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.
Hey all. Sorry for the relative slow-down in posts. I’m still juggling certain things and trying to get re-situated and back on track. I’ve still got some entries in the works for the blog (and thanks, by the way, for all the feedback from this post), so stay tuned. But, I’m forced to prioritize these days, so Flaming Pablum has to take a back seat some of the time.
That all said, I thought I’d share this clip with you. Shot by PBS, “You Know…The Struggle” is a short documentary about socially conscious street art on the Lower East Side in the early 80’s. Suffice to say, the neighborhood depicted here is in striking contrast to its incarnation of 2015.
Some of you might remember an entry I posted back in the comparatively balmy, carefree and gainfully employed days of 2012, wherein I expounded on a film that storied NYC punk scribe Legs McNeil had unearthed and posted on his Facebook page, that being Chantal Ackerman’s “News From Home.”
Smitten by this amazing document, I ,of course, re-posted the film here on Flaming Pablum. As is so often the case, however, the film vanished from YouTube almost as soon as I’d put it up. C’est la guerre.
Well, a newer, cleaner, crisper version of the film has re-surfaced, and the amazing Dangerous Minds blog found it and put up their own post about it. You can read that here. For my purposes, however, herewith what I wrote in my original post about, along with the the restored film.
It’s well worth your time….
I just spotted this on Legs McNeil's Facebook page and was blown away. This is a 1976 film by Belgian director Chantal Akerman called "News From Home." Because I know precious little about it, I'm going to let Criterion describe it:
Letters from Chantal Akerman’s mother are read over a series of elegantly composed shots of 1976 New York, where our (unseen) filmmaker and protagonist has relocated. Akerman’s unforgettable time capsule of the city is also a gorgeous meditation on urban alienation and personal and familial disconnection.
I'd love to see someone do a shot-for-shot remake and compare and contrast. Enjoy.
In September 2004, I sat down with Killing Joke’s once-and-future drummer to discuss the impact and legacy of the band he’d initially founded back in 1979. The chat was initially conceived as part of a book project that bassist Paul Raven was orchestrating. I’d been friends with Raven for a couple of years by that point, and he reached out to me, knowing I was both an ardent fan of the band and a journalist. I happily and dutifully accepted the assignment, and Big Paul gamely complied. So, over the course of an afternoon in his art studio (along with a respite of beers in a local Brooklyn pub), Big Paul told me his story.
At the time, of course, Big Paul had been absent from the band’s ranks for about 17 years, following a fall-out with vocalist Jaz Coleman during the recording of what would become Killing Joke’s literally and figuratively divisive opus, Outside the Gate. By 2004, while much water had passed under the bridge, it still seemed strenuously unlikely to all parties concerned that Big Paul Ferguson would ever reconvene with his old bandmates in Killing Joke. No one seemed quite happy about that — especially the fans — but it didn’t seem to be on the menu, so to speak.
It’s funny how things work themselves out, though, isn’t it?
As fate had it, the book project never came to fruition. I transcribed and wrote up the interview and had it all locked, loaded and ready to go, but given Killing Joke’s somewhat fickle, elusive nature, the plan seemed to get lost in the noise. A couple of years went by. After “holding out” on my brethren in the Gathering (kind of the “KISS Army” for Killing Joke fans, if you like), I took matters in my own hands and published the interview in its windy entirety here on Flaming Pablum, intent on at last sharing this rare and candid discussion with the fans. I just didn’t want to see it — nor the work I’d put into it — go to waste.
I was initially wary of a scolding from the Killing Joke camp, but — much to my considerable relief — one never came. I also wondered about the impact the finally-published interview might have on the band itself, now that Paul had publicly aired his feelings after all these years.
A little over a year after I published the piece, Paul Raven died, passing away in his sleep. Though not the band’s original bass player (that being the great Martin “Youth” Glover), Raven was an irreplaceable member of the Killing Joke family and dearly beloved by both his bandmates and a nation of fans. Unsurprisingly, his funeral found all surviving members of Killing Joke — including Big Paul Ferguson — reconvening once again.
Shortly after that, Big Paul re-joined the band. The rest, as they say, is history.
I’m pleased to be able to say that in the ensuing years since that first interview, Big Paul and I have remained in touch and grab beers from time to time when he’s in New York. Despite his reputation as the highly combustible, pummeling engine of Killing Joke, he remains an incredibly thoughtful and affable gent, and I’m proud to call him a friend.
