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.
No one ever said raising two kids in New York City — even the comparatively sanitized and soulless New York City of 2015 — was going to be easy. Sure, loads of my friends decamped to greener, leafier suburban enclaves soon after procreating, but not us. My wife and I — much to the consternation of friends and family — decided to tough it out. We loved our lives here in Manhattan. Hell, I was born and raised here in New York City, and the place was a HELL of a lot less welcoming back then. I survived. Provided we can afford to stay (never a given — especially these days), our kids will survive it, too.
In any case, raising two kids in the city means exposing them — for better or worse — to all the sights, sounds and smells of these Manhattan streets. Hey, if you live in a verdant Westchester hamlet, you probably don’t have to worry about your kids sharing the pavement with on-the-nod junkies, street hustlers, charity-muggers or bug-eyed lunatics. Here in the city, though, that’s just part of the experience. I’d like to think my children have already accrued a degree of street-smarts by this stage in their respective lives, but the salient points are always worth reinforcing.
But while I may be able to instruct and/or advise them on how to behave in certain situations or — more importantly — how to avoid worst-case scenarios, I cannot filter what they see and/or what they hear on the street. The argument could be made that I shouldn’t try to control those things (especially if I’m pig-headed enough to insist on raising my kids here), but there are elements of the experience that I’d just as soon they not have to contend with at this comparatively early stage of the proceedings. But the city is going to be the city, regardless of my preference.
By way of example, I was walking with my two kids up Fourth Avenue just the other day and we passed by a certain structure on the southeast corner of East 10th Street that used to be a corner deli, but is now seemingly a derelict, abandoned space waiting to be developed. In this fallow state, it is routinely covered with posters, bills, street art and graffiti. I actually kind of like its aesthetic, despite the fact that I miss the deli. The problem here, however, is that on the western-facing facade of this structure is a giant, hard-to-miss wheat-pasted sign that boldly proclaims in block capital letters that “COST FUCKED MADONNA.” Great. Thanks for that.
Overlooking, for the moment, the dubious achievement the signage is trumpeting, I live in constant dread of one of my kids spying it and reciting its message out loud (as they are wont to do when spotting something that catches their curiosity). I’m relatively certain they’ve heard the “f-word” before, but I’d rather not elevate it into their ever-growing vocabulary before its inevitable time. But big signs that say FUCK on them undermine that. While vainly trying to distract them, I caught sight of a sticker affixed to a stop sign on the corner offering the following legend: “ASSCANCER: FUCK NEW YORK.” Again, thanks for that.
The things they’re liable to hear on the street aren’t much better. We were on a bus not too long back with two loud, foul-mouthed teenage girls sitting behind this. It was all “bitch” this, “motherfucker” that, punctuated cloyingly with a volley of needless “like”s (just as bad as profanity, as far as I’m concerned). I just find that depressing, let alone annoying.
Before I start to sound too prudish, I’d like to re-assert that I like my New York City rough and tumble. The fact that there’s still an unruly element of vociferous attitude left in the city is almost heartening. That said, slack-jawed idiocy is slack-jawed idiocy, and I don’t have the patience for it. While I’m not going to turn around and entreat every potty-mouth with a teary-eyed declaration that “THERE ARE CHILDREN PRESENT!,” I’m never going to applaud the wanton, careless obscenity. Even if I’m on my own, hearing some whistlehead rattle of a litany of words like “fuck,” “cunt,” “pussy,” “motherfucker,” “bitch,” “dick,” etc. is never going to make my day.
Sure, I’m a pretentious, needlessly verbose, self-appointed wordsmith, but wouldn’t you prefer that to the oafish lexicon of the lowest common denominator? I’m certainly no stranger to saying derisive, disparaging things about my fellow man, but when I do, I tend to choose my words with a bit more colorful aplomb than merely apply the same old tired, hackneyed epithets. You may think terms like “motherfucker” or “fucking asshole” are suitably harsh, but believe me — there are far more potent things you can say without ever having to resort to the weathered playbook of the potty-mouthed. There’s a distinct joy to be found in being eloquently vulgar that I highly recommend.
But I’m no saint. I don’t even live up to my own standards. Peruse back through any number of posts here, and you’ll doubtlessly find a few cuss-words that wouldn’t feel out of place on the men’s room wall. I’m liable to let rip a stream of profanity if I’m frustrated enough. Back in 2006, I penned a post here filled with unsolicited advice for fathers-to-be, saying they should swear frequently before having kids to get it out of their system. I’d love to say I led by example, but I’ve uttered several bad words in front of my kids. I’m not proud of it, but it’s happened.
