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Beat Goes On for Collector of Rare Rock Videotapes

Follow David Peck into the bedroom of his Spring Valley home. Wait for him to turn off the lights and switch on the VCR. Then, fix your eyes on the TV screen and get ready for a magical mystery tour through rock ‘n’ roll history.

Among the sights you might see and the sounds you might hear as Peck, 22, wades through the more than 700 hours of vintage rock videotapes he’s amassed over the past five years:

The Beatles playing “Long Tall Sally” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” on a Dutch television show in 1964, with a substitute drummer sitting in for Ringo Starr, who was sick with tonsillitis.

The Rolling Stones rehearsing “Let’s Spend Some Time Together,” a less-provocative version of their classic “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” for a 1967 appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”

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James Brown performing at Boston Garden, to a fired-up crowd of young blacks, the day after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 1976 debut on British TV of seminal punk band the Sex Pistols, shocking the censors with their angry rendition of “Anarchy in the U.K.” on “Top of the Pops.”

Quite understandably, private bedroom showings are limited to Peck’s close friends--and, every now and then, a lucky reporter.

But for the past two years, Peck, a native New Yorker who moved to San Diego with his mother and sister when he was 11, has been opening up his archives to the public through periodic programs. The programs are held at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art’s 500-seat Sherwood Auditorium.

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This weekend’s program is titled “Progressive Rock: Rare Tapes.” The 2 1/2-hour show, which will screen at 8 p.m. Friday and repeat at the same time Saturday, consists of clips of such progressive rock giants from the early to late 1970s as Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and the Moody Blues.

Highlights include a live performance of “Witch’s Promise” by Jethro Tull on a 1970 “Top of the Pops” broadcast; Yes playing “Yours Is No Disgrace” on the “Beat Club” TV show in Germany in 1971; and a 1974 promotional video of Genesis doing “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe).”

Peck is a lifelong rock ‘n’ roll fan who bought his very first record--a copy of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Cosmos Factory” album--in 1970, at the tender age of 4.

Thirteen years, 600 LPs and 2,500 singles later, Peck recalled, he began collecting rock videos “purely by accident.”

“I was in this record store, and this guy who worked there was playing ‘Green River’ by Creedence,” Peck said. “I asked him to turn it up; he said, ‘Oh, you like this kind of music?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and so we just started talking.

“I mentioned that I had several Rolling Stones bootlegs, which I thought was really cool, and he told me he had footage of all their ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ appearances as well as a rare concert clip of a gig they did with Muddy Waters that was filmed for, but not included in, their 1981 movie, ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together.’

“He invited me over to his house, and I was just amazed that this stuff even existed. I asked him to make me copies, and he did; I figured if he was into rock videos, other people must be, too, so I started asking around.”

A few days later, Peck was advised by a fellow record collector to scan the classifieds in Goldmine, a national magazine devoted to the serious rock ‘n’ roll hobbyist.

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“Sure enough, I found a guy in Ohio who had a bunch of videos up for trade,” Peck said. “I got ahold of him, made my first trade, and the whole thing just snowballed from there.”

Within a year, Peck had accumulated, mostly through trading, 40 hours of rock videos. By 1986, he had upwards of 200--and today, he has more than 700, ranging from television appearances to movie outtakes, from concert clips to promotional films.

“Right now, there are only three or four (collectors) around the country with whom I deal on a regular basis,” Peck said. “You have to be careful--the whole idea of collecting is to have something that is rare, and if you trade with someone you don’t know, you run the risk of that person going out and making lots of copies, which reduces your bargaining power in future trades.”

The first program at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, held in June, 1987, was titled “Rock on TV” and consisted of vintage clips from such long-gone television music and variety series as “Shindig,” “Hullabaloo,” and the “Ed Sullivan Show.”

The second, “Soul on TV,” was presented in December, 1987, and featured such acts as James Brown, the Supremes and Stevie Wonder. The third and the fourth programs were devoted solely to one artist: “The Beatles: Rare Tapes,” in April, 1988, and “Rare Stones: 1964-1974,” last September.

The rock video programs, according to Greg Kahn, the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art’s film curator, “have really helped us expand our audience.”

With Kahn’s assistance, Peck has been able to take his video programs on the road. The “Rock on TV,” “Soul on TV” and Beatles edits were screened last February at the Portland Art Institute in Oregon and will be at the Zephyr Theater in San Francisco next month, the Art Institute of Chicago in May and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in September.

“What I really like about them (rock videos) is their rare quality,” Kahn said. “You just can’t see these things anymore, because in the 1960s and early ‘70s, regional TV stations and promoters didn’t archive any of the stuff they filmed.

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“To them, rock was just a novelty.

“One look at the lines to get in for one of these programs at our museum, and you’ll see right away just how wrong they were.”


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