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.
As I mentioned way back on this post from 2008, as much as I’ve tried to branch out, my tastes are pretty narrow when it comes to reading material.
I’d love to say that I’m broadly well-read when it comes to the more celebrated books of the day, but it’s just not true. If you’re looking to engage in a discussion about today’s most incisive fiction, you’re much better off speaking with my wife (who works in publishing) than one such as I. Truthfully, I’ve pretty much lost my taste for fiction almost entirely. Unless I have some vested interest (like, say, I know the author or it’s about something near and dear to me), I usually cannot muster up the interest to crack the binding.
As a result, whenever I’m perusing through the aisles of a bookstore (when I can still find one, that is), you are more than likely to find me striding right past the "new fiction" and “best sellers” tables and right back towards the predictable neck of the woods: music.
I can’t help it. Apart from books about New York City and a naggingly disquieting fascination with true crime, the tomes that fire my imagination are almost always music-related, be they memoirs, tell-alls, oral histories or slavishly detailed accounts of the recording of seminal albums. I love that stuff. Always have.
“Anger is An Energy: My Life Uncensored" by John Lydon Okay, this one was indeed kind of a no-brainer (even if it’s the second book Lydon’s written on ultimately the very same subject). I remember reading “Rotten: No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish” when it first came out — me being a huge fan of both the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd. — and frankly finding it, well, a bit dull. “Anger is an Energy” hits many of the same marks as the previous book, but it feels a bit more relaxed and conversational, rife with Lydon’s own grammatical quirks. In that capacity, it feels quite intimate.
By the same token, however, I found “Anger…." sorely in need of a countering opinion. I mean, granted — yes, it’s the storied punk provocateur’s own account of proceedings, but all too often the narrative suggests that Lydon himself was the sole voice of reason and compassion throughout his entire life. While I have great respect for the man’s convictions, the book feels like something of a laborious humblebrag. He pulls few punches when it comes to predictable targets like Nancy Spungen, Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood (ever the villains), but he has no shortage of surprisingly disreputable things to say about folks like Ari-Up of the Slits (his daughter-in-law), Joe Strummer of the Clash and pretty much all the former members of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd.
Having never walked a mile in the man’s shoes, I shouldn’t judge too harshly. His loyalty and devotion to wife Nora and best friend/minder John Rambo are admirable. By the latter end of the book (detailing his forays into reality television), I started to drift, but obviously — it’s a required reading for the fans. Now, if only he published it after the Virgin credit card story surfaced — I’d love to hear him explain that one.
“Freedom of Choice” by Evie Nagy I can’t say I knew what to expect when I picked this one up. I’m a huge fan of the 33 1/3 series, but they can be uneven from time to time (for every amazing one — like Erik Davis’ trek through Led Zeppelin IV or D.X. Ferris’ take on Slayer’s Reign in Blood — there can be a clunker like Colin Meloy’s botched attempt at Let It Be by the Replacements). But given my devout (sorry) adoration for Devo, I couldn’t say no.
Put simply, I’d go as far as to say that Nagy’s is the most authoritative book on the band published to date (and believe me, I’ve read plenty of them). It’s no coincidence that it’s also the only book that the band’s members have endorsed and leant their services to.
Regardless, Nagy totally “gets it” and goes endearingly in depth. It’s great stuff from top to bottom. Go get it.
“How To Be a Man (and Other Illusions)” By Duff McKagan To be honest, under normal circumstances, I never would have given this title a second glance. While they were perfectly fine, Guns N’ Roses were never anything all that special, in my opinion (see also Nirvana in that same respect). Sure, I bought Appetite for Destruction when it came out, but let’s please come back to earth, shall we? They weren't exactly pushing any envelopes.
That all said, Duff McKagan has always struck me as the coolest gent in the band. True to form, I read an excerpt from this book somewhere wherein he cited the albums he found crucial, and I was pretty captivated by his choices. As such, I picked up the book.
Essentially a self-help guide for men (as its title suggests), “How To…” documents McKagan’s journey towards sobriety and family domesticity after years of perilous drug-&-drink intake. If you’re looking for salacious details, you won’t really find them, but Duff is candid about his own failings and thoughtfully humble throughout.
For my money, I think the most eye-opening part of the book was how Duff decided to put himself through school after cleaning up. If you’d ever seen any interviews with the man circa the glory days of G’N’R, you probably wouldn’t consider Duff a Rhodes scholar, but in the disciplined re-allignment of his life, the former hell-raiser evidently developed a passion of knowledge. Even more illuminating than his list of crucial albums is his reading list.
The book isn’t exactly a heavy lift, but I found Duff’s story surprisingly endearing. I wish I could sum it up with something pithily snarky, but there it is.
“Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear)” By Jon Fine Originally, I wasn’t going to read this, based on some age-old conclusions that its author — former Bitch Magnet guitarist Jon Fine — was something of a dick. By his own admission, this is arguably the case, but after reading a few reviews of the book online, I decided to spring for it.
Having just finished it, I must happily report that it’s the best book of this bunch and one of the most enjoyable things I’ve read in a long damn time.
