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.
I know here in 2014, we probably feel we’ve reached the apex of ultimate, self-absorbed mega-douchebaggery. I mean, honestly, it’s all around us these days. But check out this artsy video below, shot in New York City on 16mm film in 1986 featuring dialogue taken from “real people.”
Some of the quotes will truly make your head spin.
It’s a busy day. I’m standing on line at my local bagel place on University Place. It’s only a little after 11:30 am, but there’s already a line of folks waiting to buy lunch. I dutifully join the line and slowly move towards the counter. The guy in front of me is heads-down, fidgeting with his iPhone. We all move forward gradually. The gent behind the counter shouts out “Okay, who’s next?” By this point, the dude fiddling with his phone in front of me is next. “Just a second, please,” he says loudly without looking up. Okay, I get it — maybe this is a super-important text he’s sending. Some crucial business deal or message of utmost importance is being conveyed. There’s a pause that feels like an eternity. Finally, he looks up and orders a toasted everything bagel with low-fat veggie cream cheese then looks back down. Myself and the five or six people behind me inch up again.
His order placed, it’s now my turn, so I move up so that I’m now against the counter next to the guy. I order my bagel with butter (not toasted, please) and look to the right, catching a glimpse of what this guy has been doing. This entire time, he hadn’t been sending an important e-mail or texting some crucial directive to a colleague. He’s busy playing that fucking jewel game on his iPhone. WE ALL HAD TO WAIT FOR HIM TO FINISH A LEVEL OF HIS LITTLE VIDEO GAME.
Look, I’m crazy guilty of using my iPhone. I’m constantly checking my e-mail or Facebook bullshit or posting pictures on Instagram, and I do it a lot. That said, I like to think I’m somewhat cognizant of what’s going on around me when I do. I don’t walk and text or compose an e-mail at the same time. I keep my eyes up and forward when I’m walking down the street. I find it absurdly rude to carry on a conversation on my iPhone while simultaneously procuring goods or services. I believe in having the courtesy to give a clerk, cashier or check-out person my full attention. They’re not just drones to suffer my multitasking, especially if the conversation isn’t that important.
One thing I certainly DON’T fucking do is waste time playing little rinky-dink video games on the thing, let alone while holding up a goddamn line of people.
Next time you see someone playing a ridiculous game on their iPhone — on the street, or on the subway, wherever — slap it out of their hands. There will probably be an ugly confrontation immediately afterwards, but you’ll ultimately be doing that person a favor. Let’s all endeavor to take our heads out of asses, shall we?
Much like the Beastie Boys, I’ve posted a shitload of entries here on Flaming Pablum about Blondie, not just because they’re an old favorite band of mine, but also becauase they’re NYC to the bone. And given how photogenic Debbie & the boys were, there is no shortage of cool photos to expound and speculate about.
As you might remember, I posted the above photo late last week, pulled from the Smithsonian’s documentary about the making of Parallel Lines, “Blondie’s New York.” Taken — I believe — by the great Roberta Bayley (who I’ve seen in and around the neighborhood — she still looks fab), the photo depicts then-bassist Gary Valentine (later to be replaced by Nigel Harrison), drummer Clem Burke (in the fetching pink socks) and Debbie Harry standing on a dilapidated Manhattan curb while guitarist Chris Stein locks eyes with Debbie from just off the corner. I’m only guessing it was taken by Bayley, being that she took the shot of Chris and Debbie kissing in front of subway train below, and they seem to be wearing the same clothes, no?
Anyway, I figured it would be fun and/or maybe interesting to try to figure out where the street corner photograph was taken. I put up the post over on Facebook, and a few likely folks weighed in with ideas.
I figured there was a great big clue in the sprayed writing on the trash cans in between Deb and Chris. Under closer examination, they seem to read “22 A,” conceivably leading one to suspect that the shot was taken maybe somewhere around 22 Avenue A? A quick Google-mapping of that particular strip doesn’t produce anything that matches up. These days, 22 Avenue A is a Chase Bank (big shocker, eh?), but for many, many years, 22 Avenue A was home to a baby supply store, if memory serves. In any case, there’s nothing on that plot that resembles anything in this shot now. There’s a tiny, gated alleyway behind 22 Avenue A on East 2nd street, but that’s now where this picture was taken, I guarantee it.
As is usually the case with these searches, the mere fact that the physical surface and topography of New York City has changed so much in the past couple of decades, these locations can be difficult to recognize. But I jogged over to Great Jones Alley between Broadway and Lafayette this afternoon to have a look.
