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.
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.
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….
Here’s another post not unlike this one wherein I extoll the merits of something that used to be in a different city, but it’s still kinda about New York.
Back in the late summer of 1985, I spent my summer soaking up as much of what I considered the atmospheric, bohemian cool of New York City as I could, knowing full well that I was shortly bound for the verdant wilds of Central Ohio in the fall to begin what would be my freshman year at Denison University. Suffice to say, I was not entirely psyched! I mean, I was excited about the school, but the thought of being deep in the heart of a Midwestern “flyover” state didn’t thrill me. Look, let’s face it — as a native New Yorker, I’m a born snob. The nearest city was going to be Columbus. I mean, sure — Akron has given the world Devo. Cleveland spawned Rocket from the Tombs, Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys. Cincinnati was home to …er….”WKRP.” What cool thing had ever come out of Columbus?
Well, to make a long story short, not only did I find many kindred spirits at Denison, but Columbus was a great town for exactly the type of shit I was into. I already waxed rhapsodic about its music scene on this post, but it bears repeating — between the Newport Music Hall and Stache’s (and a couple of other clubs like Neely B’s and Mean Mister Mustard’s), I caught shows by some of my favorite bands. And as I said back on that other post, most of those shows were better than the performances by the same bands I witnessed at home in New York City, mostly because Midwestern audiences weren’t as uptight, stuck-up and too-cool-for-school as they were (and remain) here in New York.
In any case, why am I talking about all this now? Well, a number of years back, I bought a few prints from a photographer who goes by the name JFotoman of one of my favorite bands — Cop Shoot Cop — playing in Stache’s. True to the nature of the venue, the photos were taken from a tight, intimate vantage point (seeing a band at Stache’s was like watching them play in someone’s downstairs rec room). Just recently, I discovered JFotoman’s archives online (you might remember the shot I posted yesterday of Pussy Galore’s Julia Cafritz). If you’re a fan of the independent, underground, “alternative,” punk and hardcore music of the 80’s, 90’s and beyond, you owe it to yourself to check out JFotoman’s pictures.
Not only did J. capture images from several of the shows I attended (I keep looking for myself in the crowd shots), but he completely captured the sweaty, intense vibe of places like Stache’s. But even if you’re not familiar with the venues in question — or even some of the bands — these photos are completely amazing.
I was sitting down to eat a bagel earlier and flicked on VH1 Classic, only to see the clip below pop up.
I always liked The Smithereens. I mean, they were never going to be a huge deal, but they pumped out a clutch of pretty great tunes along the way. Especially For You remains a great goddamn record, as far as I’m concerned.
In any case, here’s the clip for “A Girl Like You,” from their 1989 album, 11.
While it’s actually not one of my favorite tracks by the band, the video is shot entirely in the space that was formerly known as The Cat Club (then later the Grand and then, after that, about five or six different names before it was closed for good) off the corner of East 13th Street and Fourth Avenue.
I’ve talked about this space before (see below), but I saw some amazing shows here. From Big Country, The Primitives and Ethyl Meatplow through Redd Kross, Cop Shoot Cop and Killing Joke, this room played host to a lot of great music.
It’s gone today, of course. The actual facade of the exterior is still there, strangely, but the space where all this happened is now part of the hugely expensive Hyatt Union Square Hotel….a venue I shall quite assuredly never spend a night -- let alone a thin red dime -- in.
Anyway, the beginning of the video is shot right on Fourth Avenue (across from what was briefly Pie Face). For the guitar solo, they go outside…..can you spot the Missing Foundation logo on the wall?
Some might remember a fleeting little post from 2010 wherein I touted the release of "135 Grand Street New York 1979," a documentary by Ericka Beckman about a little slice of downtown NYC’s No Wave scene from the SoHo perspective.
Well, I stumbled upon the "director's reel" of the film on YouTube this morning. If you haven’t seen it and care about such things, check it out.
Above it what 135 Grand (the address where all this went down) looks like today.
Here’s a very quick breather from all my Manhattan-centric blather.
Back in the mid-90’s, my friend Rob D. de-camped from the East Coast and started house-sitting at his step-mother’s well-appointed bungalow in Costa Mesa, CA….located in the heart of Orange County (or “behind the Orange Curtain,” as we used to say). By this point, I’d never been to California before, but had myriad preconceptions about what Los Angeles and its environs were like, largely based on the movies and TV, but also from my rapturous appreciation of California’s rich lineage of punk bands, from X to the Germs to Fear and Black Flag and The Minutemen and beyond. So, as soon as Rob was settled there, I leapt at the chance to go visit, which I did at least three or four times for a couple of weeks a throw.
Nestled on a Costa Mesa corner (don’t ask me which, I’ll never remember), Rob’s step-mother’s place was actually quite nice, equipped with a lovely, sunlit, ivy-covered back garden that we basically never went into. The surrounding area, though, still exuded the same vibe — or at least to my misguided, starry-eyed mind — as seen in suitably punky films like Penelope Spheeris’ “Suburbia.” The local deli looked exactly like the one Otto frequents in “Repo Man,” so much so that we grew to refer to it as “the Repo Deli.”
