There are a couple of music videos from yesteryear that have made the rounds on this and a couple of other blogs that are noteworthy not just for the bands and tunes they showcase, but also as tiny period-pieces, preserving a fleeting glimpse of a New York City that, for all intents and purposes, just does not exist anymore. Foremost among those videos, of course, is “Too Many Creeps” by the Bush Tetras from 1980, which offers a suitably stark glimpse of downtown Manhattan at the dawn of that decade.
The video finds the band scurrying up a damp and freezing looking Bowery towards the Sunshine Hotel, a former flophouse just a few steps south of Stanton Street where they – presumably – are slated to rehearse. Spliced with scenes of the squalor of the Bowery of old and shopping on Orchard Street and in SoHo (oh if they only knew what SoHo was going to become), the Bush Tetras’ vocalist Cynthia Sley laments the sorry state of the Big Apple in decay, set to guitarist Pat Place’s choppy riffs, drummer Dee Pop’s steady beat and the late Laura Kennedy’s rubbery bass. It’s a post-punk classic, full stop.
Obviously, when you watch this video three and a half decades (oof!) later, the streets being decried are barely recognizable anymore (although there are still plenty of creeps). Believe it or not, the Sunshine Hotel on the Bowery (now next to the architecturally incongruous New Museum) may actually still be there, although it probably doesn’t visually owe much to its incarnation of 1981. There was actually an acclaimed documentary about the place in 2001.
The Bush Tetras, meanwhile, are also still a going concern. Original bassist Laura Kennedy sadly passed away from hepatitis C back in 2011, but the band have soldiered on with one Julia Murphy on bass.
The only reason I thought to bring all this back up, meanwhile, is because last week my kids and I were waiting for the Third Avenue bus to school when we were suddenly joined in our bus-anticipating vigil by a familiar looking gent. Though not exactly the sharply svelte figure in black leather at the top of this post, it was indeed none other than Bush Tetras drummer Dee Pop. Being the dork that I am, I introduced myself.
Fittingly, he looked at me like I was a creep.