What I find most frustrating is the shed seen behind Chris Stein on the far right. It looks like a temporary structure, and it’s probably covering up some crucial architectural detail that might otherwise solve the riddle. Here’s the corner I’m speculating that it might be today…
In the Blondie photo, you can see a little window high in the wall between Chris and Debbie. If you step a little closer on Great Jones Alley (so the gate’s out of the way) there indeed was a little window...although I'm not certain it's the same height.
This all said, I’m not entirely convinced that this is the spot in question. The distinctive tile-mosaic exterior on the storefront that Debbie, Clem and Gary are standing in front of looks hauntingly familiar (as in — it might still be out there somewhere).
So, yeah, anyway. The hunt continues. Just to jog your memory, here's Debbie down Great Jones Alley in Amos Poe's "The Foreigner." Look familiar?
And here's Blondie around the same era as the photo in question....
Never underestimate the influence of an older sibling.
For a while, my older sister Victoria had an absolutely sterling track record in terms of music. We’d both been lucky enough to be largely weaned on stuff like the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and Abba by our parents, so we were both drawn to classic pop. Shortly afterwards, though, while I immersed myself in slavish fandom for the pyromaniacal sturm & drang of KISS (and, for a while, virtually only KISS), my sister brought home a sting of crucial records like The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, A Night at the Opera by Queen, Mothership Connection and The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein by Parliament and many more. Sure, she played a lot of what I considered crap too, but the good usually outweighed the bad.
But of all the vinyl she introduced to the household, I believe the most important was Parallel Lines by Blondie in 1978.
We’d gotten our first taste of punk rock a year or so before, when our father — then stationed in London as a correspondent for Forbes Magazine — did us a (rare) solid and sent us a crate of records. Scattered amidst that heap of vinyl were Pure Mania by the Vibrators and the first Clash record (the British edition, no less). I still remember innocently dropping the needle on “Janie Jones” and watching a couple of my mom’s friends — over for a luncheon or something — grimace and recoil in horror. Ya gotta remember — it sounds quaint now, but when the world was used to Captain & Tenille and Styx, the blunt wallop of The Clash was quite a different experience.
If I’m being honest, at the time, we didn’t quite know what to make of those two LPs, and didn’t really appreciate them immediately beyond their novelty (obviously, I was shortly to change my tune on this point). Moreover, the distinctions between US Punk and UK Punk at the time were a complete mystery. Prior to the pop cultural saturation of today, all we knew was what we’d spy in record stores, hear on the radio, read about in magazines and occasionally see on variety shows on TV, this all being prior to the dawn of MTV, to say nothing of the internet.
So when Vick walked in the door with a copy of Parallel Lines by Blondie one afternoon, I had certain preconceptions. The vinyl purchased by my sister on the strength of their breakout hit “Heart of Glass,” I probably pooh-poohed the notion that this band boasted any kinship to the gleefully unpolished caterwaul of those albums we owned by the Clash and the Vibrators. “Heart of Glass” is a disco tune through and through, as catchy and infectious as any other. But the rest of the album, obviously, told a different story.
There would be later records that Victoria brought home that we agreed on -- like Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police, New Clear Days by The Vapors and the first B-52s album, but our tastes further divided after that. Parallel Lines was probably that last slab of vinyl that we were of the same mind about.
Thirty-someodd years later, no less than the Smithsonian is celebrating Parallel Lines with a little documentary about its origins, with a special nod to the city that gave birth to it. There are some dubious assertions later on in the progam (specifically those ... or any ... made by John Varvatos), but it's well worth a watch. Check it out by clicking right here.
Meanwhile, as I'm wont to do, I spotted this fleeting shot included within the documentary -- probably taken by Roberta Baley. Can you name the atmospheric corner Debbie and the boys are loitering on? I have my suspicions, but what do you think?
For some reason, my mother thinks Mick Jagger is the lowest mutation of human life on this planet. I can’t understand it. I could play her any number of suitably ribald selections from albums like Dial ‘M’ For Motherfucker by Pussy Galore, Filth by SWANS or, say, Freaks, Faggots, Drunks & Junkies by G.G. Allin, and she’d still think the Rolling Stones were the rudest, evilest, most degenerate gaggle of transgressive, drugged-up cut-throats to ever blight the earth. I mean, Jagger’s even been knighted by this point, hasn’t he? (He has, but it seems the Queen shares my mother’s view). I don’t get it.
I’m not even the biggest Stones fan in the world, but as a result, I cannot stop myself from picking that scab. I just don’t see how one of the most revered rock bands in history inspires such palpable disgust in her. Even the sight of the fabled Rolling Stones logo — Jagger’s exaggerated tongue -- makes her scowl (which, of course, means I started wearing that t-shirt on the regular).
