Acclaimed photographer Michael Grecco brings us back to the chaotic energy of punk rock era in the late 70s to early 90s in his newest collection of images, Punk, Post Punk, New Wave: Onstage, Backstage, In Your Face, 1978-1991. Grecco shares black-and-white shots of bands that defined the punk rock genre, including The B-52’s, The Dead Kennedys, and the Ramones. GBH’s Henry Santoro spoke with Grecco about his experience capturing a revolutionary music scene. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
Henry Santoro: Thanks to a tremendous amount of colleges and universities in such a small proximity, Boston has always been chock full of young people, people on the forefront of trends and on the look out of the next big thing or people who just want to fit in. And it's because of all that, Boston became an epicenter for a very, very vibrant music scene. Enter photographer Michael Grecco, who brings us back to the chaotic energy of the music scenes from the 1970s all the way up to the early nineties with his new book, Punk, Post Punk, New Wave: Onstage, Backstage, In Your Face, 1978–1991. This is an art book, a tremendous coffee table book that is full of photos and stories of bands that were little known back then but are household names now. And it's my pleasure to welcome Michael Grecco, my dear friend Michael Greco, to GBH. How are you, Michael?
Michael Grecco: Thank you, Henry. I'm doing great. I'm doing really great. I don't know if your listeners knew that you were part of that scene and we were pals and you were working the bar at Spit and all the after parties with all of these bands. And the people you liked — I must have been blessed — you passed out free drinks, too. You know, it was a time of partying and revelry.
Henry Santoro: It really and truly was. And, you know, when you look at it, the outside world looked at us as if we were misfits of sorts, and I'm sure we were, but we were having more fun than anyone. And if you could sum up those days in a sentence or two, what would it be?
Michael Grecco: We were in the midst of a music revolution. You had unauthentic rock bands like Rush and Kansas in Boston and bands that were manufactured literally by record companies to make money. And the bands and youth wanted a voice, and punk brought that voice. Punk brought the anger and frustration of the inflationary period of the seventies. It brought the anger of and frustration of not being able to get airplay and be on the radio. College radio kicked in and started playing a lot of this music and broke a lot of this music to where the commercial radio stations like WBCN were forced to play this music.
Henry Santoro: Right. You were so organized that you really kept careful inventory of all the photos that you had, and you sat on these photos for decades. What prompted you to dive into the Grecco archives now to create this book?
Michael Grecco: That is a really good question, Henry. And I mean, I think it would surprise a lot of the audience and anyone in the photography world who might know my celebrity work. You know, I have a wonderful archivist that's worked for me for almost 20 years, Mykle Parker. And she just kept pulling out pictures out of the file.
Like, dude, you got to do something with this. You got to do something with this. And I think that one of the gallerists here, David Fahey of the Fahey Klein Gallery, is a friend and has helped me with this project. And he basically said, you know, things like this just get better with age. No one would have given it the same appreciation 30 or 40 years ago when I moved to L.A., and I was showing these images. I think that they just get better with the historical perspective.
The book is called Punk, Post Punk, New Wave: Onstage, Backstage, In Your Face, 1978-1991.
View more images from Grecco's book below:
GBH News Intern Charles Xu assisted with production.