In retrospect, if Jon Fine genuinely is a dick, then — by god — so am I. The parallels between his life experience and mine are dizzying, and our sensibilities are disarmingly aligned.
In “Your Band Sucks,” Fine details his youth as something of a disgruntled misfit who found solace and belonging in music most folks dismissed or misunderstood. Not content for it to be just a side-dish to his life, Fine dove headlong into this particular subculture.
Having myself grown up as a comparable misfit equally besotted with music many found unpalatable, I immediately found Fine's story resonant. Attending Ohio's Oberlin College during the same four years I attended Denison University (also in Ohio), Fine took his own preoccupation with music a step further than I and formed his own band, the aforementioned Bitch Magnet.
The rest of "Your Band Sucks" tracks the course of Fine's fractious tenure with that trio, his stints with other bands like Vineland and the improvisational Coptic Light, his reluctant surrender to the rigors of a career outside of music, and then the unlikely reactivation of Bitch Magnet. Along the way, Fine is hilarious, self-effacing, candid, insightful and refreshingly not at all afraid to be fiercely emphatic about his convictions or give a few swift kicks to some select sacred cows (a man after my own heart in that capacity).
As I mentioned back in this post, Fine also shares my suffering in the hearing department, and is similarly saddled (unrepentantly) with Tinnitus. Like I said, this book was right up my street, and I highly recommend it.
What's next? Well, I've been eyeing the new 33 1/3 book on Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables by Dead Kennedys, but it looks a bit more textbooky than fun. We'll see. I've also been thinking about "The First Collection of Criticism by a Female Rock Critic" by Jessica Hopper, but -- honestly -- the "bully for me" title doesn't bode well. I realize that interpretation probably wasn't the author's intention, but her failure to come up with a more accurate, clever and/or compelling title (one that, say, puts the accent on subject matter over authorship) would have been preferable. Just sayin'.
But, y'know, being that I ultimately enjoy reading things that piss me off, I'll probably spring for it.
You may remember a couple of days ago, I posted the above picture -- taken by Pat Blashill -- of the estimable brothers Ramone circa the mid-90's, striding manfully down one Manhattan byway or another. In typical fashion, I threw the question out there -- who can name that street?
Apart from a stab by a grade school pal of mine named Chuck, answers were few and far between. As such, I pinged my compatriots Chung Wong and Bob Egan (the latter of the always-excellent PopSpots) to see if they could nail it down.
In typically swift course, Bob hit me back with the following:
In this outtake they are on the northwest corner of 25th street and 10th avenue, In your photo they are on the north side of 25th walking east about to go under the Highline. Gabba Gabba Hey!
To be specific...
That's yet another one solved by Egan. Good work, Bob.
For years, I’ve considered doing a post about my favorite “yeahs” in music.
Yeah, you read that right.
I’m specifically talking about those emphatic moments wherein an artist is so caught up in the proceedings that he/she can’t help themselves from augmenting the song with an extra bit of monosyllabic emphasis.
The trouble with this idea — beyond it being irretrievably trivial — is that I could never find all the clips readily available on YouTube at any single time.
The list has also kept changing. There are some I’d initially thought of reluctantly including (specifically two lamentably 90’s choices — Layne Staley’s clipped “yeah” during the guitar break in “Them Bones” by Alice and Chains and Billy Corgan’s towards the climax of “Siva” by the Smashing Pumpkins … two bands I’ve really never been especially thrilled with), that I later entirely jettisoned.
As such, I never bothered to do a post. This afternoon, however, following a spirited discussion with a friend over some mid-afternoon beers at Vazac’s Horseshoe Bar on Avenue B regarding the under-praised merits of Flaming Pablum favorites Cop Shoot Cop, I did some perusing around YouTube.
It’s not so much a list as, well, a pair, but here are my two favorite “yeahs."
First is Tod [A]’s gravelly segue into the full, belligerent blossom of the live version of “Shine On, Elizabeth,” originally from the “Room 429” e.p. Hear it at precisely 0:22, ushering in the clanky clamor of Cop Shoot Cop at their most feral.
My second is from the live bonus disc that initially accompanied 1998’s The Best of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.” Towards the climax of a particularly rousing trek through “Red Right Hand,” Mr. Cave emphatically declares his hearty endorsement of the band’s execution at precisely 04:47. It never fails to get my blood goin’.
A couple of weeks back, you may remember a post in which I introduced a new, adjunct Tumblr site to this blog, dubbed Loud Laundry. Given my long-standing obsession with rock t-shirts (and the crucial protocol for the sporting of same, scrupulously documented in a category here called Opinionated Rants about T-shirts), I unveiled this labor-intensive photo collection of my strenuously silly array of band t-shirts. Apart from one or two members of my inexplicably devout readership, Loud Laundry was largely greeted by a deafening chorus of lethargic crickets.
Enter Steve Birnbaum.
