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 hated "Heartbreak Beat" when it came out. I'd already been a dyed-in-the-wool Psychedelic Furs fan, enchanted by their mix of hook-laden pop, Bowie-ish melodrama and punk-informed simplicity, and smitten with virtually perfect singles like "Love My Way." And comparable to their fellow countrymen in The Clash, while the Furs were still a British band, there was something inherently New York about them as well (although in a completely different way than Messrs. Strummer, Jones, Simonon et al.) Where the Clash latched onto New York's burgeoning hip-hop community, the `Furs -- with their arty drone and aura of languid cool -- seemed like a progression from New York's own Velvet Underground (although I suppose Sonic Youth probably has a greater claim to that). Richard Butler and Tim Butler (the band's fraternal core) even lived on St. Marks Place -- across the street from one another, I believe -- for a number of years. To this day, listening to Talk Talk Talk, Forever Now and their entirely underrated, eponymous debut instantly remind me of walking around the then-still rough hewn, art-slathered streets of SoHo in the early 80s.
It wasn't to last, of course, and I blame John Hughes. After appropriating "Pretty in Pink" for the title of one of his less-realized films (what? Am I wrong? "Pretty in Pink" is no "Sixteen Candles," much less "Breakfast Club," although it does trump "Some Kind of Wonderful"), the `Furs suddenly experienced an uptick in exposure, and got a rigorous makeover to suit it. By the time of 1987's Midnight to Midnight (the album which spawned the single, "Heartbreak Beat"), the band's sound had become polished and overproduced and it looked like they started taking wardrobe tips from Liza Minelli and Judas Priest. I remember buying the album during my sophomore year of college and being veritably heartbroken, appropriately enough.
Where before their music either pulsed pugnaciously or arrived majestically, this record oozed out of my speakers like a viscous syrup (not in a good way). Another great band ruined.
I dutifully appended "Heartbreak Beat" to the mixtapes I was making at the time, but I never truly warmed to it. The video below, I imagine, was meant to convey the wild, hedonistic spirit of the band's adopted New York City, but much like the record that spawned it, it's all over-stylized and inorganic. See below.
I've talked about it in greater depth before, but to really see the `Furs in New York City, you have to rewind back to "Run and Run" off Forever Now, which shows both the band and Manhattan in a far more realistic (and endearing) light.
To be fair, the band did manage one more great single after Midnight to Midnight, that being the sublime "All That Money Wants."
A few years back, EV Grieve and I ran a succession of posts wherein we attempted to see how many videos and album covers we could cite which featured New York City. Honestly, I can't remember if we covered this one or not, but I don't believe we did. So, here it is now.
This is, of course, the White Stripes in a very stylish clip by Michael Gondry, performing "The Hardest Button to Button" in and around the upper tip of Manhattan circa 2003. Seems like yesterday, oddly.
Fair point, I thought, but I'm still sad about it. The whole episode got me thinking about some of the other great, divey bars that used to pepper this fine city's shadowy backstreets and less lustrous avenues.
Sure, I've repeatedly lamented the vanishing of my beloved Cedar Tavern, the dissolution of the P&G and the gutting of the collapsed former-speak-easy Chumley's here on many an occasion, but in this instance, I'm talking more about the less established drinking institutions. Here's a quick list -- in no particular order -- of some of my old favorites. Don't bother looking for them today, as they're all gone.
1. Alcatraz (132 St. Marks Place): It's a brightly-painted sushi bar today, but back in the late 80's and into the 90's, this corner of Avenue A was home to an endearingly seedy joint that catered to acolytes of all things loud, boozy and rude. Largely patronized by the East Village's populace of punks, bikers, metalheads and barflies, Alcatraz was a regular stop for my friend Rob and I. Of course, it didn't last. By the way, I prized the photo above from this weblog.
2. The Hog Pit (22 9th Avenue): I already wrote a lengthy post about this favorite place of mine. Today, much like the neighborhood that surrounds it, it's gone pointedly upscale as an outlet of Billy's Burger Bar. They opened a new incarnation of the Hog Pit over in the 20s between Sixth and Fifth Avenues, but I'm just not really interested in that. As far as I'm concerned, the Hog Pit is dead.
3. Siberia Bar: (West 50th Street 1 or 9 stop/40th Street & 9th Avenue): There were actually two incarnations of Siberia, and I miss them both quite a bit. The original one was tucked discreetly away in a subway station right near my old office at TIME Magazine. Legend has it that this tiny little space used to be a clandestine meeting place for KGB agents during the Cold War. It was here in this decrepit closet that they'd exchange microfilm and secrets about national security, like some creepy scene in "Marathon Man" or "Three Days of the Condor." In any case, sometime in the 90's, the place was opened up as a disarmingly intimate but incredibly cool dive bar (with an amazing juke box) that was decked out in entirely in Russian art and Soviet propaganda posters. It was just way too cool.
Typically, it didn't last. Today, that space plays host to either a Subway sandwich shop or a Dunkin' Donuts, and it's a damn shame. In any case, the proprietor of Siberia moved to a great new location in Hell's Kitchen that was vast compared to its former locale. I had my doubts about it, but it ended up being just as cool, albeit in a different way, than its previous incarnation. There was, however, a strange policy wherein they'd actually throw you out of the place for cursing and/or gratuitously hitting on women. I'm not kidding. They'd totally do it. Regardless, they closed the place in 2007.
