Photographer Dan Corrigan speaks to PKM’s Todd McGovern about his iconic photos and album covers of Prince, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü and Soul Asylum, his new book and his experiences as the in-house photographer at famed Minneapolis nightclub, First Avenue.

You know his images, but you may not know his name. Since 1981 – first as a freelancer, then as the in-house photographer for the famed Minneapolis nightclub First Avenue, Dan Corrigan is the man behind iconic photographs and album covers of Prince, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum and other Minneapolis bands as well as most top acts that have passed through the Twin Cities.HEY DAY - 35 Years of Music in Minneapolis photo by © Dan Corrigan

Heyday: 35 Years Of Music In Minneapolis, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, is a new retrospective of Corrigan’s work and includes over 500 black-and-white and color images, as well as text by Danny Sigelman. What follows are excerpts from the book, along with a recent conversation with Corrigan.

Prince - photo by © Dan Corrigan

Prince – photo by © Dan Corrigan

PRINCE

Excerpt from Heyday: 35 Years Of Music In Minneapolis:

Dan Corrigan: “I was hired to do a job at Paisley Park. I asked them, ‘What do you call him?’  They said, ‘Don’t call him anything!’”

Danny Sigelman: “In retrospect, it may not have benefited Dan Corrigan to have established himself as a well-known photographer at First Avenue in the early Eighties. In an effort to maintain secrecy for the film production of Purple Rain, Prince prohibited all media and photographers from the club during shooting in the fall of 1983, but Dan was the only one specifically listed as being banned from the set. He was the only photographer Prince knew by name.

Dan photographed Prince performances at First Avenue and other venues several times over the years. It wasn’t until 1998 that the enigmatic performer invited Dan out to Paisley Park for the opportunity to work one-on-one with the artist himself. Well, almost.”

Dan Corrigan: “I’m at my home in Northeast Minneapolis, and I get a call from Paisley Park at 10pm. ‘Can you get out here at 10:30pm?’ 

I get to Paisley Park and they put me in this waiting room. I wait there for like four hours until someone comes in and tells me they don’t really need me that night. It was more than four hours, so at least I can bill them for a full day.

The next night the same thing happens.  I go out there and this time they come back in just under four hours, so it was like a half day.

On the third night, the same thing again – I get the call. I go out to Paisley Park… After four and a half hours, they come in and bring me into a studio and are like, ‘Stand here.’

So I’m standing in this spot, just waiting, for two more hours. There’s a video shoot going on. I see Prince sitting there, and I’m feeling like I really have to do something. So I take my camera out of my bag, just to get a light meter reading in the room so I can be ready when I do start shooting.

Prince sees me with my camera out and starts waving his Lucite swagger stick at me and shouts, ‘Not yet!’

I put my camera back in my bag and stand there for the rest of my eight hours until they tell me to leave. Essentially I got paid for two and a half days at my full rate, and all I did was take my camera out once, and didn’t take any pictures…. I found out later that I was auditioning as his touring photographer.”

Danny Sigelman: “Dan’s photos of Prince capture the artist during his biggest ascent. Prince’s energy and showmanship burst through in the images of various live performances, illustrating a time when Prince was truly developing his craft.”

Dan Corrigan: “He is maybe one of the most incredible guitar players I’ve ever seen. One time he came down to First Avenue after someone must’ve mentioned his guitar playing was sloppy or something. He did a show where he just shredded for like two and a half hours.”

Bob Mould - photo by © Dan Corrigan

Bob Mould – photo by © Dan Corrigan

Greg Norton and Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü - photos by © Dan Corrigan

Greg Norton and Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü – photos by © Dan Corrigan

HÜSKER DÜ

Excerpt from Heyday: 35 Years Of Music In Minneapolis:

Dan Corrigan: “Bob [Mould] is my favorite musician that I worked with. The work I did with those guys was cool. And Grant’s a really creative guy. Working with Grant in that aspect was pretty interesting. Grant was primarily behind the art. Bob would have had to sign off on it. It wasn’t just Grant making all the decisions.

