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.
Time for another culling of JPEGs that, for one reason or another, landed on my desktop. These are invariably images I "set to one side" for the purposes of using in posts here on the blog, or simply pictures that caught my eye. Most of them were taken by other folks. The ones of my kids, of course, are mine. Most of these never turned into posts. Some might still. Some might not.
I started writing this as yet another requiem to Manhattan’s once-thriving network of amazing, independent record and disc shops, but I can only spin that sorry yarn so many times. Suffice to say, once they were plentiful, and then they became fewer and fewer. Then they became sparse. Now, they’re virtually extinct.
Those with too much time on their hands and a keen eye for minutia might glean that I’ve titled this post with the same wording as how I’ve dealt with this year’s unprecedentedly cruel culling of iconic musicians. That’s not an accident, as losing Other Music is just as heartbreaking as losing Lemmy, Bowie and Prince. That might sound histrionic to folks who are content with streaming the latest dribble of the tepid sonic diarrhea that passes itself off as pop music today, but for those of us who’ve spent most of their lives absolutely cherishing music in all its richly diverse permutations and physical manifestations, it’s the gospel. And if you can’t wrap your head around that, you should stop reading now, as I’ll probably shortly write something that’s going to offend you.
If you’re someone who gets excited about indefensibly inane bullshit like Beyonce, Justin Bieber or Drake, you’re not going to understand this, as you’re either too young, too cognitively challenged or music just doesn’t mean that much to you.
Shops like Other Music meant more than simply a place to purchase things. For a start, I don’t think there was ever a time I set foot in the place and didn’t learn about, see or hear something new that spoke directly to my interests. Other Music was a browser’s paradise, especially given its pointedly left-of-the-dial sensibilities. Looking for the new Mariah Carey single, Journey box set or Kesha disc? You were shit out of luck, jerk-off. Looking for an obscure collection of pre-punk pub/garage rock, limited edition Robyn Hitchcock re-issue on vinyl, collection of rarified D.C. hardcore 7”s or a used-albeit-pristine copy of a rare SWANS opus? Other Music had you covered, and would happily chat with you about those excellent selections.
Personally speaking, as the ice floe I’m precariously stranded on drifts further and further away from the continents of “Cool” and “Relevant,” I find myself clinging tenaciously to places where my antiquated language is still spoken. It’s become increasingly rarer to be able to walk into a place where names like, I dunno, Scratch Acid, The Pop Group, The Modern Lovers, The Wedding Present, The Birthday Party, The Screaming Blue Messiahs, Cop Shoot Cop and/or yes indeed…goddamn Killing Joke might actually resonate with the ears and sensibility of a fellow human being. There had been other places – shops like Mondo Kim’s, Rocks in Your Head, Pier Platters, Second Coming, Bleecker Bob’s, Lunch for Your Ears, Rockit Scientist, Subterranean Records, Venus Records – but ALL of those places -- fucking ALL OF THEM -- are gone.
Yes, we still have a not-quite-handful of shops left in Manhattan, like Rebel Rebel, Generation Records, Bleecker Street Records, Record Runner (when it’s open) and the super far-flung Downtown Music Gallery, but with all due respect to those great ventures, they don’t come close to Other Music. I do love Rough Trade across the river, but that's not Manhattan.
Pour one out for Other Music.
And while we’re on the subject, fuck Record Store Day -- stop streaming and show your appreciation for the artists and independent local businesses by procuring your music in physical formats at your local record/disc store all year round. It’s really not that complicated.
I don’t want to get too excited, but I’m of the opinion that we’re getting closer to verifying the existence of Downtown. Let’s review, shall we?
In the wake of my post on the early days of White Zombie on the East Village scene, a reader named Greg wrote in saying he’d seen the band play circa 1989, alongside the Lunachicks (above) and an unfortunately-monickered combo named the Bloody Stools at a basement-level venue on Great Jones Street or in the neighboring vicinity. I replied with my recollection of a similar, short-lived venue a block to the south of there, specifically on Bond Street, wherein Killing Joke were slated to play. That show never transpired, however, as the venue went out of business before the scheduled gig. Greg agreed that it sounded like the same place, to wit...
That is the place without a doubt.
I love the Lunachicks and saw them many times back then. This particular gig was the first time I saw them so I remember a lot about the night. Including that stairwell.I am 100% sure that's the place.
At some point a few years ago, I tried to list all the places I had seen the Lunachicks. Who knows why I did that but I did. There was only one place I couldn't remember/find the details on...this Downtown place!
Every once in a while the show pops in my head and I try again to find more info on it. Not only is the place impossible to google, but I've searched through gig histories,old flyer art…nothing.
I tried to find old Voice club listings and even looked through old issues of NY Magazine on Google Books. Just to try to find at least one mention of this club. Nothing!
