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.
While it’s more or less true (depending on the age of the person you’re debating it with) that was passes for “punk” in 2016 has been essentially de-fanged, housebroken and subsumed by the mainstream culture, it still doesn’t feel all that long ago that people were talking about it like it was a genuine threat to the very fabric and stability of civilization. Witness that clip from earlier this week of self-appointed arbiter of decency, Doris Lilly, sounding off on the scourge of British Punk that was fleetingly slated to land in New York City like a veritable tsunami of violence and moral decay. It’s all a bit quaint now, but once upon a time, people were kinda bugged out about it. This same class of folks would later fret about "gangsta rap," hair metal and Marilyn Mason and slap stickers on albums, but I digress.
An oft-repeated factoid about the burgeoning hardcore punk scene in the United States is of its resourcefulness. Given that so many venues wouldn’t touch hardcore bands with a ten foot pole (whether for reasons of taste or fears of riot, etc.), the burgeoning network of do-it-yourself ensembles found other ways in. As a result, bands would sometimes cut their teeth at house parties, in VFW halls, in abandoned warehouses and disused spaces in lieu of proper “rock clubs.” As detailed in books like “Get in the Van” and “Our Band Could Be Your Life,” a veritable underground railroad (with apologies to Mrs. Tubman) sprang up to help these bands thrive and the scenes flourish.
Okay, enough preamble.
Earlier today, Flaming Pablumfriend, interviewee and former Even Worse vocalist RK Korbet shared an old flyer on Facebook from a gig that found Even Worse opening for the mighty Bad Brains here in RB’s native NYC. There isn’t a date on it, but if I had to guess, I’d suggest 1981 (perhaps RB can correct me on that). What struck me, however, is that the gig in question went down at a place I’d never heard of — specifically a venture named, oddly, Botany Rock on Sixth Avenue between 27th and 28th. Huh?
Neither in the gritty, dangerous squalor of the fabled East Village or the arty desolation of SoHo, this neck of the woods — both in the early `80s and today — is essentially known as the fairly not-at-all menacing “Flower District,” thus dubbed due to its concentration of florists and garden supply outlets. That said, don’t be fooled — the strip of Sixth Avenue back then was hardly what one might describe as “well traveled” in the evening, so you could still get into trouble if your number was up.
In any case, I’m not entirely sure the cleverly-monickered Botany Rock (an obvious nod to the neighborhood’s predilections) was a genuine club so much as an available space as described up top — but I look forward to hearing more from anyone who might know more about it.
Today, 803 Sixth Avenue between 27th and 28th street shows zero sign that it ever played host to a burgeoning strain of NYHC. It remains, at leas according to this recent Google Maps grab, a flower shop called George Rallis.
Apropos of nothing, here are the Bad Brains around that same era — covering Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.”
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.
The first actual MTV logo I ever shot was this one by Director Daniel Nauke. Shot on a Master Oxberry animation stand camera in 1983 while I was working free-lance at Francis Lee's, Film Planning Associates in NYC, this spot combined traditional cel animation shot as a series of cross dissolves for the changing colors of the MTV logo that were laid over photo animation replacements for the East Village background and man with the guitar case. Finally back-lit colors were shot as an additional exposure for the changing colors in the buildings windows. Music is "You Missed It" (intro) by The Lunachicks.
With all respect to Robert Lyons, that’s just not accurate, even if accompanied by the unmistakably East Village-honed sounds of the Lunachicks.
While I am indeed still obsessed with pinpointing the location of the Lunachicks’ wall, and -– yea verily – finding some official documentation of both Downtown and Underground, when I watched this short bumper clip for MTV, I knew it didn’t smell right. I knew that wasn’t the East Village. But, by the same token, it looked entirely familiar.
Check out this grab from same…
It’s a great, well-composed image –- no argument there. But on a hunch, I Googled a couple of photographs from the era of the Etan Patz investigation of 1979, specifically of the northwest corner of Prince Street at West Broadway in SoHo.
Notice the similarity? If should be noted, that later in the 80’s, the edifice of that east-facing building on the west side of West Broadway was painted with the fun mural below … complete with that white streak across the midpoint of the building you see replicated in the “MTV East Village” video above.
