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.
Time for another culling of JPEGs that, for one reason or another, landed on my desktop. These are invariably images I "set to one side" for the purposes of using in posts here on the blog, or simply pictures that caught my eye. Most of them were taken by other folks. The ones of my kids, of course, are mine. Most of these never turned into posts. Some might still. Some might not.
As much as I may be disinclined to admit it, I am wrong on occasion. This might be why I’m so obsessed with finding the Lunachicks wall with exact precision. I’m really committed to getting it right, if only for my own sake . Honestly, I can’t imagine any of you are quite as fixated with it as I am, despite my repeated posts about it here.
In any case, way back in 2012, I published a post here about Jim Jarmusch’s iconic film from 1981, “Stranger Than Paradise.” In re-reading same, incidentally, I notice I devoted what I now consider to be a churlishly unsympathetic paragraph to Jarmusch’s first effort, “Permanent Vacation.” Sure, that film may have been rough around the edges, but who the Hell am I to take such pot-shots? I was out of line for that, and I apologize to all parties concerned.
Anyway, “Stranger Than Paradise” remains a keeper. If you haven’t seen it, go do so at once. Regardless, at the tail end of that post, I wondered aloud about the whereabouts of the corner where Eva is depicted waiting after exiting her cousin’s apartment. It became my quest to pinpoint it. Here's that iconic image, once again...
That’s nice and all, but it turns out I was entirely incorrect.
For a start, the brick-face on those respective corners don’t really match up, but I seemed to have glossed over all that. Today, meanwhile, while I wasn’t even looking for it, I found the actual corner. Bear with me on this one, as we have to go back to the Lunachicks’ shot…
For whatever reason, my kids had the day off from school today, so I was relieved of the duty of dropping them off. Even still, I woke up earlier than I might’ve otherwise. Y'see, in the middle of the night, I’d been struck by the notion that the afore-cited Lunachicks’ wall is notsomewhere in NoLita as previously speculated (given that I’ve been zig-zagging my way around that neighborhood on my walks home from work, over the last several days, and continually come up empty). For some reason, I seemed to convince myself that the actual spot I’m looking for is somewhere on Carmine Street. I can’t tell you why I suddenly thought this, as there was no smoking gun moment or anything, but I’d felt a convincing hunch. As such, with a little bit more free time this morning, I left a little earlier to go check that strip out before heading to the office. SEE HOW THIS IS DRIVING ME CRAZY?
As it unsurprisingly turns out, it’s not there either. C'mon...like you didn’t see that comin’?
Finding myself on the west side, instead of repairing back to West Broadway, I continued my southbound trajectory, shortly to traverse through SoHo and gradually into TriBeCa.
Even after all these years, I’m still surprised to see TriBeCa transformed into such a genteel environment, when it used to feel so neglected and desolate. Collister Street, for example used to be a narrow, filthy canyon of dirt and graffiti. Today, it’s squeaky clean and bereft of its former character. The similarly slim Staple Street (which I wrote about here) is also a much less ominous byway to walk down. When I reached that end of that street, however, another thought occurred to me. I turned around to examine the southwestern corner. Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?
I’m completely convinced that this is the actual corner used in “Stranger Than Fiction.” The brick-face, however weathered in the ensuing 35 (!!!) years, is a total match, and look at how the sidewalk still slopes down! It’s a perfect match.
So yeah, five years later, I can happily say that one is solved and correct. Yay.
But the Lunachicks’ shot? That one is still out there … somewhere.
Surprise!! It’s another post about the Ramones. Don’t like it? Too bad. Why not go read an Old Testament-sized breakdown of the new Beyonce opus and suck a carton of rotten eggs?
Anyway, my friend Greg posted a nice piece from the Observer today penned by Tim Sommer of “Noise the Show”/Hugo Largo fame (I could also point out that `twas Sommer who was instrumental in making Hootie & the Blowfish successful, but why dwell on that?). In the piece, Sommer waxes rhapsodic about the greatness of the first Ramones album, citing it as the “Best Punk Record of All Time.” It’s not a difficult argument to defend, but I’ll let you all debate that one.
