Burning Flags Press The website of Glen E. Friedman. Renowned for both his work with musicians like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slayer (and many, many more) as well as his groundbreaking documentation of the burgeoning skateboard phenomenon in the late `70's, Glen has been privvy to (and has summarily captured on film) some of the coolest stuff ever. He's also an incredibly insightful and nice guy to boot.
SoHo Blues - Photography by Allan Tannenbaum Allan Tannenbaum is a local photographer who has been everywhere and shot everything, from members of Blondie hanging out at the Mudd Club through the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th. You could spend hours on this site, and I have.
Robert Otter Photographs Amazing vintage photographs of New York City, specifically my own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
oboylephoto Just some intensely cool photographs of abandoned places.
The Weblog of Spumco's John K. The weblog of cartoonist John Kricfalusi, crazed mind and frantic pencil behind the original "Ren & Stimpy," as well as "The Goddamn George Liquor Show." Surreal, unapologetic, uncompromising genius.
I have a couple of posts in the works, notably yet another Flaming Pablum Interview, which I hope all will enjoy.
Unfortunately, the news events of the day (from the Brexit to the continued failure to enact meaningful gun control legislation to the ongoing, terrifying circus of abject idiocy that is Donald Trump), make it all feel more meaningless and trivial than can be quantified.
As such, consider this applicable tune a place-holder....
As detailed in Jeremiah’s post, the villain in this story is not the competition from big name chains like Barnes & Noble, nor the online bookseller juggernaut that is Amazon or even people forsaking actual books in favor of idiotic devices like Kindles and Nooks (do people still use those? I’m so behind the times). No, the culprit is our city’s spiraling rents, pure and simple.
Before you click your tongues, roll your eyes and dust off that weary adage that change is the only constant in an urban environment, please go fuck yourselves, and let me underscore, once again, that brick n’ mortar establishments of these kinds (both book shops and record/disc shops) are more than simply places wherein to purchase goods. They are places for like-minds to gather, connect and share. They are places wherein to learn and discover. They are places to find solace and kinship. Beyond all that, they’re also places simply to browse, something you can do in fewer and fewer places.
Support your local bookshop, goddammit.
This news found me looking up this video from 2013, which I wrote more extensively about here, wherein bespectacled indie dude Fred Nicolaus of Golden Suits circumnavigates Manhattan’s network of book shops for the purposes of buying up every single copy of “The Stories of John Cheever” he can get his hands on.
In the three years since this was filmed, about four of the shops Fred visits in the video have already vanished.
Given the dad-centric tone of this entry, I probably should have posted it yesterday, but c’est la guerre.
With both of my kids now into their diminutive double-digits (a Rubicon I was sad to see them cross, if I’m being honest), the evenings wherein I read to them are fewer and further between. Charlotte, my eldest at 12, is a voracious reader by this point, prone to pulling books at random off our shelves when she’s run out of her own selections. As such, she’s as versed in works of Agatha Christie as she is in J.K. Rowling. At 10, Oliver has yet to catch that particular fever, but has a few stand-bys he’ll happily page through, although they usually involve LEGO in some capacity. I’ve also introduced him to the myriad joys of Asterix the Gual and Marvel Comics, both of which certainly acted as gateway drugs-of-sorts for me towards more adventurous fare when I was his age. Here’s hoping that works for him, as well.
In any case, prior to the organization turning my life into a roiling, daily morass of paranoia, shame and mental flagellation, my former job at TODAY.com had me occasionally write about parenting, and back in the deceptively placid days of 2012, I wrote up a dewy-eyed ode to reading to my kids, dubbed Bedtime Stories: 6 Children’s Books Best Read Out Loud. One of the selections I cited was P.D. Eastman’s canine classic, “Go, Dog. Go!” But as much as my kids and I continue to love that particular book, there’s always been one aspect of it that mystified me. I’m talking about the ongoing hat exchange, obviously.
Should you be unfamiliar with the narrative in question, it’s basically a series of vignettes wherein a female dog asks for validation and approval from a male dog in regards to her choice of headwear. No, I know that dogs don’t generally wear hats, but let’s remember … this is a children’s book.
But as a children’s book (albeit one first published in the arguably not-as-enlightened era of 1961), the message this particular thread of the otherwise-largely-nonexistent plot sends is puzzling. Not only is the male dog in the exchange somewhat needlessly brusque and rude, but the depiction of the female dog repeatedly seeking his positive acknowledgment isn’t something I’d ever want either of my children to emulate.