It’s a corner I used to be quite fond of, as down that street used to be two of my favorite places, Rocks in Your Head and a bar called Milady’s – both long gone. Today, Rocks in Your Head is a real estate agency, and Milady’s remains starkly empty. The storefront on the above corner is also newly empty these days, although there was recently a portrait of Prince affixed to that wall (Prince Street,...geddit?)
My point, however, is this: THAT’S NOT THE EAST VILLAGE.
Try harder, please.
Here’s the full song from Lyons’ video, for those interested…
Back in 2013, I posted an entry based around a homemade video for “She Cracked” by the Modern Lovers (above) which utilized a lot of period-specific footage of the New York City of the band’s era, that being the early-to-mid 70’s. I later discovered that some of that footage came from filmmaker Anton Perich. One could be pedantic here and point out that the Modern Lovers famously hailed from Boston, but you’d have to be deaf and stupid not to hear the correlation between the Modern Lovers and their NYC counterparts in the Velvet Underground. Regardless, they certainly spent a lot of time in NYC.
In any case, the dude that made that first video was a gent name Warren Loft, and Warren’s made a few more over the years, it seems. I dialed up his clip for the Modern Lovers’ “Old World” this afternoon, and was struck again by the specificity of archival footage he utilizes.
Presumably inspired by the line wherein Jonathan Richman laments that he had a New York girlfriend, Loft’s clip for “Old World” offers up a glimpse back into the New York City of the `50’s, `60s, and early `70s, much of from the vantage point of the long-since dismantled elevated train tracks.
I love watching these old films and suddenly spotting something seemingly incidental that’s familiar and still there, like the crucifix signage on the corner of Cooper Square and 7th Street….
I remember seeing White Zombie with the Lunachicks and a band called the Bloody Stools at a place called Downtown, probably summer of '89. I can't remember exactly where this Downtown place was but I picture it being on the same block as Acme. That's probably wrong but it was somewhere around there.
Anyway, it was a basement space and White Zombie seemed to be using an arena's worth of dry ice during God of Thunder. You could barely see them or anything else. It was really ridiculous but awesome at the same time.
Okay, here’s the thing. I, too, remember a basement-level venue called, I believe, Downtown, but it was one block to the south of Great Jones Street from where Greg remembers -- if, that is, we’re talking about the same place.
As fate had it, I never managed to darken the doors of the venue in question, but I’d had every intention of doing so, as my favorite band had been fleetingly slated to perform there. I can’t remember if it was before or after their stints at the Cat Club, Maxwell’s and CBGB in 1989, but my one true beloved Killing Joke were booked to play at this strange, subterranean venue on Bond Street, just off Broadway, and I dutifully marked the date on my calendar.
I can’t remember if I was able to procure tickets in advance, but I do remember swinging by the very unlikely looking entrance to the club. Sure enough, right above a metal stairwell leading underneath the building on that corner – whose address, tellingly enough, was and remains 666 Broadway --- COINCIDENCE!?!? --- there was a framed, sorta cheap-o looking bulletin board (in lieu of a proper marquee, I guess), emblazoned with the legend KILLING JOKE, followed by whatever date it had been set for. This being the era of Killing Joke’s fiery re-birth as a properly noisy and angry post-punk ensemble (following their abortive and attrition-plagued turn as an ersatz prog-pop project circa Outside the Gate), I was well excited.
But, as it turned out, the club actually closed before the gig in question could ever happen. I don’t remember how much notice I had, but I remember revisiting the place and finding the signage still there for quite some time -– still promising a Killing Joke show long after the once-scheduled event was slated to occur. I never got the full story.
More to the point, naming a live music venue ‘Downtown’ in New York City doesn’t do a lot in terms of helping people find out more information. It’s virtually Google-proof. I have thus far found no record of its existence -– no live reviews, no old gig flyers, nothin’ -- despite my vivid memories of the joint – and Greg’s testimony up top. There’s nary a mention of it on Killing Joke’s once-official gigography, but then -– the show didn’t happen, so why would there be?
White Zombie/The Lunachicks/The Bloody Stools at some horrible New York club,1989.
