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The Pioneers of Rock as you've never seen them

Dan Plutchak's never-before-seen photographs of modern rock's most influential musicians

Rock history is a roller coaster of inspiration, influence and invention.

Along this road are the mileposts that designate the end of one era and the beginning of another.

Photographer Dan Plutchak in 1979 in Madison, Wis.

Under cover of a popular music scene that was antiseptic and focus-group driven, the late '70s and early '80s saw many of rock's pioneers re-invent themselves. In the process, they re-claimed their titles as some of the most influential musicians of modern times.

Pre-MTV, these bands these relied on touring to maintain their public profile. If you wanted to see a band perform, you had to see them live.

But even as they set up and tore down in a different city night after night, these pioneers were already tinkering with what music was about to become.

In 1979, The Ramones took their rough punk hybrid sound to the big screen in Rock 'n' Roll High School. In the process, they made their music accessible to the masses.

Others, from the likes of Bonnie Raitt to Robert Palmer, were refining a sound that would become MTV staples after the music network's launch in 1981.

As these nomads of rock traveled from New York to Chicago to L.A., they'd often make Madison, Wis., their wayside.

A creativity-driven and music-friendly college town, its large venues and small clubs were perfect for any size band.

The Dane County Coliseum could hold crowds of any size, and downtown--in the heart of campus--funky clubs like Merlin's, band bars like Headliners or old vaudville venues like the Orpheum Theater were packed night after night.

As a student at the University of Wisconsin, I photographed many of these influential musicians as they made their way through southern Wisconsin.

Only years later did it become clear that the history of rock had reached a new milepost.

These photographs, never before published, provide a candid glimpse of some of the artists who would bring popular music into its next great incarnation.

~Dan Plutchak

All photos © Copyright Dan Plutchak; All Rights Reserved
Photos my not be reproduced without advance written permission.

Go to the photographs

The Ramones, 1979
The Grateful Dead, 1979
The New Barbarians, 1979
Bob Dylan, 1978
Bonnie Raitt and Muddy Waters, 1978
Koko Taylor, 1980
Johnny Winter, 1980
Nico, 1980
Robert Palmer, 1979

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