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.
No, NYHC is assuredly not for everyone, but if you’re a fan of New York Hardcore (and/or Hardcore Punk or simply Punk Rock from NYC or however you care to parse it), you really ought to check out The New York Hardcore Chronicles Page on Facebook. I’ve spoken about it before (notably here), and I continually mine the page for compelling images (like the one above — a disarmingly rare shot of the Age of Quarrel-era Cro-Mags breaking with stoney-faced tradition and ACTUALLY SMILING.) If you have even a fleeting modicum of fascination for the scene and the era, you’d do well, at the very least, to check out their photos page, rife with period-specific images, flyers and whatnot. It’s the best.
Anyway, I’m not sure of the current status, but evidently the gent behind this Facebook page — one Drew Stone, I believe — is currently working on a documentary on all things NYHC. There was a doc on the subject several years back, but I remember it feeling a bit thin. Given Stone’s scrupulous eye for detail and minutia, I’m sure his film will be the one to see. Here are some trailers for it now….
On a personal level, I’m still wrestling with that thing that I cannot talk about here. This all said, at least my new job has been a great, engaging, life-affirming and verily life-saving godsend, one for which I am eternally grateful to an otherwise seemingly maleficent deity for.
I constantly feel like apologizing here for sub-standard or erratic posts, although I’ve fielded a couple of genuinely lovely notes from readers in the past couple of days that have really lifted my spirits. Thanks for bearing with my melodrama.
In any case, as I was hoofing it downtown to work this morning in a funk worthy of Charlie Brown, I looked up and spotted a doorway that triggered something.
Those of you who’ve been hanging around here might remember an unwieldy photo quiz I posted back in 2011, wherein posted a slew of notable pics of rock types hanging out in specific locales around the city. Some of them, of course, were crazy obvious, while a couple of others really stumped the experts. One of the latter variety was this one below.
Here we see, of course, the inimitable Lydia Lunch. This is actually a still from a Vivienne Dick film she starred in from 1979 called “Beauty Becomes the Beast.” As you might imagine, it sure ain't a feel-good romcom.
Anyway, I posed the question to readers to identify that doorway wherein our Lydia is seen looking desperate and expectant. Given the subject matter and the casting, it wasn’t exactly a giant leap to suspect that it was somewhere on the Lower East Side, but no one seemed to nail it. I thought it might be on Bond Street just a few steps in off the Bowery, but never made a solid match-up.
In any case, years later, I’m walking down West Broadway to work this morning, and I spied this.
But, of course, that’s not it either. The numbers don’t match. But, it’s kinda similar, right? Anyway, the hunt continues. At the very least, it got my mind off my troubles for a moment.
“Beauty Becomes the Beast” used to be on YouTube, but doesn’t seem to be anymore. That said, here’s a suitably grim little snippet of Vivienne Dick’s, also featuring lovely Lydia in petulant form.
As I was taking my daughter to school this morning, I looked out the window of the bus going up Third Avenue, only to spy that, evidently, Gothic Cabinet Craft -- the longstanding wood furniture supplier on East 13th street (as immortalized in 1976's "Taxi Driver," above) has closed up shop.
Had it not been for Gothic and Surprise Surprise across the street (also gone, replaced by a Basics Plus), my first apartment on East 12th Street would have been largely bereft of anything to sit on, put clothes in or eat off of.
I was ten years old when “Star Wars” first hit theaters, and it had a fairly seismic effect on me.
I have vivid memories of first seeing it –- possibly as part of a birthday party -- at a long-since-demolished movie house on East 86th Street between Lexington and Third, and my mind being summarily blown. In pretty much one fell swoop, I was indoctrinated. Almost immediately, my adoration for the comparatively quaint “Planet of the Apes” (the until-then gold standard for sci-fi) was handily eclipsed by all things “Star Wars” (rivaled *only* by my unwavering fandom for KISS). Like pretty much everyone else in my peer group, I bought right into the whole thing.
The funny thing about that, however, is that at the time, there was a genuine dearth (pardon the sorta-pun) of actual “Star Wars” merchandise available. Upon the release of the film, Kenner hadn’t rolled out their first line of action figures yet. I don’t remember how long after the fact the toys actually showed up, but it wasn’t exactly overnight, if I’m not mistaken. For the longest time, the only bit of genuine “Star Wars” ephemera I owned was an oversized button that read ”DARTH VADER LIVES.” To my considerable discredit, I am depicted wearing it in my fifth grade class picture, and grimacing accordingly. My mom, as you can imagine, was thrilled.