Not quite verification, but it’s better than nothing, I suppose. I did indeed find evidence of a band called The Bloody Stools, who were apparently from Philly and whose motto, evidently, was “we dig chicks that dig chicks.” There is also evidence in the form of live music clips from bands like Yuppicide of venue called the Bond Street Café. I have no recollection of that joint. Perhaps there’s a connection?
Today, meanwhile, the space that was the place I was referring to (where Killing Joke didn’t play) is still there, complete with metal stairwell. These days, the space is evidently a jiu-jitsu studio beneath a TD Bank.
Anyone else remember a NoHo live music venue called Downtown?
Rob Zombie doesn’t seem to get a great deal of respect in certain circles in 2016. Maybe there’s a valid reason for that, but I’m not entirely sure what it is. As I understand it, popular consensus asserts diminishing returns with each successive solo album he puts out. That may be true, but I really wouldn’t know, as I kinda stopped paying attention to his music after he broke up White Zombie.
White Zombie, to my ears, was a genuinely great, fun band. Now, sure, the layperson might lump them in with the whole lamentable Nu Metal scene of the mid-90’s, although I’m not entirely sure why. I suppose it’s because Rob sorta-rapped his way through most of the band’s hits. One could also make a credible argument for their inclusion under the laborious “grunge” umbrella, but again — why get so hung up on genre tags?
One sticking point the prevents White Zombie from fitting snuggily within any of the afore-cited categories is the fact that, sonically speaking, they started off as a somewhat entirely different sounding band, owing way more to punk, hardcore and the burgeoning noise rock scene in NYC they grew out of. While they’d later fill stadiums alongside indisputable metal acts, White Zombie cut their teeth in the East Village club scene, playing alongside storied outfits like Pussy Galore, Rat at Rat R, Live Skull, and even Dig Dat Hole, the fledgling outfit that would later morph into Cop Shoot Cop.
I certainly remember seeing the band around Avenue A at the time. Even then, their scraggly raggamuffin aesthetic was easy to spot. They looked so emaciated and bedraggled, more like Dickensian miserables than future rock stars. I’d heard a couple of their earlier records via the independent music `zine I was toiling for at the time, the oft-cited New York Review of Records, but it wasn’t until the release of their God of Thunder EP circa 1989 that I really sat up and took notice. Given my long-standing affinity for KISS — then still deeply unfashionable in 1989 — I knew this band was onto something. Their paired-down, sludge-laden bludgeoning of that Destroyer-era standard (originally penned by Paul Stanley but forcibly bequeathed to Gene Simmons by producer Bob Ezrin) displayed both a cheeky insouciance but also an underlying reverence … a penchant for bombast and spectacle that was soon to fully blossom beyond the claustrophobic confines of dank downtown haunts like the Lismar Lounge, Pyramid Club and CBGB.
Shortly after that, I vividly remember browsing lazily around Rocks in Your Head on Prince Street in SoHo (tragically long gone, replaced by a real estate agency) and hearing the young gent behind the counter (not owner Ira …. he wasn’t around that afternoon) slip in a cassette into the tape deck, filling that basement level shop with a maelstrom of very metal noise pollution, rife with bizarre snippets of movie dialogue and walloping, monster truck grooves. A couple of numbers in, I had to know what we were listening to — turns out it was the advance cassette of what would be their breakout `92 album, La Sexorcisto... Yeah, the Russ-Meyer homage, “Thunder Kiss `65,” was invariably the winning track therein, but there were other great songs like “Black Sunshine” and the entirely entertaining “Welcome to Planet Motherfucker.”
The band took off into new frontiers after that, releasing Astro-Creep 2000 in 1995, boasting the irrepressible “More Human Than Human,” and becoming high-profile stars of the decade, complete with a lampooning by “Beavis & Butthead.”
What happened after that, I’m not sure. I gather it was Rob Zombie’s decision to break up the band in order to pursue both a similarly inclined solo career and to also break out into other ventures like moviemaking, comic books, etc. He did that with great aplomb, it seems, for quite a while, until more recent years, when more than a few people have suggested he doesn’t seem to even enjoy the process of making music anymore. But, again, I’ve not been following the narrative so closely.
