Jenny Lens - Clash Photographer 1979-1981

I shot the Clash from February 1979 to June 1980. I didn’t bring my camera to the Sausalito Swap Meet, February 3, and ran into them and Johnny Green. I said hello, but too shy to tell them who I was or inquire about photo passes. Their debut California gigs were discussed in San Francisco at the Ramada Inn press conference, February 5, 1979, with a subsequent record store appearance.

They headlined the New Youth Benefit on February 8, 1979. I shot from the balcony (and a lab up there developed my slides very strangely, very grainy). I have a ticket stub from February 7 at the Berkeley Community Theatre.  I remember shooting in an auditorium in UC Berkeley (I stood on benches on the wooden basketball floor). I stayed up north and missed their LA debut at the Santa Monica Civic on February 9. The Civic prohibited cameras and I didn’t want to deal with that venue and not take photos.

I shot them at the Golden Hall, San Diego, October 10, 1979. While backstage, I was picked up by Johnny Green, made out in the back of the car all the way home to West Hollywood (we had to cover up when we passed by a border inspection north of San Diego), stayed up all night having sex and tons of speed. The band and his girlfriend, future wife and now deceased, Lindy, didn’t know where he was. At 4 PM, as he left for sound check, he asked me to give him a guest list of my friends. I was stunned -- no one ever offered to get my friends in and I didn’t know who had tickets nor a lot of last names.
October 11, 1979, Hollywood Palladium: I have prints from backstage w/Rockabilly Rebels, who opened at San Diego (I have shots of Clash and RR onstage together in SD). I don’t recall the show at all. I hate the Palladium cos it’s hard to shoot, not punk friendly, a strange venue. I went to a party later and kept away from Johnny and Lindy. I followed the Clash up to San Francisco for their October 13th show. My best pal Barbie warned me she heard Lindy was looking for me, but didn’t know what I looked like. Between sets I hid out in the Cramps backstage dressing room. I had been up for days on speed and quite whacked.
I was onstage for the March 3, 1980 Civic show. My color slides are beautiful. Neighbors stole the black and white from the lab before I ever saw them. Talk about a major heart-break! Onstage with the Clash in my hometown — I can only imagine how superb those black and white shots were. I was front row for their “Fridays” television taping on April 25, 1980. I stood up and danced during “Working for the Clampdown.” It was shown live on the east coast, but cut out for west coast broadcast. That was prior to VCRs and satellite. I heard the producer was furious at the camera man for shooting me! They objected to someone actually dancing on-screen! I’ve never even seen it.

The Clash were in the studio and in LA for awhile, but at that point, I was so messed up I didn’t hang with them. And I never ever asked people close to them for access. Or just mention I’d been internationally published for years at that point. I was still so shy, so insecure, too broke, too many pix stolen, and I was burning out. I could have shot the Roxy show (cos by that time Baker and I had a fling and I had access, but I never took advantage of the situation, silly stupid me). Instead of shooting their Roxy show, I shot up.

I flew to England and shot 6 shows in June 1980. I literally got off the plane in Heathrow, dumped my gear at a music mag office, took a train to Bristol, got there after the show started, somehow got in, Kosmo recognized me from California, gave me a stage pass, I stepped onto the dark side of the stage, punctured my leg with something (I still have the scar), shot away and was picked up by yet another Clash roadie! He wanted to tell me his life story, I’d been up for hours and remember struggling to stay awake, while explaining I hadn’t slept since LA! And I didn’t bring speed to England, which I’d been living on for months.

I have lots of beautiful onstage and balcony shots of those dramatic, memorable shows and some sound checks, wonderful casual shots of Joe.

I never shot them as I could have had it been earlier in my life. But what a wonderful final group to end my punk photography adventure! They will always remain the most amazing live band, charismatic and so political, consistently giving their all.

I didn’t label many of my slides and negs in my archive, so it’s hard to know exactly which shows I shot where, with few exceptions. I need to update my site. And one day I’d love to scan all my negs to see the pix — who knows, I may have some Palladium shots, and try to organize the thousands of slides. I continually find images that are a total surprise to me!