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.
While I'm getting old, in the way and prone to beckoning you off my lawn, I'm attempting to stay current. As such, I've boarded the Instagram train (yes, I know...). If you're even remotedly interested, you can find my little corner of it here. There's not much to look at there now.
It’s been completely crazy couple weeks, hasn’t it? Hell, it’s been a completely crazy friggin’ year, if we’re being honest. In any case, beyond being plagued with technical problems stemming from my increasingly obsolete iMac, I’ve also been spotting lots of little things worth mentioning around the `Net that -- while cool –- maybe didn’t warrant their own posts. As such, I’ve culled them all together here in one sprawling, kickass compilation. Do enjoy.
I’ve had low expectations about the forthcoming Iggy & the Stooges album (given how shite The Weirdness was), but advance word on Ready to Die has been pretty positive (despite the ill-timed cover art, which I speculated about here). In any case, Ig and the gents blessed an elite smattering of lucky listeners to a live run-through of the album (with some oldies chucked in for good measure) for an NPR taping of Soundcheck just recently. Watch the gig here. The NPR guys also fail to understand the late Ron Asheton’s role in the band (suggesting that Mike Watt was filling in for him, when – in reality – Mike Watt initially filled in for the late Dave Alexander). Blah blah blah…
I'm frequently banging on (pardon the pun) about my favorite disbanded ensemble Cop Shoot Cop, and routinely raise the question of the whereabouts of "low-end" bassist Jack Natz. Tod's in Firewater, Phil's in SWANS, Jim Coleman's doing soundtracks, Dave's doing children's books and Steve's a Texan lawyer, but the last I'd heard about Natz was that he was lending his services to The Unsane and Lubricated Goat, but that was some time ago. Well, it seems that Phil added a link somewhat recently to the official Cop Shoot Cop page, and it turns out Natz (now back to Nantz, but still keeping Jack instead of Chris, which he went by circa his days in the Undead) is based in Red Hook, Brooklyn and promoting his art. He's actually got a show coming up in May. Check his site out here.
On a whim, I've joined GoodReads, so if you want to compare book notes, hit me up here. While we're chatting social media, you can also find my ridiculous Tumblr, Get Back to Work (filled with piles of suitably silly images) right here. Enjoy.
Lastly, here are the great Billy Duffy of the Cult and Johnny Marr of the Smiths having a bash through The Clash's rendering of "I Fought the Law." Crank it.
See that spinning thing to the left? Can you name another symbol or insignia ... with the possible exception of, maybe, the friggin' SWASTIKA ... that inspires more blind, frothy-mouthed rage? As I recently lamented on this post, I'm having serious computer issues, as my long-suffering iMac is finding it more and more difficult to pull its weight. As such, there's something of a backlog of posts that have been in the on-deck circle here, but bringing them to fruition has been difficult, given the current (and growing) limitations of my hardware.
With all this in mind, I thank you for your continued patience and interest while these things are sorted out. In the interim, please to enjoy this bracing bit of entirely appropriate Scottish Luddite angst!
I’m not sure where I first heard the term “Horse Latitudes,” but I believe it was probably courtesy of The Doors. If I understand it correctly, it's shorthand for seas that are so cripplingly calm that in order to make any progress, the heaviest cargo –- invariably the horses -- had to be thrown overboard to lighten the load. Ol’ Jim Morrison wrote a poem about the horror those unfortunate animals must have felt as their ponderous bulk plunged into the merciless deep. But in order to advance, sacrifices had to be made.
I’ve been having to do a bit of same here at the homestead (although it's significantly less dramatic than I'd imagine). After about six years of service, my long-suffering iMac is struggling. Even after clearing caches, emptying the trash and offloading heaps of heavy files to an external drive, my startup disc on my laughably outdated machine (OS X 10.5 or so) keeps filling up and wheezing like an asthmatic. It’s hugely frustrating.
Until I get this problem resolved -– either via some magic solution you, dear reader, might provide, or from shedding the bread to facilitate a proper upgrade to a new machine –- there might be a significant slowdown in activity here.
