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.
The name of the venue didn't immediately ring a bell. Peg and I had been invited to come celebrate our friend Jane's birthday, and the festivities were to be held at a place called "The Bowery Hotel." At first, it sounded like a joke. "The Bowery Hotel?" I laughed -- fleetingly still thinking that it was 1989, "are we having drinks at a flop house or something?" I looked at the address, did the math and grimaced. We were bound for a corner formerly occupied by an age-old gas station. The gas station, however, was long gone, and the space it had occupied now played host to one of those new buildings. You know the ones I mean: one of those ridiculously priapic monstrosities that started sprouting out of the pavement in the last few years. Sure enough, the Bowery Hotel is a relatively brand new building that exudes the same air of haughty exclusivity and "tony chic" as can be found polluting the Meat Packing District (itself formerly a desolate badlands, much like the Bowery). It's one of the places I frown and shake my fist at as I mope up and down the streets, lamenting the gentrification that is positively metastasizing lower Manhattan. The notion of actually visiting the place and spending money inside it was an anathema to me, but we love Jane, so I got over it and off we went.
Walking into the place is indeed a surreal experience. My allusion to the Meat Packing District was an apt one, as the streets of this `hood are now peppered in the evenings with young, Blackberry-twiddling girls who all looked as if they'd stepped off the set of "Gossip Girl." The doors of the building were manned by a pair of garishly-jacketed doormen who looked as if they were bound for a jolly evening of nocturnal fox hunting once they'd graciously allowed us to befoul the plush confines of their lobby. Once inside, I was still incredulous that we were on the Bowery -- that decor strove to suggest the aura of old moneyed privilege one normally would encounter at midtown enclaves like The University Club or the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis, albeit somewhat stymied by an inexplicable Spanish bordello vibe. We spotted our friends just inside the lobby, where they'd been sort of brusquely corralled. Mac, Jane's husband, immediately started grousing about how the perma-hovering maitre'd -- the same one glowering at me at that very instant -- was seriously soiling the atmosphere by repeatedly scolding them for "standing" and -- god forbid -- moving some of the furniture around.
We sat down and introduced ourselves around, still suffering under the wait of of the maitre'd's unblinking stare and the sniffily over-attendant/under-congenial wait staff. The place was further decked out with coasters and napkins bearing the hotel's insignia -- one their fox-hunting doormen looking a bit like a preening Johnny Walker and the hotel's name written in a floridly ludicrous font. Within moments, Peggy got her hand figuratively slapped for suggesting to move one of the ottomans closer to the table so that the gathered party could better hear each other. The whole experience was pretty laughable.
Regardless, we made the most of it. Over a pair of pricey drinks, we chatted up our fellow party-goers -- some engaging journalists and publishing-types -- and basically had a great time until one more admonishment from the management (it's not like we were vomiting on the sofas and performing an impromptu round of death metal karaoke ) managed to finally diffuse an otherwise cheery experience. Jane and company de-camped to a much less surly venue a few blocks away. Peg and I strolled down a Bowery we no longer really recognized (pausing for a moment in front of the former facade of CBGB) until we repaired to the Noho Star, a great and long-standing neighborhood spot, the interior of which looks as though it hasn't changed one iota since 1983. Once again, change sucks!
In any case, I'll take a flop house over The Bowery Hotel any day of the week.
I'm hugely saddened to learn of the possible impending demise of the storied P&G Bar on the Upper West Side (I gleaned this sad rumor via Jeremiah Moss' endearingly authoritative Vanishing New York). I logged many a beer-sotten evening in said institution's Bavarian-landscape-painted walls in the late 80s and 90's. It was also the watering hole of choice for the woman who became my wife, a former Londoner-turned-Upper West Sider. Many of our first dates were spent at the P&G (the neon sign also seems to say "Peg" -- my wife's name -- if you drunkenly squint at it the right way). Its departure will be yet another nail in the coffin of Manhattan's character.
TITLE: "I'm Not Always So Stupid" ARTIST: The Wedding Present ALBUM:George Best RELEASE DATE: 1987
After dropping my little daughter off at school yesterday, I strolled around the block to nearby Other Music, one of the last few decent record stores left in Manhattan (despite -- or perhaps because of -- their haughty disdain for relatively accessible selections). My reasons for stopping into record stores these days are purely Pavlovian. Be it an enclave of esoterica like Downtown Music Gallery on the Bowery or a fuckin' Coconuts in midtown, I find it nigh on impossible to walk by a shop that sells music and not want to stop in. There isn't really even much I'm looking for these days, but I still simply love to browse around and see what's new on the shelves.
