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.
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.
For a great many folks, I’d imagine, mention 2B on Avenue B -- otherwise known as The Gas Station -- and the first thing to spring to mind will be a notorious early summer performance in 1993 by these photogenic fellows…..
Yes, it was GG Allin & the Murder Junkies (who I’ve spoken about here a few times) who arguably put The Gas Station on the map (and probably helped spell its demise). That GG Allin's legacy is inexorably connected with The Gas Station is probably a sore spot for the artists who originally conceived of the place, but that can't be helped now.
In any case, Gothamist wrote up a little profile of Sullivan yesterday, citing that his archive of 1,900 hours of footage is now in the hands of NYU (Sullivan passed away in 1989). If you haven’t checked out his stuff and you’re nostalgic for the era in question, it’s really worth your time.
A lot of it was just Nelson walking around, having brunch and chatting with friends….nothing all that special much of the time. But in terms of capturing sights and scenes from that era, it’s pretty priceless. It also dispels a lot of revisionist mythology. Much as he did in that last post, my friend Drew shot me the clip of Sullivan’s below this morning and remarked how “normal” Avenue A looked in 1986 (having long been fed the yarn that it was a lawless badlands). Similarly, I put up a clip this past summer featuring a clip of Sullivan’s where he visits CBGB, revealing it to be just another night out on the town, and not a perilous dive into a violent underground scenario rife with chain-weilding mohicans. Clearly not every day in the 1980’s east of Astor Place was a dystopian apocalypse.
Following in the now established milieu of other celebrated oral histories like Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain’s “Please Kill Me,” it’s a fairly exhaustive examination of this city’s contribution to hardcore as told by most of its principal players. Personally speaking, while I was only invested in about half of that time period (and frankly put off by more of the mookish, knuckle-dragging antics of much of the NYHC scene), I still found it to be an illuminating and compelling read. Contrary to popular stereotypes, not every mover and shaker on the New York hardcore scene was a complete lunkhead.
I was particularly intrigued by the whole Rock Hotel passage, a period wherein aspiring promoter Chris Williamson effectively exploited the until-then fairly insular NYHC scene. While he indeed may have broadened the horizons and audiences of these bands (and purposely cross-polinated them with the metal community), he is largely perceived throughout the pages of “NYHC” to have been an avaricious svengali figure who was ultimately only out for his own gain. Having been a big fan of the Rock Hotel shows, I found this to be a bit depressing but not especially surprising. Even then, he seemed like kind of an operator and a bit of cheesy sleazeball (witness his cameos in the Cro-Mags’ video for “We Gotta Know” as he ushers the youthful and impressionable band into waiting limousines on their tour with Motorhead).
I was fleetingly reminded this morning of a video that I had an inkling that I’d posted some long expanse of time ago, and became consumed with tracking it down. In doing so, I found myself combing through virtually every single early post of mine from 2005 until 2008, which was somewhat sobering. Suffice to say, upon re-appraisal, I’d suggest that the first three years of Flaming Pablum are the very antithesis of crucial reading. You may beg to differ, but if so you are being strenuously charitable. I don’t think I really found my stride — much less my footing — until 2008 at the earliest.
ANYway, I found what I was looking for, that being “Ear to the Ground” by percussive performer David Van Tieghem. Obviously, the original film was meant to showcase the inventive rhythmatist’s music, but I was originally struck more by the film’s capturing of the endearingly desolate and somewhat ramshackle environs of the SoHo, TriBeCa and Chinatown of the early 80’s. I also really dug that Killing Joke made a cameo (in the form of a poster on a Broadway wall at around 00:49 into the clip). Here it is again….
As it turns out, Van Tieghem made a sequel to “Ear to the Ground” in 1987 and titled it “Ear-Responsible.” Once again, the streets of New York City act as his drum kit. Here `tis….
If you go David Van Tieghem’s own site, meanwhile, you can see a wider array of his work on video, including this Japanese ad for Sony cassettes. Take a look at that…
Here’s where I get incredibly minutia-laden. In watching the above clip, my heart skipped a beat when I spotted the GODDAMN STENCIL I wasted lots of bandwidth moaning about back in 2013 (see below, just to the lower left of Van Tieghem). I finally found a reproduction of it here.
To be honest, I’m not sure how long the No-Tell Motel was in existence. I believe I first darkened its doors at some point in the early 90’s after attending a show just up the block at Brownie’s (which is now called HI-Fi).
It’s seems slightly laborious to point this out now, but at the time, this stretch of the East Village wasn’t quite the insufferable strip of fratty douchebaggery that it is today. That said, I’m sure long-time residents of Avenue A might have been equally annoyed by No-Tell Motel and Brownie’s patrons as they currently are by patrons of Diablo (what the No-Tell space is today) and Hi-Fi. I mean, loud drunks are loud drunks, regardless of their sartorial flair, sensibility and taste in music.
Yep, the No-Tell Motel dates back to the East Village’s dying-embers-days as an arguably more bohemian neighborhood (although Avenue A in the early 90’s was already a much safer and accessible place then it had been but a decade earlier). As such, much like the afore-cited Korova Milk Bar, the No-Tell Motel initially catered to the same indie and “alt.rock” set that would have crammed into Brownie’s. Though a distant cry from the lawless badlands era of A7, there was still a whiff of that punky vibe.
