame, to come into the picture, was absolutely phenomenal. I felt like my head was spinning.
People look at these pictures and say it’s like a fly on the wall, but then I guess I was that fly that was on the wall, too. It was pretty great.
Scheele: On the cover, this is me back here in the fog, here. On the inside cover photo, I’m over here standing next to Robbie (Robertson), and on his shoulders is Angelo, the man who was in “Freaks,” the 1939 movie which I just saw over Halloween – a fantastic character, actor, and one of the people brought together for Reid’s shoot. Here’s the wider view of this whole basement scene. And Reid Miles – it’s a funny thing. He knew there was a basement here, and there was a bit of joking about that. I think it was a place where romantic trysts happened. That was the implication it gave me. You can go down to this secret basement… So, it had kind of a vibe to it that was different from Big Pink.
Peeples: One of the really cool things was that all of these Dylan characters from different songs came together, and they were in the same room. He’d written about them individually, not necessarily as a group or troupe, but here they are – they’re all gathered, and the interaction between his characters must have been really fascinating once they got into character.
Scheele: That was a remarkable thing – to get into character, put on a mask, put on a costume. I guess everybody feels that a little bit on Halloween, and every now and then those experiences come up. But it frees you up.
The vibe of this shoot felt a lot like what came to pass in the Rolling Thunder Revue. Bob had makeup on, put on a whiteface. People dropped in and dropped out. He really loosened up in terms of his stage persona. But this has always been an element of Bob Dylan in his album photographs and in the way he poses with the hat, with the mask. On the ’74 tour, we had masks there every night. They didn’t wear them, though. But this was really kind of looser.
You could feel everybody – the wind in their sails. There’s this wry look on Rick Danko’s face. Levon was only too capable to pick up the dancer here, the ballerina. There was a flirtation in my photographs between Rick Danko and the nun. Everybody was really having a lot of fun. Bob was playing air mandolin, which I loved. It was a really great… Everything was happening there with the characters. It felt very much like Bob’s songs and his characters come to life.
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Author: Stephen K. Peeples
Category: Latest News
Article Source: RareCoolStuff.com
John Scheele Q&A on Dylan Basement Tapes Cover Session, Pts. 1-2