In terms of the others, bassist Sean Yseult’s stayed active, playing in a couple of bands and releasing a great, photo-laden book a couple of years back called “I’m In the Band” (predating Kim Gordon’s similarly titled tome). Somewhat bizarrely, I’ve become "internet friends," in recent years, with former White Zombie guitarist Jay Yuenger, who continues to keep an excellent blog and is currently a record producer and engineer. `Tis also Jay that put together the forthcoming box set, It Came From NYC, which promises to handily tell a much more complete story of White Zombie than the somewhat rote Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (a frills-free project helmed half-heartedly by Zombie) did a few years earlier. Here’s a teaser….
In any case, the impetus for this post wasn’t that impending box set — although it does look supercool — but rather an interview in a recent issue of the Daily News with Rob Zombie, who takes a look back at White Zombie’s early days in the East Village. It’s well worth a read, so check that shit out here.
To close this off, meanwhile, herewith a truly time-capsule worthy live set by White Zombie circa 1988, well before they punctured the ceiling into heavy metal stardom. This was filmed at ye olde Cat Club on East 13th Street by Flaming Pablum friend, the preternaturally cool Greg Fasolino.
Today, a White Zombie reunion remains strenuously unlikely. Rob Zombie, true to form, has a ridiculously titled new album out. The Cat Club closed eons ago, morphing into the Grand and that about three dozen other ventures before being closed, gutted and transformed into the SINGLE lounge, a high-end scotch bar for dickish tourists and insufferable douchebags.
If you’re of a certain age, you probably remember the 1979 musical film “Hair” (or, if you’re a bit older, you might remember it as a Broadway play). Essentially, this fanciful production revolved around a gaggle of carefree hippies in the late 1960s, who live a jobless, perma-partying life around various New York City parks, doing any number of illegal substances, burning draft cards and running merrily amok in between big, visually striking song-&-dance scenes like this one…
Eventually, they cross paths with a hapless Midwesterner named Claude (played by John Savage) who’s bound for Vietnam, but not before catching sight of a doe-eyed debutante (played in the film by Beverly D’Angelo) and summarily falling in love. Hijinks and shenanigans ensue when the hippies attempt to help Claude realize his romantic dreams, unwittingly sending their hirsute ringleader, Berger (played by Treat Williams), off to die in Vietnam in Claude’s stead. Roll credits.
I never saw the play, but I do kinda still dig the richly ridiculous film, not least for its depiction of New York City in the 70’s (see also “Godspell”). I also sheepishly remember enjoying the soundtrack more than I probably should’ve, and not just for the prurient lyrics.
In any case, while “Hair” was ultimately a highly stylized bit of fiction, there were indeed communities of hippies that chose to live in the city’s parks. The harsh realities of their circumstances and existence, however, were hardly indicative of a harmonious age of flower-power, in much the same way the reality of the East Village’s community of squatters was wildly misrepresented by “Rent” a couple of decades later.
Earlier this week, around the same time I found that clip of old slides from 1969, I stumbled upon a curious pair of clips from 1968. Somewhat derisively titled “Acid Head Street People in New York City – 1960s,” the first clip is essentially a profile of a group of drop-outs living within the starkly bleak confines of Washington Square Park. Sure, it’s hard to reconcile the gritty scene herein with the comparatively idyllic setting in that park today, but it’s the same spot -– you can catch a glimpse of the old Catholic Center on Thompson street (torn down in the 2000’s) at about 00:38. Here’s that clip now…
There’s no singing, there’s no laughing, there’s nothing light or funny about it. It’s a grim portrait, but it turns out that it’s from a bigger project. Here’s the official description from the filmmaker, David Hoffman…
This is a portion of a documentary I made for television in 1968. The documentary was called “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and used Paul Simon's famous tune. It looked at some of the people having a hard time at that time. I am proud of my street interviews and camera work and wanted to share this with my colleagues.
It’s striking to think that the kids depicted in this film were probably only about 20 or so when this was filmed. Presuming they survived this ordeal in 1968, they would all be in their seventies today. Here’s hoping they all made it that far.
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!
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.