"It's gonna be one of the greatest books, just a great memoir of a photographer just going gonzo and getting these shots as a kid"
Riff-Raff and Rock ‘n’ Roll is both a cautionary tale and thrilling joyride through the world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in the late ‘70s and 1980s. Pursuing the road to success in the shadow of substance abuse, author Rudy Childs, with a yard sale camera in tow, sneaks into rock concerts and muscles his way to the front row while pursuing the dream of becoming a rock and roll photographer. Vicious fights with bouncers and security personnel was standard fare, as he and his buddies engaged in escapades of nonsense so unimaginably bizarre that one couldn’t make it up or get away with it by today’s standards—and he has the photos to prove it. They regularly fooled box office personnel into giving them concert tickets and backstage passes. This resulted in a brilliant photography portfolio, including Randy Rhoads’ first American appearance on the Blizzard of Ozz tour, and close-ups of Van Halen, the Scorpions and Metallica in their prime. To support his passion, he acquired black market marijuana pipes to sell to crowds in parking lots before concerts, which covered the costs of film and flashcubes.
Rudy was raised in Boston, but eventually left because the city performed the greatest act of sacrilege—banning Led Zeppelin from playing the Boston Garden. He flew to the Califfornia World Music Festival [sic] in 1979, was blown away by iconic bands like Cheap Trick, Van Halen, Aerosmith and Ted Nugent, hitchhiked back to DC, and encountered a host of colorful yet questionable characters. Once settled in DC, his grandfather got him a job with the railroad, so he took full advantage of his free travel benefits, attending iconic shows like Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
His buddies, affectionately known as the Earth Dogs, had his back when it came to burrowing a path through arena after arena for Rudy to take photos, and entered shows with lenses and film down their pants and in their jacket sleeves, in order to smuggle in his camera equipment. They also enabled his habit of consuming hard drugs and he tried desperately to get straight. Non-stop shenanigans ensued in order to make money not only to become a noted concert photographer, but to afford drugs and alcohol. At one show they found a barrel filled with confiscated booze, that they sold in the parking lot. At another concert, after his buddy swiped a stack of unmarked backstage passes, they sold them, making $400 and leaving behind total chaos in the dressing room.
In an unconventional manner, he and his friends tracked down rock stars at their hotels, often receiving backstage and, if they were lucky, press passes. Although this once resulted in Rudy confiscating all of Bob Seger’s beer as he jammed onstage, sometimes connecting with rock’s elite was not always a great experience. Once Rudy was tossed out of Ozzy’s dressing room by an enraged Sharon Osbourne. He’s had the webs of his fingers sliced with a razor blade by an uptight bouncer, was mummified in toilet paper and lit afire by his roommate in Indiana, and survived a birthday brawl during which he was tossed into a dumpster and forced to defend himself with a broken bar table.
Encounters with the ladies naturally accompanies the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. At a Johnny Winter concert Rudy found himself accidentally spitting in his girlfriend’s face while being tossed out of the show. At another he found the lead singer’s girlfriend grinding herself to ecstasy on the back of his neck while on his shoulders for a better view. The debauchery continued as he and his buddies traded stolen backstage passes for sexual favors. In 1983, he attended the US Festival where he “riff-raffed” press credentials, impersonated a writer for Kerrang! magazine and was chosen to conduct an exclusive interview with the Scorpions.
Additionally, Rudy helped develop the fledgling cover band Forcer into an all-original act to be reckoned with, as they ventured to California to sign a record deal. Though offered a contract, drugs hindered their efforts and Rudy fell down the rabbit hole, into an abyss of angel dust and cocaine. Opting for the rehab route, he never stopped rocking. Riff-Raff and Rock ‘n’ Roll is a tale of both ambition and destruction, uniquely told from a fan’s perspective. It’s quite the rollercoaster ride, so buckle up!