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.
Honestly speaking, I would never have expected Dr. Martens — arguably the “go-to” footwear of anyone weaned on British punk rock — to pander to stereotype, dilute the message and/or just plain ol’ get it wrong (but now that I think about it — they’ve doneit before). Once upon a time, Dr. Marten just did what they did — make hard-as-nails big, fuckoff boots without needing to suck up to or reinforce their standing with their target demographic.
Looking back, I’m not sure why the British youth first took to Dr. Martens (a straight-ahead footwear company who made sturdy work boots for the common man, so to speak) any more than why mods and rudeboys chose to adopt Fred Perry shirts (Fred Perry, at the end of the day, not being a foul-mouthed hooligan but rather simply an accomplished, championship tennis player). Things just worked out that way, I suppose.
So, while Dr. Martens didn’t intend to manufacture what became the signature footwear of burly British skinheads (and later Punk Rockers and denizens of myriad other subcultures on both sides of the Atlantic), that just simply became their stock in trade. One wonders if they were happy about it, but they couldn’t have been too displeased, as it certainly paid off for them. I don’t believe I know a single fellow music acolyte that didn’t, at one point or another, own a pair of battered Docs. Lord knows my closet’s still full of’em.
The passage of time, however, does strange things. In much the same way fashionistas started cherry picking bits of the sartorial trappings of rock’s countless subcultures for the catwalk — ironic metal t-shirts, spiky bracelets, grungy flannel, etc. — Dr. Martens’ clunky, utilitarian footwear gradually became more accessible, acceptable and no longer relegated to the closets of high school nogoodnicks and goth wallflowers. In short order, willowy fashion models and members of the Cockney Rejects alike suddenly had unlikely common ground in Dr. Marten’s boots.
Here in NYC, Dr. Martens vaulted out of the comparatively grubby shoe shops of West 8th Street and late, lamented 99X on East 10th and into their own comparatively bespoke outlets in SoHo and Union Square. You now see Dr. Martens on the feet of well-paid office execs in pricey midtown bistros and on the feet of stroller-pushing moms. Like most of the other accoutrements of the withering cadaver of punk, Dr. Martens have been subsumed by the mainstream. Sorry, Skrewdriver.
So why am I bothering to exhume all this ancient history? Well, I got an e-mail from Dr. Martens recently advertising their “Core Collection,” featuring pre-“rub-off’ variations. As they describe it…
In the early '80s, US Hardcore musicians and fans customized their Dr. Martens, painting over the original color with whatever struck their fancy. But over time, those hand-painted finishes would wear thin, revealing, layer by layer, the history of a well-worn shoe. Offered in classic smooth leather with a hand-crafted rub-off effect, our Pascal boot salutes the ingenuity of the wearer and the longevity of Dr. Martens alike. Goodyear welted, stitched and sealed, it's made to last long enough to reflect your own history as well.
Alright, so why I am so aggrieved by this? I mean, in 2015, why do I care? I just find it so depressing that Dr. Martens are selling pre-distressed footwear. It’s essentially the same concept as selling pre-faded, vintage t-shirts, I suppose (let alone for a handsome price), that lumpenly seek to broadcast that the wearer “was there, maaaaaan.” I've always hated that. While it’s ultimately the music that matters the most, I've hated to see the accompanying bits of sartorial flourish and visual ephemera cheaply appropriated by folks for whom the points of origin mean nothing. It’s silly, I know, but it bugs the Hell out of me.
Taking that a step even further into the realm of precious punk pedantry, take a look at the image associated with Dr. Marten’s “Core Collection.”
Alright, to the layperson, we see a pair of boots atop an artfully messy collage of vintage hardcore flyers. Closer scrutiny reveals citations of classic West Coast hardcore bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks and Bad Religion (along with the signature artwork of cartoonist Shawn Kerri, who I’d bet was not compensated for same). Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll see invocations of bands like The Misfits, Corrosion of Conformity and bits of this flyer…..
Not that it matters, but The Misfits were from New Jersey, Corrosion of Conformity were from North Carolina and N.O.T.A. were from Oklahoma. And Stache’s (the venue featured in the flyer above) was in Columbus, Ohio.
What’s my problem?
THIS IS NOT WEST COAST HARDCORE!!!
You’d think they could have paid a little more attention to the details.
