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.
Just a quick heads-up: For those patient-but-paltry few of you still invested in my sleepless quest to divine the precise location of that 26-year-old photograph of the Lunachicks –- pictured posing with suitably ludicrous aplomb –- upon an enigmatically distressed patch of Manhattan concrete, please know that FRUITION MAY BE CLOSE AT HAND! Via a confluence of events and word of mouth (or, technically, word of keyboard), I am in touch with the man responsible for shooting the image in question. Details regarding all point of the saga will be forthcoming. So sit tight.
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.”
Invoke the name “Beastie Boys” to a layperson (read: not a frothy-mouthed music geek) and they’ll probably think of the goofy videos for “Fight for Your Right to Party” and maybe “Sabotage,” but that will probably be the extent of it.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to the story. I’ve posted innumerable entries about the Beastie Boys here over the past ten years, each laden with reverence. While many may still perceive them as novelty rappers fueled by beer, overactive libidos and cheap nyuck nyucks, their place in the respective histories of Hip-Hop and New York City are unimpeachable (even if Hip-Hop stubbornly continues to have precious little regard for its forebears).
But, as I’m prone to laboriously point out, prior to their transformation into an unlikely Hip-Hop juggernaut, they started off as a nascent hardcore -- or hardcore punk, depending on how old you are -- band. That’s them above circa 1982, as captured by Arabella Field. The young lady in the beret and leather coat is drummer Kate Schellenbach (later of Luscious Jackson and, very briefly, the Lunachicks), while the gent on the left is the band’s original guitarist, John Berry. John Berry passed away yesterday at the young age of 52.
But prior to becoming The Beastie Boys, they spent a gestation period as a band called The Young Aborigines, whose roots lay on the opposite side of the island from all things East Village. Both hailing from the northern reaches Broadway on the Upper East Side, John Berry and bass player Jeremy Shatan were the initial impetus. I’ve become “internet friends” (that never sounds right) with Jeremy over the years, and yesterday, he penned a lovely eulogy to his fallen friend. Read that here.
Rolling Stone, meanwhile, posted their own obit for Berry, appended with the photo below of him performing post-Beastie Boys at what certainly looks like CBGB. I was struck by one crucial detail …
That shirtless guitarist on the left is none other than Norman Westberg of SWANS, lending further credence to the Beasties-SWANS bond I alluded to at the tail end of this post.
My friend Don sent me a great clip on Facebook today from the archives of local NYC television station WPIX of former commentator and erstwhile New York Post contributor Doris Lilly, whom I vaguely remember from childhood. Doris was essentially a flatulent, loudmouth gossip columnist whose biggest claim to fame was dating Ronald Reagan for a time. In any case, in the clip in question, she’s loudly opining about the scourge of British Punk Rock that was then about to hit New York City in the infernal personification of Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious and their merry band of Sex Pistols. It’s essentially just another bit of classic, alarmist pop culture propaganda from a “news” outlet that really should have had bigger fish to fry at the time.
Of course, Doris’ colorful ire was unfounded, as that fateful `Pistols tour imploded messily before it could ever reach New York, culminating in something of a damp, druggy fart at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in 1978. See the bottom of this post for those details.
While none of this is new news, I was struck by one thing. Evidently prior to the tour falling apart, the band had been booked to play in New York City not at, say, CBGB or Max’s Kansas City or even the Palladium, but rather at a venue that rang absolutely no bells called the Elgin Theater.
Unlike my still-unresolved quests to verify the existence of Downtown, Underground and --- WAIT FOR IT -– the Lunachicks’ wall, one tidy Google search revealed that the Elgin Theater was an old movie house that is now the Joyce Theater on 8th Avenue and 19th Street in Chelsea. Here it is in more recent years...
Evidently, as the Elgin, the room played host to “adult films” as well as culty midnight movies like “Freaks,” “Eraserhead,” and “Pink Flamingos.” In that respect, the Sex Pistols would have been something of an appropriate fit. But, alas, `twas not to be.
I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY, DORIS!
Speaking of ol’ Sid, however, on a totally different tip, I spotted a visual invocation of the late, cartoony bass “player” recently that struck me like a bolt out of the blue.