So that has brought me here. Combining my disdain for needless and unimaginative profanity, my futile hope to shield my kids from lazy, dirty vocab and my aspiration to cultivate a more refined self, I am hereby swearing off further, needless swearing. Feel free to fine me next time you hear me drop an f-bomb.
And I dare you to try it, too, you filthy-tongued fuckers.
Earlier today, my friend Ned Raggett posted a provocative little link on Facebook to an IO9 story asserting that "ROM: Spaceknight" might by the best science fiction comic of all time. I’m not entirely sure I agree with that declaration. Personally speaking, I'm still partial to Marvel’s take on the continuing “Star Wars” saga during the Carmine Infantino years, and I think “Howard The Duck” — the comic, not the film — also gives “ROM” a run for his money in the originality department. But, as a recovering comics geek, I was pleased to see someone mounting this type of argument.
It also triggered something else, though.
I cannot put a specific date on it, but I vividly remember there being a larger-than-life-size ROM sculpture on West Broadway between Broome Street and Spring Street. The comic debuted in 1979, so it would have been some time after that.
He stood manfully -- with Neutralizer raised, prepped for a spacey melee -- on the west side of the double-wide strip, roughy in front of 384 West Broadway.
What an imposing ROM replica was doing there, I’ll never remember — but, again, this was the 80’s,…when weird shit in SoHo was basically de rigeur.
I’ve scoured the `net looking for evidence of same, but have unsurprisingly come up empty. I should probably give Yukie at the SoHo Memory Project a nudge… maybe she remembers it?
Remember Mr. Mister? Sure ya do. They were that uber-slick two-hit wonder from the mid-80s that your older sister probably dug. They’re the dudes responsible for “Broken Wings” and “Kyrie,” two syruppily overproduced pop singles that you can still hear today on Lite FM stations in laundromats and Duane Reades everywhere. If you were big into, say, Level 42, The Hooters and maybe The Outfield but possibly still put off by the burly rock authenticity and primal fury of, say, Tears for Fears, Mr. Mister would have been right up your street. Lead singer really, really wanted to be mistaken for Sting.
Snarky opinions aside, Mr. Mister did introduce the world to drummer Pat Mastelotto, who’d later find comparatively seismic credibility playing for the august likes of King Goddamn Crimson….quite a leap from “Kyrie.”
In any case, I stumbled upon the video below this morning purely by accident and while it didn’t change my sniffily dismissive opinion of the Mr. Mister lads, it resonated on another level.
Unmistakably directed in suitably surrealist style by visionary music video director Zbigniew Rybczynski, the clip for “Something Real” finds the Mr. Mister boys lost in a nightmare of special effects. Ultimately, it’s the very same aesthetic Rybczynski used for the video for Rush’s “Time Stands Still.”
But trippy effects aren't Zbig's only calling card. He’s also a big fan of shooting in New York City. He’s shot similar NYC-centrc clips for the Art of Noise (filmed on the then-derelict High Line), Circus of Power and Polish band Lady Pank (both in the landfill that became Battery Park City), Lou Reed (in TriBeCa), Nona Hendryx (in Grand Central), Yoko Ono (in the Financial District) and an all-time favorite of Flaming Pablum, “All That I Wanted” by Belfegore (on a pier off the West Side Highway in TriBeCa).
In Mr. Mister’s case, the director had the band dodging his goofball effects whilst posing stiffly in various alleys and vacant lots around Lower Manhattan, the most recognizable of which being the former lot between 21st and 22nd Streets between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. There it is up top.
Eagle-eyed viewers and regular readers might recognize it as the same lot wherein Josh Cheuse photographed the nascent Beastie Boys lounging like a gaggle of nogoodnicks below their own graffiti scrawl. At last — the missing link between Mr. Mister and the Beastie Boys has been established. How grateful all concerned parties must be.
Today, that lot is the site of a new development — invariably a tall, sun-blocking luxury condo.
In his own words, Butcher is “an artist and designer who lives and works in New York.” His work is “informed by a lifelong interest in the history of art.”
The man’s website is a rich treasure for the eye, but what caught Bowery Boogie & Gothamist’s attention were his period-specific photographs of lower Manhattan in the 80’s and 90’s (also a favorite era for this weblog, of course).