Across the street from same was a decrepit bar with a hackneyed nautical theme called The Helm, an establishment wherein many beverages were zealously consumed and many ridiculously feverish debates were staged. I gather, sadly, that The Helm has since closed.
Given my preoccupations, there was one locale I wanted to pinpoint, but being that this was largely prior to the era of Internet ubiquity (isn’t that weird?), I didn’t have the means on hand to do the proper research. I was also aware, by this point, that the locale in question no longer existed in the form I was seeking. That place, as rhapsodized in song by The Vandals and detailed in the rumination of West Coast punk lore, was The Cuckoo’s Nest.
Comparable to, say, NYC’s own A7, The Cuckoo’s Nest was a fabled live music venue that catered to O.C.’s community of troubled punk teens. The picture up top (possibly taken, though I’m not positive, by Glen E. Friedman) shows the Misfits performing there. This, mind you, was well prior to the era of Hot Topic and the like, when the very word “punk” still packed something of a punch. I know that seems positively quaint now.
In any case, we never found it. Everything that seemed cool about that scene was basically long gone by a good decade by that point anyway. But that didn’t stop me from grinning like the damn tourist I was when we were driving around the area.
Here’s Wikipedia’s much more thorough history of the place:
The Cuckoo's Nest was a punk rock nightclub that was located at 1714 Placentia Avenue in Costa Mesa, California. There were often confrontations with the punks from the Cuckoo's Nest and the cowboys from Zubie's, which shared a parking lot. The police were constantly harassing the punks. Club owner Jerry Roach fought a number of court cases in an effort to keep the club alive, and in his 1981 film on the subject Urban Struggle he suggested that perhaps this was the first time that the authorities would stamp out a fad.  The club was a hub of the punk rock in California. The club is notable as being home to the first slam pit. Bands such as 999, The Ramones, XTC, The Damned, the New York Dolls, Black Flag, T.S.O.L., Circle Jerks, Bill Madden and The Redeemers, D.I., the Vandals, Symbol Six, Agent Orange, JFA, Blondie Chaplin, Squeeze, the Adolescents, X, the Go-Go's, Bad Brains, the Cramps, Iggy Pop, Dead Kennedys, the Dickies, Violent Femmes, Ultravox, the Motels, the Bangles, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, John Cale, Suicidal Tendencies, Los Lobos, Fear, Wall of Voodoo, the Misfits, the Knack, the Crowd, Social Distortion, and Jericho Shaxe all played gigs there. The club was memorialized in the Vandals song "Pat Brown," a song about a club goer who actually tried to run the cops into the ground.
The film "Urban Struggle" documents early slam dancing at the Cuckoo's Nest, and includes performances by Black Flag, T.S.O.L., and the Circle Jerks. The film also goes into the legal battles that surrounded the nightclub and Jerry Roach's defiant effort to "shove punk rock right up their asses." Recently, Jessee Roach designed a series of Cuckoo's Nest tee-shirts.
When demolition crews were preparing to tear down the Cuckoo's Nest building, Roach, who owned the Cuckoo's Nest and turned city efforts to close it into a First Amendment cause, said that as long as the building stood, it would be a reminder of his and the punk-rockers' defeat at the hands of city authorities and the club's outraged neighbors.
"I don't have fond memories of losing, of unfairly having my means of making money taken away from me," said Roach, who in recent years has traded concert clubs for real-estate and restaurant ventures. "I still think I was railroaded, but that's the breaks. I don't have any nostalgia for it. I'm kind of glad it's getting torn down. I'd rather have it not be there than be a pizza place.”
Some veteran O.C. punk-rockers had similarly unsentimental reactions to the news that their long-ago playpen would be razed.
Jim Kaa, guitarist of the Crowd, who performed often at the club, said: "[A] couple of things stick in mind. [The scene at the Cuckoo's Nest] was crazy; it was young, and the police didn't know what the crazy punks were about. There was a lot of fighting, not just [against] the people at Zubie's but punks against punks. 'The Legend of Pat Brown' epitomizes the entire craziness of that whole era."
Jack Grisham, whose band, T.S.O.L., was one of the top-drawing acts of the Cuckoo's Nest era, has fond memories of the old days but no nostalgia for the building. "It's already wrecked as far as I'm concerned," Grisham said. "It was wrecked the day Zubie's got it.”
Grisham has plenty of war stories to tell.
"They'd come out of [Zubie's] drunk, and there'd be fights every night. There's a videotape of me beating up these two cowboy guys, and I was wearing a dress at the time. I was trying to [tick] my dad off for a while, and [wearing a dress] was working good."
Although the Cuckoo's Nest was closed and eventually torn down only to be replaced by a plumbing supply shop, the legend continues to live on through the music and now a theatrical feature film has been scheduled for production through Endurance Pictures, and will be directed by York Shackleton, the critically acclaimed writer and director of such films as Kush and Street. "This story captures the mood and intensity of the punk ritual...and sheds some light on the much maligned and misunderstood punk phenomenon." Randy Lewis - L.A. Times
A new documentary about the Cuckoo's Nest, directed by Jonathan W.C. Mills and executive produced by York Shackleton is currently in the works. The first excerpt from this film was released on YouTube on October 31, 2008.