Here's a little documentary about the original location. Enjoy:
4. Bellevue Bar (538 Ninth Avenue): The Bellevue was a truly enjoyable place right around the corner from the second location of Siberia. I believe there was a rumor that there was a secret passage that connected to two, but who knows? In any case, this was yet another place with an awesome jukebox and a cool vibe. My fondest memory of the Bellevue is pumping the jukebox full of coin and watching a retired mailman in his sixites frug like a madman to "Mother" by Danzig. This place was so goddamn cool. And, of course, it's gone. The awesome photo above comes from this MySpace page.
5. Scrap Bar (116 MacDougal Street): The Scrap Bar, in retrospect, was a bit goofy, but in the early 90's, it was quite a scene. High on style, it was not at all uncommon to run into local heavy metal luminaries hanging about. Losing the Scrap Bar wasn't the end of the world, but I did kinda enjoy it for a little while. The lovely photo above comes courtesy of this weblog.
6. King Tut's Wah-Wah Hut (112 Avenue A at 7th Street) After it was hardcore hotbed A7 and before it was Jesse Malin's Niagara (which it continues to be today), this corner space on the edge of Tompkins Square Park was a funky, arty little bar called King Tut's Wah Wah Hut. Much like many of the other bars cited here, the accent was on rock. I remember propping up the bar one night and hearing "You Got Another Thing Comin'" by Judas Priest come on, and the entirety of the establishment's patronage began banging their heads in unison. It was a beautiful thing. Speaking of beautiful things, see more amazing photos of King Tut's at this Facebook page.
I know I'm omitting a veritable ton of other spots. Some other old, vanished faves include Barramundi and the Ludlow Street Cafe on Ludlow Street, McGovern's on Prince Street, The Village Idiot on West 14th Street, Downtown Beirut and The Lismar Lounge on First Avenue (pictured up at the top of this post), Beowulf on Avenue A, McHale's on Eighth Avenue and many, many more.
While I grew up on the Upper East Side, I vividly remember the SoHo of that era, and it was indeed pretty gritty and desolate. I believe I’ve mentioned it before, but a graphic designer friend of my family used to remark that on warmer weekends, they’d periodically string a large volley-ball net across the expanse of West Broadway, given the paucity of traffic in those days. Surreal, eh?
Strangely enough, John Leland was largely the reason I went into journalism (so,y’know …blame him!) He wrote for SPIN magazine in the late `80s, and I found his writing so inspiring that I pursued an internship there in 1989 (which I wrote about here). Leland ended up being kind of an unfriendly nebbish, but hey – I was an intern. No one likes interns.
It's been a busy week, so sorry for the sparsity of meaningful content here. I promise to have some click-worthy material up soonest. In the interim, please bear with me.
That all said, I was chatting yesterday with my co-worker Drew, and we started ruminating on what an under-praised gem "Desperately Seeking Susan" is. That's right, you read that right. Sure, it's a Madonna movie (if not the the first Madonna movie), but it's actually pretty damn great (and I'll take it over "Evita" or "Truth or Dare" or "Who's That Girl?" or "Swept Away" or "Dick Tracy" or .....). If only she'd given up after this film!
Disregarding the fact that it stars the material girl, "Desperately Seeking Susan" features a host of coolster cameos, notably Richard Hell, Arto Lindsay, Anne Magnuson, Steven Wright and Rockets Redglare. I'm sure I'm omitting someone important there. There are also some tantalizingly fleeting shots of the East Village of yore and the interiors of Danceteria. In a way, the film serves as an excellent love letter to NYC. If you haven't watched it in a while, give it a glimpse, do.
Herewith a video from an instrumental on its soundtrack which will probably ring a bell, fitting titled "New York City By Day."
Because I'm ultimately a slow, stupid and easily-distracted reader, it took me forever and a day to finally finish Simon Reynolds' excellent-if-strenuously-depressing "Retromania" (which I wrote about here), but it was truly worth it. In any case, I've currently sank my fangs into the less intellectually-challenging but equally entertaining "Commando," the autobiography of Johnny Ramone.
True to the late guitar-slinger's notorious style, Johnny's prose is dry, succinct and largely devoid of sentiment. His blunt insights are pretty hilarious on occasion (whether that's intentional is debatable). Every now and then, Ramone betrays his famously frowny demeanor and says something from the heart. I was bemused, for example, to learn that he considered fabled KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer a "sweet guy" -- who knew "sweet" was in Ramone's vocabulary? But for the most part (or so far, at least -- I'm about halfway through), Johnny comes across as the iron-willed control freak and needlessly disagreeable punk icon of yore. While lovably cartoony in that capacity, make no mistake -- through much of the book, he reveals himself to be a stubborn, insensitive bastard and a hatefully intolerant xenophobe, albeit fiercely loyal and pointedly consistent. I imagine that he must have been quite a challenge to deal with during the Ramones' glory days.
Obviously, if you're a fan, "Commando" is required reading, but the book also features some amazing photographs and is rife with Johnny's hilarious top ten lists. Go check it out.
Robert Longo's iconic Men in Cities illustrations -- thirty-plus years after their debut -- now seem synonymous and symptomatic of the fabled New York City of the 1980s. Those stark, impeccably tailored figures depicted in isolated moments of frenetic distress captured the imagination of the era. Rendered in vivid realism, those flailing bodies begged lots of compelling questions. What was causing such tribulation? What unseen force was provoking these sharply-dressed specimen to part with their cultivated cool? Pain? Passion? Dance? Allergies?
Bursting the bubble a little bit on that mystery comes this newly-released series of photographs by Longo himself that the artist utilized as models for Men in Cities. Removed from the glaring black and white context of the later illustrations, these figures in now-familiar poses lose their surreal power.
I first spotted this article by way of the This Isn't Happiness Tumblr, an essential clearinghouse of images that captivate both eye and mind.