As you doubtlessly know by now, I’m always looking for visual documentation of those incarnations of my home town. While I’m fully aware of the grim realities of those respective eras, my associations with that city are ones of vibrancy and excitement. At the risk of playing squarely into the hands of those who’d paint me as solely a blinkered nostalgist, I just don’t feel the same sensations of curiosity, intrigue and adventure on the streets of 2015’s New York City. Sorry, there it is.
In any case, while perusing Butcher’s pics, I came across a couple that speak directly to this blog’s preoccupation with NYC-centric music. First up is this one from “New York Then - 80’s"…..
Taken, according to Butcher, somewhere on East Houston, the shot obviously features some seriously distressed car wreckage. What struck me about it was the graffiti on the mangled car door — DRUNK DRIVING. Fellow NYC noiseniks and underground rock fans might recognize that as the name of Peter Missing’s pre- Missing Foundation ensemble, which also counted future Sonic Youth/Pussy Galore drummer Bob Bert in its ranks. I don’t believe they ever released anything.
And because, why not? Here’s another great chunk of Missing Foundation. The casual layperson may recognize the band’s notorious insignia here. Both of these tracks, I should mention, come from Missing Foundation’s album, 1933/Your House is Mine, which only exists at a tactile artifact on vinyl. Enjoy the niceness….
Another shot of Butcher’s that struck a similar chord is this one of East 3rd Street between Avenue A and B. It’s a compelling photograph no matter how ya slice it, but I love the primitive Cro-Mags tag at the bottom.
Another frequent subject of this blog, the Cro-Mags arguably single-hadedly embodied the best of NYHC before the most celebrated line-up fractured messily in an implosion that is still a sore spot for the concerned parties today (read more about that saga here and here).
Here’s the Age of Quarrel-era Cro-Mags firing on all cylinders circa November of 1986.
More recently, of course, lead singer John Joseph has been tirelessly active as a writer, health advocate, Ironman triathlete and rock’n’roll tour guide. Here he is doin’ his thing circa 2011…..
All this talk of NYC punk and graffiti reminded me of a shot a gentleman named Tom Langston recently posted on the Facebook group Manhattan before 1990. That’s this one here…
I’m reasonably certain that this is the same graffito I remember from East 8th Street between Broadway and Astor Place. You can’t quite make it out from the shot, but the figures wielding the spears were life-sized. I remember enjoying the cryptic, explanation-free nature of this art (see also Missing Foundation and, for that matter, Shepherd Fairey’s old Obey Giant campaign). Only later did I learn that it was specifically relating to a band, this one called Modern Clix.
Existing around the same time and playing some of the same venues as the NYHC bands, Modern Clix were actually something entirely different from Agnostic Front et al., playing more of a ska-punk-pop-reggae-funk hybrid that seemed to owe more to the dubby experimentalism of earlier bands like Liquid Liquid, Konk, ESG etc.
Here they are circa 1983, playing at the Peppermint Lounge (featuring some initial extrapolation from primary strategist Fran Powers).
Modern Clix evidently went through a variety of incarnations, later morphing simply into Clix and then Whole Wide World, I believe.
In a weird moment of happenstance, I actually ran into Fran Powers fairly recently. I was invited to an event in SoHo by fellow blogger Yukie Ohta of the SoHo Memory Project to celebrate the launch of her Kickstarter project (read more about that here). My wife and I hung out at this amazing loft space for a while before we decided to go out to grab a bite to eat. On our way out, I ran smack dab into Powers who was on his way in. Unable to stop myself in these situations, I said “You’re the Modern Clix guy,” which pretty much blew a new part in his hair.
We had a nice chat. These days, Fran’s encouragingly still making music with a band called Box of Crayons. Find out more here.
I’ve written about Drew Carolan’s photographs here a couple of time (most notably here). He’s an accomplished photographer, native New Yorker and Lower East Sider, but one of the projects that really defined his work was a series of pictures dubbed “Matinee."
Here’s how he officially describes it.
The Matinee photographs were made between 1983 and 1985 on the Bowery in New York City. The intent was to intercept kids on their to afternoon All Ages Hardcore punk shows at underground music mecca CBGB and photograph them in my makeshift outdoor studio.
As I understand it, Drew basically just set up his "makeshift outdoor studio” by putting up a large, white tarp on the south side of Bleecker Street, just steps to the west of Bowery (i.e. essentially across the street from CBGB), and from there he documented a wide cast of characters.
I’d become of fan of Drew’s after seeing his photos here and there, but it wasn’t until I saw the video at the bottom of this post that it all came together.