In any case, a few albums, a few tours and a feature film (which I’ve still not seen) later, Killing Joke are still going strong. Now, an influential DJ named Mont Sherar has released the mini-documentary below in tandem with a forthcoming book called “Sex Wax n Rock n Roll,” wherein he devotes a large swathe to Killing Joke. This mini-documentary sort of brings Big Paul’s story up to date.
Yes, that's right, it's another post that LOOKS BACK at something. `Cos, y'know, god forbid I write about something happening in the present.
In any case, I stumbled upon this nifty documentary by VICE about Glenn O'Brien's "TV Party." If you're not familiar with O'Brien, you might recognize him as the gent who writes the "Style Guy" column for GQ magazine. Back in the day, however, he was something a peerless hepcat, having birthed both the cable access program this documentary's about (which featured appearances from everyone from Sid Vicious and Stiv Bators to Klaus Nomi and Grandmaster Melle Mel) and directed the film that later became "Downtown `81.'
But don't take my word for it....watch this documentary.
Later this month (or is it next month?) storied former Sonic Youth bassist, the perennially cool Kim Gordon, will finally unleash her side of the story with “Girl in a Band,” a memoir hotly touted to be a rather scathing indictment of her ex-husband and former bandmate Thurston Moore. Much like everyone I’ve spoken to about it, I have to confess that I’m pretty psyched for it.
This isn’t, however, to say that everything Kim Gordon has ever been involved in is cool. A prime example of that is the clip below, which I randomly stumbled upon this evening. Here’s how YouTube user Carrie Punk, who uploaded the video, describes it….
Seventeen years ago, director Phil Morrison ("Junebug", "Enlightened"), Chloe Sevigny, Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon, and Budapest-born artist Rita Ackermann got together to create this previously unreleased 90′s wet dream of a film for Gordon's then-clothing line, X-Girl. There's some rough commentary on gender roles, fashion, consumerism, and the NYC scene in the mid 90′s, whatever that was. It was "supposed to be like Godard" Sevingy says. Along with artist Rita Ackermann and an unknown third party, Sevigny recites discursive bits of aphoristic dialogue and, in one long scene in the middle of the film, makes fart noises as another woman runs down a list of famous female figures. Then, using hidden camera, Sevigny sneaks into a Marc Jacobs fashion show on the hunt for a mysterious man named Gillian.
Suffice to say, it’s crazy pretentious, but maybe isn’t meant to be taken all that seriously. There are also some lovely shots of Mott Street before it turned into East Hampton.
Being that I generally don't have a lot of time for Chloe Sevigny and Marc Jacobs, I found parts of it kind of tough to stomach.
It’s easy to be romanced by notions of the gritty Lower East Side of old if you’re solely looking through the prism of, say, Jim Jarmusch films and Richard Hell records, but it’s once again prudent to remember that the hardships of those eras were unrelentingly genuine.
Sure, they afforded an influx of artists, musicians, bohemians and risk-takers, but that’s only because the neighborhood in question was largely considered inhospitable. The same hotbed of shrill nightlife and real estate opportunity today was once deemed by many a “no-go zone.” There were reasons for that.
“L.E.S.” is a short film written and directed by one Coleen Fitzgibbon at some point in the mid-70’s. In the filmmaker's own words….
Super 8mm transfer to digital, color, sound, 16:31 minutes. Documentary style critique of the Island of Manhattan’s fiscal state of affairs and the John Dough Cult. Written and directed by C. Fitzgibbon. Narrated by Robin Winters. Cast: Tom Sigal, Diego Cortez and Robin Winters. NYC Lower East Side Island of Mahattan mid-1970's punk rock burned out living on the streets.
Over the course of the film, there’s a deadpan voice-over that recounts a surreal, apocalyptic and dystopian description of Manhattan life. Suffice to say, that description is in sharp contrast to the reality of today, where the same avenues depicted are now dotted with bespoke wine bars and artisinal bakeries.
It’s easy to rhapsodize the gritty NYC of old, especially given how staid, safe, sanitized, corporate, avaricious and soulless the city is today. I’m certainly guilty of it. Myself and a cabal of other bloggers seem to constantly hearken back to eras when Manhattan was a more interesting, more diverse, more colorful and more dangerous place. We romantic cize it as if carrying a torch for a long-lost, unrequited love.
It’s prudent to remember, however, that the danger was real — despite whatever excitement and vibrancy came with it.
Somewhat uncomfortably tied to the release of J.C. Chandor’s new film “A Most Violent Year” (which I haven’t seen) comes the website NYC,1981, an ambitious and captivating collection of essays and pictures from the fabled year in question, touching on subsections like style, art & culture, music, graffiti and living. For someone like me, it’s a veritable candy store (although I note somewhat sniffily that they’ve covering a few things I wrote about ages ago, but I’m just a tiny little blog at the end of the day).