I’m bound to screw up the specifics of the anecdote, but back in the balmy days of mid-`80s hardcore, I remember being at a gig with my friend Rob D. at the Ritz (invariably as part of the Rock Hotel series) –- might have been the Circle Jerks or the Cro-Mags or even a Bad Brains show –- and Rob running with beery enthusiasm up to a fellow gig-goer in the crowd and rapturously extolling the mirthy merits of said gig-goer’s t-shirt. I agreed that it was entirely funny, but Rob took it a step further and either offered the gent money for the shirt right then and there or they traded shirts or something. In any case, in very short order, Rob was wearing the shirt in question, and beaming accordingly.
That same t-shirt came to pretty much define Rob’s casual attire from then on. He wore it to countless shows after that, along with myriad everyday shenanigans to the point that the garment became as porous and thin as the Shroud of Turin. While I prided myself (and still do) on my richly cultivated selection of dumb punk rock shirts, apparently Rob only needed that single one, and he wore it for a few years until is basically fell apart.
Today, during a random search, I found it (albeit not for sale, sadly). I’d never seen it before on anyone else nor anywhere else until I spied it again today. This is that shirt.
A few folks have lobbed some suggestions my way in terms of divining the location featured in the photograph of the Lunachicks I’ve been losing sleep over, but none have, as yet, accurately pinpointed the spot. KNOW THIS: I will find it.
The most promising recent idea, however, came from a reader named Zubie, who writes...
That partial perpendicular COST(REVS) tag to me, does place it in Nolita; given those two's perpetual graffitos early '90s in said area. I'll guess the vantage is the from the north side of Bond closer to Broadway, facing east with what looks like that stoic 2nd Ave at Bowery water tower in the right background????
I'm inclined to agree with Zubie on these points, given that Nolita was indeed the epicenter of COST and REVS during that era. I snapped the above photo of their once-ubiquitous tags back in the `90s on Prince Street, just west of the Bowery.
But beyond that fleeting bit of graffiti, the little architectural, old New York flourishes also match up to the type found around NoLiTa.
In the unlikely event that you are unfamiliar with the term, "NoLita" is a relatively recent appellation -- invariably concocted by real estate developers -- that essentially truncates "North Little Italy" into a single word (see also TriBeCa, SoHo, NoHo, FiDi, etc.). Opinions may be divided on where NoLita's actual borders are, but the map below should give you a pretty reasonable approximation.
With that above map in mind, I've been criss-crossing these exact streets on weekends with my kids and on my walk home from work way downtown, scouring the edifices and looking for a match. Once again, it's that two layered facade behind Becky Wreck that keeps haunting me. I know I've walked by it fairly recently. But, thus far, I've yet to put my hand to it.
Granted, there's so much development all around town, these days, that said wall could very well be obscured by newly-erected scaffolding or a sidewalk shed, but I feel like I've seen in so recently.
I may stop mentioning it for a while in the hopes that it either just occurs to me, or that I finally stumble back upon it on my marches around downtown.
And before you ask, I have indeed reached out to the ladies themselves (well, guitarist Gina Volpe, at least), but she's either found my request too asinine or hasn't read it as yet. Not holding my breath on that one.
Once again, here are the ladies in question firing on all cylinders circa a reunion show at CB's in 2002.
BONUS BEATS: In searching for clues to the origins of that laboriously over-cited photograph, I did a random Google search using the terms "Lunachicks" and "East Village," and up came the curious clip below. Here's what its creator, Robert Lyrons, has to say about it:
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.
Here's the clip in question. Anyone wanna name this corner?
If, like me, you spend an entirely inordinate amount of time on Instagram (both posting and perusing), and you enjoy the same brand of stupid shit I do, you’d do well to follow the similarly inclined Chris Stein (he of Blondie, of course).
Not only does he post a rich array of vintage pics from Blondie’s heyday, but also myriad snaps of other punks, hipsters, scene-makers and New Wave royalty, as well as a trove of cool shots of New York City and beyond. He does it well, and he does it right. Check him out.
It’s plaguing me, as I’m a walker. There’s really nothing I enjoy doing more than simply walking around New York City, usually with headphones in, and just soaking it all in. I love visually scouring the surrounding cityscape for tiny minutia left over from eras past. I love looking at a minute flourish of architectural detail and thinking that it’s been there in that same spot while lives around it have come and gone as the years have rolled on. I love spotting a tattered, ancient flyer from some forgotten gig that the combined forces of time, weather and graffiti have not managed to scrape away and wondering how long ago someone pasted it up, and whether that person is aware that it’s still there, eons after the event has come and gone.
