Like many of my favorite posts here on Flaming Pablum, what started off as essentially a lark turned into something of a time-consuming fixation. I breezily concocted this photo quiz in haste last week as a means of finally clearing my desktop of various pics I'd culled off the internet of favorite bands of mine posing on the streets of New York City. I'm not entirely sure why, but given my juvenile obsession with music and my fetishistic view of my ever-changing city, it seemed like the thing to do. I then posed the challenge to you -- the "user" -- to name the personages involved, the addresses depicted and the photographers responsible. Fun for my fellow sniveling music dorks and slavishly pedantic knowitalls ensued aplenty.
The problem, however, arose when it came time to pinpoint the exact locations pictured in the photographs. In most instances, I knew the exact spots. In others, however, I wasn't so sure. Wanting to be thorough, I started trying to divine the precise locations of the unsolved pictures. Given that the most recent photograph here is already two decades old and the amount of changes this city has seen in as many years, it's a wonder any of these locations still bear even the slightest resemblance at all to their incarnations in the 70's and 80's (when most of these shots were taken). As such, some of the questions remain frustratingly unsolved. Perhaps you can fill in the blanks?
Anyway, here are the answers, such as they are......
1. The New York Dolls on St. Marks Place (I think)
I probably shouldn't have started with this one, as I'm honestly not entirely positive where this shot was taken. It is, of course, a photo of The New York Dolls, taken from the same shoot by Bob Gruen that produced this fabled photo on the corner of St. Marks Place and Second Avenue in front of Gem Spa. Just a few years later, photographer Roberta Bayley reprised the famous photo (see question 8 below), finding the Dolls looking a little less celebratory and flamboyant. If you look closely, though, over on the right side of that shot (i.e. just a yard or so to the west back down St. Mark's Place), you'll see a row of five old school phone booths. I'm betting that these are the same phone booths pictured in the shot above.
Today, the wall where those phone booths would be is covered up by another structure that protrudes out onto the sidewalk. I can't remember if it's a t-shirt shop or a bong emporium, but it completely blocks the wall where those phone booths would have been. Below, however, is a picture of me in approximately the equivalent spot, albeit looking not nearly as glam.
2. Blondie on the southwest corner of West 30th Street & 8th Avenue
If you look closely at this photo, you can actually see the street sign giving away the location (just to the right of keyboardist Jimmy Destri's neck). What Blondie were doing on this rather yawnsome strip of 8th Avenue is a complete mystery to me. Were they opening for someone at nearby Madison Square Garden (or its accompanying Felt Forum)? Who knows? I found this photo originally on Tumblr, but it didn't come with any information, much less a photographer's credit, so I don't know too much else about it.
Today, this exact spot remains pretty dull. There's now a mailbox on the spot where bassist Nigel Harrison's sneakers are resting. The hotel in the background, however, is still in business.
3. Various members of the No Wave mob (including Kristian Hoffman of the Mumps, artist/filmmaker Diego Cortez, Contortions' manager/scene-maker Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos of Teenage Jesus, Bradley Field of Teenage Jesus and filmmaker Liz Seidman) hanging out on Bowery at Bleecker Street, in front of CBGB in the summer of 1978
Just for posterity, the dude on the far left in the Roxy Music t-shirt (the girls from the cover of Country Life) is evidently named Harold. This photo is by Godlis, and I've always thought it was completely cool.
Today, the Bowery is an entirely different place (see this recent post for details of same). CBGB is, of course, long gone, as are most of the surrounding concerns pictured above. Below is a shot of me standing in that same spot today. Not quite as cool, alas.
4. Arto Lindsay, Ikue Mori and Tim Wright of D.N.A. standing on the north point where Madison Street meets St. James Place
Of all the shots to track down, this one was probably my favorite, taken by © Laura Levine. I originally believed the location to be the corner of Grand Street and East Broadway. But when I made the long trek down there to photograph it, it was immediately clear that said assumption was incorrect. That corner isn't nearly as sharp and pointed as the one in the photo. I walked around down there for a while, vainly hoping to stumble across it, but came up empty. Later that same day, I connected the dots by looking at a map of the Lower East Side and discovered that there was another pointed corner just a little ways south. I raced back down the Bowery, veering to the left on St James Place to where it intersects with Madison Street, and there it was.
The building itself has recently been remodeled, but the pronounced apex where DNA stood is still very much recognizable. Two accommodating Australian tourists graciously snapped the picture of me (looking unnervingly portly) there below. Levine also captured the Violent Femmes on this very same corner in 1983.
5. Jodie Foster and Robert DeNiro as Iris and Travis in 'Taxi Driver' on East 13th, just east of Third Avenue
This one is a bit of a no-brainer. I think what makes it distinctive for me is that Gothic Cabinet Craft (the furniture signage pictured on the far, southwest corner behind them) is still there today. Below is me in approximately that same spot.
