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.
This is already a few years old, but I stumbled upon it today and was simultaneously captivated and depressed.
Here’s the inimitable Ian Svenonius (best known as vocalist of Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up and, more recently, Chain and The Gang) conducting a somewhat meandering and oft-bizarre interview with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth during the summer of 2012. Considering everything that’s happened since this interview with Sonic Youth, it’s hard not to read into some of the answers here.
Even as much as I stopped following Sonic Youth’s music after, say, Goo, I still find Kim and Thurston to be entirely fascinating and relatable people. It’s striking how goddamn cool Kim is here.
Anyway, I enjoyed it. Thought I’d share it for those who — like me — slept on it when it was new.
I’ve featured his photographs here on Flaming Pablum before — both knowingly and unknowingly — but Manel Armengol’s pictures of New York City in the late 70’s are the real goddamn deal.
Armengol’s sharp eye captured a portrait of a city that -- while technically in decline — literally throbbed with vitality. From street life and hauntingly familiar architecture to political demonstrations to early performances by The Plasmatics at CBGB and Divine at Hurrah, Armengol’s pictures are to be savored. If you’re a fan of vintage shots of New York City from this era — seriously — you NEED to check out the following three albums on his Flickr page….
Armengol’s also traveled the world, so his other albums are well worth perusing as well, but the NYC ones will blow a new part in your hair.
The man very nicely sent me the above photo of the intersection of Thompson and Broome Street (suffice to say, this spot looks remarkably different today), but I also wanted to include the shot below in this post.
I’m fairly certain this is the one and only Howie Pyro, storied New York punk rock scenester and musician whose played with everyone from Joey Ramone and Glen Danzig through Genesis P. Orridge. Howie’s arguably best known as the bass player in D Generation.
It’s the time of year when music dorks like myself compose needlessly windy, pointedly esoteric and not-just-a-little pretentious lists of their favorite albums of the year. For decades, I dutifully partook in this ritual and -- much like my sharp-opinioned peers in this dubious realm -- usually outfitted my selections with a few barbed choices and indelible omissions just to upset the easily riled.
As it has shaken out, I can’t really do that this year. Frankly speaking, as I’ve alluded in previous posts, 2014 has been nothing short of catastrophic for myself and my family. The misfortunes of 2013 only continued into this year and intensified, punctuated by health issues, death and job loss. Put simply, it’s been Hell. We all get our share of it, I suppose. We’ve just had two years of it in succession.
As a result, the time I might have normally spent investigating new music went largely out the window. Sure, I kept up with my usual stable of favorites (To Be Kind by SWANS was an unsurprising highlight for me, even if I was consumed with other pressing matters at the time), but I felt let down by new releases by relative newcomers I’d had high hopes for like The Horrors and Iceage. Not unlistenable, their new records, but both a long way from crucial.
So, I was getting to the point where I was content to sit this year out in terms of opining. The names of so many new artists floated by my eyes this year, but I can’t really say I’ve consciously heard any of them … not even on the Rolling Stone list (although I remain incredulous they gave the #1 spot to U2. Even an oldster like m’self wouldn’t have done that). I did, unfortunately, hear a lot of the new pop shit -- Taylor Swift et al. -- and all that left me as cold, clammy and contemptuous as ever.
This entire time, however, a friend of mine name Joseph kept pushing this new British band at me called — ugh — Eagulls. On principle, I’d go out of my way never to even bother listening to a band that would saddle themselves with such a ridiculously stupid name. I mean, it’s not even clever…. or funny….or a proper pun. It just sucks. Joseph (who has otherwise respectable taste) assured me I’d enjoy them. To say that I dragged my feet would be an understatement. I mean, really …. “Eagulls"? Fuck that.
Here's a shot of them walking manfully down a New York City street...
Last Friday night, however, Joseph cornered me at the SWANS show at Warsaw in Brooklyn, and pressed a pristine copy of Eagulls’ eponymous debut disk into my hands. I surrendered and took it home, where it sat in my mail bowl for two days.
This evening, however, I cracked it open and gave a listen …. and I’ll be damned if I’m not digging it.
I’ll swallow my curmudgeonly pride and add my voice to the chorus of those championing them as best new artist of the year….or at least from what little I've heard.