In due course, out came the toys and the rest of the merchandising blitz (again, rivaled *only* by KISS). In relatively swift succession, the next two films in the series arrived. If I’m being honest, I must admit that the bloom was fairly off the rose by the time the Ewoks showed up. Moreover, I was quite let down when they unmasked Darth Vader to reveal …well, Humpty Dumpty. I was envisioning someone more like Gene Simmons.
Anyway, here’s the thing.
As fucking ridiculous as the cult of “Star Wars” was circa the first three films, it was still relatively MANAGEABLE. At the end of the day, despite all the toys and the comic books and the Halloween costumes and the odd television special, they were still just MOVIES. There was no street team. There was no viral marketing. There was no maddeningly ubiquitous advance buzz. We let things happen when they happened, and society, nay, Western Civilization as a whole didn’t seem to lose sight of the fact that this was just entertainment, however expensively crafted.
Honestly, prior to the first “Star Wars” film (oh, excuse me, pedants…. “Episode IV”), I only ever saw a fleeting commercial for it, and there was still a great deal of mystery about it all. You had to actually go see it to learn all about it.
Suffice it to say, that’s not really the case anymore.
Let’s suggest, for a moment, that I want to see this new “Star Wars” film (even after completely losing my taste for the whole thing following an abortive viewing of “The Phantom Menace”). If I want to go into it with blind objectivity, I pretty much have to sequester myself in a goddamn cave. It’s not just about avoiding social media (much less the entirety of the internet, in general), I can barely step outside without being inundated with images, iconography and synchronized commercial tie-ins. Hell, my own son already wears a fetching black “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” t-shirt (with that weird soccer ball droid on it), and he obviously hasn’t seen the movie yet. We’ve already reached maximum saturation … haven’t we? Please tell me we have.
I’m going to (eventually) check out the movie. I have to. My kids are dying to see it, of course –- although I don’t know if the characters and the myth are as significant to them as they were to me in 1977 (I think “Harry Potter” still trumps all, for them). And, of course, being that members of the original cast are back, I am genuinely curious to see how it’s all going to hold up.
But the difference is this: To put it in the parlance of the insufferable music geek, in much the same way I didn’t expect m b v, the long-in-the-making follow-up album to My Bloody Valentine’s watershed opus Loveless to make me a youthfully sneery 24-year-old again (and, believe me, it didn’t), I have precious little faith that “The Force Awakens” is going to live up to strenuous expectations and transform me back into that wide-eyed, wonderment-addled ten-year-old.
I can hear the purists click their tongues now, laboriously quoting Yoda’s somber “That Is Why You Fail” admonition. Whatever. I’m okay with that.
It’s quite possible that the Force is no longer with me.
There’s a telling scene in Whit Stillman’s snobby-bastard classic “Metropolitan” from 1990 wherein, after a brief evening of genteel shenanigans, the main characters discover that Tom, the newly adopted member of the so-called Sally Fowler Rat Pack is not, in fact, from the Upper East Side. “There’s been an Upper West Sider in our midst!” mock-gasps main fop Nick, as Tom’s checker cab takes an unthinkable right off Fifth Avenue and into Central Park to cross over to that blighted wasteland.
Now, having myself grown up in the cloyingly stuffy Upper East Side (see this post, yet again, for some of those details), I cannot say I became very familiar with the Upper West Side (as captured above by Thomas Struth circa 1978) until comparatively late in the proceedings. I did have a couple of grade school chums — notably Ernie C. — who lived up near Columbia University. I remember going up there for a playdate after school one day (this being back in the early-to-mid 70’s). It truly felt like a totally different city over there.
There was also a certain Chinese restaurant on Upper Broadway that my parents used to drag my sister and I to, that being Hunan Balcony (as described in this post). In retrospect, I don’t remember the food at the `Balcony being so exceptional as to warrant a trip across town, but hey — I wasn’t the one making the decisions at the time. I was sad to learn, while researching this post, that Hunan Balcony closed up shop for good last year.
When I became relatively autonomous towards my high school years, I started to venture to the Upper West Side on my own more frequently, usually for the purposes of exploring their comic shops and record stores. As mentioned in that other post, certain pals of mine and I used to walk all the way across the park just to visit a certain corner shop that had a “Tempest” machine. That may sound like a ridiculous reason today (and it was, kinda), but it seemed entirely worth it at the time.
Anyway, I’m not sure on which Facebook group I first saw it, but this video is indeed a compelling little clip. I would embed it here, but privacy settings unfortunately forbid it.
