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.
Seemingly a lifetime ago, I lived on East 12th Street for a period of about six years. I occupied a spacious, third floor studio directly across the street from a 24-hour pool hall called Le Q (which I cited here as one of the things I don’t miss about New York City). Don’t bother looking for Le Q now. It finally closed up shop at some point in the early 00’s, if memory serves, and was replaced by a very posh antiques spot.
But Le Q wasn’t the only problem on that side of the street. One flight up from Le Q was a cavernous loft space — basically parallel to my windows, despite technically being one floor lower — that seemed to regularly juggle tenants. For a few weeks it looked like a magazine of some sort. Then it would clear out and a month later it would act as a photo studio. After that, it acted as maybe a real estate office. Nothing seemed to last very long. That didn’t bother me. I was always curious as to what was happening across the way. No, the problem was that the landlord didn’t seem to give a damn about his electric bill.
My issue with that was partly my own fault. Y’see, for whatever reason, I didn’t have curtains. It’s not that I was an exhibitionist or anything, it’s just that they didn’t come with the apartment, and it never occurred to me to get some. I also liked the way my tall windows looked without curtains. I had some not-entirely-effective shades, but they were more window-dressing — quite literally — than functional tools with which to block out the light.
So, when it got dark, the blinding florescent lights that illuminated the big loft space across the way also shone right into my windows. This was not an earth-shattering, life-or-death problem, but it was annoying. I remember making regular calls to the super of the building across the way and asking him to please turn the lights off. If anything, I thought, I was doing them a favor. I mean, why would they want to drive up their own Con Ed bill by lighting up an empty space? Sometime they obliged me. Most of the time they didn’t. I don’t believe anyone ever told me to “invest in some proper shades,” but they probably thought it.
Anyway, blah blah blah….I got married and my wife and I moved out of the 12th Street apartment around the end of 2002. I was sad to leave it, but it just didn’t accommodate our future plans.
Mercifully, we were able to find another apartment in the same neighborhood. As such, I routinely walk down East 12th Street. I’m still in touch with my former neighbors and friends from the building, and frequently stop and chat with my old super when I spot him. I was doing so the other day, however, and looked up across the way and spied something peculiar.
Plastered up on one of the large windows of that same loft/office space was a poster-sized photograph of a sort of bug-eyed dude in a baseball cap. I was curious, but didn’t think more about it.
A couple of weeks later, meanwhile, I walked down 12th again and again looked up. Now there were two poster-sized photographs of this same guy, only this new one showed him looking accusatory and finger-pointy.
Here’s what I’m talking about….
Now very curious, I strolled across the way and looked at the front door. That space is now rented by a venture called DraftStreet Fantasy Sports Money Leagues. I’m not quite sure what that is, but it describes itself thusly: "Daily and Weekly Fantasy Leagues for Cash Prizes. Come in any time of the day and find a league to join.”
I’m only in tenuous touch with the guy who now resides in my old apartment, but I’m almost curious enough to give him a ring. Are these posters — featuring the bug-eyed and accusatory portrait posters — directed at him? Is this part of some weird 12th Street feud?
I’ve featured his photographs here on Flaming Pablum before — both knowingly and unknowingly — but Manel Armengol’s pictures of New York City in the late 70’s are the real goddamn deal.
Armengol’s sharp eye captured a portrait of a city that -- while technically in decline — literally throbbed with vitality. From street life and hauntingly familiar architecture to political demonstrations to early performances by The Plasmatics at CBGB and Divine at Hurrah, Armengol’s pictures are to be savored. If you’re a fan of vintage shots of New York City from this era — seriously — you NEED to check out the following three albums on his Flickr page….
Armengol’s also traveled the world, so his other albums are well worth perusing as well, but the NYC ones will blow a new part in your hair.
The man very nicely sent me the above photo of the intersection of Thompson and Broome Street (suffice to say, this spot looks remarkably different today), but I also wanted to include the shot below in this post.
I’m fairly certain this is the one and only Howie Pyro, storied New York punk rock scenester and musician whose played with everyone from Joey Ramone and Glen Danzig through Genesis P. Orridge. Howie’s arguably best known as the bass player in D Generation.
It’s the time of year when music dorks like myself compose needlessly windy, pointedly esoteric and not-just-a-little pretentious lists of their favorite albums of the year. For decades, I dutifully partook in this ritual and -- much like my sharp-opinioned peers in this dubious realm -- usually outfitted my selections with a few barbed choices and indelible omissions just to upset the easily riled.
As it has shaken out, I can’t really do that this year. Frankly speaking, as I’ve alluded in previous posts, 2014 has been nothing short of catastrophic for myself and my family. The misfortunes of 2013 only continued into this year and intensified, punctuated by health issues, death and job loss. Put simply, it’s been Hell. We all get our share of it, I suppose. We’ve just had two years of it in succession.