Stumbled upon via the always great J.Yuenger, click here to get to the truly inspired Liar Town USA, which had me furtively weeping with mirth all day (especially the "Trending Now" headlines). Go check it out at once.
Back by popular demand! I haven't done a Currently in Rotation post since March of 2007. In the ensuing six years, I've certainly read, watched and listened to innumerable things, but I'm just going to concentrate on what I'm currently digging. Hence the title Currently in Rotation. Let's get down to it.
TEXT: I go through long periods wherein I can't seem to find anything I want to read, and then suddenly strike oil and can't seem to find the time to read all the things that have suddenly piqued my interest. As I mentioned back on this post, over the course of the Christmas break, I read Dean Wareham's memoir, "Black Postcards," which I completely loved. That book reignited my taste for rock reads. After that, I skimmed through "In the Pleasure Groove," the autobiography of John Taylor of Duran Duran. While not quite as engaging as Dean's book, it was actually pretty good (and way more readable, for what it's worth, than Pete Townshend's strangely joyless, workmanlike memoir).
John Taylor's book took about a weekend to page through, so after that I reached for the paperback edition of Will Hermes' "Love Goes to Buildings on Fire," which purported to document arguably the most fertile period of music and culture in New York City's relatively recent history (i.e. the mid-to-late 70s). I was certainly captivated by the subject matter, but to be honest, the constant invocations of Dylan, Springsteen and Patti Smith started to bore the socks off me in pretty short order. With all due respect to Hermes (let alone the legions of friends and loyal Flaming Pablum readers who pray at those same alters), I just don't give a crap about those three artists. Sorry, there it is. Feel free to burn me in effigy, but if you want to bore me out of a room sometime soon, start telling me how Horses by Patti Smith changed your life. I'll be gone in a second.
Hungry for new material, I was suddenly deluged with options. For a start, picked up Peter Hook's new memoir, "Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division." Along with being a striking physical artifact (shrouded in black, with the subtle Saville design from Unknown Pleasure across its cover), Hook's book is everything I wanted it to be; an affable, conversational glimpse into Joy Division's back history, albeit through the admittedly biased eyes of one of its participants, fueled by a sizable dosage of sour grapes. I got about a third of the way through it before I was suddenly bestowed a copy of a friend of mine's new novel, which I felt obligated to read. As such, I put Hooky down and dutifully cracked the binding on my friend's hopeful endeavor.
When a friend asks you to read his or her book, it's kind of scary for all parties concerned. It's a bit like when a friend invites you to come see their band play or ... much worse ... come witness their rookie attempts at being a stand-up comic. You want to be supportive and encouraging, but sometimes it's hard to feign enthusiasm when the act isn't quite up to snuff. I can't imagine pouring myself into the writing of a book and then showing it to someone. I take it as the greatest complement that he wanted me to read it, as presumably that means that he values my opinion.
In any case, I'm very happy to report that I found my friend's novel totally engaging, readable and well-executed (which, honestly, was a huge relief). I'm not in a position to give further details, but when I can, I'll give it a proper recommendation here.
I've since gone back to Peter Hook's opus. On deck after that is "Poseur: A Memoir of Downtown New York City in the `90s." Obviously, with a title like that, I clearly had to pick this book up. I was excited until I spotted the author's name, Marc Spitz.
I don't believe I've ever actually met Mr. Spitz, but he and I have had several parallel experiences. Younger than me by only a couple of years, Spitz also started off as an intern at SPIN (although after my fleeting tenure there). Unlike me, however, Spitz managed to climb the ladder and become a proper writer for the magazine and summarily went onto quasi-fame in the rock writer demographic. I too continued to travel in those circles, but more as a lower-profile bottom-feeder compared to Spitz, who seems to have capitalized on the experience.
In all candor, his memoir will probably make me simultaneously angry, envious and bitterly pedantic about meaningless minutia about music and NYC, but I'm gong to withhold judgement for the moment (or at least until I've actually read the book). While I may have several preconceptions about Spitz (I'm automatically wary of anyone who publishes fiction with titles cribbed from Smiths' lyrics), how many books can I claim to have published, eh? Zero. Zilch. So hats off to Marc Spitz. I look forward to reading this book. Look for a review of it when I'm done.