In the instance of Other Music, there's always something new on the shelves, although four out of five times, it's going to be by an artist I've simply never heard of. Other Music thrives on the super-indie, super-eclectic and super-obscure end of the musical spectrum. Looking for that new album by Carrie Underwood? Don't bother going to Other Music. Looking for a limited vinyl edition copy of The Fall's Mark E. Smith collaborating with an indigenous tribe of New Guinea bushmen for an album of Krautrock and Nick Drake covers with Devandra Banhart playing the hammered dulcimer? Other Music's your place! Once upon a time, I could relatively hold my own in any discussion of cutting edge indie rock. These days, I can't even pretend to keep up. Most of the stuff I'm going to be interested in at Other Music is housed in an aisle dubbed "Then" (as opposed to "Now"), driving the painful point even further into my fragile psyche: I'm old!.
So, there I was at O.M., dutifully perusing the "Then" section like the good midlife-crisis sufferer I am and I caught sight of an album I immediately snatched up for the purposes of purchasing, Live 1987 by The Wedding Present -- a two disc live set (obviously) by one of my old favorite bands.
I'd first heard about the band in the Summer of 1989. I was interning thanklessly (and paylessly) in the chilly confines of SPIN magazine, and one of my tasks was to rifle through issue after issue of Brit music periodicals for the sake of the reference library, finding out about bits and pieces of new British bands. My friend Rob B. came back from a trip to Europe and was raving about a track he'd heard a couple of times there that he thought was called "The Wedding Present" by a band called Kennedy. He described it as an army of frantically strummed electric guitars -- something like the Buzzcocks on crack covering the Smiths. Having only heard of the band due to my rampant anglophilia and my article-clipping for SPIN, I corrected Rob's name/title switcheroo and we went out in search for the album. Rob tracked down the cd-single (an artefact I wasn't be able to put my hand to for a couple of years, appended by a beautifully hot-wired cover of Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual") and played it for me. WOW! Having been otherwise lamenting the then-loss of my beloved Killing Joke (they wouldn't re-surface without warning again until later on that year with the flexidisc of "Beautiful Dead") with the vaudvillian-goth shenanigans of the Mission UK (who I'd somewhat inexplicably become unduly fond of), "Kennedy" was a fresh blast of energy I'd not encountered in some time. Hardcore Punk had become rather staid for me by then, and the radio airwaves were choked by either Tom Petty, the last gasp of hair metal or the transient likes of Rob Base and/or Technotronic. It was indeed a frantic electric strumfest...pinned down by a hyperkinetic drum pattern and an infectiously relentless bassline. As it built to a crescendo, it DID sound like an army of guitars. It was sheer magnificense (and still is, dammit).
From that point on, Rob and I became massive fans of the band, tracking down every last single of theirs (they were an endearingly prolific band at the time) and going well out of our way to catch them performing live any time they dared come to play on U.S. soil. Along with Cop Shoot Cop and -- for a while -- The Wonder Stuff, The Wedding Present were far and away one the best of bands of the 90's for me.
In any case, I immediately ripped Live 1987 to my iPod yesterday afternoon and listened to it in its high volume entirety for a walk to midtown. If you're a fan, it's completely essential and I strongly recommend you rushing out to acquire it. That said, many of the live renditions (this is their first official live album, by the way) only made me pine to hear the originals. This particular track is one such song.
"I'm Not Always So Stupid" is almost the quintessential Wedding Present tune. Built around one of the band's trademark frenzied strum-a-thons, vocalist/guitarist Dave Gedge sings a spot-on account of the feverish fixation of the newly jilted. Having been dumped more times than I'd have cared to admit in the early-to-mid 90s and dealt with my share of unrequited obsession, it was no mystery why the Wedding Present's songs so appealed to me. Gedge has an amazing knack for capturing the feelings of hurt, betrayal and incredulousness that accompany a romantic break-up, often utilizing the simplest turns of phrase to do so. It's a gift, and acted as a major catharsis at the time.
Years later, though I'm no longer identifying with Gedge's lovelorn protagonist, I still thrill to "I'm Not Always So Stupid" for both its lyrical simplicity, its immediately melodic charm and its hyper-caffeinated intensity. Play it loud and strum a hole in your jeans.
TITLE: "Where The Streets Have No Name" (Live) ARTIST: U2 ALBUM:Christmas at The Point Depot RELEASE DATE: 1989
I'm still on a bit of a U2-kick since that long drive on Monday, so I thought I'd highlight a couple of other tracks from the band. Incidentally, I didn't mean to suggest that I only liked the band's early period. The band has managed to produce music of quality and distinction with each album and in each successive incarnation (be they in rampant Ameriphilia mode or in a wince-inducing dad-at-the-disco faux-groovin' fervor). In any case, with the recent release of the 20th Anniversary edition of The Joshua Tree, herewith two tracks from that album recorded live.