I have this screen-saver device on my crappy desktop computer (yes, I still use one of those) that selects images at random from a folder that I routinely stuff with nonsense I find on the web. Not too long back, I had to prune some images from it that were arguably unsuitable for children for when the kids were in the room (and, given the diminutive size of the apartment, they’re basically always “in the room”). I’m not talking about porny images, but violent Cop Shoot Cop flyers, a picture of Michael Gira of SWANS with a noose, a shot of Raven from Killing Joke wearing a “FUCK THA POLICE” shirt, etc.
By this point, the folder in question is stuffed with countless images. I’ve largely forgotten what’s in there, so I’m frequently surprised by what comes up in the rotation. This morning, one appeared that I hadn’t seen in a while, and I ended up looking at it in a whole new way, and noticed a curious detail. Here’s the shot in question now…
This is, of course, the mighty Cramps — featuring the classic line-up of Lux and Ivy flanked by drummer Nick Knox and the endearingly Boris Karloffy Bryan Gregory on second guitar.
The thing that caught my eye this time around that I’d never noticed before is the room they appear playing in. Stop me if I’m wrong, but are they playing in front of the United Nations emblem?
I know the Cramps enjoyed playing unconventional venues (witness their celebrated performance at the Napa State Mental Facility as a prime example), but I cannot imagine the unlikely circumstances of the potty-minded Cramps unleashing their signature blend of barbed psychobilly on the august body of U.N. dignitaries.
Anyone know the scoop?
ADDENDUM:A reader named Arem helped out. The venue is Georgetown's Hall of Nations, and it was a pivotal show from 1979 that acted a crucial catalyst for the Washington D.C. punk scene as told here by Henry Rollins.
I spotted the photo above in a random search and let out a gasp. No, I'm not going to try to name the location (I'm sure someone can, though, can you?) No, I was intrigued in that it's a rare shot by one Chalkie Davies for a very specific reason. Here's how Getty describes it....
American punk group The Ramones in New York, April 1977, with graphic designer Arturo Vega, who designed the band's logo. Left to right: Arturo Vega (1947 - 2013), singer Joey Ramone (1951 - 2001, drummer Tommy Ramone, bassist Dee Dee Ramone (1951 - 2002) and guitarist Johnny Ramone (1948 - 2004).
Only, there's one problem. That's not Arturo Vega on the far left. That's Marc Bell, shortly to be re-christend Marky Ramone.
Here is Arturo Vega in `77 (courtesy of the great Godlis)
And here, once again, is Marc Bell a.k.a. Marky Ramone
In exceptionally short order, both master location-spotters Bob Egan and Chung Wong chimed in(Chung on Facebook) in with the readily evident details that the estimable brothers Ramone were captured by Bob Gruen standing manfully on the south side of East 1st Street between Bowery and Second Avenue, …i.e. ACROSS THE STREET AND A FEW STEPS TO THE WEST OF THE VERY SPOT that Joe Dilworth would photograph the Lunachicks fifteen years later.
The giveaway for me should have been the vertical “PARKING” signage at the far left-hand side of the frame, which matches up with this old image of Extra Place.
For another vantage, point, the Ramones are basically standing directly across the street from where Lou Reed and then-wife Sylvia Morales are pictured here in a still from the video of “Sweet Jane” by the Jim Carroll Band.
Which is essentially just around the corner from the lot that was adjacent 295 Bowery (which I captured here)...
Obviously, that spot today bears no resemblance to its former incarnation....
I am fully aware that I just spent the last month driving myself (and maybe a couple of others) to distraction with my search to pinpoint the location of Joe Dilworth’s 1990 shot of the Lunachicks, and that I should probably relax my sleuth capacities for a while, but y’know what? Fuck that. Life is short, and when something catches your eye, you should jump on it. So that’s what I’m doin’. Hop on board, or get outta the way, `cos this is happening.
Okay, so a little backtracking…
I finally got to swing back out to the Queens Museum, last weekend, to check out that celebrated Ramones exhibit. Incidentally, if you haven’t yet, you have until the end of July to get on it. And while, yes, the idea of anything to do with punk rock literally being in a museum is slightly off-putting (see this atrocity as a prime example), I have to say that the Queens Museum did a pretty great job.