In any case, the Bowery of the mid-80’s seems several worlds away by this point. I don’t want to make this post into another laborious lament over the loss of CBGB (I’ve devoted more than enough bandwidth to that particular grievance, most recently here), but the neighborhood — nay, city as a whole — has so vastly transformed in the past fifteen to twenty years, that it can really make your head spin.
The strip of Bleecker Street between Lafayette and Bowery used to have such a great vibe to it. Obviously, I always associate it as the veritable river that plugged right into CBGB, but the street itself used to be much more interesting. Most of the facades are cleaner and have been scrubbed of the flyers and street art that formerly adorned them. Today, it’s just another street — and a busy one at that.
These days, I believe Drew Carolan lives in Southern California, but I wonder if he’d recognize the corner he used to hold court on with his tarp and his camera. I was out with my kids this afternoon (they have the week off), and we found ourselves on that very strip of concrete, so here’s my unrecognizable homage to Drew’s “Matinee” pictures.
Hey all. Sorry for the relative slow-down in posts. I’m still juggling certain things and trying to get re-situated and back on track. I’ve still got some entries in the works for the blog (and thanks, by the way, for all the feedback from this post), so stay tuned. But, I’m forced to prioritize these days, so Flaming Pablum has to take a back seat some of the time.
That all said, I thought I’d share this clip with you. Shot by PBS, “You Know…The Struggle” is a short documentary about socially conscious street art on the Lower East Side in the early 80’s. Suffice to say, the neighborhood depicted here is in striking contrast to its incarnation of 2015.
Below we see a clip from 1989 (taken, evidently, from a video collection called “Hard & Heavy Vol. 5”), which finds the original line-up of the Lunachicks discussing their origins and their debut album, Babysitters on Acid. I’ve discussed the mighty Lunachicks a couple of times here before (notably here and here), but they were a great band and a force to be reckoned with.
Beyond that fabled show of theirs opening up for the Rollins Band at the late, lamented Marquee (wherein Murder Junkies drummer Dino Sex got the tar beat out of him for exposing himself in front of the ladies in question), I saw them once or twice at CBGB and again opening for the Buzzcocks at, I think, Irving Plaza. They were always fun.
I also vaguely remember somehow ending up in the First Avenue apartment of guitarist Gina Volpe after one event or another. I was with two friends of mine, and one of them had become acquainted over the course of an evening with someone who knew Ms. Volpe’s roommate or something…. it was one of those iffy sorts of things. In any case, I suddenly found myself sipping beer in the kitchen of a Lunachick (I remember the band’s signature surreal and slightly scatological artwork being all over the walls) and feeling a bit self-conscious about it (especially, as I believe a member of my party was behaving in a slightly undignified manner at the time). If cloudy memory serves, I remember apologizing on behalf of my gaggle of idiots, professing my adoration for Babysitters on Acid and hitting the bricks with haste in order to avoid getting beaten to a bloody pulp for one affront or another. Ahhhh, youth.
Anyway, whilst watching this clip, I started trying to guess — where are they sitting? Surrounded by mangled, re-purposed metalwork, are the Lunachicks sitting in The Rivington School? Or might they be within the confines of The Gas Station? Or is that at some random playground?
Weigh in, L.E.S. zealots.
Lastly, here’s Babysitters of Acid. Play it at someone you hate.
I spotted this today courtesy of the NYC 1950 to Present page on Facebook, and found it pretty fascinating. Here's how user Jay Singer framed it...
The south platform at Bowery Station. It is not abandoned, however it has been deactivated since 2004. When the 2nd avenue subway comes on line, this platform will likely be brought back into use. I use this station on the north platform, there is no grafitti but it is very dirty and desolate, the least used station in the system. The deactivated side, sans grafitti, is much cleaner. Big rats down there. I've only seen glimpses of this platform through the portals in the wall seperating the sides. The MTA crews go in here regularly to clean it up.
The video dates back to 2013, so I'm not sure if it's still like this today. But, it's cool..check it out....
Yes, that's right, it's another post that LOOKS BACK at something. `Cos, y'know, god forbid I write about something happening in the present.
In any case, I stumbled upon this nifty documentary by VICE about Glenn O'Brien's "TV Party." If you're not familiar with O'Brien, you might recognize him as the gent who writes the "Style Guy" column for GQ magazine. Back in the day, however, he was something a peerless hepcat, having birthed both the cable access program this documentary's about (which featured appearances from everyone from Sid Vicious and Stiv Bators to Klaus Nomi and Grandmaster Melle Mel) and directed the film that later became "Downtown `81.'
But don't take my word for it....watch this documentary.