Jan Crocker is a DIY videographer who worked at MIT’s film resource center in the late 70’s and who had the vision to film the burgeoning punk rock scene in Boston as well then relatively unknown punk bands as they passed through town. The earliest work is pre-MTV, and in those days the cameras were four-times the size of video cameras today–heavy, awkward, and tethered to cables that snaked through the club. In Jan’s own words:
“Shoots in those days were difficult. This was before Betamax and VHS cameras. Shit MTV wasn’t even plugged in then. The hand held stuff and cell phone things we take for granted today were science fiction back then. We used all of the MIT Film/Video Section equipment for the video shoots. They had a ton of equipment and it was all modified and tricked out by the engineer types. The shoots required up to 8-10 people to make it all happen. Most of the shoot had three b/w cameras. The camera signals were sent to a special effects generator and the Director would choose the shots he/she liked and would switch between them. Audio was recorded with two ambient mikes lowered from the ceiling and mixed with a board feed into a portable Shure mixer and sent to the video tape deck. The location production was all done live on the fly. These were students mind you doing the video work and that created additional production issues as well. You know cameras moving up, down, and shaking. Some cameras not even running. Alcohol was also involved.”
This is rock history and Jan wisely recorded and preserved it. His website includes numerous clips of many of the seminal punk bands from the 70’s and early 80’s. Here we can see his own rare footage of the Cure, the Buzzcocks, and Richard Hell, plus vital Boston bands like Mission of Burma, Human Sexual Response, The Lyres, The Neighborhoods, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters, Unnatural Axe, and La Peste. He’s also included early videos of various punk bands from around the world to give a feel for the era. (The Clash, Sex Pistols, Stiff Little Fingers, Gang of Four, Dead Kennedys, The Stranglers, Dead Boys, to name a few.)
Jan occasionally transfers complete performances to DVD. He has just released a concert performance of the formidable Boston band La Peste from various venues across Boston in 1979. Their local hit “Better Off Dead” was also a favorite of the late British DJ John Peel. You can order the DVD here.
We’re indebted to Jan Crocker for chronicling this era. I know I was at many of those shows. How I wish that I had kept a journal. This is a taste of the La Peste DVD.