Once upon a time, there was an endearingly niche record shop at 263 West 23rd Street called Midnight Records. It was just a little further west and across the street from the Chelsea Hotel. Don’t bother looking for it today, of course. Heartbreakingly, 263 is a Verizon Wireless outlet today, but when it was Midnight Records, stepping into it was like stepping into a whole other world.
To be honest, the type of stuff I was looking for wasn’t generally going to be stocked within the already-very crowded confines of Midnight Records. Midnight’s niche, you see, was `60's-style psych/garage rock of the variety selectively popularized via Lenny Kaye’s seismic Nuggets compilations. Back during the early 90’s, if you went into Midnight Records looking for the latest albums by U2, Whitney Houston or Phil Collins, you were likely to get derisively laughed right off the premises, “High Fidelity”-style. But were you to go in searching for prized vinyl from Roky Erickson’s 13th Floor Elevators, The Sonics, The Inmates or the Count Five, you were likely to be warmly embraced in a manner befitting an airport’s international arrivals gate. They catered feverishly to their devout demographic --- which might explain why they’re no longer on 23rd street. The shop closed for good in 2004.
While I truly dug the Nuggets stuff and harbored an affinity for Boston’s Lyres and New York’s own Fuzztones (after seeing them open for The Ramones once or twice), I couldn’t really count myself as a member of the psych/garage tribe. I admired the loyalty of its fans, but so much of it was just a bit too retro for my tastes, despite the fact that it was a sound that inarguably inspired most of my then-favorite bands. I did buy a decent amount of stuff at Midnight, notably some discs by The Smithereens, the Hoodoo Gurus and a fittingly psychedelic poster for Robyn Hitchcock’s Globe of Frogs album that I later framed (although it hangs in a closet today).
In any case, while the afore-cited Fuzztones and the Fleshtones from Queens were probably the biggest bands of that variety on the scene, there were others. One of those higher-profile ensembles was an outfit called The Vipers. While I remember spying their name on posters on the walls of Midnight Records and on gig flyers around town, what I credibly know about the Vipers couldn’t fill one side of a sheet of loose-leaf. Again, while I appreciated that stuff, it was never really “my thing,” so to speak.
Regardless, I stumbled upon this video recently, and it caught my attention. Directed by Pat Ivers, this clip finds lead Viper Jon Weiss involved in some variety of boy-loses-girl narrative in between bouts of unenthused lip-synching. To my knowledge, the rest of the band do not appear. It’s mostly shots of Jon moping around on stairwells and rooftops and the odd city street, which begged the question …. Where in NYC was this clip filmed?
I want to say I see a sign for Spring Street, but I can’t be sure. It also looks like he’s wandering around a particularly crumbly part of TriBeCa or maybe the Meatpacking District? This being from 1982, both of those neighborhoods would have been suitably distressed by erosion and disrepair at the time.
Take a look and hazard a guess.