There's a whole lot of stuff going on in NYC right now. M'self and my kids just caught the beginning of the "March of Anger" up Fifth Avenue ... a seriously sizable demonstration, to put it mildly. Also odd to spot some wayward SantaCon'rs dimly attempting to continue their annual idiocy around the edges of the rally. Strange dichotomy.
Anyway, while my kids and I were in the West Village, we passed by a certain spot made somewhat-famous by a photo by Ricky Powell. Below is both Ricky's original, and our little homage taken in the same spot.
Over the past nine plus years here on Flaming Pablum, I’ve penned more than a few posts that lionize the former Tower Records on the southeast corner of East Fourth and Broadway, but I’ll let my good pal and fabulous art-scribe babe C-Monstah sum it up from this post on her blog from 2010….
As any old school New York City hoodrat can tell you, back in the days when the hair was big and the Internerdz didn’t exist, the Tower Records space on lower Broadway was a place of pilgrimage for all things music. In addition to being the spot where you could find plaid-shirted rock nerds deconstructing the various minor schools of punk, it was the only store in the city where you could also get Lowrider Magazine.
Even though it was technically a big chain store, Tower — for most of its tenure on that perch — really got it right. They had a sprawling collection of music, from the favorites to the far-flung. Whether you were looking for Huey Lewis, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Sergei Prokofiev, Kurtis Blow or fucking COIL, Tower almost always had you covered. It also served as a great destination — a place you could spend hours in just browsing. Think about it — the places left to do that are drying up faster than you think.
When that location closed in 2006, it was the end of an era. The massive space served as a few rudimentary pop-up stores for a while (including, briefly, a Toys R’ Us outlet) before it was announced in 2011 that it was to become the “MLB Mancave,” an elaborate promotional vehicle for professional sports (which, of course, prompted a lot of hue and cry from my circle).
The only reason I’m re-waxing rhapsodic about the place now is that earlier this week on the (afore-cited and afore-praised) Facebook group Manhattan Before 1990, a gent name Kim posted the video below. Here’s what he had to say about it.
Super-8 footage I took inside Tower Records in the mid-1980s. (The title says 1983 but now I'm thinking it's more like 1985.) Yes, it's supposed to be that fast.
Here’s the clip. Look how many people there are.....
While I’d certainly read his name before — after all, it was very hard to walk into a record store and not notice album covers emblazoned with legends like Scraping Foetus Off the Wheel and/or You’ve Got Foetus On Your Breath — I don’t believe I actually heard the music of J.G. “Foetus” Thirlwell until 1990 or so.
I was “working" at the time for a tiny independent music magazine run by an erstwhile contributor to SPIN (where I’d previously been interning). The New York Review of Records — as it was called — was run out of this editor’s Upper East Side apartment, a relatively cramped affair given the sheer volume of records he’d amassed. This ultimately being the last gasp of the 1980s, vinyl was still the reigning medium of recorded sound, while compact discs still came in long boxes, accompanied with an air of rarified newfangledness (oh how that would change). In any case, this “office” received tons of packages a day, usually stuffed with promotional LPs. One afternoon, I ripped open one of a hundred cardboard boxes and pulled out the Butterfly Potion e.p. by Foetus Inc.
Garishly decorated in typical Foetus fashion (all of the man’s releases boast striking — if not retina-immolating — cover art), this 12” single offered only three songs. My curiosity piqued, I decided to forego the title track and cued up the vinyl onto one of its provocatively titled b-sides, “Free James Brown [So He Can Run Me Down].” I let her rip….
Gleefully loud, rude and offensive, Foetus’ signature brand of cacophonous industrial caterwaul flooded the tiny apartment (much to the pronounced chagrin of one of my co-“workers,” and quite probably the neighbors), and I was instantly converted into feverish Foetus fandom.
Equally as prolific as, say, Prince or Frank Zappa, there are practically more releases by J.G. Thirlwell — under myriad Foetus aliases, to say nothing of pseudonyms like Clint Ruin, Wiseblood and/or Steroid Maxiumus, to name but three — than can be quantified. I sought out the tidy compilation Sink from 1989 as my thorough introduction into the artist’s sprawling catalog. If you’re curious, I’d highly recommend doing same, although Thirlwell has also gone onto release dozens of records since then, so it’s quite far from comprehensive by this point.