The first is a rousing rendition of "Where The Streets Have No Name" culled from a bootleg called Christmas at the Point Depot. Recorded in Dublin on December 26, 1989, this version of the track finds Bono rapturously quoting Samuel Beckett in the intro and gettin' all grandiose (as he was certainly wont to do at the time). I can't even remember where I tracked it down, but it's a mighty fine performance.
TITLE: "Bullet The Blue Sky" (Live) ARTIST: U2 ALBUM:Stay (Faraway So Close) e.p. RELEASE DATE: 1993
Next up is a visceral rendition of "Bullet The Blue Sky." I always felt that the original studio recording of this track sounded so out of place on The Joshua Tree, an album otherwise steeped in poignant introspection. In the live context, this track really blossomed into a veritable exorcism. Circa the ZooTV tour, the band injected a heady dose of very metal noise pollution into the fray, turning the song into a clangy, apocalyptic wardance that better matched Bono's lyrics. This particular recording was in `93 and can be found on the cd single of "Stay (Faraway So Close)" single from the Zooropa album. Bono's still insisting on the revival tent theatrics, but it's the Edge's contributions here that really light this song up as the guitarist channels his inner Hendrix. Again, it makes the original studio recording sound rather tame. Enjoy.
TITLE: "Treasure (Whatever Happened To Pete The Chop)" ARTIST: U2 RELEASE DATE: 1983
It was not the ideal day for the mission in question, but what could I do? Having borrowed my Mom's crappy Ford Taurus for the long holiday weekend, I was tasked with instructions to return it to its normal spot as my mother's "station car" (the vehicle she utilizes to shuttle herself to her Long Island abode from the train station). Now, Mom's place is in Quogue, but being that there isn't a train station in Quogue (or not anymore, at least), Mom chooses to park the car and board the train at Sayville, several towns away. She used to park at the station at Speonk (the name of this town used to make my British cousins burst out in hysterics, being that "Spunk" -- as it's arguably pronounced -- is a Britishism for semen), but after the car was broken into there a couple times, she forsook Speonk for Sayville. In any case, the Sayville L.I.R.R. station was my target destination.
I know what you're thinking: "big whoop!" Well, as I've mentioned previously, I only got my driver's license in `04. As such, I would be remiss in characterizing myself as Johnny Confident when I'm behind the wheel. Apart from an oft-alluded brush with the law -- literally -- this past Summer, my track record has been pretty good. That said, I still am rusty and easily-perplexed by certain elements of driving, and am still somewhat prone to bouts of nerves. While I feel more or less at home driving the Ford Taurus in question -- having sped it back and forth from Manhattan to Quogue several times this past Summer -- I'd never driven such a distance alone before. Usually, I had my wife acting as both a second pair of eyes and as the calm, reassuring voice of reason when the nerves set in. Yesterday, I would be flying completely solo, not to mention bound for a destination I'd never previously driven to. Sayville is about eleven exits closer to the city than Quogue, and not immediately adjacent the Long Island Expressway. To further compound matters, the weather forecast was predicting non-stop rain, making driving conditions slightly more hazardous. Grrrrrreat!
In preparation for the trip, I grabbed a clutch of stand-by compact discs. The drive in question wasn't supposed to take longer than an hour and change, but who knew what was waiting for me out on the expressway? As such, I grabbed several discs to sort of act as sonic comfort food. The disc that ended up lasting me the duration of my white-knuckled journey, however, was a home-burned compilation of U2 songs. I know, that's an awful lot of preamble to set up my discussion of this track, but I've always been interested in reading how individuals react and relate to specific songs. This is one such account.
Lots of people seem to hate U2 for any number of reasons, be it their arguable piety, their attempts at faux-irony or simply Bono and his big hearted ubiquity. I can't say I'm one of those people, though. While most of my favorite bands would gladly see U2's heads impaled on spikes (I can't imagine anything that would make Killing Joke happier, apart from maybe the apocalypse), I've always been a fan. Hell, I can't help it -- they practically scored the soundtrack of my life since adolescence. War, Under a Blood Red Sky and The Unforgettable Fire were all inescapable audio staples of my high school, and U2 were the single band everyone could agree on. I vividly remember lining up at Tower Records with my friend Rob B. to prize a copy of The Joshua Tree the day it was released. I remember slow-dancing to "With Or Without You" in a Florentine disco in July of 1987 (appallingly mimicking Bono's moves in the video -- "my hands are tied," etc.). I remember being thrilled to see the preview for the arguably abortive "Rattle and Hum" in a Queens movie house (we were there, if memory serves, to see "Aliens"). I remember seeing the Zoo TV tour four or five times (one show notably at Yankee Stadium). I remember flying to Las Vegas for the start of the PopMart tour. I even briefly interviewed Bono in 2001 for the purposes of eulogizing Joey Ramone in TIME Magazine, and he was unfailingly gracious and cool. In terms of U2, while they may have since become the antithesis of hip and/or cool, I've put in the hours and count myself among the faithful.