In any case, it’s Thanksgiving week, which means my little brood and I will soon be bound for my mother’s house for the holidays, where I’ll be undertaking the perilously herculean task of side-stepping any/all conversations of even a tenuously political nature (especially in the wake of Monday night’s events in Missouri). Thanksgiving should be about good cheer and the reinforcement of the bonds of family — not venomous teeth-gnashing and circular arguments with no hope of meaningful resolution.
This Thanksgiving, don't take the bait. Regardless of your side of the fence, don't get into a heated political debate, no matter how tempting. You'll be doing yourself and your whole family a favor. Keep the peace!
But don’t ask me to back down on the Stones matter — `cos that ain’t never gonna happen!
I found the image above courtesy of the Facebook page of Julia Caffritz (ex of Pussy Galore/Action Swingers/Free Kitten, etc.)
Today is the birthday of Mike D of the Beastie Boys, so I thought I'd try to solve a toughie...
I've penned an inordinate amount of posts about the Beastie Boys here over the years and not just a few photo quizzes. Granted, I'm a big fan, but I think their frequent appearances here on Flaming Pablum have more to do with the fact that they've always been NYC to the bone. There's also no shortage of material to work with.
That being said, there is one photograph of the band that has always stumped me, that being the band photo of the back of their debut vinyl 7", Polly Wog Stew, featuring such..er..timeless classics as "Transit Cop," "Holy Snappers" and "Egg Raid on Mojo."
My first introduction to the band was via their frenzied contributions to the cassette-only ROIR compilation New York Thrash, but I don't believe I paid any meaningful attention to them until their mutation into a hip hop act. At some point after that, I remember dutifully picking up their debut 7" at Bleecker Bob's for a forgettable song (this was way before the band became revered elder statesmen).
Endearingly sloppy, Polly Wog Stew captured the nascent Beasties in their uber-primitive infancy. As a result, while the record's bracing, breakneck pace emulated the burgeoning hardcore of the day (the band were clearly devoted acolytes of Bad Brains and Minor Threat), their abilities had yet to match their ambitions. But, as was always the case with the Beastie Boys, what made them compelling was that they were doing it -- not just talking about it. Here were kids my own age who weren't just collecting records, they were making their own goddamn punk rock. For that alone, their coolness is forever cemented, as far as I'm concerned.
Anyway, I've gone on to cherish my copy of Polly Wog Stew. I've never quite understood what's on the front cover (frogs? chickens?), but the back cover featured a group shot of the band. The photo in question was taken by one Arabella Field, who is now a an actress and film producer. This is the photograph in question...
My question .... meanwhile ... is -- WAIT FOR IT -- where was this photo taken?
Obviously, it's a crazy tough question being that there aren't many visual signifiers to work with. This photograph could have been taken quite literally anywhere in New York City.
That said, I do have my hunches. My first guess sprang from the information on the record label.
Put out by Rat Cage Records, the Polly Wog Stew e.p. cites the tiny operation's address being located at 307 East 9th Street. Could the youthful Beastie Boys have been photographed on the curb in front of that address?
Granted, it's been 32 (fucking Hell!) years since the release of Polly Wog Stew, so the very spot in question may not look the same anymore. These days, 307 East 9th Street plays host to the brick-&-mortal incarnation of Mud Coffee. If this hunch is correct, here's what that strip looks like today....
Hard to imagine right? But check out that little architectural detail on the frame of the doorway at the left....similar to the same detail on the Polly Wog Stew picture, no? Look again...
I actually reached out to Ms. Field to see if she could shed some light (we have a mutual friend on Facebook), but I've yet to hear back from her. She also took some other amazing pics of the Beastie Boys around Manhattan from the same era that are well worth checking out.
At some point, Rat Cage Records moved their home base to 171 Avenue A..... might that be the location?
Bet ya thought I'd forgotten about all this stuff, right? Well, think again.
In our last painful episode, you'll remember I'd been sidelined from my running regimen by the sudden appearance of a sharpening, persistent ache under my right knee. Not being a "fight through the pain" type of guy, I took this as sign from my aging body that I needed to cease running immediately. I wasn't happy about it, but I didn't think it was wise to ignore it.
That was back in September. I figured I'd lay off the knee for a week or two until the pain subsided. I also thought it would be prudent to invest in a new pair of running shoes, being that the New Balance ones I'd been using dated back to the balmy days of the Clinton Administration. Regardless, I was determined that I was going to get back on the horse, so to speak.
But, as it so often does, life got in the way. Before I knew it, I was swept up in daily doings, tackling other projects, picking up some freelance work and concentrating on my job search (if you haven't figured it out by now, I've been out of work since early July). The more time went on, the more I started finding other legitimate excuses not to factor running back into my life. I was -- and remain -- concerned about that.