Said vibe might also explain why — in 1994 — the publicity department of Zoo records (a then-subsidiary of BMG) figured it would be the ideal venue wherein to conduct a set of interviews for the local “rock press” (of which I was a tenuous member at the time) with storied British post-punk stalwarts Killing Joke.
By 1994, I was gradually distancing myself from full-time “rock journalism,” but still kept my hand in for certain projects. Obviously, with Killing Joke being (and remaining) my all-time favorites, I leapt at the chance to interview them.
So, one appointed afternoon, I sped down to Avenue A with my trusty, hand-held tape recorder and into the No-Tell Motel, which was an odd place to visit during daylight hours.
At the time, the ranks of Killing Joke were filled by perennial mainstay and inimitable taskmaster Jaz Coleman, his effortlessly cool and regally bequiffed foil, guitarist Geordie Walker and prodigal bassist-turned-hotly-touted-produer Martin “Youth” Glover, back in the fold after over a decade away. After some rudimentary pleasantries with the publicist, I was sat with Youth, who was perched against the bar’s front window, sifting happily through a container of aromatic Indian grub.
To the layperson, the specifics of this interview probably aren’t of that much interest. Suffice to say, this was around the era of the release of Killing Joke’s excellent Pandemonium. Youth, easily the chattiest and most accessible of the trio, was characteristically affable, thoughtful and quite possibly very stoned. Geordie was intimidatingly cool and somewhat distracted by the No-Tell Motel’s video monitor over the bar, which was showing endless loops of vintage porn (“Oooh, she’s got a nice one!”). At some point in the course of my chat with Geordie, he started physically examining my tape-recorder. This is something worth remembering.
Frontman Jaz Coleman was late to proceedings, but entered the No-Tell Motel towards the end of my exchange with Geordie, cutting a strikingly odd figure in all denim. For my chat with Jaz, we were escorted to the back room.
Even if I hadn’t been the slavishly fawning fanboy that I was, Jaz is a formidable interview subject. Invariably sensing my nervousness, the singer swiftly assumed the reins of the discussion in suitably magisterial fashion and proceeded to wax rhapsodic about…well….pretty much whatever was on his mind.
When I look back at this incident now, I’m quite amazed that I managed to summon the sheer foolhardiness to do it, but at one point when Jaz paused in his sweeping narrative, I butted in with a question. “To some of your critics,” I began, “ it seems that you must be sort of a ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ figure, being that you’ve been predicting an apocalypse for some time now that patently refuses to occur…..” I could hear these words leaving my mouth as I watched Jaz Coleman’s already-piercing eyes bug out wide. I began to stammer as I saw all the humor drain from his face. I immediately started backpedalling furiously. For a few tense moments there, I started genuinely fearing for some sort of reprisal, but after some uncomfortable moments of deeply incredulous bluster, Jaz calmed back down and we finished up our interview.
I thanked one and all and ducked out of the No-Tell Motel, having just met, chatted with and — fleetingly — insulted my heroes.
Upon arriving home, I discovered that Geordie had slyly rewound the tape recorder after our chat — effectively erasing all of my exchange with him and Youth. The moral of this story: Never let go of your tape recorders, kids.
Anyway, I can’t help but think of that afternoon whenever I walk down that particular plot of Avenue A.
I’m not certain when it shut its doors, but the No-Tell Motel is long gone in 2015, replaced, as I said, by what is now Diablo (although I think it might have been something else in between, at some point).
After I posted that photo of Hank O’Neal’s last week, a reader name Steve T. wrote to me, and attached the photo of the No-Tell Motel’s business card below. “Sleazy Fun for Everyone” indeed….
Lastly, I tried to find more images, but came up largely short. That said, I did find this tiny shot of the back room from an ancient copy of New York Magazine. This is the room I played with fire talking with Jaz Coleman in, although I don’t remember it being this well lit.
As I understand it, The Rivington School was technically a loose collective of artists who put up these massive guerilla sculpture gardens, not too different from the old Gas Station on Avenue B. Here's a shot by Toyo Tsuchiya of it circa 1986.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what these first two videos are all about. This first one is the Plexus group having a “deconstruction event” at The Rivington School at some point in 1989.
Keep your eyes out for an appearance by Arto Lindsay of DNA and The Lounge Lizards...
Here’s another from 1986, this one featuring the music of Ritual Tension...
Lastly, here’s another episode of Rik Little’s “The Church of Shooting Yourself.” I wrote a little bit about this program back on this post, but essentially, “The Church of Shooting Yourself” was kind of a proto-video blog (consider Rik Little the evil twin of Nelson Sullivan), which captured the somewhat bug-eyed, largely paranoid ramblings of Little as he traversed downtown Manhattan with his trusty video camera. I don’t know if it was shtick or not, but it frequently made for compelling viewing back in the day.
I’m not sure when this particular clip was shot, but after some frankly disturbing footage of police in riot gear strong-arming and subduing someone, Rik then appears at the remains of the Rivington School’s sculpture garden, and he (kinda) discusses its demise. Once again — if you’re only familiar with these streets from the past fifteen or twenty years, you may not recognize these places at all…..