There’s a great line in “What Happened to Smith?” by Life in a Blender, one of my favorite anti-gentrication anthems (about Brooklyn, no less) wherein vocalist Don “Ralph” Rauf, incensed by the encroachment of insufferable affluents into his age-old neighborhood, loudly laments “I’ll wait it out by the Gowanus, I’ll wait for the scene to shift. I’ll take the stench of the canal, over what happened to Smith.”
Gowanus. The very name is a grim punchline, conjuring images of a desolate, polluted industrial wasteland, an unimpeachable no-go zone.
It was for arguably this very reason that maverick producer Martin Bisi first opened his fabled recording studio, BC Studio, in Gowanus in 1979. The urban decay and virtual lawlessness of the area in that era made the East Village just across the river seem like Club Med, but it was here that Bisi and a coterie of like-minded individuals forged a hotbed of experimental sound, unwittingly giving birth to Hip Hop and a haven for New York’s once-burgeoning post-punk scene, ruled by Sonic Youth, SWANS, Foetus and, of course, Cop Shoot Cop.
As you may have heard by this point, there is now an excellent documentary out about BC Studio directed by Ryan Douglas and Sara Leavitt. From the first moment I heard about it last year, I was totally psyched for it, being that so many of my favorite records were inexorably linked to Martin Bisi’s story. In any event, it’s out now, and you can rent or buy it off YouTube, I believe. If you’re a fan of the crap I’m in awe of like Cop Shoot Cop and SWANS, it’s mandatory viewing. SEEK IT OUT.
Here’s the trailer.
In any case, I finally got to see it today, and it’s fucking amazing. But there was one little detail that just about blew me right off the porch, and it comes with a backstory.
As mentioned in this very windy post, I first became aware of New York City’s own Cop Shoot Cop back at the dawn of the 90’s. I’d initially been assigned to interview the then-notorious ensemble by a free weekly called New York Perspectives (long dead). Contrary to their fearsome reputation, I found the guys in the band to be thoughtful, grounded and funny individuals, and I became a swift and ardent fan of theirs, catching their shows at a variety of since-closed divey music venues. This being back during a more fertile age for music, the East Village and the Lower East Side in general were awash in gig flyers (much like the ones I collected from the Rock Hotel).
Anyway, around the release of their second album, White Noise, Cop Shoot Cop played a gig at CBGB. The band was renowned for their eye-catching, provocative gig posters — often utilizing bits of striking, inflammatory imagery, and the poster for this particular show was no different. I remember a tattered copy of it being pasted up on a disused notice board outside the forbidding edifice of that since-condemned public school on East 4th between First Avenue and Avenue A. The art utilized a bit of an Anime/Manga cartoon of a screaming, angry face behind bars, with COP SHOOT COP and CBGB displayed in a bold, angular font. It was quite a striking bit of art, and I coveted it.
The trouble was, they were gone almost overnight, either ripped down or covered up by other posters. That shredded one on East 4th Street was impossible to prize (and actually stayed up for several years before the notice board itself was dismantled for whatever reason).
I became friends with the guys in Cop Shoot Cop, and former vocalist/bassist Tod [A] even gave me an armful of old posters and flyers of theirs at one point, but this one was not among them, frustratingly.
In the ensuing years, that single Cop Shoot Cop poster became something of a holy grail for me, but I simply never saw it again. Tod [A] didn’t even remember it (and he did most if not all of the poster designs).
Maybe I’d dreamt it??
But then, as I’m watching “Sound and Chaos: The Story of BC Studio,” there comes a discussion of a particular happening at the studio wherein Cop Shoot Cop and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion partook in some sort of jam session. In a bit of archival footage from the event, they show a snippet of an interview with Spencer, and what’s on the wall behind the couch they’re sitting on?? THAT GODDAMN POSTER!!
Here it is closer up….albeit only the bottom half.
Anyway, that really blew a new part in my hair. If you have a copy of this poster — get in touch, `COS I WANT IT