I’ve written about 99 Records a few times here (most recently here), but have mostly concentrated on the wonders of their former brick and mortar outlet at 99 Bleecker Street (hence their name).
Sure, they were a great little shop that stocked an inspirational array of records that you weren’t going to find, at the time, at your local Sam Goody. But there was so much more to 99 than simply being a great punky record shop. They didn’t just sell records, they made their own!
My friend Tim B. over at Stupefaction recently unearthed an amazing little interview with 99 Records’ mainmain Ed Bahlman, wherein he expounds on his impetus to start his own record label back in the day. 99 Records, of course, became the label that released inimitable music by bands like the Bush Tetras (above), Liquid Liquid, Glenn Branca, ESG and more.
Even if you’re not an esoterica-crazed music-head, the interview with Bahlman paints a vivid picture of the downtown NYC music scene and aesthetic of the mid 80’s. Honestly speaking, it’s hard to listen to Bahlman’s somewhat world-weary description of the struggle his bands faced without thinking how much more interesting NYC (or, at least, Manhattan) was at that time, compared to the staid city of today. But, y’know, that’s me being an old man again.
Along the way, you also hear some of 99’s greatest hits. Below are my favorites.