The collection of Ramones artifacts -– from Johnny’s first Mosrite through to the “Gabba Gabba Hey” sign to the pinhead mask and all points in between -– is pretty unimpeachable. If you’re a fan of this stuff (and, if you’re not, why are you reading my blog?), you do owe it to yourself to check it all out, if you can.
In perusing through the three big rooms of stuff, however, I was immediately drawn to a foursome of photographic prints by the great Bob Gruen. Two of them were entirely familiar, but the other two… not so much.
One of the more striking things about this photo is just the sheer condition of depicted scene. I have a friend who’s always remarking when he sees footage of the East Village of the 1980’s, how “not-so-bad” it looks compared to legend and lore. Granted, the `80s were five years on from this shot, but the patch of NYC captured in this photograph truly looks like a city in steep decline. Here’s my attempt at a sharper image of it. Click to enlarge.
Anyway, I’m sure you know here this is going…
In noticing how distressed the surrounding cityscape looks, I started trying to picture what that same spot might look like today, and it occurred to me that I couldn’t immediately place it. Now, given that it was presumably snapped during the same session that resulted in those afore-cited subway shots (i.e. between CB’s and Second Avenue….i.e. pretty much the exact same area as the Lunachicks photo), it makes sense that it was taken in that same vicinity. But I can’t picture it’s current incarnation….
Apologies for the relative slowdown. In light of the news of late, the inane bullshit that is the life and soul of this blog just seems a bit more trivial than usual. I do indeed have another ridiculous photo search on tap (surprisingly soon after my epic-poem-worthy Lunachicks quest), but when the world is otherwise engulfed by both the gun-control debate (please let some meaningful fruition occur this time) and the looming plausibility of a Donald “Cheeto Jesus” Trump administration, trying to pinpoint a street corner a long-defunct punk band once stood on seems a undeniably meaningless.
That all said, my dear friend Drew shot me a video recently that he knew was right up my proverbial street, so I’m sharing it here and now. Consider it a place-holding palette-cleanser.
As detailed on theseancient posts, I was never a credible skateboarder. Sure, I had great respect for the culture and the lingo and the accessories and the attitude, but it terms of the practical application of mastering the actual apparatus, I sucked at it. My attempts to skate were an insult to skateboarding made flesh. As such, it was a clique I could not infiltrate, no matter how many JFA and Suicidal Tendencies albums I owned.
Skateboarding skated on by and further transformed. I honestly don’t know anything about it these days. I mean, I know kids still do it, but I have no clues as to who they emulate, what gear they prefer etc. When I hear a skateboard shredding down my street these days, my first instinct isn’t to marvel at the tricks but rather to make sure my kids aren’t in the line of fire.
Anyway, blah blah blah. Herewith a dreamy promotional video made by the Supreme store in the mid-90’s. Scored by the seemingly incongruous strains of jazz legend John Coltrane, the clip features some stylish footage of the New York City of 1995 (including a fleeting shot of the then-still-standing 7 World Trade Center, above) and a gaggle of insouciant youths skating all over it. Enjoy.
If I’m being honest, I can’t say I did a lot of shopping at Footlight Records on 12th Street, just east of Fourth Avenue. This is not to say, however, that I didn’t like the place. I mean, given their emphasis on Broadway cast recordings and soundtracks, it just wasn’t on my regular list. I mean, I do love a few show tunes, but rarely did I require a whole store full of'em. I liked that it was there when I needed it, though.
I remember scoring a few choice finds at Footlight back in the day, notably Gheorge Zamfir’s haunting score to Peter Weir’s “Picnic at Hanging Rock” on vinyl and the original soundtrack to “Dumbo” on compact disc (which I was after for the surreal “Pink Elephants”). Even if you weren’t looking for something specific, it was always a fun browse. The places left to do that are virtually extinct.
In any case, because people fucking suck and New York City’s rent is obscene, Footlights closed in 2005, much to the consternation of many a Broadway zealot and vinyl collector. It was a vacant shell for years afterwards, but is now a soulless real estate agency, doubtlessly staffed by dead-eyed replicants with zero appreciation for art and culture. But, I digress…
Now, I didn’t set foot in the place until about 1991, probably, but I certainly don’t remember a pinball machine, do you? Moreover, Footlight would never have been a shop I’d have expected to be selling Elvis Costello 7”s (see the sleeve for “Accidents Will Happen” above her right hand?). Does this ring true with the Footlight regulars?