As a result, the time I might have normally spent investigating new music went largely out the window. Sure, I kept up with my usual stable of favorites (To Be Kind by SWANS was an unsurprising highlight for me, even if I was consumed with other pressing matters at the time), but I felt let down by new releases by relative newcomers I’d had high hopes for like The Horrors and Iceage. Not unlistenable, their new records, but both a long way from crucial.
So, I was getting to the point where I was content to sit this year out in terms of opining. The names of so many new artists floated by my eyes this year, but I can’t really say I’ve consciously heard any of them … not even on the Rolling Stone list (although I remain incredulous they gave the #1 spot to U2. Even an oldster like m’self wouldn’t have done that). I did, unfortunately, hear a lot of the new pop shit -- Taylor Swift et al. -- and all that left me as cold, clammy and contemptuous as ever.
This entire time, however, a friend of mine name Joseph kept pushing this new British band at me called — ugh — Eagulls. On principle, I’d go out of my way never to even bother listening to a band that would saddle themselves with such a ridiculously stupid name. I mean, it’s not even clever…. or funny….or a proper pun. It just sucks. Joseph (who has otherwise respectable taste) assured me I’d enjoy them. To say that I dragged my feet would be an understatement. I mean, really …. “Eagulls"? Fuck that.
Here's a shot of them walking manfully down a New York City street...
Last Friday night, however, Joseph cornered me at the SWANS show at Warsaw in Brooklyn, and pressed a pristine copy of Eagulls’ eponymous debut disk into my hands. I surrendered and took it home, where it sat in my mail bowl for two days.
This evening, however, I cracked it open and gave a listen …. and I’ll be damned if I’m not digging it.
I’ll swallow my curmudgeonly pride and add my voice to the chorus of those championing them as best new artist of the year….or at least from what little I've heard.
There's a whole lot of stuff going on in NYC right now. M'self and my kids just caught the beginning of the "March of Anger" up Fifth Avenue ... a seriously sizable demonstration, to put it mildly. Also odd to spot some wayward SantaCon'rs dimly attempting to continue their annual idiocy around the edges of the rally. Strange dichotomy.
Anyway, while my kids and I were in the West Village, we passed by a certain spot made somewhat-famous by a photo by Ricky Powell. Below is both Ricky's original, and our little homage taken in the same spot.
Over the past nine plus years here on Flaming Pablum, I’ve penned more than a few posts that lionize the former Tower Records on the southeast corner of East Fourth and Broadway, but I’ll let my good pal and fabulous art-scribe babe C-Monstah sum it up from this post on her blog from 2010….
As any old school New York City hoodrat can tell you, back in the days when the hair was big and the Internerdz didn’t exist, the Tower Records space on lower Broadway was a place of pilgrimage for all things music. In addition to being the spot where you could find plaid-shirted rock nerds deconstructing the various minor schools of punk, it was the only store in the city where you could also get Lowrider Magazine.
Even though it was technically a big chain store, Tower — for most of its tenure on that perch — really got it right. They had a sprawling collection of music, from the favorites to the far-flung. Whether you were looking for Huey Lewis, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Sergei Prokofiev, Kurtis Blow or fucking COIL, Tower almost always had you covered. It also served as a great destination — a place you could spend hours in just browsing. Think about it — the places left to do that are drying up faster than you think.
When that location closed in 2006, it was the end of an era. The massive space served as a few rudimentary pop-up stores for a while (including, briefly, a Toys R’ Us outlet) before it was announced in 2011 that it was to become the “MLB Mancave,” an elaborate promotional vehicle for professional sports (which, of course, prompted a lot of hue and cry from my circle).
The only reason I’m re-waxing rhapsodic about the place now is that earlier this week on the (afore-cited and afore-praised) Facebook group Manhattan Before 1990, a gent name Kim posted the video below. Here’s what he had to say about it.
Super-8 footage I took inside Tower Records in the mid-1980s. (The title says 1983 but now I'm thinking it's more like 1985.) Yes, it's supposed to be that fast.
Here’s the clip. Look how many people there are.....
While I’d certainly read his name before — after all, it was very hard to walk into a record store and not notice album covers emblazoned with legends like Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel and/or You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath — I don’t believe I actually heard the music of J.G. “Foetus” Thirlwell until 1990 or so.
I was “working" at the time for a tiny independent music magazine run by an erstwhile contributor to SPIN (where I’d previously been interning). The New York Review of Records — as it was called — was run out of this editor’s Upper East Side apartment, a relatively cramped affair given the sheer volume of records he’d amassed. This ultimately being the last gasp of the 1980s, vinyl was still the reigning medium of recorded sound, while compact discs still came in long boxes, accompanied with an air of rarified newfangledness (oh how that would change). In any case, this “office” received tons of packages a day, usually stuffed with promotional LPs. One afternoon, I ripped open one of a hundred cardboard boxes and pulled out the Butterfly Potion e.p. by Foetus Inc.