If you've ever been suddenly out of work, you know how stressful it can be. Suffice to say, my situation has been no exception. Presumably as a result, I started feeling increasingly tense -- not just mentally and emotionally, but physically -- awakening a long-dormant problem I had in my upper back that first revealed itself in the early 90's. As such, I'd started going with increasing frequency to get massages at one of those Asian nail salons on Broadway, but I was finding that this was a problem that was out of their jurisdiction. It was time to go to a chiropractor.
Today, I ducked into the office of a chiropractor in the East Village my wife had used a year or so ago. I explained my whole deal -- alluding to both my back problem from the 90's, my running problem and the stresses that currently conspire against me. He gave me a full examination -- complete with an x-ray -- and immediately noticed that I'm suffering from a somewhat pronounced misalignment, causing me to put more of my weight on my right leg....a condition that could easily explain the stress on my knee.
I'm slated to go back in next week after he's had time to examine my x-rays, but I'm hoping I'll be able to take steps soon to get back into some running shoes and back out there.
In lieu of doing something productive, I found myself wading into a YouTube k-hole the other morning and stumbled upon the clip below. Herewith a music video from 1985 by a band called — ahem — The Minstrels of the Digital Dynasty. With a moniker like that, it’s a wonder global stardom didn’t beckon.
Clearly caught up in the throes of the broad expanse of the still-burgeoning New Wave, here we see the Minstrels experimenting with the accoutrements of the day (eye liner, gratuitous sunglasses, incongruous bow ties, make-up), presumably in an attempt to push the envelope. I’ll let you decide if that worked or not. Suffice to say, it’s very of its era.
Thematically, the band strives to make an overarching point about the vacuous priorities of the “modern wasteland,” splicing images of society’s conflicts and absurdities. It's all a bit po-faced, but more celebrated bands were certainly doing similar things at the time, like Midnight Oil, The The, Gang of Four, Devo and even my beloved Killing Joke. Who can blame a struggling band for emlating same?
In any case, along the way — between the somewhat heavy-handed montage, the slightly hammy delivery and the performance clips — there are some shots of the New York City of 1985. That's what hooked me in.
I should also point out that I did a broad search for more information on this band, but came up entirely empty. I don’t know who these guys were, much less if they’re still a going concern today (I’m inclined to doubt it, but you never know). I'd be curious to hear what these guys have to say about this clip now.
In any case, here is "Human Race." Welcome back to 1985....
For a start, I should confess that — despite having been an English major and still considering myself reasonably literate — I have never read a single sentence by storied American author John Cheever. I’m not proud of that fact, but there it is. I have a pile of books on my bedside table. I’ll add a copy of “The Stories of John Cheever” to it right after I post this.
In any case, Golden Suits is the pseudonym of a musician named Fred Nicolaus. Indie-heads might recognize him from a duo called Department of Eagles. In the guise of Golden Suits, however, Nicolaus gives sway to his obsession with author John Cheever (the very name of the band, evidently, is taken from the last line of “The Country Husband,” a Cheever short story). Like I said, I’ve never read Cheever, but I love that this guy is so singularly obsessed that he’s devoted a project to it.
I’m late to the table on this, but in 2013, he released an eponymous album revolving around the author. The video below, “Swimming in '99,” is taken from that album. True to his preoccupation, the video portrays Nicolaus exiting Brooklyn by subway to dutifully criss-cross Manhattan on a singular mission — to buy up every hard copy of “The Stories of John Cheever” he can put his hand to.
Sure, it’s all a bit precious and not just a little pretentious, but who cares?
For fans of the vanishing Manhattan book store, treat yourself as Nicolaus dutifully visits a Barnes & Noble (the former one on 6th Avenue?), McNally Jackson in Soho, Mercer Street Books off Bleecker Street, Shakespeare & Co. on Broadway (r.i.p.), Book Book on Bleecker, Biography Books on Bleecker, Left Bank Books on 8th Avenue (wherein he finds a signed, hardcover first edition), Penn Books (in the bowels of Penn Station), — a spot on the Upper West Side I couldn’t identify — , Bookculture on West 112th Street, The Corner Bookstore on East 93rd and Madison (I grew up around the corner from this spot), the Strand Book Stalls on Fifth Avenue at the southeast corner of Central Park, Posman Books in Grand Central (soon to vanish), Barnes & Noble on Union Square, The Strand on 12th and Broadway, Mast Books on Avenue A, East Village Books on St. Marks Place and — finally — the former spot of St. Mark’s Books on Third Avenue before he heads back home with an unwieldy bag of Cheever's celebrated fiction.