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.
As I mentioned back on this ancient post, a website named BlockAvenue.com once reached out to me to see if I wanted to contribute by writing up a little entry on "my favorite block in NYC." It sounded like a fun, curious little exercise, so I gamely obliged and wrote up an entry on Cortlandt Alley down off Canal Street. Evidently, they liked it so much — or they were entirely desperate for content — that they even wrote up a little shout-out about it on their accompanying blog. I thought that was jolly nice of them, although it seems that my reasons for liking that particular strip (ambiance, local history, atmosphere, aesthetic, cultural significance, etc.) had precious little in common with the reasons most of their other contributors cited for their favorite blocks (proximity to gyms and Starbucks), which I think was sadly symptomatic of this city’s self-awareness. Five years later, all evidence of that website is gone, including my little piece on Cortlandt Alley, regrettably.
Cortlandt Alley, of course, is still there, although I’ve been noticing an uptick in scaffolding up and down its narrow canyon, which makes me fear the worst.
A thin, arguably forbidding strip that extends between Canal and Franklin streets, with a slight misalignment at White Street that makes its trajectory essentially lightning-bolt-shaped, Cortlandt Alley remains my favorite street in Manhattan.
If you’re not immediately familiar with the name, you’d doubtlessly recognize it from its placement in countless films. Off the top of my head, Cortlandt Alley plays a defining role in the music videos for “Cousins” by Vampire Weekend and “Stiff Upper Lip” by AC/DC and probably about seven-dozen others. It’s probably most famous for being the “Hot Gates”-like entry to 77 White Street (at the center of the afore-cited lightning bolt), which used to be, of course, the Mudd Club.
I never made it to the Mudd Club (rhapsodized most famously in song by Talking Heads during “Life During Wartime”), as I was too young at the time, but I’m an ardent fan of the music and the scene it spawned, from the No Wave skronk of bands like Teenage Jesus and DNA through the mutated dance music of Konk and Liquid Liquid and all points in between. It closed in 1983 or so, I believe, and is now a very chic condo. I actually know a guy from my former building who lives in the building now. When he told me he was moving to a spacious apartment at 77 White Street, I immediately blurted out “THE MUDD CLUB!” and he showed no sign of recognition to what I was talking about. I know there’s a plaque on the building detailing same today, but I’m betting no one who lives in there today has any genuine idea of what the place was all about. Again, this city largely has no sense of its own myriad histories, which is sad.
Back in November, I landed a new job way downtown, one that now finds me regularly exploring various byways on my way to and from the office. On the days when I have to drop my kids off at their school in the Gramercy area, I usually hop on a downtown 6 train afterwards, and get off at Canal Street. From there, I take a leisurely, atmospheric stroll down Cortlandt Alley. Even this many years later, it still fires my imagination like nothing else. Frequently, I’m moved to take pictures.
Here are my shots from not only my commutes over the past six months, but also some shots from the past couple of years on Instagram (along with a couple of shots of my kids).
Not unlike countless other institutions of its kind, my kids’ grade school hosts an annual Spring Carnival, and for as long as my little two have been attending said school, we’ve always gone.
The school in question is pretty social. One of the reasons we were first attracted to the place was because of its warm, inclusive community. There’s a planning committee made up of parents (my wife served on it for two years) that regularly schedules school-wide events for kids and parents alike, ranging from annual walk-a-thons through boozy Christmas parties (well, boozy for the parents). It’s a close-knit group we’ve come to know and love.
The Spring Carnival, however, has always been something of a headache. Usually occurring on a sweltering, late spring day and featuring a needless disc-jockey with a big, booming sound-system playing contemporary (and frequently inappropriate) pop crap at a volume normally reserved for SWANS, the needle on the discomfort-o-meter is frequently buried solidly in the red. Add to that mix a teeming legion of screaming children, running frantically between bouncy castles, schlocky prize tables, a Silly String tent and a wide array of junk food stalls, and you’ve got pretty much all you need for a nervous breakdown. Every year, I dread it.
The kids have always loved it, though. The simple utterance of the very word, “carnival,” would get them excited. Despite repeatedly getting overwhelmed, overheated, overexcited and under-hydrated, they still equated the Spring Carnival with 100% fun. Regardless of all those times they ran out of prize tickets, or had to wait too long for the bouncy slide or how undercooked that hot dog was, the Spring Carnival was a great time, as far as Charlotte and Oliver were concerned.
