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40 years of music at Chicago’s Metro captured through the lens of Gene Ambo

CHICAGO — Gene Ambo is a world-renowned, Chicago-based photographer whose career began in 1983 at Chicago’s legendary Metro Music Club. It was in the legendary club where Ambo spent many of those early years finding his photographic voice by shooting bands in the intimate club.

“Gene is one of the most amazing photographers, we’ve ever had grace Chicago as well as the Metro,” said Joe Shanahan, owner of the Metro.

One of the very first bands that Ambo shot was Mötorhead in 1983. From there, he continued to make history as one of the greatest, most sought-after rock photographers in the world — with his work prominently featured on album and magazine covers, and in publications worldwide.

Gene Ambo’s Heavy Metro

“My neighbor invited me to come and photograph Motorhead and that is where I met Joe, that was the beginning of 40 years of nonstop education and learning about music and shoes from this one venue,” Ambo said.

Ambo’s first book captures an impressive body of work with this unique photo collecting spanning the length of his career with a specific eye on rock, hard rock, heavy metal, and punk as captured through his peerless lens.

Featured on the pages are both iconic and little-known shots of such famous and infamous musical acts as the Ramones, Slash, Bad Brains, Megadeth, Nick Cave, Babes in Toyland, Circle Jerks, Samhain, Garbage, Ice T, Type O Negative, Hüsker Dü, Jane’s Addiction, Korn, Goo Goo Dolls, and Chicago’s own Smashing Pumpkins. More than 130 additional bands grace the pages of this body of work, cataloging 40 years of music in Wrigleyville.

Published in the Metro’s 40th anniversary, HEAVY METRO is a joint celebration with the legendary club. “I lived with two guys who worked at Metro, in the back of the book I dedicated a few pages just to the staff, it was such an open vibe pushing a good cause,” said Ambo.

The Metro opened in 1982 under the guidance of owner Joe Shanahan. The first show Shanahan booked and promoted was R.E.M. and over the next 40 years, the venue would host concerts by Metallica, James Brown, Iggy Pop, Chris Cornell, George Clinton, Slayer, Joe Strummer, Prince, and many others.

It’s this impressive roster of bands through the years that have given the Metro legendary status in the music industry.

“Come for the opening band, you never know. Come enjoy music, get out, get off the TV, get off the screens, come see a band, come for all three, hang out and have a beer with us at the bar,” said Shanahan.

For more information on Gene Ambo and to order his book, click here.

On all things Metro, click here.

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