I’ve gone after Chloe Sevigny here a couple of times (see below). I’m not sure why, exactly, but she just manages time and again to irritate the Hell out of me. Yes, I know she’s smart and cool and has good taste and actually knows and likes the bands on her t-shirts and is friends with cool people and blah blah blah, but I just find her to be so cloying.
Her latest stunt is an entirely unsolicited bit of bullshit that’s been making the rounds, that being a “Guide to Being a New Yorker.” Presumably conceived as a hip retort to the whole Taylor Swift nonsense of a few months back, Chloe’s attempt strikes me as just as vapid as Taylor’s and, well JUST NOT FUNNY OR CLEVER ENOUGH. Check it out for yourself.
Yes, I know I recently pointed out that being a native New Yorker ultimately doesn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, being that so many of the city’s storied movers, shakers and visionaries all came here from somewhere else, but I can’t stop myself from pointing out that Chloe was born in Massachusetts and then raised in Darien, Connecticut. Thus, NOT A GODDAMN NEW YORKER.
One other thought about this….
Not every New Yorker needs to “despise" Los Angeles. If fact, most New Yorkers probably don’t give L.A. that much thought. Moving to California isn’t something your average New Yorker spends a great amount of time ruminating on. That’s a showbiz concern, Chloe, not a New Yorker concern.
And joke all ya want, but knowing your past IS important. Yogurt never will be.
My friend and fellow crazed location-spotter Chung Wong posted an amazing image this morning, that being the one above of John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten….it seems rather laborious to point that out at this late stage of the proceedings, but whatever) posing in front of the old New Yorker Hotel on 8th Avenue at 34th Street circa 1983. This portrait was snapped in signature style by the great Anton Corbijn.
If I’m not mistaken, this was probably taken by Corbijn around the same era of the wider shot below, albeit snapped from the other side of the Hudson River, placing Lydon in … Hoboken?? Seems like a strange place for him to be.
Regarding the first photo (the erstwhile Sex Pistol on 34th Street), that put him back in the same neighborhood I was scouring a couple of weeks back when I was searching for the Strokes’ loading dock. A further Google search brought up this third image from Corbijn, purportedly taken on May 28, 1983 for the NME.
Am I mistaken, or is Lydon holding a French horn over his crotch?
Much like the Strokes’ spot, this tiny patch of real estate — probably somewhere in Hell’s Kitchen — seems like a strenuously unlikely spot to find. Anyone?
Apologies for the slowdown in posts. As alluded — and flatly spelled out — in recent entries, I’m currently trying up to swim up from the unchartably depressing depths of unemployment without getting the bends. As of yet, despite some near-misses, protracted e-mail exchanges and the odd promising interview, I have yet to breach the surface, so to speak. While I have an unseemly amount of “free time,” I cannot always justify spending as much time on the blog. That all said, I’ll have some more substantial stuff up here soon. Stay tuned.
In the interim, I thought I’d put this up. I decided to throw in the towel on Christgau’s book. After I posted my piece on his memoir, I decided to actually go read a few of its reviews (I usually avoid reading reviews prior to picking up books I’m intrigued by), and found that I was not alone in my lack of affinity for the revered critic’s unexpurgated bellyflop into what I would call “ambush porn” (in that I certainly wasn’t expecting it). Having read the pertinent portions about CBGB, Television (who he cloyingly keeps on referring to as “T.V.”) and the Ramones, I figured I got all I needed (ick….that then some) from his book. Done and done.
But speaking of the Ramones, having been disappointed in such swift order by Christgau’s book, I went ahead and picked up “Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone” by Marky Ramone. There have already been scores of books published on da brudders, and I must confess to having read most of them, but I figured…what the heck? At the very least, I felt reasonably confident Marky wasn’t going to unleash an impenetrable avalanche of frilly Christgau-speak on me. “Mooncalves” my ass!
Much like his speaking voice, Marky's text is dry and cheeky, but overall the book is refreshingly more engaging than I was expecting. I’m only about halfway into it, currently dealing with the fabled drummer’s days as the nascent drummer of Richard Hell’s Voidoids.
I was genuinely surprised to learn that Marky served in the ranks of yet another band in between his days with proto-stoner-metal trio Dust and the Voidoids, that being the incongruously countrified soft rock of an ensemble called Estus (and what Estus means, I have no idea … maybe Robert Christgau knows?)
