A lot of my favorite NYC bands – specifically Pussy Galore, Skeleton Key, SWANS, Missing Foundation and -– wait for it –- Cop Shoot Cop, all cultivated their sound via bashing the shit out of pieces of metal. Well, here’s a video from the sepia-toned days of 1970 that profiles an ensemble called The Manhattan Street Band. They, too, made music via using metal as a percussive instrument, albiet with a slightly more meliflluous effect than the bands I mentioned above.
Evidently the winners of some music talent contest sponsored by Mobil Oil, The Mahattan Street Band was a steel drum ensemble led by one Fred Massey. In this endearing, 25-minute film, we see Massey and his co-horts making music all over Mahattan (hence their name), popping up around the Lower East Side, on the East River promenade at Carl Schurz Park (I believe), in Central Park, around Midtown, from the top of the Pan Am building and finally on the walkways of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Whether or not steel drum music is your thing, the film is a strangely compelling, almost hypnotic depiction of a bygone New York City. Yes, things do indeed little a little grittier and grimier (especially around Bethesda Fountain), but not in an especially threatening way.
It’s an interesting glimpse of a very different place.