When they broke up, I was probably the saddest fan. They had just signed to Warner Brothers, and so there was going to be some money coming in, and I was their photographer. I knew their sensibilities enough. If they needed somebody, it was just logical for me to work with them.”Soul Asylum - Clam Dip & Other Delights - photo by © Dan CorriganSOUL ASYLUM

Excerpt from Heyday: 35 Years Of Music In Minneapolis:

Dan Corrigan: “The cover photo of Clam Dip & Other Delights parodies Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream & Other Delights. It’s always something when somebody wants to redo some previous work. I saw the picture, and trying to copy it was pretty simple. But the idea of Karl sitting in clam dip, we had to figure out the mechanics of that. We ended up getting gallon buckets of lard and missing the lard with coffee to get the right color. We also had about two dozen jars of clam dip and then a whole bunch of fish parts, and put it all together… Karl had to sit there for a long time; he was such a good sport. My studio smelled like fish for about two weeks.” 

Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner - photo by © Dan Corrigan

Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner – photo by © Dan Corrigan

Todd McGovern: “I saw Soul Asylum a lot in their early early days, roughly 1985 to 1988, both in Ann Arbor and NYC. In those days, they were one of the best bar bands I’d ever seen.  They were absolutely frenetic. . On more than one occasion, I saw them open for the Replacements and blow the ‘Mats off the stage. When I mentioned this to Corrigan, he responded, ‘I think towards the end, they didn’t play together because of that.'” 

Tiny Tim - photo by © Dan Corrigan

Tiny Tim – photo by © Dan Corrigan

TINY TIM

Dan Corrigan to Todd McGovern: “I got to sit across the kitchen table from Tiny Tim and watch him play some songs for us. For me and the writer, and his girlfriend at the time, whichever “Miss Vicky” it was. He was a very interesting guy. Very, very talented too, but he was somebody that needed somebody to take care of him all the time. He was in his own world. When he was in his own world, he was comfortable. I think in everybody’s world, he was not comfortable.” 

 

The Replacements - Let It Be - photo by © Dan Corrigan
THE REPLACEMENTS

Excerpt from Heyday: 35 Years Of Music In Minneapolis:

Danny Sigelman: “…Dan got the gig from Dave Ayers of Twin/Tone Records to make a photograph for the band’s next record, Let It Be. The idea was to reflect the perception of the band’s dangerous sensibilities. However, what would become the final, iconic album cover wasn’t in Dan’s first stab at the cover shot.

The band was set to perform at the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Memorial Union. To get the band members to cooperate, Dan told them there were drugs waiting for them at the top floor of the building.”

Dan Corrigan: “We had started in the basement, and I just told them we had to go to the top floor in an office I had access to, where I told them we could do lines [of coke].”

Danny Sigelman: “Instead, Dan stopped the elevator at one of the middle floors to capture the shot.”

Dan Corrigan: “There was a chaotic situation. Including my friend Ivar Nelson, there were six of us in there. When we got in, Ivar opened up the lighting, and we stopped the elevator. The bell is ringing, and they are goofing around. I think I got a dozen frames off before we decided we couldn’t so this anymore. Somebody somewhere was wondering what was going on. We went up one floor and Ivar and I basically left them in the elevator. For all my planning, I think I got one good frame. I got my one picture and gave it to Dave Ayers. I thought I had a really special picture.  I looked at it and thought it had everything I wanted in the picture, the dynamic. But then Ayers said we had to do it again.”

The Replacements - photo by © Dan Corrigan

The Replacements

Danny Sigelman: “Ultimately, Twin/Tone was won over by the now famous rooftop photo at the Stinson’s mother’s house in south Minneapolis, where the band was practicing.”

Dan Corrigan: “I always loved shooting bands practicing, because they’re playing and there’s nobody else there. It was the classic Minneapolis basement with a gravity furnace, wrapped in asbestos tape, cramped, dirty and dusty, cast-iron laundry sink. If there’s such a thing as a garage band, they were a basement band.”The Replacements - photo by © Dan Corrigan

The Replacements - photo by © Dan Corrigan

Dan Corrigan: “The rooftop was my idea of putting people in confined spaces to limit where they can go. I bet we were up there for less than a half hour. They were always kind of squirrely. When I’m shooting, I’m trying to be serious. Usually when I get people together, I’m being serious, like ‘Let’s just do this.’ You know, ‘Everybody focus!’ When the Replacements were put in that situation, they would do the complete opposite.”

The Clash - photo by © Dan Corrigan

The Clash – photo by © Dan Corrigan

Henry Rollins - photo by © Dan Corrigan

Henry Rollins – photo by © Dan Corrigan

Hey Day - 35 Years of Music in Minneapolis photo by © Dan Corrigan

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