For example, I was walking through TriBeCa the other morning and I spotted a fading sticker for an old local band called The Valentine Six stuck high on a street lamp. I vividly recall seeing the Valentine Six perform at Brownie’s a couple of times back in the `90s, playing their brand of sorta Noir-Swing (imagine mournful, whiskey-soaked saxophones and spy-movie guitars scoring a pulpy drama, and you’re in the right crime scene). That all said, the Valentine Six only managed to release a single album in 1997 before calling it a night. As far as I know, the band is no more. Likewise, Brownie’s closed quite some time ago. But over on that street lamp on Leonard Street, the flag still flies for the Valentine Six. I kinda love that.
Anyway, the trouble in the instance of this Lunachicks photograph is that I walk a lot and routinely cover a helluva lot of territory. As such, while I genuinely believe that I’ve spotted this exact location (the two-layered wall behind drummer Becky Wreck in the back, specifically), I’ve walked around so many different parts of downtown recently — from Chelsea to SoHo to TriBeCa to the East Village to Chinatown — that it still could pretty much be ANYwhere.
I’ve shared my quandary with likely communities on Facebook and with my similarly inclined sleuthy bloggers, but maybe it’s because the Lunachicks aren’t Bob Dylan or Patti Smith, no one else seems as hell-bent on solving the puzzle.
I probably shouldn’t start new inquiries until I’ve landed the plane on the ‘Downtown’ club and the location of that Lunachicks photo (that one is really driving me nuts), but here’s a quick lark…
I’ve been listening to quite a bit of The Fall again recently, albeit for no readily apparent reason, although maybe it was prompted by news of the new Brix Smith memoir. Regardless, they’ve been all up in my headphones for weeks, now.
Given that it fit the tenor of my day, I slapped the video below of Mark E. Smith and the boys cranking through “Totally Wired” at some venue in New York City in 1981. If you’re a fan of the band, you’ve probably seen it, and it fucking cooks, accordingly. Here it is now. Enjoy…
Now, in 1981, I was all of 14 years old, and invariably not yet versed in the myriad joys of The Fall (I don’t think I’d really give them a proper listen until about the summer of `86). Moreover, as a 14 year old, while I was indeed getting well into all things Punk, I wasn’t yet hitting the clubs. As such, I don’t recognize the venue the band are seen sweatily performing in.
A quick glance at the official Fall gigography asserts that, in the balmy summer of 1981, The Fall came to New York City and played the following venues: Someplace called The Underground (with Fad Gadget opening … that’s quite a double bill), Maxwell’s in Hoboken, The Peppermint Lounge and Irving Plaza. After a few days in Canada and Boston, they came back to the New York area and played Bond’s Casino in Times Square (as one of many opening acts for the Clash during their fabled residency), the notorious City Gardens in Trenton, New Jersey, a club called Interferon here in NYC and then finally a gig at the Mudd Club at 77 White Street in TriBeca.
Taking those one at a time, I can’t say I recognize the Underground, although it might be that space on West Third Street (adjacent to what is now the Fat Black Pussycat, but that used to be Folk City). I suppose it could be Maxwell’s, but, technically, that’s New Jersey. There were two incarnations of the Peppermint Lounge, although I never made it to either of them. That said, I’ve seen footage of bands like Even Worse playing in same, and it seemed like a bigger room than the one featured above. Likewise, Irving Plaza is a much bigger space than this. I never made it to Bond’s, but clips I’ve seen of The Clash there during those gigs don’t seem to match up with this more intimate looking room either. It might have been City Gardens, but, like Maxwell’s that’s very much in New Jersey, and still seemingly roomier.
That leaves our contenders being the mysterious Underground, Interferon (which I’ve never heard of beyond it being the name of the band who sang “Get Outta London”) and, of course, the Mudd Club. My friend Lela suggested the Mudd Club as well. Let's go there now, shall we?
Now, I never made it to the Mudd Club either, sadly. But, on hunch, I dialed up this fabled clip of the Cramps playing there. Compare and contrast…
Could be the same room, no?
What say you? Anyone there and remember? Weigh in-uh.
Incidentally, today the Mudd Club is a pricey condo, and Bond's Casino, the Peppermint Lounge, Maxwell's and City Gardens are all closed. I have no idea whatever became of Interferon or Underground, other than that they're not here anymore. Both Irving Plaza and, for that matter, The Fall are still going.
While not the official documentation I'm still waiting for, it does support earlier accounts. Also, the assertion that the basement-level club was owned, operated and/or the brainchild, in some capacity, of Joey Ramone adds a new dimension to the story and the search.