Shot by one Mark Mannucci, here’s a great, nine-minute piece on the Upper West Side of 1977. While in gritty, antiquated black n’ white, you can still spot several familiar landmarks and storefronts. It’s an interesting step back into another era.
There’s invariably a bigger post to be done on this subject, but inspired by the allusion to NYC's fleeting "Anti-Folk" scene in my post of the other day, I did a bit more digging and found some great stuff on YouTube.
Let me, once again, preface this by asserting that I was never a great fan of this stuff — Anti-Folk or actual Folk — whichever your preference, despite quite digging Roger Manning and King Missile (if the latter can even still be counted as such). I certainly never gave one good crap about the Moldy Peaches, but whatever. If you’re into that stuff, though, might I direct you to this two part documentary.
Somewhat prior to all that stuff, however, there was this band called The Washington Squares. I never actually went — or, honestly, harbored any desire — to see them, but I remember their flyers being up all over the place in the 80’s. Essentially, they were a group of veterans from various punk bands who basically did "a reverse Dylan" and went acoustic.
Their big haunt, somewhat unsurprisingly, was a joint down the strip from Bleecker Bob’s on West Third street called Folk City. Don’t bother looking for it now, obviously. It’s long gone — replaced by a bar of no great distinction or character.
I was still living up on the Upper East Side at the time, but as detailed, once again, in this post, I’d had a grade school friend I’ve been calling Spike (obviously, not his real name) who moved downtown to his dad’s place on Cornelia Street sometime around `82 or `83. From that address in the veritable heart of the Village, Spike and I fully immersed ourselves in the local attractions. And one of those attractions was Folk City.
We went a couple of times, but never to see any credible folk acts. I believe we went to a few open-mic stand-up comedy shows there, and — strangely — I believe we saw a performance by Steve Forbert. You might remember him from 1979’s radio staple, “Romeo’s Tune” and his fleeting cameo in the video for Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” ... which, incidentally, was filmed a couple of blocks away on Gay Street, but you probably knew that.
Folk City actually played host to a few bands I’d have liked to have seen at the time — notably an early, endearingly rough-round-the-edges incarnation of the Violent Femmes — but I didn’t get to those shows, for whatever reason.
Anyway, in terms of the Washington Squares, they always struck me as kinda schticky. I don’t doubt their reverence for genuine folk music, but their image just seemed like a send-up … or a piss-take. Later on in their career, they ditched their nyuck nyuck berets and stripy beatnik shirts in favor or a more straightforward approach (check out their cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” for a bit of that … filmed in the heart of Times Square in the late `80s). Now, is there -- as that documentary suggests -- a genuine link between the Washington Squares and later acts like Paleface, Lach and Roger Manning, etc.? I'll defer to the acolytes of that scene answer that.
I believe the Washington Square broke up by the dawn of the `90's, but I have no idea. Folk City closed its doors on West Third Street in 1986, after a 25-year run. Even though they didn’t regularly host my type of shit, I was sad to see it go. It was a fun room.
Check out the clip below that profiles both the Washington Squares and gives you a tantalizing glimpse of the interiors of Folk City.
I think the first time I ever laid eyes the East River Park Amphitheatre (or Bandshell, depending on how you chose to refer to it), was via 1983’s graffiti epic, “Wild Style.” At the time, East River Park — a thin slab of concrete and green between the Lower East Side and the East River — was basically a far-flung no-go zone, least of all for a pasty Upper East Side geek like myself. Hell, I didn’t need to travel down to the fringes of Alphabet City to get hassled. I managed to do it right on my own turf.
In any case, I would first see the East River Park Bandshell up close (that’s it up top, courtesy of Gilberto Sanchez via Bowery Boogie) — relatively speaking — whilst biking by it a year or so later. By that point, it seemed to be in the process of becoming entirely disused and derelict … almost like something out of “Planet of the Apes.” Back in 2010, EV Grieve put up a post about it, featuring some great shots by one Jen Williams of the Bandshell in decline.
As the story goes, the rotting structure was basically paired down and spruced up in 2001. To be honest, I was a little disappointed when that happened. I kinda liked it the way it was.
The only reason I’m talking about it now, however, is because I recently unearthed a curious old video by the False Prophets (who I’ve written about here and, more recently, here). In that first post, I’d mistakenly asserted that the band had only every produced a single album. That turned out not to be the case. In any event, “Invisible People” is the title track to their second proper album from 1990, and it was filmed entirely at the East River Park Bandshell.