The unimpeachable merits of the Ramones’ debut LP, however, is not the thrust of this post. Personally speaking, I think Rocket to Russia was a better album, but my favorite, all-time Ramones album remains It’s Alive, which is essentially the first three albums (including Leave Home) played harder, faster and sloppier. It was the first proper Ramones album I ever owned, and I plan on being buried with a copy, because it’s fucking perfect from start to goddamn finish.
Anyway, blah blah blah. The reason for this post is the inclusion of a photograph in the Observer piece, that being the one at the top of this post. Snapped by the legendary Bob Gruen in the now very distant days of 1975, it shows da brudders emerging from a New York City subway like the gaggle of leather-clad nogoodnicks they so very much were. It’s a photo that’s long haunted me in that its precise location always struck me as being impossible to identify. I chalked it up to being one that I’d never be able to track down.
But then I started to think about it again.
Gruen took another shot of the Ramones during that same day, that being the more iconic one below. You don’t even have to look closely to glean that it’s the same session — Dee Dee is sporting the same striped shirt, Joey’s got a black shirt on and Johnny Ramone — like the proud Yank he was — sports the inimitable image of Captain America on his chest. This photo below finds the boys in front of their erstwhile home turf of the Bowery at Bleecker Street. It’s a legendary shot.
Given that the shot up top and the shot just above were invariably taken on the same day, it made sense to me that they were summarily taken in the same area. That’s when a lightbulb went off above my head.
I remembered a certain afternoon a few years back when I was boppin’ around with my kids, taking pictures. I do this a lot. They’re less enthused about it now, but they used to get well psyched-up for our little photo safaris around Manhattan. In any case, I vividly recalled a day wherein I snapped some shots of them cavorting around the subway entrance and phone booths around East Houston and Second Avenue. This is basically the southeastern corner of the same block that was once home to the Mars Bar (gone), the Taoist Temple of the Ancestral Mother at 9 Second Avenue (gone) and 295 Bowery, a.k.a. McGurk’s Suicide Hall (gone). It’s also simply one block away from CBGB, the spot at which Gruen shot the more iconic photo of the boys above.
The subway entrance in question there is for the F train. Here’s one of the shots I took in 2012 of my children, Oliver & Charlotte (then 6 and 8 years old, respectively). Compare and contrast it with the Ramones photo — pay special attention to the pattern of the metal fencing around the stairwell.
I can’t verify it, but it looks like the same exact spot, no? I'm taking a leap and chalking this one up as solved.
To celebrate, here’s a bit of “Pinhead.” Gabba Gabba Hey!
Some of you might remember a couple of posts I did about Japan and Judas Priest not too long back, all of which concerning photographs of the respective bands by one Michael Putland. Well, in doing a bit of research for those posts, I came across a series of shots he did of the Clash circa 1978, most notably this one of them above, depicted standing manfully on a New York City pier, looking quite literally like they just got off the boat moored behind them. It’s a cool shot, but with the exception of the cover of Combat Rock, one was hard pressed to take a bad photo of the Clash. Love them or hate them, you can’t say they weren’t effortlessly photogenic.
In any case, I started thinking about that photo, wondering which pier it might have been snapped on, and then almost resigning myself to giving it up. There are hundreds of piers around the island of Manhattan — it could pretty much of been any one of them.
Then I was struck by a particular detail.
If you look on the left hand side of the photo, right behind the late, great Joe Strummer’s head, there’s a bit of industrial latticework on the neighboring pier to the band’s right that sort of juts out suddenly. I'm talking specifically about this....
I then remembered a photo my kids had snapped of me in about 2009. This was taken on the pier that extends into the Hudson just off Christopher Street in the West Village. Here’s that picture now. Look to the right of my head.
See it? It’s that same bit of latticework.
As such, the kids and I tried to replicate the Clash shot today … with middling success. Suffice to say, the pier in question has changed considerably since 1978. Here's our then & now...
Here, meanwhile, is The Clash circa the same era....
I posted several posts about St. Marks Sounds over the years and when it was revealed that it was on the way out (see below). Like so many other vanished locations from my youth, I was still drawn to the place, even after it was gone. Only last week, for example, I had my kids reprise the photo above from a couple of years back with this update.