FILM: My wife and kids quite recently spent a week with my mother-in-law down in Texas, leaving me to fend for m'self here in the big bad city. As such, on one of my free afternoons, I took the opportunity to do something I rarely get to do; go to the movies. I mean, we still see lots of films, but there's a very sharp difference between watching a movie on your couch and actually sitting down in a dark theater.
That afternoon, it was a toss-up between Peter Jackson's invariably interminable trek through "The Hobbit" (I gather he's going to stretch that single book into three films, a stunt that seems somewhat needless) or this strangely timed documentary on the late Ed Koch called ... wait for it ... "Koch." I chose the latter, and I'm damn glad I did. Check out the trailer below.
DVD: It's only been six years since I've done one of these, but already these subcategories seem so quaintly dated. I mean, I'm very old school, but does anyone else actually watch DVDs anymore? I mean, I do, but it seems the rest of the world is more fixated with streaming and "on demand" and whatnot. In any case, being that I do still unapologetically buy DVDs, the last two I got my grubby little mitts on were the Criterion Collection edition of "Gray's Anatomy" by Spalding Gray (I consider myself an ardent Gray acolyte and endeavor to track down all of his available works) and I finally picked up a copy of the sprawling Alice Donut documentary, "Freaks in Love." Did I need to own this film? Not really, but I'm damn glad I saw it. I only wish certain other bands had films this detailed devoted to them. It certainly made me dig out my old Alice Donut albums again.
WEBSITE: By this stage of the proceedings, I'm encountering cool new blogs, Tumblrs and websites all the time. The last one that really struck me, I suppose, was Bargain Bin Blasphemy, a Tumblr which takes age-old, middle-of-the-road album covers and gives them an endearing Black Metal makeover.
TELEVISION SHOW: Despite the fact that I have nothing be vicious, palpable contempt for all four of the series' primary protagonists, I cannot seem to stop myself from continuing to watch "Girls."
MUSIC: It's been a pretty dry spell in terms of discovering new artists to get excited about. As such, I've been digging a lot of older music of late. Specifically, I've been grooving to high-powered rotations of The Cramps, Einsturzende Neubauten, Lou Reed, Joy Division (largely inspired by Peter Hook's book) and Pink Floyd, after I lazily sprang for the unforgivable "Experience Edition" of Wish You Were Here.
I hemmed and hawed about it for a long while, but after reading lots of purple prose about Soundgarden's reunion album, the horribly titled King Animal, I hate to say that I really can't seem to find myself giving that much of a damn about it. And I loved Soundgarden back in the day. I first saw them back at L'Amour in Brooklyn on the tour for Louder Than Love, and dutifully saw them on every tour following. But I can't seem to get excited about this new album. I just sounds formulaic to me. The band's former sonic sprawl and primal yawp seem alternately forced or entirely absent. I genuinely want to like it, but it just isn't happening. Am I missing something?
I spend what some might consider an inordinate amount of time here trying to track down the precise locations of various photos of rocker-types loitering around the city, but every now and then, I deviate from this and pick from the world of film (as I’m currently obsessed with this single frame, but enough about that already). In any case, two of my favorite fellow bloggers have recently published posts that are well worth your time and perusal if you are similarly fascinated by this stuff.
Here's a prime example of how I regularly drive myself completely insane.
Okay, so yesterday, I stumbled upon a screen-grab of a still from Spalding Gray's "Swimming to Cambodia" that evocatively captured the endearingly decrepit, art-slathered vibe of SoHo circa 1987. I posted it here, calling attention to the stencil sprayed on the wall behind Spalding, citing it as a bit of street art that I spotted everywhere around that neighborhood at the time. Walk down around those streets now -- as transformed as they are -- and you'll still see numerous stencils, stickers and bits of street art, but back then, they were in less concentrated pockets, so each piece had a bit more breathing room, it seems. As such, when you spotted one, it left more of an indelible impression.
