“My Spectrum Memories” by Roger Barone  (April 1973 – July 1978)

While working at the Spectrum Arena in Philadelphia as a member of the changeover  crew (the nocturnals who configure the arena for  various sporting and entertainment events),  I met many famous people. Frank Sinatra, Pete Maravich, George Harrison, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton to name a few.

In December of ’74, I crossed paths with George Harrison on several occasions backstage during his three-shows, scheduled over two nights. In addition, I was one of several truck unloaders handling Harrison’s equipment, lighting and sound.  Because I had been working there long enough, I was permitted to view the shows from the pit (a secured area between the stage and protective barricades ) just a few feet away from the performers.

As I watched Harrison singing  the chorus lines to My Sweet Lord,  an arm’s length away, I began to recite a nirvana induced mantra of my own. as I tried to resolve a discrepancy of disappointment, initiated by  a fantasy-land freak out to preserve this moment in perpetuity.

“I wish I had a camera, I wish I had a camera….”

Unfortunately, my transcendental view of Harrison chanting “Krishna, Krishna …” was rendered only momentarily on my retinas and archived in a mind of competing myriad memories.

Several weeks after the Harrison experience, I bought a  camera–a second-hand, Pentax 35 mm SLR, sp-500–and began photographing concerts. On February 8, 1975, I photographed my first event: Led Zeppelin!

On my inaugural shoot, my very first roll of film (excluding a test roll shortly after my purchase), I captured the band as they arrived backstage.

Jimmy Page (click), Robert Plant (click), followed by John Paul Jones and Jon Bonham mixed among a contingent of associates and roadies.  I continued shooting as they walked up the  cinder-block path to the dressing rooms,  illuminated by industrial fluorescent lights. My co-worker and very close friend, Phil Amorsi, was a Led Head, and was ecstatic to meet his heavy metal heroes.

The dimly lit corridor was a photographic nightmare. Notwithstanding the  restrictive depth of field and minimal shutter speeds (flash was not an option!), I managed to get a great shot of the entire band headed toward the stage.

The photos of Phil were a flop–out of focus.   Movement blur, out of focus apertures and emotional exhuberance were a few of the obtacles I would overcome as I acquired experience.

As I continued to shoot Spectrum events,  several photographers from local and national newspapers and magazines would give me tips as well as film. Among them, Elwood P. Smith of the Philadelphia Daily News, was the most helpful.

An old school extrovert, Smith, a  suit-and-tie  guy from the  Graflex generation of Weegee, boldly scolded my fledgling technique on several occasions.

“Get up against the glass, get up againt the glass,” he yelled, as I  photographed the Philadelphia Flyers  skating before me during a pre-game warmup.
“It cuts down the reflections,” he explained later, while reaching into a leather camera bag and handing me a few rolls of tri-x film.

Smith’s  unwavering generosity continued over the years with more tips and more film.

I left the Spectrum in 1978, never realizing that my simple hobby of photographing rock and roll stars  would evolve into a career as a photographer, and my on-the-job training would be immortalized in a historic retrospective featuring  my photos in a book commemorating The Spectrum.

Roger Barone:Photojournalist and medical photographer from Philadelphia
Rochester Institute of Technology (BFA Photography)
Temple University (Master’s Journalism/Communications).

Currently working at Wills Eye Institute (Philadelphia) and freelancing as a photojournalist and events photographer.

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