But today, whilst walking east to pinpoint the Tony Conrad spot, I glanced up and notice that not only was the big "FOR LEASE" sign gone, but so were also all the old record covers that used to cover the windows.
I assume this can only mean that a new business — or possibly just a new resident — is ready to take possession. I guess we'll see what happens next.
I can’t remember why we started talking about it, but a hotly contested theory from my distant youth was invoked again this past weekend, and it occurred to me to bring the debate here that we all might glean something from it … or not.
Perhaps prompted by the title of the new Linklater movie, “Everybody Wants Some,” my friend Rob B. and I were discussing vintage Van Halen on Saturday, when he came over to visit me and the kids while my wife is away on a business trip. While we were remarking how a proper reunion of the band isn’t likely to happen (it won’t –- to our opinion -– really matter unless Michael Anthony is re-instated, his high-piped harmonies being the core of the band’s original sound next to Eddie’s squealing guitar), I took the opportunity to run a particular theory up the flagpole, one that dates back to my grade school years.
Released in 1980, the third album by Van Halen -- Women and Children First -- not only boasted future classics like “And the Cradle will Rock” and the afore-cited “Everybody Wants Some,” but it also featured a compelling group portrait on the cover by photographer Norman Seeff, one finding the band posing in a sort of exuberantly priapic rugby scrum.
While arguably iconic (Weezer, of all bands, once posed similarly in tribute), the photo also had some significance in that I vividly recall hearing a convincing argument at some point in seventh or eighth grade that the band’s depicted histrionic pose is actually meant to emulate the shape of the United States. I know, … it sounds ridiculous (and, frankly, it is), but let’s review, shall we?
So, yeah -- Eddie’s left leg is Florida, Michael Anthony’s head is Maine, the space between the neck of Ed’s guitar and Michael being part of the Great Lakes. Eddie's left hand is the "over mitt" of Michigan. Fittingly, this all makes David Lee Roth’s ass the band’s home turf of Southern California.
I mean, it’s not entirely inconceivable, right? I mean, it certainly made sense at the time.
A couple of years ago, some of you — especially the scribbly rock geekery contingent — might remember an inadvertently contentious new Tumblr site called My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection. As its title suggests, the concept was pretty simple; the blog’s author — one Sarah O’Halla — would listen to each and every LP from her husband’s apparently sizable record collection and document her thoughts and reactions. When I first heard about it, I thought it was it was kind of a fun idea. Personally speaking, I’m always curious as to how non-devout ears interpret stuff that some of us rock nerds find sacrosanct.
The problem, however, was that to many minds, the blog in question unintentionally reinforced certain misogynist stereotypes. I have several female music critic friends who were positively SEETHING over My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection. While I don’t at all believe Ms. O’Halla intended to fan the flames of this debate, I could totally understand why my friends were upset. As in countless other arenas, it seems to have taken a ridiculously undue amount of years for women to be taken as seriously as their male counterparts in the field of music journalism. More to the point, if you spend any amount of time in the company of established rock journalists (sort of an oxymoron, that) of the male variety, more often than not, they’re dysfunctionally insecure pedants who hide a wealth of deep-seated shortcomings behind an imperious arsenal of trivial factoids about silly bullshit. For writers like Ann Powers, Amy Linden, Maura Johnston, Jeanne Fury and Geeta Dayal (to name a small few), the appearance of O’Halla’s blog arguably undermined years of their work and dedication by perpetuating the virulent notion that girls can only appreciate silly boy bands and/or can’t really comprehend a thing about so-called "real music." If you possess any semblance of cognition, you know that’s a total stack of crap, but these are stupid times we live in.
Anyway, in the immediate wake of that furor, Ms. O’Halla posted a few conciliatory entries designed to allay the concerns detailed above, but continued to compose the blog. Two years later, she’s still at it (she’s going in alphabetical order and is only in the C’s). Like I said, I don’t believe she meant to offend anyone or wilfuly portray her gender in a demeaning light. In the wake of the uproar, though, I thought I’d try to appropriate the crux of her initial concept, but put a bit of spin on it.