6. Kid Creole & the Coconuts in ... Midtown? Chelsea? Flatiron District?
Here’s another one that’s proven to be frustratingly elusive. Unfortunately, once again, I have no idea who took this photograph. I’d originally suspected that the picture was taken on the southwest corner of Broadway and East 21st street, but that turned out not to be the case, alas. Given the height of the buildings in the background, and especially the recessed “stepped” building in the very back, I want to say that this particular corner is somewhere west of Fifth Avenue, probably somewhere in the 20s, 30s or 40s. I tried to spy it this morning, but had no luck.
Can you name it?
7. Television in.... the East Village?
This awesome shot of Television was *probably* taken by, once again, the amazing Godlis. I have to say "probably" as I don't have any other documentation on the photo. That said, the guys in the band are wearing the exact same outfits they were wearing in the shoot by Godlis that turned out these familiar pictures, so I can only assume it was taken on the same day. From that same shoot, there's a shot of the band walking past the Holiday Bar on St. Marks Place between 1st and 2nd avenues. As such, this particular shot might have been taken on the northwest corner of St. Marks Place and Avenue A. That particular corner looks nothing like this today (there's now, of course, a pizza joint there), but as you'll see from a shot of only a few years later taken by Brooke Smith (scroll down to the 34th pic) there was indeed a Superette on that corner. Is it the same one? I have no idea. Failing that, I believe it could also be the northeast corner of Ludlow and Rivington. Look at the architectural detail atop the second story windows behind them. Could be, right? Still.... I cannot be sure.
Is it the northwest corner of St. Marks Place & Avenue A...
...or is it the northeast corner of Ludlow & Rivington?
....or is it neither?
8. The reunited New York Dolls on St. Marks Place & Second Avenue, in front of Gem Spa
I already spilled the details on this one above. I love this particular shot (again, by Roberta Bayley) as you can see (long-gone) Free Being Records to the right...on the 2nd Avenue side behind denim-clad Johnny Thunders. Gem Spa is, of course, still there, as you'll see below.
9. Kiss on the southwest corner of West 23rd Street & 8th Avenue
Just a few blocks south of the Blondie shot above, this outtake from a photo session by Bob Gruen was originally intended as part of a fumetti for Creem Magazine, before a very similar shot from the set was chosen for the front cover of the band's third album, Dressed to Kill (which was the first record I ever bought in my life). You can read more about this sleeve here.
Below is my woeful attempt to replicate Ace Frehley's signature coolness.
10. Sonic Youth on the corner of Crosby and Howard Streets
Taken, I believe, by photographer Michael Lavine, this shot finds Sonic Youth standing at the exact corner where Griffin Dunne's Paul Hacket is dropped off in the first reel of Martin Scorsese's "After Hours." Back then, SoHo was a desolate wilderness. Nowadays, this strip is very upmarket and, sadly, devoid of character. The woodworking business the band is standing in front of (see another pic of that corner around the same ere here), is now a posh clothiers (see below).
11. The Dictators in..... ??
In retrospect, I really regret adding this one, as upon closer inspection, I don’t even think it depicts New York City. This is, of course, New York’s own Dictators – as captured by the legendary Bob Gruen -- causing trouble in the street, but which street is it? According to the Morrison Hotel gallery (who, y’know, really ought to know these things), this shot was taken in NYC, but I’ll be damned if I’ve ever seen a street sign like that `round these parts. I’d hasten to suggest that this picture actually shows the band in London, but I could be entirely mistaken. What say you?
12. The Beastie Boys (with Rick "DJ Double-R" Rubin).... somewhere around N.Y.U.
"Ugh, that could pretty much be anywhere!" So sayeth my wife upon viewing this picture of the Beastie Boys circa 1984, taken by one Josh Cheuse. While, true, it could have been taken anywhere, the architectural flourishes of the edifice of the building the boys are posing in front of are frustratingly familiar to me. Moreover, given that the band were headquartered out of Rick Rubin's NYU dorm on University Place at the time, I can't help thinking that this location must be somewhere around there. But, let me tell you, I've looked ... and I've looked (specifically for that distinctive concrete lip that AdRock and MCA are sitting on), and I keep coming up empty. I thought for a while it might be the southeast corner of East 12th Street and University Place (now the Rugby Store), but that's not it. Then, I was convinced it was the southwest corner of East 4th and Broadway (across from what was Tower Records), but that's not correct either. This has become my Holy Grail picture. But is this building even standing anymore?
As fate would have it, I found another shot by Cheuse from the same session, in front of the same building, which gives a tantalizing peek at the avenue to their right. Is that Lafayette Street? University Place? Broadway? See below.
Whoever can accurately name this spot gets a free and as-of-yet-non-existent Flaming Pablum t-shirt.