Anyway, he mentions recording an album with them, and details an arduous album cover shoot one drizzly morning on an otherwise deserted, rainy Park Avenue circa 1973. He didn’t feature said album cover in the book, so I did a bit of Googling and voila….
That’s Marky and the Estus boys (Marky being second from the right) on what looks like the northwest corner of East 54th Street and Park Avenue, which today looks pretty much the same (see Google streetview grab below)...
Anyway, my curiosity piqued, I dialed up some Estus on YouTube. Suffice to say, I’m glad Marky moved on to punkier pastures. Here’s a taste.
My little boy turned nine years old this week. Seems like we brought him home only yesterday. In any case, for a birthday surprise, we took him and his big sister to the Top of the Rock, and I couldn’t help but pay homage to an old favorite Bob Gruen photo of the Clash.
I went back up to my old stomping grounds on the Upper East Side not too long back, and I was frustrated to see the fucking giant, artless, ludicrously priapic monstrosity that is 432 Park Avenue absolutely decimating any remaining semblance of symmetry and proportion to the surrounding cityscape.
It juts like an unsolicited erection out of the horizon, forever dwarfing the majestic canyon of Park Avenue and lording over all like some posh, aspirational version of Barad-dûr,Sauron’s dark tower from "The Lord of the Rings."
Actually, that would be compliment. At least Barad-dûr was architecturally interesting and respectful of the stylistic integrity of Mordor's suitably dour surrounding environs.
A pox on all who reside in her.
My friend Susan posted the below clip on Facebook this morning, offering a surreal glimpse inside this wretched column of avaricious villainy.
Take a look….it’s probably the closest you’ll ever get to being inside it.
It's an inexact science, of course, but popular consensus seems to assert that we are now officially DONE with the snow of Winter 2014/2015. My kids are yearning to put on lighter clothes, and I cannot say that I blame them....although I am haunted by the winter of 1986.
I was a sophomore at Denison University, and after a long, hard Ohio winter, I took all my cold-weather clothes home during my much anticipated Spring Break. When I returned to school two weeks later (it now being late March or early April), I was summarily treated to two more feet of snow...and all I had to protect myself from the elements were a couple of sweaters and a down vest.
Here's hoping we're done with the stuff for now.
In any case, I stumbled upon this fetching clip from the New York City winter of 1967. This was presumably shot only a couple of months after I was born.
After a considerable dry spell, my reading life has significantly picked up (possibly due to a sorely unsolicited amount of “free time”). I’ve hungrily paged through some great books in the past few weeks like “NYHC: New York Hardcore 1980-1990” by Tony Rettman, “A Drinking Life” by Pete Hammil, “Wake Me When It’s Over,” the memoir of former Luna Lounge owner Rob Sacher, “Diaries 86-89” by Miles Hunt (he of The Wonder Stuff) and, of course, “Girl in a Band” by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. Given my particular predilections, I’m obviously still a sucker for oral histories, tomes about NYC lore and good ol’ rock bios. What can I say? That’s just the type of crap I like.
So you can imagine, then, my enthusiasm upon learning about “Going Into The City: Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man” by Robert Christgau, the so-called “Dean of American Rock Critics.” As it’s a memoir purportedly detailing the fabled journalist’s days in the rock trenches as a nascent music scribe in the still-endearingly-gritty New York City of the 1970’s, one might be hard pressed to imagine a book better suited to my tastes. Hell, it even boasts a fetching, vintage shot of the Bowery on the cover. Clearly, I was going to devour this book whole.
In exceptionally short order, though, I had something of an epiphany, and it’s one that I’m probably going to catch — nay, earn — a bit of shit for. I really don’t like Robert Christgau’s writing. Like, at all.
I’ve never met the man, but I’m reasonably certain that he’s an exceptionally nice, funny guy. I don’t wish him ill in the slightest. By all accounts, he single-handedly blazed a trail for myriad other rock critics to follow. Kudos is undeniably due.
That said, I barely made it 24 pages into this book before wanting to throw it across the room. After I resisted that urge, I started skimming through it…..often skipping entire chapters.
For a start, there are precious few things I’m less interested in than detailed accounts of the man’s romantic endeavors, but…. he goes there. Fair enough,…it’s his memoir, after all, but I doubt I’m alone in harboring this opinion.
