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.
Back in the nascent days of MTV, I vividly remember getting in a heated debate with my friend Ted about the location of this video. Based on the glitz and glamor of the setting, I remember asserting that the ritzy New York City hotel wherein the narrative of this videos plays out in must be the fabled Plaza on 59th Street. Ted, meanwhile, was ADAMANT -- despite being from New Jersey and never spending huge amounts of time in Manhattan himself -- that the Plaza Hotel did not have big floral planters outside its entrance. I'm not quite sure why this was all such a huge deal to us as the time, but I think it almost came to fisticuffs at one point. We were little hot-tempered kids back then.
Decades later, Wikipedia asserts that Ted was right. The hotel in question is the St. Regis on East 55th.
While that riddle was solved, I was positively vexed by a more elusive one that the picture boasted, that being the street art depicted behind Spalding. Back in the 80's, I vividly remember that stenciled image of an Asian man's head with slightly spiky hair to be everywhere around the streets of SoHo. I have no idea what it meant (an ambitious artist's self-portrait?), but it was all over the place. In addition, I recalled a parody of the image that was also everywhere at the time, that being a depiction of the same guy after being shot in the head.
I spent a couple more posts moaning about them, trying to find someone else who remembered them, but no one bit. I combed through veritable tomes of SoHo street art, reached out to friends of mine who are more street-art-savvy than I, but kept coming up empty. I was starting to think it was all just some unattainable fragment of the past I'd never find further evidence of.
London says that this photo was taken in October of 1990, but doesn't specify the address. Check out the selection of stencil's on the wall behind the blurry-faced figure, and you'll see that same original stencil, the mock, ominous shot-in-the-head ("End the Joke - Die For Your Art") stencil and even a second parody featuring a face that I'm interpreting as Keith Haring.
Wherever this location is, I'm dead sure these images have long since been washed off in the ensuing twenty-four years. But there they were.
Taken by the late Ken Regan in 1984, here we see Ig composing on a primitive word-processor, perhaps hashing out some lyrics that would later appear on 1986’s Blah Blah Blah. Glance twice and you’ll notice that his Igness is seated just around the corner from the Bowery on Houston, in front of the frequently re-tooled mural wall that was formerly adjacent to Billy’s Antiques. It being 1984, Iggy’s looking comparatively young and spry, while the world around him looks to be in some disrepair. Stroll down that block today and it’s markedly different.
From the much-ballyhooed Metropolitan Museum exhibit on "Punk Couture" to the Bloomingdale’s thing to the CBGB movie, I’m getting a little tired of hearing about what Punk supposedly is/was from people who wouldn’t know the Dickies from the Dead Boys. When crucial landmarks like CBGB and, for that matter, Bleecker Bob’s can no longer exist, Punk is fucking dead in New York City, regardless of what Anna Wintour might be trying to tell you. And you’ll never find punk – sonically, aesthetically, attitudinally --- if you’re searching at places like the Metropolitan Museum or friggin’ Bloomingdales.
But in keeping with this tenor of the times (granted, punk nostalgia is pretty much a constant here on Flaming Pablum, although I do strive for pedantic accuracy) and being that this Sunday is Mother’s Day, I thought I’d dust off a little anecdote that involves both Punk Rock and … my mom.
Let’s go back to 1979…
By 1979, “Punk” was an established term, but it was an amorphous one. The Sex Pistols had flamed out messily, but the floodgates had been thoroughly kicked open and things were happening all over the map. All the same, while your average guy on the street knew the word, "Punk" still packed something of a scary, negative punch. The notion that, decades later, it would be the subject of a pricey fashion gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art would probably have prompted hysterics along the Bowery. As I mentioned in this post, in 1979, the very word “Punk” was still used as a shadowy pejorative.
