Have you ever wondered where the locations of some of the most iconic album covers were photographed? Well Bob Egan has made it his passion to find those spots.
On his website, PopSpots, Bob finds “The exact locations of album cover photos and other visuals of pop history and how a pop Culture Detective tracks them down.”
Bob goes into very detailed entries on his website on how he superimposes the album covers and photos over the places he discovers.
He also will take photos and even paintings and find their locations.
I contacted Bob on a recent interview to find out how he does it:
What motivated you to start this project and when did you start?
I started PopSpots in 2011. At the time I had just left a job where I was a copywriter for a web firm. Someone taught me how to make my own website. At the same time I had started looking for the location of where my favorite records were taken in Greenwich Village. I thought it would be easy and that all I would have to do was ask the used record store owners who had been around for a long time. But they didn’t know any of the places.
So I started looking for them on my own. The first was Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”. I could tell the fence was next to the NYU law school on MacDougal Street where I ate a lot, so I kept circling the building until I found where the brickwork matched.
I thought other visitors to New York would like to know, so I decided to build a website site listing the different album covers I found.
That particular entry was interesting because right after I put it up, the photographer coincidentally had just released an outtake of the cover with with Graham Nash in the photo. Both he and Graham Nash saw my entry sent me the photo. After I heard from the art directors who were also standing behind the photographer. Small world.
“PopSpots is a website about those places where interesting events in the history of Pop Culture took place; like album cover shots, places where movies and tv shows were filmed, and sites on which paintings were based.”
As a pop culture detective, What process do you go through to track down each album cover location?
To track down the different locations, I start by searching Google and Wikipedia for any reference to it. Then I search Google Images for the cover and add “outtakes” to see if there’s a photo from a different angle. I also go to E-bay and search for the cover plus “promo” because sometimes people sell old ads with photos taken from different angles.
I look over the cover with a magnifying glass to see any small details that might give a clue as to what city is was in or what part of the city. Store signs, street numbers, etc.
Then I use Google Street views and Bing maps to search the neighborhoods.
I also use the New York Public Library, the digital library to find old pictures of the street since many have been changed.
I have a lot of old guidebooks to New York that I bought over the years that show old clubs, etc. And I use microfilm of old telephone books books at the library.
Sometimes I just wander the neighborhood looking for clues. I recently came across a photo of Phil Ochs that I had been looking for 2 years. It had been mislabeled as being 3 streets way.
What is one of the most surprising locations that you have found?
It’s always a surprise to finally find the exact place. One of my first was finding Dylan on the doorstep of 4 Gramercy Park West for Highway 61 Revisited. I had walked that place for years and never even considered it.
Recently I found a Loving Spoonful photo in Central Park . They were standing on a rock. I looked for 2 years every time I went thru the park. Finally I deduced it was near a playground and focused on that. Then, I saw the certain mark in the rock that positively identified it.
Recently I also found a photo of the Band on mountaintop. To find it I had to search through arial views from 1968. It turned out the street behind them had been covered over subsequently. That’s why it was not showing up on Google Earth, because it had been covered over since the old aerial views from 1969.
“Some of the places I tracked down myself for fun. Others are places I’ve read about and gone to take a look.”
Have you received any comments from the album makers on your project?
I have about 1700 twitter followers and 750 Face book followers from around the world. I’m always surprised at how people on the other side of the earth love classic rock album covers.
I recently put up a cover for a Greenwich Village back from the late 60’s. The group was called Bunky and Jake, and for one month straight it got about 100 retweets from Japan. I had read about the group as being a favorite of Bob Dylan when he hung out at the THE BITTER END before Rolling Thunder so I looked it up. Who knew it had such a huge fan base in Japan?
When people subscribe on twitter, I often look at what they do in their short bio. Some of the followers are noted art directors and photographers. some pretty famous musicians have either written to me or subscribed. Last summer the people doing promo for Dylan filmed three short videos with me talking about Dylan album cover locations in different parts of Greenwich Village for his new box set, The Cutting Edge.
I’ve also been contacted by relatives of photographers who have passed away and they write to say that they enjoy that parts of their works are still in the public eye. They are all part of rock history and I’m glad I could keep that part alive by finding the locations.
“Many ‘popspots’ are from Manhattan, where I live. Manhattan is constantly being torn down and rebuilt anew, and I’m trying to find these places while they are still around.”
What projects are you working on now?
I have over 100 PopSpots all made and and ready to go up. Re-sizing the photos and doing the html is time consuming. That’s why I started “PopSpots Singles” on Facebook. Instead of showing all the steps I took to find the location, I just show the final shot and tell briefly how I found it. Later I will add these to the regular PopSpot webpage.
I’m also working on some guitar and piano training guides for beginners.