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.
Hey again, all. I still only have tenuous access to all things Web these days, so please sit tight. In the interim, however, I saw this breeze by on Facebook recently, and thought I'd share it.
Here's a (presumably) homemade vid for "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" by ye olde Velvet Underground. Though the song dates back to about 1970 (it's the final track on the Loaded album), I can't quite put a date on the NYC footage herein. In any case, enjoy.
I hoep to be back in regular rotation shortly. Stay tuned.
Hey all, just a quick one. I'm actually sequestered out on the `Island for a while with limited computer access, so bear with me.
During my two-month hiatus, my comrade Drew sent me the video below, and I've meant to put up a post about it ever since.
This October will mark the eight-year anniversary of the closing of CBGB at 315 Bowery, a milestone that prompted much gnashing of teeth in many circles (including mine). The shuttering of the fabled rock club, endearingly squalid dive bar and ground zero of Punk Rock has since come to serve as a telling signifier of the transformation of New York City. That its address has since been co-opted by a bespoke clothier only reinforces that. The Bowery is a different place. Downtown is a different place. New York City is a different place. Those are just the facts.
Since CB's demise, the already robust mythology that surrounded it has only flourished (no thanks to a truly abortive film from 2013 about same, but the less said about that, the better). An invocation of a night of CBGB now comes grittily entrenched in the artful imagery of dimly lit urban decay, the insouciant cool of bohemia, the whiff of an anything-goes frontier and the palpable threat of violence. The name conjures up pictures like those found in Bri Hurley's "Making a Scene," a striking photographic document of the New York hardcore community (that's one of her shots above), or like the iconic image below of the No Wave all-stars... portraits of romantic characters existing on the edge of society.
Truth is, of course, not every night at CB's was like that. Not every show at 315 Bowery warranted the punk pageantry. Hell, in its last several years of operation, the booking policy at CBGB really wasn't that adventurous, nor did it attract room-filling big names. Even during its 70's and 80's heyday, some shows at CBGB were just that... shows. No one got stabbed. No one showed up with a mohawk. No cops were punched. It was just another night at one of the city's live music venues.
Below is another clip by Nelson Sullivan, the intrepid videographer I've written about before, who presciently made a point to document as much of his life on video as he could (prior to his untimely death). In this clip, Sullivan attends a record release party at the CBGB Record Canteen (remember that?) for Binky Philips, a somewhat-less-celebrated scene veteran, CB's regular and self-described "also-was." As an event, it's fairly low on thrills, but the video provides a tantalizing glimpse back at the scene circa 1987.
Watch for a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo of the cover of Killing Joke's Brighter Than a Thousand Suns amid the record racks.
These days, CBGB is the afore-cited John Varvatos boutique and the space that was the CBGB Record Canteen is now a Patagonia, for all your pricey, outdoorsy gear needs.
Way back in February, I put up a little post about a dimly remembered neighborhood artifact, that being the dinosaur that used to stand atop what is now Continental (then Continental Divide) on Third Avenue at St. Marks Place. I remembered it as being a free-standing sculpture of a brontosaurus, but didn't hold out a great deal of hope that anyone would have a photo of it.
Just last week, however, photographer Susan Fensten (whose work you might remember from this post) posted a photo of her father John Fensten's from the 1980's on Facebook It might be a little hard to make out, but this is a shot of Third Avenue at St. Marks Place. From right to left, that Optimo is now The E Smoke Shop. That pizza parlor (boy do I miss that) became a Chickpea then back to a pizza place and is now a diner-y spot called Archie & Sons (which is supposedly not bad, or so I've been told). To the left of that is Continental Divide. You can make out the brontosaurus on the signage, although I want to say there was one on the actual roof as well. Anyway, this is close as I'm probably going to get.
To the left of that is a joint called Dynasty. That's a McDonald's today. Does anyone remember Dynasty?
I've waxed nostalgic about the old Marquee club at 547 West 21st street a coupleof timeshere. It wasn't even there that long (maybe three years? maybe?), but it was somewhat of a crucial venue for me at the time.
Located way the hell over on the very western edge of Chelsea, it had virtually no neighbors during its tenure apart from a gay bondage club across the street called Zone DK. This was all the early 90's, you realize --- well prior to the advent Chelsea Piers, Giuliani's quality of life campaign, 9/11, the High Line and Bloomberg's era of hyper-gentrification.
In its incarnation as the Marquee, I was lucky enough to catch several live shows at 547 West 21st street. I'm sure I've listed them here before, but if memory serves, bands I saw play at the Marquee included Too Much Joy, Pylon, The Wonder Stuff, the La's, My Dad is Dead, The Wedding Present, the Milltown Brothers, the Butthole Surfers, the Rollins Band, the Lunachicks, Primus, 24-7 Spyz, Fatima Mansions, Julian Cope, the Kitchens of Distinction, Lush, Ride, Curve, Chapterhouse, The House of Love, Swervedriver, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Blur, Senseless Things, Pigface, Limbomaniacs, The Sundays, The Charlatans, Mr. Bungle, Birdland and Pop Will East Itself. Actually, the very first time I ever set foot in the place, it was still called Sonic, and I was there to see a little known band (at the time) called Nine Inch Nails.