I went on to see Foetus perform live a few times in the early 90’s, notably at Irving Plaza, The Limelight and The Palladium (with The Unsane and Cop Shoot Cop opening). I vividly remember Foetus dry-humping an amplifier at the Limelight show during a skewed cover of “I Am the Walrus.” (See him cover it a few years later via this link). At the time, Foetus reveled in confrontation not unlike the variety practiced by peers like James Chance, Lydia Lunch and GG Allin. He seemed like a genuinely dangerous and unpredictable character.
Given Foetus’ purposefully provocative aesthetic, it would probably have been easy to write him off without recognizing his dizzying talents as a musician. That might explain why in more recent years, he’s left more of the cartoony shtick to folks like Trent Reznor and Al Jourgensen et al. and concentrated more on cinematic instrumental music. Put simply, Foetus seems tirelessly hungry to explore new sounds.
So why am I talking about all this now? Well, my friend Aleph put up a clip from a documentary released in 2009 called, simply, “NYC FOETUS.” I regret to say that I’d never heard of it, but am completely captivated by the notion of it. While an Australian ex-pat, Foetus has credited New York City as his primary muse. Here’s a clip of that documentary.
In more recent years, I’ve actually met Foetus a couple of times. I’d become friends with Tod [A] of Cop Shoot Cop and Firewater back in the early-to-mid-90’s, and he and Foetus were old compadres. It was at a Firewater show at the Bowery Ballroom some time around the turn of the century, I believe, when after the show, Tod wanted to introduce me to J.G. Thirlwell, who was also in attendance. I earnestly attempted to demure as, honestly, I was feeling a little out of my depth and — quite frankly — I’d consumed considerably more than my fair share of beers that evening, if you smell what I’m cookin’. But, Tod was insistent and dragged me over. To make a long, cripplingly embarrassing story short, upon being introduced to Mr. Thirlwell — who is surprisingly shorter than I’d imagined — I somehow managed to drop my full pint of beer. It hit the Bowery Ballroom floor, soaking Thirlwell’s pant leg in the process. It was not a high point for any of the parties concerned.
Oh, sure. I can look back on it now and lau…..no I can’t.
Anyway, I’m now consumed with finding the rest of that documentary.
For posterity, here’s Foetus’ “Verklemmt” from 1995, easily one of my favorite “NYC videos”…brace yourself and enjoy….
Much like the Beastie Boys, I’ve posted a shitload of entries here on Flaming Pablum about Blondie, not just because they’re an old favorite band of mine, but also becauase they’re NYC to the bone. And given how photogenic Debbie & the boys were, there is no shortage of cool photos to expound and speculate about.
As you might remember, I posted the above photo late last week, pulled from the Smithsonian’s documentary about the making of Parallel Lines, “Blondie’s New York.” Taken — I believe — by the great Roberta Bayley (who I’ve seen in and around the neighborhood — she still looks fab), the photo depicts then-bassist Gary Valentine (later to be replaced by Nigel Harrison), drummer Clem Burke (in the fetching pink socks) and Debbie Harry standing on a dilapidated Manhattan curb while guitarist Chris Stein locks eyes with Debbie from just off the corner. I’m only guessing it was taken by Bayley, being that she took the shot of Chris and Debbie kissing in front of subway train below, and they seem to be wearing the same clothes, no?
Anyway, I figured it would be fun and/or maybe interesting to try to figure out where the street corner photograph was taken. I put up the post over on Facebook, and a few likely folks weighed in with ideas.
I figured there was a great big clue in the sprayed writing on the trash cans in between Deb and Chris. Under closer examination, they seem to read “22 A,” conceivably leading one to suspect that the shot was taken maybe somewhere around 22 Avenue A? A quick Google-mapping of that particular strip doesn’t produce anything that matches up. These days, 22 Avenue A is a Chase Bank (big shocker, eh?), but for many, many years, 22 Avenue A was home to a baby supply store, if memory serves. In any case, there’s nothing on that plot that resembles anything in this shot now. There’s a tiny, gated alleyway behind 22 Avenue A on East 2nd street, but that’s now where this picture was taken, I guarantee it.