Alrighty, so since posting this quiz, consensus both here and over the the Manhattan Before 1990 group on Facebook asserts that the estimable Mr. Richards is striding with characterstic loucheness, in David Gahr's pohtograph, past the facade of 122 St. Marks Place. Let's look again, shall we?
Today, that very spot would look like this....
...and being that I just got a new iPhone 5S, here's that same spot with the PAN function (click on it to enlarge)...
Of course, in 1981 (when the video for "Waiting on a Friend" was shot), 122 St. Marks Place probably wasn't anything especially notable. If this address is the correct spot, though, eight years after this photo was taken, 122 St. Marks Place opened as Sin-E, a lovely little coffee shop/bar/performance venue that I spoke about back here.
As I stated in that post, I had some great times at Sin-E, ranging from a rollicking live performance by Gavin Friday through a random spotting of Iggy Pop (who shot me a deranged grin and an enthusiastic thumbs-up when I spotted him and exclaimed "IGGY!"). Sadly, the incarnation of Sin-E on St. Marks Place closed in 2000 (it moved down to Attorney Street, if memory serves, and closed some years later).
In the wake of SIn-E, though, 122 St. Marks has become a bar called Bua Bar. I couldn't possibly know less about it, I'm afraid. Honestly speaking, once Sin-E vanished (along with Alcatraz down the street, and now the Yaffa Cafe), my reasons for spending any time on that particular strip largely faded away.
Just for laughs, here's a shot by storied photographer Richard Corkery for the NY Daily News of Keith walking back to the fabled stoop.
If I’m being honest, I was never a huge fan of D Generation. I mean, I certainly wanted to like them. After all, they featured Jesse Malin, former singer from proto-NYHC band Heart Attack (a band I’d grown to appreciate thanks to the New York Thrash compilation) and Howie Pyro, resident NYC punk who’s played with Joey Ramone, Glen Danzig and even Genesis P_Orridge. That all said, however, their awkward, kinda cartoony fusion of New York punk and, well, glam metal left a bit to to be desired. Like I said, I wanted to like them, but the songs just weren’t there. In that respect they were simply more of a D Sappointment (sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Anyway, my initial impetus for putting this post together was to ruminate on D Gen’s video(s) for “No Way Out’ (there are two versions, as I understand, as they released the song twice; first on their dead-on-arrival 1994 debut LP and then two years later on No Lunch, which was produced by the Cars’ Ric Ocasek). I was going to do that, as both videos were shot in NYC — surprise. One version shows the interior of what, by that point, was Coney Island High on St. Marks Place. Before officially opening as said music venue, Malin and Pyro hosted parties in that same space as GREENDOORNYC. I was lucky enough to attend a couple of those, and they were indeed the stuff of legend.
Anyway, you can see those vids here and here, and also worth a check-out is are these twoclips of D Generation hanging out at long-since-closed East Houston bar Den of Thieves (which later became Idlewild and then White Rabbit) with Gilbert Gottfried and the odd cameo from members of Clowns for Progress.
D Generation ultimately called it quits (although they reunited for a couple of shows in 2011, I believe). Since dissolving the band, Malin has changed course and followed a more singer/songwriter/troubadour vein, albeit still with an endearingly stubborn, punky edge. Doubtlessly as romanced by the NYC of old as I am, you can catch various videos of his new outfit he St. Marks Social, all over YouTube. “The Archer” is a nice one.
While Coney Island High was forced out of business several years back due to quality of life issues (there was a big Village Voice cover story about it, if memory serves), Malin now owns and operates both Niagara on Avenue A (formerly King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and, prior to that, hardcore mainstay A7….now with a plaque commemorating same) and the Black & White Bar on 10th between Third and Fourth Avenues.
Anyway, blah blah blah… in the midst of looking around for all this stuff, I came across the photographs below, shot by Josh Cheuse, a storied rock shutterbug who has taken some amazing shots of The Clash, the Beastie Boys, Madonna and many more. His work is pretty astounding. See more here.
In case you don’t recognize it, here’s Jesse Malin perusing the wares at Subterranean Records on Cornelia Street. Looks like a cool spot, right? Well, don’t bother looking for it now. Subterranean sadly closed up shop in 2008 (I sloppily documented its demise over a few posts). These photos also evoke another great shot that was taken of Patti Smith here several years back.
Anyway, here’s whats Jesse sounds like more recently…
Quibbles aside, here’s an interesting little snippet I happened upon this evening whilst searching for some archival Iggy Pop footage. Evidently shot on New Year’s Day in 1995, this video follows three hirsute hepcats as they walk around the East Village of that bygone age, checking out local landmarks like Two Boots Pizza, the Gas Station and The Toy Tower on Avenue B.
Two Boots is still around (albeit in a different location), but the Gas Station and the Toy Tower are both long gone.
It’s a compelling-but-still-frustrating little clip in as much as I’d have rather they wasted less time and shot more material. Ah well, what can ya do? Enjoy the video...