I don't remember for sure but searching for this club might be how I found your site in the first place!
I am determined to beat Google and find evidence of this place and the shows that happened there. It has to be out there somewhere!
I’d also found that testimonial from the drummer of the Martha’s Vineyard Ferries (where are they today, one wonders) that he was at the same show that Greg attended (or the same line-up, at least). Things started to fall into place.
In the wake of that, a different reader — albeit one named Greg B. — chimed in, saying he’d seen the Cycle Sluts from Hell open for Gang Green at this place circa `87 or `88, and that “the place was empty.” Unfortunately, this unofficial Gang Green gigography doesn’t support that.
I searched online for ads of the kind one used to find in the back pages of the Village Voice, but came up empty, and evidently this venue was too small potatoes for it to earn any placement in the listings of New York Magazine (which you can search for in Google Books). I know I have stacks of an old periodical I used to write for in the early 90’s called New York Perspectives that also might feature ads from the place, but taking those down from the front hall closet is a massive, dusty task.
I decided to take another route. As I mentioned in the White Zombie post, in recent years I’ve become online friends with the band’s former guitarist Jay Yuenger. Despite not finding any invocation of the venue or corroboration of a gig with the Lunachicks and Bloody Stools on this White Zombie gigography, I reached out to Jay to see if he remembers anything at all about the place. Gamely, he got back to me with the quickness….
I remember that show, sure. It was one of my first gigs with the band. I couldn't tell you the exact date, but I remember that that venue wasn't there very long, and that I saw a few other shows there, including Celtic Frost, which their directory lists as having happened on March 23, 1989.
Ah-HA! So Celtic Frost played there, too!!! That’s at least something!
Sure enough, true to Jay’s recollection, this gigography DOES cite that show (with Cronos opening!!?!? Where was I? —oh wait, at school). I couldn’t find a poster or a ticket-stub or a flyer for that show, but we’re getting closer.
Incidentally, this would have been right during Celtic Frost’s abortive turn towards all things “glam" (see below) a detour out of their doomy comfort zone by which no one was well served, least of all them.
Then I got excited because I suddenly found a evidence of a bootleg recording by Cronos (then ex of my beloved Venom) recorded in NYC in 1989! COULD THIS BE THAT SAME SHOW at DOWNTOWN? Nope —turns out it was recorded a month earlier at the significantly larger Ritz, which, by then, would have already had moved from East 11th Street to West 54th Street.
Alright, by this point, I’m not really sure what I’m looking for. The existence of the place has been more or less substantially corroborated by several folks, but I feel like I won’t be satisfied until I find some sort of official documentation of it.
The spot in question on Bond Street at Broadway shows very little indication that Downtown ever existed there. The jiu-jitsu place that was there in has morphed into a crossfire gym (see pic from yesterday morning at the top of this post). I walked down the steps to ask a question or two, but there was no one around.
On more than a few occasions, over the last decade, Flaming Pablum has been saddled with the descriptor, “nostalgic,” and rarely has it been intended as a complement. While I’ll assert that the blog is, was and will continue to be topically open-ended, I will cop to the fact that a vast swathe of its content does focus on my native New York City’s past and, more specifically, my past in it.
That said, I wouldn’t say I’m guilty of being indiscriminately nostalgic about it. To the contrary, I’d say I’m quite precisely focused on very specific areas of interest. To wit, you’re never going to find an entry herein about great lost handball courts of Manhattan or top five favorite lost sports bars of the Upper West Side because, frankly, I simply don’t give one good goddamn about either of those subjects.
To that end, I’m relatively certain some readers tire of my ponderously self-involved posts, but that’s kind of my way in. If the entity I’m considering writing about doesn’t resonate with me or my personal experience –- regardless of however credibly “New Yorky” it very well may be -- I probably won’t end up posting it. Put simply, if you’re looking for posts about “Seinfeld” or A-Rod or HOT 97, you’re shit out of luck, because I SIMPLY DON’T CARE ABOUT THAT RIDICULOUS CRAP!
But for unrepentant fans of New York City nostalgia who are sick of the above stipulations and/or simply sick of me, I have excellent news for you. I recently stumbled upon an similarly inclined Tumblr called -- WAIT FOR IT -- NYC Nostalgia, which serves up regular lashings of old images of the NYC of yore (“New York City before its gentrification” is its sole tagline) without all the fuss of personal associations or laborious anecdotes.
To represent same, I purloined the nice CBGB shot up top. I originally felt a bit off-sides doing so, but then noticed that NYC Nostalgia’s chief compiler swiped one of my own photos about five months ago, without any credit. True to example, he is a bit fast and loose with his sourcing, but in a rather pointed post on that subject, he asserted that those hung up on such things need to remember that it’s just a Tumblr site and not the Shroud of Goddamn Turin. Lord knows I'm no stranger to appropriating the odd photo without a credit.