As is usually the case with these searches, the mere fact that the physical surface and topography of New York City has changed so much in the past couple of decades, these locations can be difficult to recognize. But I jogged over to Great Jones Alley between Broadway and Lafayette this afternoon to have a look.
What I find most frustrating is the shed seen behind Chris Stein on the far right. It looks like a temporary structure, and it’s probably covering up some crucial architectural detail that might otherwise solve the riddle. Here’s the corner I’m speculating that it might be today…
In the Blondie photo, you can see a little window high in the wall between Chris and Debbie. If you step a little closer on Great Jones Alley (so the gate’s out of the way) there indeed was a little window...although I'm not certain it's the same height.
This all said, I’m not entirely convinced that this is the spot in question. The distinctive tile-mosaic exterior on the storefront that Debbie, Clem and Gary are standing in front of looks hauntingly familiar (as in — it might still be out there somewhere).
So, yeah, anyway. The hunt continues. Just to jog your memory, here's Debbie down Great Jones Alley in Amos Poe's "The Foreigner." Look familiar?
And here's Blondie around the same era as the photo in question....
Never underestimate the influence of an older sibling.
For a while, my older sister Victoria had an absolutely sterling track record in terms of music. We’d both been lucky enough to be largely weaned on stuff like the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and Abba by our parents, so we were both drawn to classic pop. Shortly afterwards, though, while I immersed myself in slavish fandom for the pyromaniacal sturm & drang of KISS (and, for a while, virtually only KISS), my sister brought home a sting of crucial records like The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, A Night at the Opera by Queen, Mothership Connection and The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein by Parliament and many more. Sure, she played a lot of what I considered crap too, but the good usually outweighed the bad.
But of all the vinyl she introduced to the household, I believe the most important was Parallel Lines by Blondie in 1978.
We’d gotten our first taste of punk rock a year or so before, when our father — then stationed in London as a correspondent for Forbes Magazine — did us a (rare) solid and sent us a crate of records. Scattered amidst that heap of vinyl were Pure Mania by the Vibrators and the first Clash record (the British edition, no less). I still remember innocently dropping the needle on “Janie Jones” and watching a couple of my mom’s friends — over for a luncheon or something — grimace and recoil in horror. Ya gotta remember — it sounds quaint now, but when the world was used to Captain & Tenille and Styx, the blunt wallop of The Clash was quite a different experience.
If I’m being honest, at the time, we didn’t quite know what to make of those two LPs, and didn’t really appreciate them immediately beyond their novelty (obviously, I was shortly to change my tune on this point). Moreover, the distinctions between US Punk and UK Punk at the time were a complete mystery. Prior to the pop cultural saturation of today, all we knew was what we’d spy in record stores, hear on the radio, read about in magazines and occasionally see on variety shows on TV, this all being prior to the dawn of MTV, to say nothing of the internet.
So when Vick walked in the door with a copy of Parallel Lines by Blondie one afternoon, I had certain preconceptions. The vinyl purchased by my sister on the strength of their breakout hit “Heart of Glass,” I probably pooh-poohed the notion that this band boasted any kinship to the gleefully unpolished caterwaul of those albums we owned by the Clash and the Vibrators. “Heart of Glass” is a disco tune through and through, as catchy and infectious as any other. But the rest of the album, obviously, told a different story.
There would be later records that Victoria brought home that we agreed on -- like Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police, New Clear Days by The Vapors and the first B-52s album, but our tastes further divided after that. Parallel Lines was probably that last slab of vinyl that we were of the same mind about.
Thirty-someodd years later, no less than the Smithsonian is celebrating Parallel Lines with a little documentary about its origins, with a special nod to the city that gave birth to it. There are some dubious assertions later on in the progam (specifically those ... or any ... made by John Varvatos), but it's well worth a watch. Check it out by clicking right here.
Meanwhile, as I'm wont to do, I spotted this fleeting shot included within the documentary -- probably taken by Roberta Baley. Can you name the atmospheric corner Debbie and the boys are loitering on? I have my suspicions, but what do you think?