Incidentally, Footlight kinda lives on online (although I don’t detect a lot of activity after 2014), but it’s not really the same experience as going there.
Alright, it was a great amount of time in coming, but here –- at long last –- is the denouement (I think) of the great Lunachicks search. But first, a quick recap for those who might have understandably skipped a few chapters….
The hunt started off pretty innocuously. Prompted by a fleeting mention in an earlier post about White Zombie playing at a short-lived club on Bond Street called Downtown, I did a quick image search and stumbled upon a fun shot of the lovely ladies in the the Lunachicks circa their first LP in 1990, Babysitters on Acid, posing irreverently on a particularly weathered slab of Manhattan concrete. I’d found the photo on a random fan site without any sourcing, credit or information of any discernible kind. Moreover, it seemed to exist only on that site. TinEye and a reversed Google Image Search came up with nothing to illuminate its origin. The intrigue started to build for me.
At first glance, I assumed the photograph was taken on Bleecker Street between Bowery and Lafayette, but that turned out not to be the case. There were elements in the photograph that indicated more gated lots, recessed areas and driveways than are on that particular strip. Moreover, the brickface behind the girls didn’t match up with anything on that block.
But under even closer inspection, I managed to convince myself that I’d walked past the very spot upon which they are pictured in the photo –- and recently! I KNEW I recognized the location, based on some entirely flimsy criteria like the texture of the wall behind them and the minute architectural flourishes featured around them. Given the amount of time I’d recently spent walking the streets of downtown Manhattan (having been out of work for most of 2015), I was positive I’d strolled past this tiny point on the map within the last several months.
But there was still something indefinable about it. The image was filled with light and space, leading me to assume it must have been taken along a wide avenue or multi-laned byway. As such, I criss-crossed likely strips like 14th Street, Houston, Delancey, Chrystie, Allen and Forsyth Streets and Avenues A through C, looking for a match. But a match never came.
I then became convinced that it had to be somewhere in NoLita. As such, I hit that neighborhood like a hammer, regularly circumnavigating, backtracking and slithering through, across and around it on my walks home from the office, often tacking way more time onto my commute home than my wife and kids were likely to understand, much less condone.
When that failed to pan out, my far-flung assumptions and ultimately illogical projections went even further afield. For a spell, I assumed the picture was captured somewhere on Carmine Street in Greenwich Village, then Mott Street in SoHo, then East 8th Street behind Tompkins Square Park, then Weehawken Street in the West Village, then on Gansevoort in the Meat Packing District, then on Vestry Street in TriBeCa … but no dice, no dice, no dice, no dice.
I took the family out for dim-sum down in Chinatown one Sunday, leading them on a semi-circuitous weave through needless backwater lanes on the fleeting chance I’d spot the spot somewhere down there. Again, `twas not to be.
My fixation with finding the photo’s location was becoming an obsession. I was haunted by the familiarity I thought it exuded, but my inability to replicate it was making me lose hope.
But, because the Internet has essentially shrank the world into a very small town where word gets around fast, it turns out that a British friend of mine I know from the ILX Music Discussion Boards — Susan C. (who I’ve never actually met in person) — is also friends with the photographer. Apparently, that photographer had gotten wind of my search, and posted something about it on his Facebook page, prompting Susan to say, “Oi, I actually know that guy — you two should talk!”
And that’s just what she did, introducing me to storied photographer/musician Joe Dilworth (pictured at right circa 1984). Along with having once taken pictures of the Lunachicks, Joe is also responsible for images that grace many a significant album cover, and has played in myriad great bands himself, including Th’Faith Healers, Stereolab and even P.J. Harvey. You can read all about the man via this great piece in The Quietus!
Joe turned out to be a truly excellent and mercifully patient guy, obviously somewhat amused by my bug-eyed fervor to divine the enigmatic location depicted in his portrait of the Lunachicks. Upon “friending” each other on Facebook, I pretty much immediately launched into my questioning, explaining my somewhat ridiculous quest and asking if he remembers tiny details of about a photo shoot with a band that went down 26 years ago.
