A week or so back, I stumbled upon a video of a live recording of storied NYC punk pioneer, notorious crank and Television mainstay Tom Verlaine performing a blistering live rendition of “Always” from the Dreamtime album onstage at the Ritz in 1982. Sadly, it’s only an audio recording, and the visuals are just what looks like some surreal home movies (not too different from that live Lou Reed clip from the other week). In any event, that got me ruminating about the greatness of this song all over again. In doing so, I had another revelation.
I’ve talked about Verlaine’s “Always” a couple of time here already (notably here and here). Put simply, it’s just a great goddamn song, full stop, and a good deal more in-your-face than most of Television’s more celebrated work. For the sake of this post, herewith the studio version, once again…
Awesome, right? Well, I told ya so. In any case, I immediately thought the live video was worth posting here, so I started to sniff around for other pertinent information. In doing so, I was reminded of the sleeve to the single, a somewhat-dated shot of our Tom posing somewhere down near the bottom of Manhattan. Here’s that full sleeve now.
In re-examining it, I suddenly realized that the building in the background is 140 West Street (now referred t as 100 Barclay Street), and the only reason I know that is because I now work in the building directly behind it. That got me kind of excited.
Honestly, I’d already been thinking about penning a post about 100 Barclay, if only because it’s kind of an insane building. A truly splendid bit of vintage art deco architecture, this stately tower is rife with needless stony filigree and flourish. From the west-facing windows of my office, you can spy bas-relief elephants adoring its corners several stories above the street. Surrounded by modern shafts of glass and steel, it’s a gorgeous relic of a vanished age.
There’s a whole sordid backstory, but while the building (still?) houses several floors that belong to Verizon, it is currently in the process of being converted --- by the notorious Ben Shaoul – into ridiculously opulent condos. As if the fleeting notion of living in such a plush hotbed of ritzy exclusivity isn’t ridiculous enough, Shaol has re-christened the venture the Ralph Walker TriBeCa (named after the deserving architect) and curiously advertising the apartments therein as – wait for it – “collectible.”
I mean, is this to imply that prospective tenants are encouraged to consider buying more than one? Who’s got that kinda dough?
So, yeah, the whole thing is a vulgar display of affluence, and all parties concerned should be deeply ashamed of themselves. I suppose I should at least be thankful the building hasn’t been torn down. Click here for the whole miserable experience.
Anyway, back to the sleeve of “Always.”
As you can see above, back in 1981 (when the single and Dreamtime were released), there wasn’t as much going on around 140 West Street. Its immediate neighbors (not including, obviously, the original twin towers of the World Trade Center) were dwarfed by its majestic height and rococo intricacies, and it perched precariously on the edge of a field of derelict landfill (where Tom is seen standing probably still looked like this at the time, courtesy of the great Allan Tannenbaum). Suffice to say, it’s not really like that anymore.
Honestly speaking, prior to taking the job I now have, I never spent a great deal of time in this part of the city, rarely venturing south of TriBeCa. I mean, I went to the original World Trade Center a couple of times, but there really wasn’t much else to do down there. Obviously, in the wake of September 11, 2001, everyone became more aware of the lowest part of the island. We all have images of the clouds of toxic dust and debris overtaking everything. We can all still remember the smoke and the tangled wreckage.
That, however, was over fourteen years ago. And in that fourteen years, development in Lower Manhattan has come roaring back (see this promotional clip, for example). It is verily a whole new city down there, and – frankly – a city I don’t really recognize or know very well. So, as I’m spending more time in it these days, I’m gradually familiarizing myself with it.
Today, the plot of land Tom Verlaine was pictured standing on is a very busy and very populated little piece of real estate indeed. And behind him, the surrounding environs have risen up around what had been 140 West Street, dimming a bit of its former glory (to my mind, anyway).
By my calculations, Tom is seen standing on what these days is the western end of Vesey Street, just west of the West Side Highway, and roughly just in front of what today is somewhat inexplicably called Brookfield Place (formerly known as the World Financial Center). I am sometimes known to procure my lunch in the teeming clusterfuck that is the Brookfield Place’s posh food court, that being Hudson Eats, although it’s not at all a place I can picture Tom Verlaine venturing, at least not without doling out a few withering sneers.
While thinking about all this crap, I was in Hudson Eats yesterday, and ran into my cousin Deirdre. I neglected to go into the whole song and dance, but I asked her to take the picture below, and she gamely obliged. It’s not as anal-retentively-precise a replication as I’d like, but you still get the basic gist.
Here, meanwhile, is that live recording…captured at the late, great Ritz (now Webster Hall) on East 11th Street. Crank it.