That all said, when pressed, I still prefer the old school U2 -- the slightly scruffier "post-punk" band who'd clearly studied their fair share of Gang of Four and Public Image Ltd. albums. I prefer to remember U2 when they wore big Cold War coats with chains on their boots, stomping through waist-deep snow with two-toned hair. I prefer the U2 before the bolo ties and the desert vistas. Give me the U2 whose guitars sound like whirring helicopter blades as opposed to the U2 that sucks up to B.B. King and Bob Dylan. I just liked U2 a bit more when they had a slightly punkier edge, pardon the pun.
Back in the car, I was feeling a bit like Dennis Weaver in Steven Spielberg's "Duel." I seemed to be the lone passenger car on a rain-slicked expressway that was otherwise ruled by vast, hulking Mack trucks. But tracks like "Another Time, Another Place," "Surrender," "Electric Co." and "Two Hearts Beat As One" (possibly my favorite ever song of theirs) had me belting along with the boys from Dublin at top volume, singing myself hoarse to quell my simmering nerves.
When this song came on, however, I was feeling positively victorious. "Treasure (Whatever Happened To Pete The Chop)" found me triumphantly rolling off exit 59 in time with the pounding strings of Adam Clayton's bass. I'd love to be able to tell you the specific backstory of this song, but I'm afraid I don't have the slightest clue about it. I first heard it as an alternate track on the import cd single of "New Years' Day." Sonically, it boasts all the band's trademarks circa 1983 -- a propulsive tempo, emphatic "whooa-ooah" harmonies, an urgent bass line and Edge's crying, chiming guitars. If anything, it's the singer's contributions to the proceedings that are the weakest link in the chain. The lyrics sound almost entirely improvised, as if Bono's trying to find his place in the song that rages around him. Given the frankly bizarre title, "Treasure (Whatever Happened To Pete The Chop)" seems like the very prototype of a b-side. Unfinished, neglected and relegated to the back burner of a stove that's no longer functioning. It's now a track seemingly solely tailored to fan-boy die-hards and collectors. As far as I'm concerned, however, it handily shits all over everything they've done since All That You Can't Blah Blah Blah as You Dismantle a Blah Blah Yawn. That's my opinion, at least.
I had to re-play this song about four times before I was done with it. In doing so, however, I managed to miss my turnoff to Route 93, an oversight which had me driving aimlessly around various grim Suffolk County backwater streets until I managed to correct myself. I pulled into the Sayville station with forty-five minutes to spare until the next train to Manhattan. I sat in the car as the drizzle continued to fall around me, still listening to those scruffy boys from Dublin.
It's relatively late on Monday night. I have a longer post in the works, but I just didn't get it together in time (look for it tomorrow). Being that we're still in the home stretch of National Blog Posting Month, I'm summarily obligated to post something every day. So in the stead of the afore-mentioned entry (it's a good'un, I promise), herewith a photo of my little son and I taken painfully early this morning. He may be feisty little bugger with an oft-furious temper and a maddening penchant for waking up before dawn, but I'll be damned if I don't absolutely love him to pieces.
I don't mean to be a big ol' Scrooge or nothin', but is it REALLY necessary to start cranking the Christmas carols already? Yes, I'm aware that Thanksgiving has passed, but can we all at least wait until we've digested our damn turkey before we're subjected to round-the-clock airings of "Sleigh Ride"? Christmas is a WHOLE MONTH FROM NOW! There'll be plenty of damn time to get your Noël on.
This is the word that best describes the long Thanksgiving Weekend. We've been here at my Mom's place in Quogue, L.I. for four nights, and not a single one of those nights has been peaceful. I'm not sure if it's the cold, or the unfamiliarity with their surroundings or if they're simply possessed, but Charlotte and Oliver have both patently refused to sleep through the entirety of night. As such, we've had to haul them into bed with us, which usually means that no one gets any sleep.
As I type this, the rest of the family are mercifully playing catch-up in the sleep department after another frustrating night, but I have a hard time napping when the sun is high in the sky, so I'm taking this moment to enjoy the silence. Meanwhile, this song has been rumbling through my head since the first, endless night out here. Play it loud, but for god's sake don't wake the kids!