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Frank Zappa in concert

`Frank Zappa` was a Rock / Jazz / Pop / Experimental multi instrumental musician & composer from America. Here he was photographed & captured from the stage & pit area during a concert in America in 1980. For more information on this inspiration & iconic musician visit his main websites.

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Frank Zappa concert pictures ~ Bill O’Leary

A word from the photographer


The date was Friday, May 9, 1980. My day job at the time was working for a retail liquor store in Summit, New Jersey, USA. As the work day was winding down, I had asked my boss if I could borrow his old Chevrolet Station Wagon, normally used to transport all of the liquor stores cardboard boxes to the dump station, later that night as I needed a way to get to a rock concert over two hours away on Long Island, New York. He was very hesitant but eventually said ok and good luck. Sometime after 5:00pm a friend of mine and I headed out on our adventure to Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, a 20,000 seat arena.

The days before Accreditation

This particular night, I had two, second row seats, credentials would come later in my career. Bringing professional camera equipment into the venue was relatively easy back in those days as security was very relaxed. We got to the venue as the sun was setting, parked in the massive parking lot where thousands of concert goers were playing music, drinking and partying before the show. Entering the arena, we were excited to see Frank Zappa, promoting his latest album, Joe’s Garage.

Rolls of film

I shot about two rolls of 36 exposure film, 72 images during his two hour set. Typically I would shoot anywhere between 72 to 108 images, hoping of course for a high percentage of good to great images. Sometimes this was very challenging as I was a non-flash photographer from the start. This meant hoping for great stage lighting as well as multiple follow spotlights with brilliant “white” light. Well, the lighting was OK at best, but would come away with some nice shots as seen here.

Jump start

After the encore, we exited the venue searching for our borrowed vehicle. Ready for our two hour drive home to be over with, I turned the key…nothing. Got someone to help us “jump start” the vehicle…still nothing. We looked for a pay phone, yes, long before mobile phones, no such luck.As the parking lots were quickly emptying, we attempted to get inside thru the backstage area to get to a phone for a tow truck. A security person let us in, we found a phone but no luck contacting anyone for help. Inside, a member of the crew asked about our dilemma, he then, feeling sorry for us, invited us into the friends and family guest area to wait it out, etc. We were backstage for a post performance party with food and drink.

The man himself

As we were sitting at one of the many tables, Frank Zappa himself introduced himself to us. We told him of our situation and he asked us to stay as long as we needed. We got to chat with him for 10-15 minutes about his music and touring, where we lived, etc. He thanked us for coming and wished us luck getting back home.

The morning after the night before

Well by then we had no luck contacting a tow company, we made our way out to our lonely broken down vehicle to sleep it off until the next morning, when we could get a tow to a local mechanic hopefully. Upon waking to a brilliant sunrise, what an amazing sight of millions of glistening empty beer and liquor bottles all over the empty parking lot. We finally got home later that day, after the vehicle got repaired not far from the arena. In the end, long difficult night after the show, BUT, we got to meet Frank Zappa himself, an icon of rock music.

Location and date of these concert  captures 

Nassau Coliseum / New York / America / 09.05.1980

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Barking Pumpkin / Zappa Records / Vaulternative Records

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Concert and festival photographer

Bill O'Leary

Based in Colorado / America

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