As it turns out, Joe had grown up in and lived, at the time, in London, and was not a New Yorker. He’d been commissioned to shoot the Lunachicks — then still a relatively new and unknown quantity — so flew over from the UK. For this particular shoot, after “going awol” around the city for a bit, he met up with the Lunachicks prior to a gig at CBGB (of course). While the ladies were doing their soundcheck, Joe had about a few minutes to scout out a few potential locations.
Immersed in the lore of the first Ramones album cover (also taken in that neighborhood by the great Roberta Bayley), Joe envisioned a sort of “gloomy, osteuropäische vibe,” but the girls weren’t having it. Following their soundcheck, Joe and the band had only a few minutes to get the job done. As such, the location of that photograph is “about two minutes walk” from CBGB, as that’s all the time they had.
Okay, so two-minute walk from 315 Bowery, then. Fine, but in what direction? And, really, a “two-minute walk” for one person is conceivably a “five-minute walk” for another. It really depends on how fast you’re walking, where you’re headed, etc.
Joe then did me a true favor and offered to send me the contact sheets from the shoot. He was off on tour with his band, Cavern of Anti-Matter (for whom he plays drums), but promised to e-mail them to me upon his return home to his current digs in Berlin.
And this week, that’s exactly what he did.
The whole series of photographs from that day are, for me, a true revelation. Not only do they disclose the exact location of the shot in question, but they also really capture the essence of a neighborhood that is now virtually unrecognizable. The Lunachicks, meanwhile, are depicted like a madcap gaggle of comely, leather-clad hoods, like a hirsute hybrid of Josie & the Pussycats and the Warriors.
Sure enough, the pictures start off on the Bowery. Here they are posed on the center island between Bleecker and East 2nd Street. I took a shot in pretty much the same exact spot about five or six years later (see below). Today, it’s doesn’t quite exude the same atmosphere.
I also like this shot as it showcases the fact that bassist Squid Silver boasts a KISS badge on her leather lapel (cover of Rock'n'Roll Over)
Here's my little boy on the same spot earlier today...
From there, it looks like the Joe and the ladies literally just walked about a two-block radius, circling down to Second Avenue.
Eventually they paused at the spot from the original photo…
Here are some others frames from the same spot...
..and here's where my heart started to beat faster....watch as Joe steps back and the camera starts to reveal a bit more detail on the right...
HOLY CRAP, DO YOU SEE THAT??? BEHIND VOCALIST THEO KOGAN'S HEAD?
Should you not recognize the building behind her head, take a look at this Google Maps grab of East First Street between Bowery and Second Avenue....
Yes, we have a match. This also means that the original tenement building at the end of the block in the original photo is the building which featured the XOXO Gallery in its ground floor (which was demolished in 1997, seven years after the original Dilworth photo).
So, there you have it. Now, if you walk down East First Street between Bowery and Second Avenue today, pretty much everything that once made it distinctive is gone. The vacant lot on the western edge of the street (abutting Bowery)...
...is now a Chase Bank.
A little further in, fabled Extra Place (here back in the `90s)....
...is now an antiseptic outdoor mall (of a sort). Here it is looking south from within....
Essentially, in the original photo, the Lunachicks are pictured standing in front of a structure that no longer stands, and hasn't since about the dawn of the new millennium. So much for thinking I'd past it recently.
The reason there's so much light and space in the photo is because they would have been standing across the street from the wide open lot that was behind 295 Bowery (i.e. the rotting edifice of McGurk's Suicide Hall). Towards the eastern end of the block, of course, was the Mars Bar. That's gone, too. For a glimpse of the street as it was, enjoy this oddball snippet from age-old cable access show, The Church of Shooting Yourself (which I wrote about here)....
Just to finish the narrative, after the shoot, the Lunachicks sauntered menacingly back to CBGB's, plugged in and blew the roof off the place...
Today, guitarist Gina Volpe fronts the band Bantam, vocalist Theo Kogan is an actress/model/mom who heads-up the cosmetics company Armour, bassist Sidney "Squid" Silver is the proprietor of Williamsburg's Roebling Tea Room. Original drummer Becky Wreck was last heard of playing in a band called the Blair Bitch Project (oh, mirth) while second drummer, Chip English, currently plays with Suicide King. No word on the whereabouts or doings of second guitarist Sindi (below from the CB's gig above)....
So that's it, really. Mystery solved. I'd love to thank everyone who stuck with me, and Joe Dilworth for his humor and generosity.
Lastly, here's Oliver in (roughly) the same spot this morning....