Garishly decorated in typical Foetus fashion (all of the man’s releases boast striking — if not retina-immolating — cover art), this 12” single offered only three songs. My curiosity piqued, I decided to forego the title track and cued up the vinyl onto one of its provocatively titled b-sides, “Free James Brown [So He Can Run Me Down].” I let her rip….
Gleefully loud, rude and offensive, Foetus’ signature brand of cacophonous industrial caterwaul flooded the tiny apartment (much to the pronounced chagrin of one of my co-“workers,” and quite probably the neighbors), and I was instantly converted into feverish Foetus fandom.
Equally as prolific as, say, Prince or Frank Zappa, there are practically more releases by J.G. Thirlwell — under myriad Foetus aliases, to say nothing of pseudonyms like Clint Ruin, Wiseblood and/or Steroid Maxiumus, to name but three — than can be quantified. I sought out the tidy compilation Sink from 1989 as my thorough introduction into the artist’s sprawling catalog. If you’re curious, I’d highly recommend doing same, although Thirlwell has also gone onto release dozens of records since then, so it’s quite far from comprehensive by this point.
I went on to see Foetus perform live a few times in the early 90’s, notably at Irving Plaza, The Limelight and The Palladium (with The Unsane and Cop Shoot Cop opening). I vividly remember Foetus dry-humping an amplifier at the Limelight show during a skewed cover of “I Am the Walrus.” (See him cover it a few years later via this link). At the time, Foetus reveled in confrontation not unlike the variety practiced by peers like James Chance, Lydia Lunch and GG Allin. He seemed like a genuinely dangerous and unpredictable character.
Given Foetus’ purposefully provocative aesthetic, it would probably have been easy to write him off without recognizing his dizzying talents as a musician. That might explain why in more recent years, he’s left more of the cartoony shtick to folks like Trent Reznor and Al Jourgensen et al. and concentrated more on cinematic instrumental music. Put simply, Foetus seems tirelessly hungry to explore new sounds.
So why am I talking about all this now? Well, my friend Aleph put up a clip from a documentary released in 2009 called, simply, “NYC FOETUS.” I regret to say that I’d never heard of it, but am completely captivated by the notion of it. While an Australian ex-pat, Foetus has credited New York City as his primary muse. Here’s a clip of that documentary.
In more recent years, I’ve actually met Foetus a couple of times. I’d become friends with Tod [A] of Cop Shoot Cop and Firewater back in the early-to-mid-90’s, and he and Foetus were old compadres. It was at a Firewater show at the Bowery Ballroom some time around the turn of the century, I believe, when after the show, Tod wanted to introduce me to J.G. Thirlwell, who was also in attendance. I earnestly attempted to demure as, honestly, I was feeling a little out of my depth and — quite frankly — I’d consumed considerably more than my fair share of beers that evening, if you smell what I’m cookin’. But, Tod was insistent and dragged me over. To make a long, cripplingly embarrassing story short, upon being introduced to Mr. Thirlwell — who is surprisingly shorter than I’d imagined — I somehow managed to drop my full pint of beer. It hit the Bowery Ballroom floor, soaking Thirlwell’s pant leg in the process. It was not a high point for any of the parties concerned.
Oh, sure. I can look back on it now and lau…..no I can’t.
Anyway, I’m now consumed with finding the rest of that documentary.
For posterity, here’s Foetus’ “Verklemmt” from 1995, easily one of my favorite “NYC videos”…brace yourself and enjoy….
Okay, as I mentioned in my last post on the subject, I was never entirely convinced that I'd nailed the location of the above photograph of Blondie by Roberta Bayley. I speculated that they might be depicted posing on the corner where Great Jones Alley intersects Great Jones Street between Lafayette and Broadway. But that was just my hunch.
Other folks speculated that the actual spot is further to the east or further to the south. Again, given the decades that have ensued since Ms. Bayley took the photograph, this particular corner probably doesn't still look this way.
But there is another problem.
I'm basing my assumption on this photograph's connection to the more celebrated photograph below (also snapped by Bayley), wherein Debbie Harry and Chris Stein seem to be wearing the some outfits....
Call me crazy, but I've always assumed that -- being that Blondie and Roberta Bayley were all New Yorkers -- that this photograph (and any other shot from the same session) was snapped in New York City. That certainly looks like a NYC subway behind them, and the corner seen in the photo up top certainly looks like a Manhattan street corner circa the gritty 1970s.