By this stage of the proceedings, my kids are well aware that their father is an insufferably opinionated music snob. Having now crossed the perilous chasm into tween-hood, both Charlotte (12) and Oliver (10) now have their own tastes, likes, dislikes and opinions about myriad facets of pop culture, but when it comes to music, they sometimes stop short of expressing their thoughts in front of me, lest — to their minds — they incriminate themselves. Despite my repeated assurances that I’d never come down on them for expressing an affinity for a bit of music I might find unfit for human consumption, they’ve heard me wax vitriolic about any number of artists far too many times. Even if I wanted to discourage them from liking a certain band or song, I couldn’t succeed in that venture no matter how hard I tried. My own parents tried to dissuade me from liking KISS and the Sex Pistols — and boy oh boy, did that backfire on them.
I’ve also poisoned the well and sheepishly become THIS GUY. As a result, my kids may not be able to rattle off song titles by Katy Perry or One Direction, but they sure as shit know Devo, Iggy Pop and the fuckin' SWANS when they hear them. A lot of the time, I think they’re just humoring me, but I know some of my tastes have rubbed off. For much of last summer, Oliver’s favorite song was “New Life” be Depeche Mode.
When I suggested to them the idea of doing something along the lines of My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection, they both thought it sounded fun, but Oliver became swiftly distracted by the pressing need to find a certain LEGO piece and recused himself from the proceedings. Charlotte, however, dove right in and got out her typewriter, taking the assignment on with a great amount of zeal.
I thought that going in alphabetical order was sort of a waste of time, as I don’t really think we’re going to do every one of my discs (suffice to say — there are more than a few). As such, I picked out a couple of discs at random and culled those titles down to a tidy handful. The first album I selected for Charlotte — saying nothing about them or the disc in question in advance nor while spinning it — was The Pink Opaque by the Cocteau Twins. Below is what she had to say, taking it song by song. I did a cursory amount of copy-editing, but it’s otherwise all her. I’m obviously biased, but I was very impressed with her observations.
The Pink Opaque by the Cocteau Twins, as interpreted by Charlotte M. Smith, age 12.
“The Spangle Maker”
At first, I didn’t know that the girl’s voice was the main aspect of the song. It sounded like a background singer a little bit. The beginning sounded just like the beginning of any other song today (just pointing that out). It sounded good and I liked it, but I still thought it sounded like other songs I know and it didn’t strike me as “Gosh, this is different from EVERYthing else!” Also, the girl, Liz Fraser, sounded more like a background singer than a “main” singer. I know you might think differently, but I’m only twelve, and that’s what I thought of the song. By the way, it was “The Spangle Maker,” and it actually reminded me of Siouxsie & the Banshees, their song that was called “Il Est Nes Le Devin Enfant.”
Very interesting. I like the beginning (and my dad probably does too, because he’s humming along). I have no idea what Liz Fraser is really saying, but I like the way it sounds (it reminds me of the beach, in a way). Some people might not like the way I’m describing this, but I like the song even though she could be talking about hippo butts and I didn’t know. It’s a tiny bit repetitive, but what song isn’t?
"Wax and Wane”
The beat is a little weird, as in Liz Fraser — in my ears -- isn’t going along with the sound of the guitar, I think? It’s a bit quick. I think I heard Liz’s voice cracking, but i still sounds very nice, if not slightly repetitive. Sounds a little bit sci-fi. I like the way the song fades away instead of going off all at once. I doesn’t sound exactly relaxing, like the last song, but now I am liking the different aspects of the album! (Sorry this description was pretty short).
Sounds dark and deep, I guess. I like the beat and Liz’s voice sailing across the sound of the instruments. It doesn’t sound sad, but like it has a darker meaning to it. I hear many different voices and instruments mixing with Liz’s voice. It also sounds like there are other women singing behind her, ever so quietly, though. So, now we’re in the middle and it sounds a little more light-hearted than before. Still sound very meaningful. I think it ended rather quickly, though. Overall, I like that one very much.