Now, I’d love to say that while all this was going on, I was insouciantly hanging out at the Mudd Club with Lux Interior and Lydia Lunch, but the fact of the matter is that in 1979, I was a little twelve-year-old, seventh grade twit living with my family on the Upper East Side. As I mentioned in that earlier post, I was gradually nurturing my music fandom and exploring Punk Rock via comparatively established touchstones like the Ramones, The Clash, Devo and `Pistols, but things were now happening at a rapid rate, new scenes were developing and the term itself was mutating. But that was all happening outside of our apartment on East 93rd Street.
Up until that point, my mother had never been especially sympathetic to my musical tastes. While she certainly didn’t mind the Beatle records that my older sister Vicky and I had appropriated from her (I still find it hard to believe that my mother bought her own copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), she pretty much had zero tolerance for -- much less interest in -- my beloved KISS. Vicky had brought some early, crucial records by Blondie, the B-52s and The Police into the house, but what my mother knew of “Punk” all came straight from the headlines, and none of it was positive. She equated “PUNK ROCK” with safety-pins through the nostrils, talentless caterwauling, projectile vomiting and rampant, indiscriminate defecation (almost as if she’d willed GG Allin’s act into existence sheerly by the power of her imagination). “PUNK” was pointedly not something my mother was ever going to enjoy, endorse or ever try to understand.
That point is precisely why this one specific afternoon in 1979 sticks out in my head as so significant.
I walked in from school on some random Tuesday or Wednesday to find my mother in the living room in her usual spot. At the time, my mom had a nifty little sideline in painting ties. She painted other stuff too – like hats and belts and pillows and shit like that, but her big thing was ties. This being the heyday of the preppy (Lisa Birnbach’s jokey “Official Preppy Handbook” would be published a year later), Mom would paint things like little tennis-playing frogs or Canada geese with Christmas wreaths around their necks on neckties and sell them through a few insufferably precious little shops around the Upper East Side with names like The Wicker Garden and the like. Sure, it sounds awfully twee, but Mom made a nice little pile doing it for a while.
In any case, there was Mom with all her stuff set up. She'd sit at a little card table in the center of the room with a selection of brushes and paints and a mason jar filled with water. Around the room were ties and sun-hats and pillow cases all whimsically designed with frogs playing golf, mice drinking martinis, pigs playing tennis, etc., all drying. Directly in front of her was the television. Under normal circumstances, Mom would watch some Channel 13 stuff or a talk show (admirably, she was never into the soap opera scene). We had cable, but this was prior to the era of CNN and twenty-four hour news channels.
As I walked into the room, I was struck by the sound of the Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays." On the screen in front of us, Bob Geldof, Johnny Fingers and the rest of the `Rats were sneerily lip-synching to their signature anthem in what looked like a classroom. In retrospect, this may have been my very first viewing of a proper music video ... a good year or so before the launch of MTV.
"Mom?" I asked with some trepidation, worried that I might prompt her to turn the channel, "what are you watching?" Mom was only half-paying attention to the screen while painting the outline of a frolicking piglet on a necktie. "This is some program about Punk Rock," she said with wobbly, dramatically derisive emphasis. Admirably, Mom's intellectual curiosity was overriding her already-established prejudices.
As if on cue, the cable channel presenting said selection cued up a new clip of a band dressed like court jesters, ripping with comical velocity through a clangy cover the Moody Blues' stodgy, classic-rock warhorse, "Nights in White Satin." I plunked down my bookbag and assumed the floor about a foot away from the screen, amazed that I was seeing this stuff and doubly-amazed that I was watching it with my mom, of all people. When it was revealed that the the ensemble in question were called "The Dickies," I believe Mom let out an emphatic "Oh, for God's sake."
I didn't want the show to stop. Here was this amazing portal into a new world I'd already started discovering, but with all these new names and new sounds I hadn't yet heard of. The next clip in the rotation was by a band out of Philadelphia called The A's. Mom immediately chimed in with a "I bet I know what the A stands for!", seeming to suggest that these comparatively innocuous Philly power-popsters really wanted to call themselves "The Anuses." This insinuation coupled with the band's pouty preening firmly solidified The A's as my mother's least favorite act of the broadcast, and in retrospect, she was pretty spot-on. The A's never really amounted to much.