In any case, after calling attention to it -- essentially a self-portrait of the artist, a young Asian guy with the subtly spiky hair of the era -- I also noted that it was so ubiquitous that there was also a stencil series (or campaign, for lack of a better term) that seemed to mock its hubris. That parody stencil was essentially a cartoonishly grim depiction of that same artist getting shot in the head. I guess it was just a tasteless form of artistic turf-warfare.
Here's where the trouble starts: Since doing that, I've become committed to finding further evidence of both bits of street art, and somehow convinced myself that it would be easy as pie to find shots of them online. Yeah, think again. Trying typing in variations of "80's," "street art," "stencil," "NYC," and "SoHo" into a Google image search, and you've got yourself a full evening of frustration.
I combed through Google and Flickr and Tumblr and a few street art sites I knew, but found nothing. I went analog and turned to my bookshelf to crack open aging tomes about New York City street art from that era, but still came up empty. This was going to plague me.
I want to say that somewhere between Houston Street and Canal Street, there is still a surviving example of this series somewhere, but that might just be my typically naive projection (the same sort of notion that occasionally convinces me to look for rare Einsturzende Neubauten discs or laughably out-of-print books at, say, Barnes & Noble).
I'm now throwing it out there to you. I know I didn't imagine these bits of street art -- and I'm not even sure why I give a damn at this stage -- but Spalding Gray evidently reached to me from beyond the grave and planted them back in my head. I didn't necessarily understand them at the time, but now that I've scratched the surface, I need to bring the search to fruition.
Who else remembers these stencils? Do you know the backstory? Do you have pictorial representation of them? Speak up and help solve the mystery.
CBGB Theatre?? What??? What is this? I've never heard of such a thing, despite fetishizing the world of CBGB for thirty years and more. Please elucidate, if you know more.
It’s the truth. For a brief window of time between 1977 and 1978, the Anderson Theatre on Second Avenue -- just a few steps to the south from St. Marks Place (across the street from Gem Spa) -- was an adjunct venture for CBGB. You can read more about it here.
After CB’s short tenure there, it morphed from the Anderson to The Orpheum. I remember seeing “Little Shop of Horrors” with my mother there in the 1982 or so. Since the mid-90’s, however, it’s been the home of “Stomp.”
Back to the David Johansen/Gramercy Gym debacle for a sec: I re-posted a pic on that last corrections post of the old Palladium and pointed out a doorway I thought might be the 116 in question. Bob Egan weighed back in again. Here’s what he had to say -- in typically crazy-thorough fashion:
Hi Alex, I saw your report today. You ended by thinking the door might be next to the Palladium (#124 on the map) . I think you were off by one building and a parking lot. See the details below.
#116 and #118 seem to share an entrance. But if it’s like the one in the photo of the old guy, then maybe there was another entrance on the side. It would probably be facing 14th street since it has the #116 on it and I don’t think they would put that on a door in the back alley.
I spotted the screen-grab below on Tumblr this evening and felt compelled to share it here (click on it to enlarge). This is a fleeting still from Spalding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia.” I’m sharing it not only because I’m a huge fan of Gray’s work (you can read more about that here), but also because as a single snapshot, it almost completely captures the vibe of SoHo in the mid-80’s.
Because I’m obsessed with seemingly meaningless minutia, I was also captivated by the fact that it displays a stencil that used to be EVERYwhere for a while. In the center of the photograph, sprayed onto the bottom portion of the building’s edifice, you’ll see what looks like the head of an Asian man. Like I said, this stencil was absolutely everywhere in SoHo back then (predating Shepherd Fairey’s work by a good couple of years). I don’t remember the specifics to it – I believe it was just a self-promotional thing for some hip, young artist. I even remember some parodies of it (the same face with the eyes X’d out as if having been shot). I doubt you’d be able to find examples of either on any SoHo facades today.
At a glance, I can’t say for sure what street this is, but I’m guessing it could be the corner of Mercer and Broome. I’m purely projecting, of course. What say you?