For whatever reason, the Marquee closed sometime in the almost-mid-90's and morphed into a Latino dance club called El Flamingo --- `cos, ya know, we needed another one of those. For the remainder of the 90's, if I'm not mistaken, El Flamingo played host to a discofied re-imagining of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" called "The Donkey Show." Suffice to say, I never went.
Anyway, I addressed all of this in earlier posts. Back in 2012, I walked back over to that end of West 21st street with my little boy Oliver and snapped a picture of its incarnation as a comparatively whisper-quiet art gallery.
Well, earlier this week, I had a little time on my hands while strolling through Chelsea and once again found myself walking west on 21st street, the sounds of countless 90's bands like those listed above filling my head. As I approached, however, that elusive "sense of place" I've spoken about before was pretty much all gone, ..... as was the building that once housed that art gallery, El Flamingo and before it...The Marquee.
Already looming high above West 21st Street is a brand new development where 547 (and the building to its west) used to stand. It certainly doesn't look that impressive now, but 551 West 21 bills itself as "sharp and crisp and as subtle, luminous and dramatic as a perfectly cut diamond" and "like a villa in the sky."
Where once this street was defined by its quiet desolation, it will now be (yet another) buzzing hive of affluents. Who can afford to live in these places?
Anyway, I doubt I'll find myself taking any more nostalgic walks down West 21st street ever again. As such, here's another taste of the past. I was actually at this show. Here's the Lunachicks at the Marquee in November of 1990....
Don't panic .... Yaffa Cafe isn't going anywhere (or at least I don't think it is).
Back in the late 80's and into the 90's, I was something of a regular patron within the sparkly confines of this venerable St. Marks Place establishment. A good friend of mine dated a Yaffa Cafe waitress for a while. It was strategically located as a great staging point for various downtown missions. Alone with Sin-E down the street (long gone), it anchored its storied little strip of East Village quite nicely.
I stopped going at some point. The last time I was there may have been in 1993, when the Yaffa Cafe served as the location of my interview with all four members of Blur. This was just a little prior to their stardom-courting days of feuding with Oasis. I don't think I've set foot in the place since, sadly.
In any case, while walking by it yesterday, both of my kids couldn't help commenting on the Yaffa's signature mural, so I stopped and took the picture above ... instructing them to mimic it. An elderly gentleman sitting nearby smiled and noted that the mural in question was thirty years old. Unlike the comparatively recent Joe Strummer mural a block and a half to the east, it refreshingly hasn't been touched up, but nor has it been messed with. Long may she scream.
Anyway, I'm hoping to jump-start a new meme: #Yaffing.
This also dates back to the same herculean trek around Manhattan from a few weeks back that spawned the photos in this post and that post. I don't have a lot of fond associations with the New York Criminal Court buildings along Center Street, but I can't seem to walk by them without thinking back to the video for "Kool Thing" by Sonic Youth, .... which in itself is odd, as it's never been a particular favorite of mine.
"Kool Thing" found Kim Gordon taking the mic for the first single off of Sonic Youth's indie-heresy-baiting big label debut Goo in 1990. Having been lured in a few years earlier via the pointedly discordant and vaguely disturbing Bad Moon Rising (my freshman year roommate in college had to leave the room whenever I chose to play "Death Valley `69," which, suffice to say, was often), I counted myself as a Sonic Youth fan, but as they gradually edged to the center and away from the purposely weird, I found myself losing enthusiasm.
I actually got to interview the whole band on the eve of Goo's release for a tiny indie record rag I was working for at the time, The New York Review of Records, in the incongruously plush offices of Geffen Records (in a very corporate conference room with a crudite platter). They hadn't quite become an especially big deal (nor had they introduced the wider world to Nirvana as yet), so it didn't seem like that huge an event. As such, they were all perfectly cool and amiable -- apart from Kim, of course. She wasn't unfriendly, per se, but she was a long way from being what you might call chatty. That all said, she seemed to embody everything that was cool about the band.
Anyway, blah blah blah...ancient history. Goo came out and helped kickstart the "alt.rock" boom of the 90's, I suppose, paving the way for diluted knock-off acts and ersatz grunge-lite records until the resurgence of rinkydink boy-band teen pop put a stop to all that. Seems almost quaint to think about now.