About two weeks ago, I was waiting to pick up my kids from school when suddenly a man brandishing a very serious camera and curious collection of tattoos appeared out of nowhere, asking if he could take my picture. He went on to explain that he’d recently started a new project online about rock t-shirts, and being that I was wearing a black 7 Seconds/Agnostic Front shirt, I fit the bill. I, of course, lit up like a pinball machine and started rapturously extolling the merits of rock t-shirt appreciation and unsolicitedly regaled him with a pitch about this blog and Loud Laundry. We became fast allies.
I love the photos, concept and execution of Steve’s site, but I find some of the entries frustrating, mostly the few wherein those sporting the shirts sheepishly admit that “I’m not really a fan, I just think it fits really well.” As you know, that sends me right into orbit.
You can find Steve’s site, Band of Shirts here (I’ll let you find my picture in there).
Here’s an uncharacteristically jocular photo of the last incarnation of the Ramones on the mean streets of Manhattan, taken by the great Pat Blashill — who, you might remember, I spoke with on this post — probably towards the end of their run in the mid-90's.
Pat actually snapped a series of shots around this same location. I have my theories about where this shot was taken (maybe not too far from Pat's old stomping grounds?), but I’m going to put it to you.
I went to meet an old friend from college for a beer last night. He lives in Salt Lake City now, but was in town on business and staying somewhere “on the fringes of TriBeCa.” As such, I suggested meeting him at the age-old standby, The Ear Inn, over on the westernmost edges of Spring Street.
On my way over, however, I was very saddened to spot that the Emerald Pub — formerly on the corner of Spring and Renwick — had evidently closed up shop. I have no idea when that actually happened, but it makes me sad, although probably not for the reasons ya might think.
Truthfully speaking, there wasn’t anything especially distinctive about the Emerald Pub. I certainly drank a few beers there a time or two, although if I was ever on that particular strip, I was inevitably bound for the strenuously superior Ear Inn, or McGovern’s across the way (when it was still there) or raucous rawk club, Don Hill’s further down the block (also gone). The Emerald Pub was ultimately just a generic Irish bar … with a secret.
The Emerald Pub was still special to me, because it was the spot that Martin Scorsese used to stage scenes in “After Hours” as the Terminal Bar. You might remember it looking like this….
Not sure what’s slated to open there next. Maybe it’ll be another bar that seeks to pay homage to the address’ fleeting cinematic significance.
And just like that, the kids are out of school. Goodbye to 3rd and 5th grades, hello summer vacation!
Regardless of my regrettably ongoing struggle to get re-situated into the workforce of responsible, sentient and financially solvent adults, the amount of time I’ll be afforded to bloviate boorishly about any number of topics here on Flaming Pablum might be slightly curtailed in the days to come, given the responsibilities of wrangling my little twosome full-time (although it very well may result in more photographs of C & O posing unwittingly in front of landmarks of very dubious significance around New York City).
Between looking after my kids and continuing the job search, all I ask is that you bear with me.
It’s a park we happen to walk by every day on the way to and back from school.
Early on, I had to explain to my kids that, well, we just aren’t welcome inside the well-appointed black gates of Gramercy Park because, we don’t live in the immediate vicinity.
I’m not sure of the exact protocol, but — as I’ve always understood it, anyway — to be eligible to enter this highly coveted patch of well-coiffured urban verdancy, one must be a bona fide resident of the surrounding community (or a guest of the Gramercy Park Hotel) to be given a key to enter. Unless you can claim to live off the comely square itself, …. tough tits, toots ... you ain’t gettin’ in.
As such, I always feel a twinge of envy and, frankly, resentment when I spy someone lounging inside Gramercy Park. I can’t be the only petty person that feels that way. Can I?
About a month or so back, I was walking back from school with my kids and rounding the corner of East 21st Street onto Gramercy Square. As we crossed over onto the park-side of the street, we watched a large man in some strikingly ill-fitting track pants leisurely exit the gate on the eastern side of the park. The door did not fully close as he ambled south. It stopped just short of its latch.
Wordlessly, I locked eyes with my kids. My little Charlotte even deftly moved into position towards the entrance, silently ready to slip inside. At the last possible moment, however, Johnny Trackpants paused, corrected himself and jogged back to firmly close the gate behind him, entirely oblivious to the reality that the elite sanctity of the private park to which he was privy had come perilously close to being breached by keyless infidels such as we.
This all begs a serious question, though: Is there an actual penalty for being caught in Gramercy Park without a key? Is it essentially trespassing?
When we heard that gate firmly click shut and lock, my kids and I discreetly exhaled in frustration.
I’ve clearly been doing this sort of thing too long if I’m suddenly now doing it subconsciously.
Yesterday afternoon, I took the kids out for some ice cream (one does this a lot on hot days when the kids get out of school at 11:45). Afterwards, we found ourselves aimlessly wandering around the Village. On our slow meander home, we took a stroll down iconic Gay Street. Upon passing a pair of distinctive doors, I asked my kids to go sit on the steps.
I just thought it made for an interesting picture, but my old comrade Be Bop from the New York Review of Record days spotted it on Facebook and matched it with this sleeve from 1972 by American folk duo, Aztec Two-Step (who I cannot say I am even remotely familiar with).