Backstage With Paul: The US Festival
In 1983, I decided that it would probably be a good idea if I started branching out from just shooting in Chicago. My first destination was the US Festival in Ontario, California, on May 28th, 29th and 30th of 1983. I called a publicist that I knew was working with the festival, which was organized by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple computers. He gave me the OK, and I booked a flight. Arriving at the Red Lion Hotel in Ontario, I walked into a conversation with almost every well-known music photographer in the United States. As I hadn’t met most of them, it was very instructional. We all told war stories and then got ready for the next days shooting in the desert. The first day was a “New Wave” day which included The English Beat, A Flock of Seagulls, INXS and The Clash. That night, before their set, The Clash held a press conference and announced that they were giving some of the one million dollars they were getting paid to charity to help poor people in England. David Lee Roth was standing next to me laughing and saying, “Wait till you hear my press conference tomorrow.”
On the second day, I got up early and caught the first shuttle van to the venue, because my friend Jim Saliby from Chicago had told me about these two local bands that had been asked to open up the “Heavy Metal” day. They were called Quiet Riot and Mötley Crüe. When I got to the venue, I found that I was the only photographer shooting that early! That day concluded with Triumph, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, The Scorpions and Van Halen. David Lee Roth announced at his press conference that he was using his part of the bands one million dollar paycheck to buy a house and a yacht!
The third day, “Rock” day, started off with Little Steven, continued with Berlin, Quarterflash, a new band called U2, Missing Persons, The Pretenders and Joe Walsh. The festival wrapped up with Stevie Nicks and David Bowie.
A bunch of tired people headed to the vans to go back to the hotel. I was sitting by the door when my friend Ellen walked over and said, “Do you have room for one more?” and then proceeded to throw Bono onto my lap and tell the driver to head to the hotel! All in all, a cool first trip out of Chicago!
About Paul Natkin
Paul Natkin learned photography in the trenches, working with his father, the team photographer of the Chicago Bulls. He shot sports in the Chicago area for five years before he discovered music photography in 1976. Since then, he has photographed most of the major music stars of the last half of the 20th century, shooting album covers for artists such as Ozzy Osbourne and Johnny Winter and magazine covers for Newsweek (Bruce Springsteen), Ebony (Tina Turner), People (Prince), and music magazines around the world. See his work online at natkin.net.