While I’d been used to the False Prophets as sounding more like this, “Invisible People” found the band really stretching beyond the narrow confines of hardcore punk, employing melodious harmonies and folksy acoustic instrumentation, while retaining their pointedly lefty, socially conscious lyrical bent.
Check it out here…
Nice, right? Incidentally, the animated sequences came courtesy of illustrator Erick Drooker, whose work you might remember from the Faith No More sleeve, King for a Day.
Of course, “Invisible People” wasn’t the only video filmed at the East River Park Bandshell. Eight years earlier in 1982 (the same year “Wild Style” was filmed), Kid Creole & the Coconuts shot the clip of “Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy” there … somewhat inexplicably.
Here’s that clip now…
Anyway, having recently acquired a copy of False Prophets’ Invisible People — and with a few days off before I start my new job — I decided to go down to East River Park to check out the old Bandshell.
Entering East River Park at East 10th Street (just beyond Avenue D — which was once churlishly referred to by some of my old cohorts as “Avenue Death” — and the FDR Drive), I took a misty, largely deserted stroll south, past the baseball diamonds, the Domino Sugar plant on the far side of the river and under the Williamsburg Bridge until I reached the site of the Bandshell.
If you came looking for it based on “Wild Style” or those videos be Kid Creole or the False Prophets, you might just walk right on by it today. No longer as hulking a structure as its previous incarnation, the Bandshell is now basically just an arch with a flourish of metal piping. I still wouldn’t want to, say, spend the night there, but its a great deal less forbidding than it used to be.
I strolled around and sat in the amphiteatre bleachers for a bit (where False Prophets’ Stephan is hassled by the donut-chomping cop in “Invisible People”).
Here’s how it looks today..
ADDENDUM: My friend Bryan K. of This Ain't the Summer of Love just posted this on my Facebook page. Herewith Cheap Trick delivering a blistering cover of Lennon's "Cold Turkey" at the (pre-makeover) East River Bandshell. Oddly, the video also features local skateboard legend Harold Hunter, who found ame in Harmony Korine's "Kids."
In any case, I spotted this on Clayton's Facebook page and thought I'd pass it on. Herewith the Lower East Side's own resident shutterbug/historian taking a walk down Ludlow Street in 2015, and offering his observations on the toll of the last several years.
While I’d consider myself a pretty sizable fan of the Coen Brothers, I have to confess that I’ve never quite understood the cult that sprang up around their 1998 film, “The Big Lebowski.” Having been a huge fan of “Blood Simple,” “Raising Arizona,” “Miller’s Crossing,” “Fargo,” “Barton Fink" and even less celebrated ones like “The Hudsucker Proxy,” I remember going to “The Big Lebowski” when it came out and being somewhat underwhelmed. I mean, it didn’t suck, but compared to those other films, it just seemed like they phoned it in a bit.
In any case, invariably you or someone you know probably thinks it’s pure genius. I’m not going to argue with you, but I just don’t share that opinion.
So, imagine my confused chagrin when a shop in Greenwich Village solely dedicated to commemorating the film opened up a few years ago. I mean, why that film and not, say, “The Warriors” or “Blow-Up” or “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”? I just do not understand it.
Regardless, I kinda liked that the shop was there. I don’t believe I ever went in (nor had any reason to), but the fact that a shop with so goddamn niche a demographic could still operate here in New York City in the new millennium gave me some glimmer of hope that maybe not all the quirky, oddball funk had been syphoned out of my neighborhood.
Well, scratch that. I walked by The Little Lebowski (geddit?) today and noticed a big “FOR RENT” sign in the window.
I salute the endeavor for lasting this long!
Post-Script:I remember getting into a discussion about the Coen Brothers with Tod [A] from Cop Shoot Cop/Firewater not too long back, and even he seemed incredulous that I didn’t appreciate the film. When I continued to balk, he shot me the YouTube clip below of — admittedly — a damn funny scene.
As you might remember from this post, I recently sat down to watch Julien Temple’s 2010 documentary, “Oil City Confidential,” which delves into the story of proto-punk pub rock legends, Dr. Feelgood, who came of age in the unspeakably drab early 70’s, just prior to the cultural detonation of punk rock. Somewhat star-crossed by bad timing, Dr. Feelgood never seemed to make much of an impression here in the States and had some of their own (considerable) thunder stolen in their homeland by the comparative upstarts of British Punk, many of who cribbed liberally from Dr. Feelgood’s trailblazing antics.