Fair enough. I’m thankful that he’s aggregating all these pics. Yes, some you’ll have almost certainly spotted before, but there are indeed several that speak to my own afore-alluded interests that I’d never laid eyes on.
Go check it out here. Tell’em Flaming Pablum sent’cha.
Surprise!! It’s another post about the Ramones. Don’t like it? Too bad. Why not go read an Old Testament-sized breakdown of the new Beyonce opus and suck a carton of rotten eggs?
Anyway, my friend Greg posted a nice piece from the Observer today penned by Tim Sommer of “Noise the Show”/Hugo Largo fame (I could also point out that `twas Sommer who was instrumental in making Hootie & the Blowfish successful, but why dwell on that?). In the piece, Sommer waxes rhapsodic about the greatness of the first Ramones album, citing it as the “Best Punk Record of All Time.” It’s not a difficult argument to defend, but I’ll let you all debate that one.
The unimpeachable merits of the Ramones’ debut LP, however, is not the thrust of this post. Personally speaking, I think Rocket to Russia was a better album, but my favorite, all-time Ramones album remains It’s Alive, which is essentially the first three albums (including Leave Home) played harder, faster and sloppier. It was the first proper Ramones album I ever owned, and I plan on being buried with a copy, because it’s fucking perfect from start to goddamn finish.
Anyway, blah blah blah. The reason for this post is the inclusion of a photograph in the Observer piece, that being the one at the top of this post. Snapped by the legendary Bob Gruen in the now very distant days of 1975, it shows da brudders emerging from a New York City subway like the gaggle of leather-clad nogoodnicks they so very much were. It’s a photo that’s long haunted me in that its precise location always struck me as being impossible to identify. I chalked it up to being one that I’d never be able to track down.
But then I started to think about it again.
Gruen took another shot of the Ramones during that same day, that being the more iconic one below. You don’t even have to look closely to glean that it’s the same session — Dee Dee is sporting the same striped shirt, Joey’s got a black shirt on and Johnny Ramone — like the proud Yank he was — sports the inimitable image of Captain America on his chest. This photo below finds the boys in front of their erstwhile home turf of the Bowery at Bleecker Street. It’s a legendary shot.
Given that the shot up top and the shot just above were invariably taken on the same day, it made sense to me that they were summarily taken in the same area. That’s when a lightbulb went off above my head.
I remembered a certain afternoon a few years back when I was boppin’ around with my kids, taking pictures. I do this a lot. They’re less enthused about it now, but they used to get well psyched-up for our little photo safaris around Manhattan. In any case, I vividly recalled a day wherein I snapped some shots of them cavorting around the subway entrance and phone booths around East Houston and Second Avenue. This is basically the southeastern corner of the same block that was once home to the Mars Bar (gone), the Taoist Temple of the Ancestral Mother at 9 Second Avenue (gone) and 295 Bowery, a.k.a. McGurk’s Suicide Hall (gone). It’s also simply one block away from CBGB, the spot at which Gruen shot the more iconic photo of the boys above.
The subway entrance in question there is for the F train. Here’s one of the shots I took in 2012 of my children, Oliver & Charlotte (then 6 and 8 years old, respectively). Compare and contrast it with the Ramones photo — pay special attention to the pattern of the metal fencing around the stairwell.
I can’t verify it, but it looks like the same exact spot, no? I'm taking a leap and chalking this one up as solved.
To celebrate, here’s a bit of “Pinhead.” Gabba Gabba Hey!
Some of you might remember a couple of posts I did about Japan and Judas Priest not too long back, all of which concerning photographs of the respective bands by one Michael Putland. Well, in doing a bit of research for those posts, I came across a series of shots he did of the Clash circa 1978, most notably this one of them above, depicted standing manfully on a New York City pier, looking quite literally like they just got off the boat moored behind them. It’s a cool shot, but with the exception of the cover of Combat Rock, one was hard pressed to take a bad photo of the Clash. Love them or hate them, you can’t say they weren’t effortlessly photogenic.
In any case, I started thinking about that photo, wondering which pier it might have been snapped on, and then almost resigning myself to giving it up. There are hundreds of piers around the island of Manhattan — it could pretty much of been any one of them.
Then I was struck by a particular detail.
If you look on the left hand side of the photo, right behind the late, great Joe Strummer’s head, there’s a bit of industrial latticework on the neighboring pier to the band’s right that sort of juts out suddenly. I'm talking specifically about this....