”Pearly Dew Drops Drop”
Sounds ….. like the kind of music you listen to on a long car drive. Something that can lull you to sleep or cause you to stare out the window for hours. I like it. I like the voices mixing together and sounding like one. I like how most of the instruments have kept the same beat from the beginning.
It sounds like something that could almost be background music in a video or documentary. I like how she repeats the same (well, mostly) lyrics from the beginning all the way through. Sometimes, you savor part of a song like a piece of chocolate, and you only listen to get to that one part. But, in this song, the one part you’re usually searching for just keeps repeating, and in a good way.
”From the Flagstones”
It sounds VERY mysterious, and Liz’s voice starts almost immediately. Then there’s a few moments of quiet that let you sort of get into the song. It sounds like a song for fighting for your rights or something. Anyway, it’s repeating the same line, then gets quiet, then it says more stuff, and then repeats some more. It sounds like a song you’d listen to while running, kind of like it’s inspirational in a way. I kind of like the way the drums change their beat toward the end. However, I don’t like the way the song ends. Maybe that’s just because I can’t understand it. But it ends so abruptly, compared to the other songs.
Some aspects sound punk-rock-like, here. And Liz sounds more light-hearted and literally because she’s singing with a lighter touch. And the instruments still match the high voice in a weird way, and it sounds very different from the rest of the album so far. But, also so far, I like it. It some parts, her voice changes, almost like she’s singing a duet at certain points. I LIKE THAT SONG!
It sounds like a mix of carnival music, sci-fi, Christmas bells and something else. It sounds hopeful and happy. Like end-of-a-movie music. Like resolution music. And Liz’s voice goes up and down in this. It also sounds like many aspect of LIz’s voice are singing this song, and she keeps repeating the same lines, like she’s humming them to herself, then decides to add music. I think it shows a different side to this album, since the cover is all “This Album Is Full of Dark, Disturbing Music Because We Have Places That Are Dark and Disturbing On the Cover!” I think it’s a nice change, and this album might be open to more people.
It sounds sad and mournful, a little bit. As in, it’s not something I’d listen to on a warm, sunny day. It sounds like music you put in a dark, sad section of a movie. Wait! Now it seems to be lightening up just a little bit …. well, scratch the whole sad movie thing. This song has so many emotions baked into it. It would definitely steak my attention [Edit note — I have no idea what this means, but it steaks my attention, too.] I also like how there are so many different instruments. First, I thought this was sad, then happy, then both. Out of nowhere, when you think the song is going to end, some instruments I can’t seem to name break out into the song and fill it with anger. Or is it passion? I can’t even tell. It’s so confusing and different, yet simple all at once. I don’t think it’s my kind of song, but it sounds like she put a lot of work into it, and I admire that.
”Musette and Drums”
Very dark. It sounds …. a bit like the end of that last song. At first, I thought I was just hearing the same song again. But it’s sill very meaningful, and sounds like it took a lot of effort. It sounds like music you’d put in a section of a movie where people are scheming something, like a plan and whatnot. I like the drums as well. The was a very heartfelt song, in my opinion, but again, it sounded like the last one a little bit. Also, it sounded a tad short.
Charlotte enjoyed this very much. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to coax Oliver into the project, but Char is greatly looking forward to the next installment. Stand by.
Bob Egan of PopSpots nailed this one pretty quickly, identifying the location of Michael Putland’s sulky portrait of those fashion-forwaerd fops in Japan circa `81 as being West 57th Street. Conceivably after this photo was taken, the boys may have supped some tea at the Russian Tea Room, perused the aisles at Bergdorf Goodman and held court at the Oak Room over at the Plaza.
In any case, the kids and I were in midtown this morning to see the family accountant, and as such — I couldn’t resist the urge to replicate the shot. Here are my ever-patient kinder giving it their best in roughly the same spot …. 38 years later.
Evidently, later the day, the band did make it over to Central Park...
We've just endured another surprise of the variety that I can't really talk about here. Suffice to say, a member of my family is not well and just experienced another hugely unexpected setback (just another in a series of setbacks, really). It really sucks quite significantly, but we will get through it. Anyway, it's something I have to deal with, so sit tight. I'll be back as soon as I can.