Mark Weiss was still in high school when he began sneaking into Madison Square Garden concerts with his camera in the mid-Seventies. "I'd give the guy at the door three or four dollars to get in," he says. "I'd stuff my camera under a baggy sweatshirt and between bands I'd jump over the barricade to the front of the stage and start shooting the show." At first, he merely sold 8×10's out of his high school locker for a buck a piece, but before he knew it the editors of Circus magazine saw his shots of Aerosmith at Giants Stadium and they put him to work for real. One of his first assignments was Van Halen at Convention Hall in Asbury Park on August 11th, 1979. "I got my backstage pass and saw Eddie just hanging out," he says. "He stood by a road case and I started snapping photos."
Van Halen loved Weiss' candid photographs, and they hired him to tag along on future tours. "This is Chicago on the Hide Your Sheep Tour in 1982," he says. "Dave always wanted me to capture him doing whatever he was doing. This is about 20 minutes before he went onstage. He's getting primped for the show. He'd say, 'Come into my world and just shoot away.' And he loved to ham it up."
Weiss had an agreement with Van Halen saying he would take photos "at their discretion." The afternoon of the Chicago show in 1982, Roth phoned his hotel room. "He said, 'I want to go outside and fly a kite. Bring your camera.' I took photos for an hour. At one point the kite got stuck in a tree and he had to climb it. If you look in the background, you can see one of the trucks from the tour."
Right around the release of Van Halen's groundbreaking album 1984, David Lee Roth spent the day at a photo studio with Weiss. "He brought a machete to the studio and was doing all his martial arts moves," says the photographer. "I told David to look at my lens like he was looking at the world."
Van Halen were so massive in 1984 that companies showered them with free gifts. Weiss was backstage at the Nassau Coliseum in April of that year when a couple of cases of Jack Daniel's arrived for Michael Anthony. "I think he just got the Jack Daniel's bass, but I could be wrong," says Weiss. "I just set up this orange background and placed the bottles on a road case."
On the same day as the Jack Daniel's shoot at the Nassau Coliseum, Weiss wandered into Eddie Van Halen's dressing room and caught him hanging out with his wife, One Day at a Time actress Valerie Bertinelli. "I watched her show growing up, and she was really cool with me," says Weiss. "I have another shot where she has a beer in her hand. She has that cigarette, but I don't know if she was even smoking it. It might have been Eddie's. Everyone that sees this photos says they look like twins."
Unlike most photographers at a rock show, Weiss had complete freedom to go anywhere he needed to capture his shot. "This was taken at the very end of a show on the 1984 tour," he says ."They always went out and took a bow at the very end. Sometimes I'd go behind them on the drum riser. I'd also place myself in the audience and stand on a chair. This is a nice shot. You've got the brothers on one side, and Michael and David just loving it."
The band sometimes prepped for a show in the locker room of whatever sports arena they were playing that night. This is David Lee Roth at Philadelphia's Spectrum on the Fair Warning tour in 1981."He wanted me to shoot him getting ready," says Weiss. "I did a bunch of shots of the whole band, but he wanted some of just him. He was a little more pose-y than the others."
This was also taken at the Chicago Pavillion in the summer of 1982. "This was the first time I went to several shows in a row," says Weiss. "David used to always say, 'Look at all the people here tonight,' and then he would say they were much better than whatever city they played the previous night. It made them feel special, and then he'd say the same exact thing the next night."
After a show in 1981, Weiss asked the band to pose in front of a bunch of balloons. It was for an anniversary of a rock magazine he can't quite recall. "Back then, there was Circus, Hit Parader, Faces and a bunch of overseas magazines," he says. "I wanted to shoot as many different situations and backgrounds as I could so I could sell the photos to different magazines and they'd have exclusives."
About a year after David Lee Roth parted ways with Van Halen, Weiss wound up shooting the singer at his house. "I was doing a series that I never put out of rock stars and their tattoos," he says. "We wanted to make it look natural. We went into his garage and I just did that one shot very quickly. It was very casual. I'll probably end up using some of those pictures in my upcoming book. Right now, I'm going through thousands of photos for the book. There are photos I don't even remember taking."