I then remembered a photo my kids had snapped of me in about 2009. This was taken on the pier that extends into the Hudson just off Christopher Street in the West Village. Here’s that picture now. Look to the right of my head.
See it? It’s that same bit of latticework.
As such, the kids and I tried to replicate the Clash shot today … with middling success. Suffice to say, the pier in question has changed considerably since 1978. Here's our then & now...
Here, meanwhile, is The Clash circa the same era....
I posted several posts about St. Marks Sounds over the years and when it was revealed that it was on the way out (see below). Like so many other vanished locations from my youth, I was still drawn to the place, even after it was gone. Only last week, for example, I had my kids reprise the photo above from a couple of years back with this update.
But today, whilst walking east to pinpoint the Tony Conrad spot, I glanced up and notice that not only was the big "FOR LEASE" sign gone, but so were also all the old record covers that used to cover the windows.
I assume this can only mean that a new business — or possibly just a new resident — is ready to take possession. I guess we'll see what happens next.
Just to circle back on this … or should that be cycle back on this? I would’ve done so sooner, but the Prince news kinda let all the air out of my tires. TWO BIKING PUNS IN ONE PARAGRAPH! SOMEBODY STOP ME.
In any case, after first posting this, I slapped it over on Facebook, and within moments, my comrades Bob Egan and Paul/Dub (whom you probably remember from theBogsideChronicles) identified the spot as East 9th Street, east of Tompkins Square Park. Here’s the composite Dub put together...
At first I didn’t buy this, as I was convinced the edifice of the school you see on the left hand side of the original photograph was on the wrong side of the street.
Then it hit me. Bob and Dub are right — I was just looking at it the wrong way. In the photograph, our Tony is biking west …. towardsTompkins Square Park.
Here’s that spot today…
And, fittingly, here’s a snippet of Tony talking about Pythagoras in that very park circa 2009...
Lastly, on my walk home I stopped into Other Music, and true to that original post…look what I spied on the racks (newly re-released)….
...and here's me on that spot.
ADDENDUM: My creative comrade Dub made this new composite with my photo from today.... lovely work....
In the wake of the last twoposts, I just wanted to quickly expound on something, lest I run the risk of seeming oblivious, insensitive, incurious or just plain stupid.
Since about the autumn of 1984, I have had one replication or another of Mike Coles’ iconic cover of the first Killing Joke album adorn my walls. A poster of it hung in my bedroom during my latter high school years. That same poster graced the interior of each and every dormitory cell and off-campus bedroom I occupied throughout my college days (see above). Years later, as an arguable professional, I have a lovingly framed print of it in my office (you can fetch your own here).
I’ve boasted the image on myriad t-shirts over the years, and even fleetingly entertained the notion of getting a bit of it as a tattoo about twenty years back (I demurred from that one, although I have friends who proudly sport that ink).
In a nutshell, the visual representation of that first LP by Killing Joke, as I said in that first post, is inexorable from the band’s music. Those striking images are part of Killing Joke’s entirety.
That all said, of course, their origins --- as starkly captured by Don McCullin in the dark days of 1971 -– are something else entirely.
In taking a step back from the giddy search my comrade dub and I undertook in order to pinpoint the photographs' (both front cover and inner gatefold) locations, I would like to say that we deftly and respectfully side-stepped delving very deeply into the actual events transpiring in the photographs in question beyond surface details. But, in retrospect, I don’t think that’s enough.
Put plainly, the scenes depicted in McCullin’s photographs are part of a much larger and much more complicated story than a bit of provocative album cover art by a post-punk band. While “the Troubles” didn’t play out here in the United States in anywhere near the same capacity they did in Northern Ireland and in England, the story was certainly in the news. To many, the specifics of that narrative may seem abstract or convoluted, but they were very real and very serious.
Even this many decades after the fact, the conflict in that part of the world remains nothing to make light of. Regardless of one’s stance on the subject, blood was shed, lives were lost, and families were affected. For those who lived in the flashpoint of those tumultuous times, I can only imagine the sensations McCullin’s original images must continue to conjure. I sincerely doubt any of those sensations are positive.
Given the stark worldview espoused, at the time, by Killing Joke, those pictures matched their music and their sensibility to a tee, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the photos ultimately mean something else – something that doesn’t belong to anyone other than the individuals depicted. It seems easy to divorce them from their proper context, but it’s that very context that gives them their power to begin with. Killing Joke adopted those visually arresting symbols because they provoke such responses. They’re not supposed to go down smooth and easy.
But it’s somewhat shamefully easy to forget all that and get caught up in comparatively trivial minutia. With all that in mind, while I cannot and do not speak for any of the concerned parties, please understand that in putting together these posts, it was never mine nor Dub’s intentions to appear disrespectful or flippant regarding the underlying (but ultimately indelible) associations of these images.