Beyond that, under further consideration, I’m really not a fan of his grading system (and don’t even get me started on his self-proclaimed title). To my mind, I think it set something of a bad precedent for other, invariably less considerate writers to follow in his wake.
You could never make a credible argument against Christgau’s chops, though. I mean, after attentively listening, digesting and reviewing thousands upon thousands of albums over the years (to say nothing of the amazing live performances he's witnessed), the man clearly knows his stuff, even if it’s still filtered through his own tastes. In that respect, I usually respect what he has to say, even if I don’t always agree with him.
But, by the same token, I really just don’t like the way the man actually writes. He’s obviously light years more accomplished than me, and I'm hardly one to be criticizing someone for the crime of being verbose, so who am I to be chucking stones? But I genuinely find his style to be needlessly thick and often laborious, seemingly straining at once to be both hip and conversational, but still unable to resist employing a ridiculous amount of impenetrable vocabulary.
Listen, I absolutely LOVE language. Personally speaking, I like to fully avail myself to a wide array of flowery and arguably pretentious, SAT-friendly words in my writing because, simply put, why the Hell not? Words were meant to be used and shared. One should take full advantage of whatever’s in their arsenal to best express themselves and credibly flesh-out their concepts. The masterful (but measured) use of a few choice descriptors is what makes reading exciting. But, again — and this is strictly my own opinion — in Christgau’s hands, his use of the esoteric (granted, a relative term) is positively masturbatory.
To illustrate this point, I picked fifteen pages at random and jotted down the terms I was unfamiliar with. Here ya go…..
Now, granted, these are all perfectly valid terms (and I dutifully looked them all up). I suppose I must admit that I am now more enlightened for having read them. But when Christgau so liberally peppers words like these throughout his already meandering prose, it just feels so affected, especially when — a sentence later — he incongruously employs a bit of dumb hip-hop lingo ala “When the first Ramones album dropped….”
Now that I’ve given the sacred cow a swift kick in the udders, I should point out that I’m not yet giving up on the book. Who knows…. maybe I’ll have a mea culpa post to write when I finally finish it.
In any case, in my post, I raised a typically inane, pedantic grievance with the video trailer for Ken’s new book, wondering aloud why he chose to use a Sonic Youth track from the 90’s to score images of the East Village in the 80’s. Well, Ken wrote in…..
Hey, thanks for the shout out. I'm just seeing/reading this. That's a good question—why didn't I use something more time appropriate for the Night Walk trailer. I thought the same when I was looking around for a song to cut with the images, but I just kept coming back to "100%." I had the same quibble as you. In the end, I couldn't shake the song. "100%" was stuck in my head when I was editing the book. I tried to use some earlier SY and was a huge Konk fan too, but "sonically" "100%" just felt right to me for the trailer. It had the right tone and tempo and length and driving beat. And Lee Ranaldo was really kind to help the process along and get the rest of the band behind it.
I hope you can give me a break. I thought I more than made up for it using Live Skull's "Bad Hospital" track off an old Tellus tape for my trailer for Invisible City. And when I talked to Mark C about it, he said the timing was perfect because he was soon reissuing their first album Bringing Home The Bait and was including "Bad Hospital" as an extra track, as it had never been officially released before. Because of that he was able to lend me a nice new mix of it.
The books should drop any day now, they got held up somewhere in the distribution chain. I have an exhibition up at Howard Greenberg Gallery now through March 14th and there currently are books there galore. I hope you can check it out. I'd like to know what you think of the whole of it, books, show and all.
In answer to Ken’s query, I think his work is absolutely stunning, and the exhibition at the Greenberg Gallery is still up for another few days. Get yourself away from your computer screen and over to 57th Street to check it out.
In any case, I’d like to thank Ken for addressing my laboriously trivial gripe with a thoughtful answer. I also appreciate his championing of the sorely undersung Live Skull, a band I’ve been meaning to devote a post to here for some time.
As a mea culpa, here's the "Invisible City" trailer, complete with the entirely appropriate score by the mighty Live Skull.
As an extra bonus, here's some great vintage footage of a full set by Live Skull at CBGB from back in the halcyon days of 1986, shot by my friend Greg Fasolino. I briefly had the pleasure of working alongside Live Skull guitarist Tom Paine at The New York Review of Records (he penned reviews under the nom-de-plume "J.Bliss"....a pun on his state of employment at the time...geddit?) He was an exceptionally cool gent.