Personally speaking, while I’d certainly read about Dr. Feelgood, given their connections to so-called “pub rock,” I lazily assumed they trod a similar road as artists like Dave Edmunds, Brinsley Schwarz and Ian Dury & the Blockheads. While there’s nothing wrong with those bands, they never struck me as especially exciting or incendiary. Well, not so with Dr. Feelgood. Fueled by vocalist Lee Brilleaux’s imposing gruffness and bug-eyed Wilko Johnson’s inimitable, slashing guitar theatrics, Dr. Feelgood’s high octane brand of booze-&-amphetamine-fueled R&B was a direct and indelible influence on later bands like The Jam, The Stranglers and Gang of Four. Put simply, they foocking rocked.
Here’s the trailer for the film….
Cool, right? I highly recommend it.
In any case, matching the rollicking nature of their music, the strong-willed characters in the band’s ranks didn’t always see eye-to-eye, finding secret weapon Wilko Johnson abandoning ship in 1977. Dr. Feelgood soldiered on without him, although they arguably never matched the musical volatility of that first incarnation of the band.
Vocalist Lee Brilleaux, meanwhile, was diagnosed with cancer in the early `90’s, and succumbed to his illness in 1994, effectively putting an end to the band.
As I was watching the film, however, a fleeting segment flashed on the screen wherein it was suggested that a plaque was erected in Brilleaux’s memory right here in New York City. It was a split-second scene, but I fully recognized the location, and immediately felt compelled to investigate.
The next morning, I strode up Greenwhich Avenue on a hunch, ending up at the little park in Jackson Square (where Greenwich intersects with West 13th Street at 8th Avenue). Sure enough, affixed to a bench on the northernmost corner of the park was Lee’s plaque. Here it is….
Having been entirely smitten by the music and the story of Dr. Feelgood (and having giddily snatched up a copy of their explosive debut album, Down By The Jetty at Rough Trade), I am entirely all for a plaque memorializing this amazing performer and his largely under-praised ensemble, but I have one burning question:
Why is it in Jackson Square?
I know Brilleaux had married an American woman, but by all accounts and reports on the `Net, it seems Brilleaux lived and died on his native soil of Essex, England (not far from the band’s stomping grounds of Canvey Island). While he toured the world with various incarnations of Dr. Feelgood, I could find no mention of the singer ever living in New York City, let alone the leafy byways of the West Village.
And not only is it in Jackson Square, but it is the only plaque dedication in the park, and seemingly in a very deliberate, specific location. Under normal circumstances, one might assume that this particular bench had some significance for the departed, although it seems the departed, in this case, had no traceable connection to this tiny plot of real estate.
Working on another hunch, I strolled just a few yards back down Greenwhich Avenue to an address just across Jane Street called Tea & Sympathy. Fittingly billing itself as “a quintessential corner of England in the heart of Greenwich Village,” Tea & Sympathy is a long-held haven for British ex-pats and Anglophiles yearning for a taste of ol’ Blighty. I figured, given the uber-Britishness of Lee Brilleaux and Dr. Feelgood, if anyone would know if Brilleaux had any palpable roots or reason to be memorialized just down the road in Jackson Square, they would know.
Given that not everyone is as smitten by obscure rock ’n’ roll trivia as I am, the young man behind the counter at Tea & Sympathy wasn’t especially enthused about my tangled line of questioning, but quickly fetched the shop’s endearingly gregarious owner Nicky.
Despite being caught off-guard in the middle of a busy morning, Nicky gamely listened to me clumsily unspool my yarn. Unfortunately, while she recognized the names of both Dr. Feelgood and Lee Brilleaux, she was as stumped as I am as to why he’s memorialized in Jackson Square. That said, she suggested asking an organization called, fittingly enough, the Jackson Square Alliance, a community group dedicated to improving the quality of life in and around said park. (That was a great idea, but I couldn’t seem to find an e-mail address for the J.S.A on their website).
Grasping at another hunch, I walked a couple of blocks to the west to Myers of Keswick, another purveyor of British goodies and groceries, … strangely in the same neighborhood (the competition between these two shops must be pretty fierce). While I love this shop, the young lady behind the counter barely looked old enough to know what Dr. Feelgood by Motley Crue was, let alone a comparatively ancient British band from the early `70’s. I demurred from bugging her with my sleuthing, and bought a can of grape-flavored Vimto.
So, there it lies. I am still in the dark as to why the great Lee Brilleaux of Dr. Feelgood is memorialized in a relatively tiny park in the West Village of Manhattan in New York City.
Incidentally, storied former Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson himself was diagnosed with cancer like his fallen bandmate. Julien Temple again raised his camera to document Wilko’s endeavor to live life to its fullest with a cancer diagnosis. That film is coming soon….