But it was what turned out to be the final video of the show (or at least the final video that my mother could tolerate) that really made the biggest impression. Against a black backdrop, this strangely solitary figure dressed in a shiny, radioactive suit started strutting around to a halting, staccato guitar riff. "I'M BORED... I'M THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BORED!" announced the singer, with a bug-eyed, pugnacious ferocity, his twitchy dancing and elastic writhing getting more spastic as the song built up steam. This, of course, was my first real taste of the force of supernature that is Iggy Pop. It was truly unlike anything I'd ever seen, and I couldn't take my eyes off of it.
Between Ig's menacing glare and the song's nihilistic message, however, my mom decided she'd had her fill and turned it off, invariably feeling that her initial hunches had been correct all along.
I, meanwhile, was newly hooked. And it would only get more severe from there.
My bloggy comrade EV Grieve put the above photo up on his Facebook page earlier today, and it’s precisely the type of thing that sends me into a bug-eyed, vitriolic lather.
Just to be a pedantic music geek knowitall for a moment…I think my biggest grievance with this is the fundamental lack of comprehension of what PUNK is/was. If its inherently about the music (which, of course, not everyone agrees on), then the Pretenders’ third album Learning to Crawl (which is emblazoned on the young lady's chest above) is a laughable choice. I mean, sure, Chrissie Hynde was a major face on the scene (see photo below), but even the first Pretenders LP is barely “punk” by any credible standard. “Brass in Pocket”? That might as well have been played by Boz Scaggs. But Learning to Crawl-era Pretenders? It's a fine album, yes, but it's about as punk as Hall & Oates.
Said EV: "According to this Bloomingdale's ad in the Post today, we're in for a Punk Summer. Prepare now! His Ramones T-shirt is $48, her Pretenders T-shirt is $64."
THESE ARE T-SHIRTS, PEOPLE!!!
Chrissie in her punk days...
Kate Simon & Chrissie Hynde wearing their best Sex t-shirts, London, 1976, by Joe Stevens, as lifted from Stupefaction.
On Thursday evening, I had a friend in from out of town. We repaired to the East Village for what was supposed to be just one drink before dinner, but turned into simply several drinks. These things happen. And, in this instance, these things happened in one of my very favorite bars still left in the neighborhood, that being The Scratcher on East 5th Street between Cooper Square and Second Avenue.
While ostensibly an Irish pub, the Scratcher comes refreshingly devoid of any of the blustery blarney and "Darby O'Gill & the Little People" bullshit that plagues many of this city's other Irish pubs. It's just an intimate little space tucked into the garden level of a humble brownstone that currently cowers in the shadow of that abomination of a modern hotel just a stone's throw to its west.
In any case, while my friend and I were putting away the pints, I was reminded -- as I often am, when in the Scratcher's comfy confines -- of the fabled Dead Boys incident that happened just outside its front door.
I've spoken about it here a couple of times here before, but as told in Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain's fabled "Please Kill Me," back on April 19 of 1978, Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz and Blondie roadie Michael Sticca were out and about on this particular strip (probably on their way home from CBGB), and they were happened upon by a car-load of angry Puerto Rican guys with chains and baseball bats. An altercation ensued and Johnny Blitz ended up getting stabbed and lay bleeding to death in the middle of East 5th (a spooky, dimly street even today). In the wake of this incident, the local punk luminaries of the time organized the Blitz Benefit, a fabled four night event at CB's, featuring a host of notable acts and surprising cameos (guest included Divine, King Crimson's Robert Fripp and John Belushi filling in on drums for the recuperating Johnny Blitz) to help raise money for Blitz's medical care.
I did the math and realized that the Blitz Benefit happened exactly 35 years ago this week.