I haven’t had a load of time to explore it, but I note that my comrade, the scrupulous Jeremiah Moss is a contributor. I don’t recognize the other folks, but if Jeremiah’s involved, it’s worthwhile.
In any case, Gothamist wrote up a little profile of Sullivan yesterday, citing that his archive of 1,900 hours of footage is now in the hands of NYU (Sullivan passed away in 1989). If you haven’t checked out his stuff and you’re nostalgic for the era in question, it’s really worth your time.
A lot of it was just Nelson walking around, having brunch and chatting with friends….nothing all that special much of the time. But in terms of capturing sights and scenes from that era, it’s pretty priceless. It also dispels a lot of revisionist mythology. Much as he did in that last post, my friend Drew shot me the clip of Sullivan’s below this morning and remarked how “normal” Avenue A looked in 1986 (having long been fed the yarn that it was a lawless badlands). Similarly, I put up a clip this past summer featuring a clip of Sullivan’s where he visits CBGB, revealing it to be just another night out on the town, and not a perilous dive into a violent underground scenario rife with chain-weilding mohicans. Clearly not every day in the 1980’s east of Astor Place was a dystopian apocalypse.
Following in the now established milieu of other celebrated oral histories like Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain’s “Please Kill Me,” it’s a fairly exhaustive examination of this city’s contribution to hardcore as told by most of its principal players. Personally speaking, while I was only invested in about half of that time period (and frankly put off by more of the mookish, knuckle-dragging antics of much of the NYHC scene), I still found it to be an illuminating and compelling read. Contrary to popular stereotypes, not every mover and shaker on the New York hardcore scene was a complete lunkhead.
I was particularly intrigued by the whole Rock Hotel passage, a period wherein aspiring promoter Chris Williamson effectively exploited the until-then fairly insular NYHC scene. While he indeed may have broadened the horizons and audiences of these bands (and purposely cross-polinated them with the metal community), he is largely perceived throughout the pages of “NYHC” to have been an avaricious svengali figure who was ultimately only out for his own gain. Having been a big fan of the Rock Hotel shows, I found this to be a bit depressing but not especially surprising. Even then, he seemed like kind of an operator and a bit of cheesy sleazeball (witness his cameos in the Cro-Mags’ video for “We Gotta Know” as he ushers the youthful and impressionable band into waiting limousines on their tour with Motorhead).
Named somewhat laboriously after the favorite hang-out of Alex and his merry gang of Droogs in “A Clockwork Orange,” the Korova Milk Bar wasn’t in operation for that long. While the cinematic theme may have indeed appealed to self-styled punky nogoodnicks keen on living out some sort of dystopian fantasy, the actual execution of said theme was both heavy-handed and, sorry, a bit schlocky.
I mean, yes….I get it. I am a devout fan of both Burgess’ book and Kubrick’s film, but there was something so tired, so obvious, so cloyingly contrived and not-quite-clever-enough about this iteration of the Korova Milk Bar (as I’m dead certain there are droves of others copping the same concept) that it never really gelled. The place closed up shop in 2006. I doubt too many tears were shed.
In any case, the thing that struck me about this wasn’t so much the idea of a Korova Milk Bar fridge magnet, but rather the copy they bookended it with. The full pitch reads as follows:
Korova Milk Bar East Village Magnet Circa 2001 No Tell Motel Alcatraz CBGB King Tuts Wah Wah Hut The Bank The Pyramid Lower East Side Alphabet City Limelight
Alright, fair enough — the Korova Milk Bar was indeed sort of a contemporary element to places like the No Tell Motel (just across the way …. more about that place soon) and maybe Alcatraz on St. Mark’s Place (although I want to say that Alcatraz closed well prior to Korova Milk Bar’s opening), but to cite CBGB, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, The Bank, The Pyramid and the Limelight in the same breath as the Korova Milk Bar seems a bit disingenuous.
Sure, it was yet another downtown watering hole, but Korova Milk Bar didn’t have a fraction of the character or impact of those other places. That probably sounds a bit precious, but it’s a bit like equating Avril Lavigne with Foetus or Richard Hell, as far as I’m concerned.
That all said, I suppose I shouldn’t be too harsh and damning about the Korova Milk Bar. As much of a wananbe as it may have been, it wasn’t a third as annoying as Superdive, the hotly contest bar the space would soon become after Korova’s closing.