While I didn't think "Kool Thing" was an especially great single at the time (despite a fleeting contribution from Public Enemy's Chuck D.), the video had a suitably artful NYC vibe -- although if memory serves, Kim Gordon's gone on record saying that filming the video in front of the Criminal Court Buildings was one of the most embarrassing experiences of her life....and catered, at that. In retrospect (see below), the clip has held up pretty well.
If I'm gong to keep doing this, I've got to get out there earlier, lest I face the probability of having to share the path with my fellow runner: inevitably a dewy, young Amazonian with perfectly toned, rippling musculature, loping with the grace of a thoroughbred as I trot breathlessly behind like a mule with leprosy.
Today was my third morning of running and hoo boy am I feeling it. That said, in the next two days, my family has a memorial service and a burial to get through, so this morning was my final opportunity to get in a early slog around the park. As such, I fought through the ache in my thighs and gave it another go.
My thighs are killing me, most evidently when I walk down a flight of stairs. I want to think, however, that it's a "good pain," i.e. the pain of muscles that haven't felt any meaningful exertion in a while. I'm starting to take the notion of stretching a bit more seriously, but still don't really know if I'm stretching for long-enough increments or even doing the right stretches, ... but I think I am.
I'm still not bringing the iPod. I'm sure music would help me zone out and not think as much about the impact of each step on my jostled, angry entrails, but it's just one more thing to carry. I kinda like the freedom of just wearing sneaks, jogging shorts and a t-shirt . Once you introduce gadgets into the mix, it gets more complicated. I also kinda like experiencing the sounds of the morning.... that is until I hear what my comrade Jeremiah Moss tellingly refers to as the "world of vocal-frying dumb talk" that downtown has become.
I still associate Washington Square Park with my downtown, however. As I start my lap on Washington Square North, I think of all the old record shops that used to be one block over on West 8th Street, like the original Venus Records and It's Only Rock'n'Roll. When I'm trotting down Washington Square West, I think of Bleecker Bob's, 99 Records and Route 66. When I'm trudging to the east on Washington Square South, I think of Second Coming Records on Sullivan Street and Tower Records on 4th and Broadway. All those places are gone now, of course, replaced by frozen yogurt joints, pharmacy chains and banks.
By the time I'm approaching the end of my lap on Washington Square East -- when I pass by those huge photographs of Cheetah Chrome and Stiv Bator, leftover from a gallery exhibit back in May about antiquated NYC nightlife -- I'm snapping back into the present. I downshift into what I've started calling "the wobble," a second lap around the park in a brisk walk. I'm looking to turn that into a second full lap of running, but ..... one step at a time (literally).
Seems weird to be ringing in this blog's birthday after having gone dark for two months, but ya can't argue with the calendar. `Twas nine years ago today that I started typing slavishly overwritten and grammatically dubious entries here -- initially solely for the purposes of irritating a co-worker who'd started his own blog (which, I believe, he's long-since abandoned). Nine years later, I'm (more or less) still at it.
As expressed elsewhere here, I'm continually amazed that anyone turns up to read this stuff, let alone comes back or leaves a comment. There are wide swathes of this blog that continue to make me cringe, but it's here -- warts and all. I wish I'd come up with a better name than Flaming Pablum, but it's kinda too late now.
When Joey Ramone succumbed to cancer back in 2001, I was still working at TIME Magazine as a news desk editor. At the story meeting that morning, editors sat around the big conference table bandying ideas around as to who the magazine should reach out to for the purposes of penning a eulogy. A few chimed in suggesting "Johnny Rotten," the erstwhile Sex Pistol's infamously thorny persona still being the go-to name for all things punk rock. Rarely did I speak up in these meetings, being that I was a comparatively lower-ranking member of the team, but here was a subject I warmed to, to say the least. Knowing that John Lydon has never had anything even remotely positive to say about the contributions of the Ramones, I jumped into the conversation. You can read the rest of that saga here.
Thirteen years later, we've just lost the last original member of the Ramones to cancer. In typical fashion, the media are still getting their facts wrong. Reports seem split on whether he was 62 or 65. One network news program prefaced their report of Tommy (Erdelyi) Ramone's death with a snippet from the video for "I Wanna Be Sedated," taken from Road to Ruin ... an album Tommy did not play on. Minor quibbles, maybe, but c'mon ... get it right.
I actually had the privilege of working with Legs in the summer of 1989 when I interned at SPIN (you can read that sepia-toned epic poem here). He could be alternately rude, hilarious, cantankerous, thoughtful, abusive, somber, inspired and tirelessly inappropriate, but he was never, ever boring. Legs' eulogy to his fallen friend has a sobering finality to it, and might just be the only piece on Tommy Ramone's death you need to read.
The only other piece I've read about Tommy Ramone's death that struck a chord with me was from the Daily Mash (sort of Britain's answer to The Onion). The headline pretty much sums it up: 99 per cent of Ramones t-shirt owners not upset.