Knowing my place in the food chain, I played along. I acted as de-facto security one year, standing guard (well…sitting, actually) at one end of the block to make sure no small people wandered off (or wandered off with someone other than their parent). I also sold raffle tickets one year (see picture above – yes, that’s me, the clichéd punk rock dad). You’d never think an antiquated bit of stereo equipment would be a hot raffle item, but go know. Most of the time, however, I would just buy fistfuls of ride and prize tickets and make sure the kids had fun and didn’t lose their minds. The day might usually end with a migraine and a sunburn, but as long as the kids had had fun, that’s what mattered. Their happy little smiles and cherubic little giggles forgave a multitude of petty annoyances.
This year’s Spring Carnival is this coming Sunday, and while I was preparing to roll my eyes and sigh, I learned that neither of my kids are harboring any great desire to attend. Charlotte’s well over it, and even not-so-little little Oliver doesn’t seem especially phased.
Every get the feeling your life is consumed by trivia?
I’ve been fielding a lot of different reactions, in recent weeks, in regards to my admittedly ridiculous quest to nail down the location of that fabled Lunachicks photograph. Despite the fact that I’m not the only person that does this type of thing (witness the celebrated exploits of the frequently-cited Bob Egan at PopSpots and/or any number of groups on Facebook like Manhattan Before 1990 or Greenwich Village Grapevine), some parties seem to think it’s a staggering waste of time. Fair enough, I suppose, but the only crucial difference between myself and those other seekers, as far as I can tell, is the subjects of the photographs. Because the particular shots I’m drawn to involve arguably less celebrated luminaries like Tony Conrad, Japan or – yea verily – the Lunachicks instead of, say, the overly lionized Bob Dylan, I’m apparently a weirdo. Whatever. That part doesn’t bother me.
But in spinning the yarn and widening the net in the instance of Lunachicks photo, I seem to have inadvertently put a few people off. “I’m not sure I see the point,” said one prominent individual when I tried to recruit their expertise. I don’t necessarily expect everyone to share my enthusiasm for the search, but as I sheepishly tried to explain to that individual, these posts of mine are, in a way, a small attempt to pay tribute to a city that formerly fostered an environment where art and music of the Lunachicks’ variety could once thrive –- unlike the comparatively staid and cripplingly expensive city it’s become. Speaking to my own experience, these posts are inarguably driven by one of my new favorite words, Hiraeth; a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.
I realize that sounds awfully histrionic, but maybe my attempts to stay connected to these vanished eras via these photographs is just the manifestation of a midlife crisis.
It makes sense, in a way. I’ve garnered similar reactions via my pointedly less cerebral ruminations about, for lack of a better term, rock t-shirt etiquette. I’m routinely met with snarky comments like “Imagine caring!” or “get ahold of yourself, punk rock dad!” when I venomously froth at the mouth about “vintage” metal t-shirts being appropriate by vacuous high fashion types and/or indefensible idiots like Kim Kardashian sporting Ramones t-shirts and knock-off leather jackets festooned with arcane punk insignia. The party line I tow there, usually, is that when something that mattered a great deal to me for a large swathe of my youth is blithely appropriated by pretty much the very demographic that once virulently mocked me for my fervent appreciation of same, I will not stand for it. As a high school geek who caught no end of grief from the popular kids for wearing Motorhead and Circle Jerks t-shirts, to see these signifiers adopted by people without the slightest investment in what they mean beyond some hollow ironic statement -– well, it pisses one off.
Here’s the thing, though: Fashion is silly. Band t-shirts are silly. Heavy Metal and Hardcore are fucking silly. As a more or less sentient adult, I am fully aware of the inherent ridiculousness of all this, let alone of my own cartoony over-reactions to them. As bug-eyed and furious as I’m prone to get during these discussions, I’m cognizant of the absurdity of it all. There are genuine problems in the world. Waifish young supermodels and idiotic reality TV stars wearing garments extolling the names of rock bands they’ve never actually heard isn’t really one of them.
…but I digress.
Back to the matter of the Lunachicks’ photo, is it of grave significance? No. Will being able to definitively put my hand down to the patch of concrete – should it still exist – that the band are depicted standing on prove any point or make any difference to anyone’s life other than maybe my own? Probably not. But I do like to think that for those of us who live in this city and share my affinity for the certain eras, the certain places, the certain sensibilities, sights and sounds I write about here, it’s worthwhile to remember and celebrate these elements.
And now? To unearth the lead I just buried beneath the above six paragraphs: As mentioned in the last post on the subject, I am in touch with the photographer.
After reading several chapters in the saga, my friend Susan from the ILX boards gamely put me touch with one Joe Dilworth. Even if his name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, you’ve almost certainly seen his images grace the sleeves of albums by My Bloody Valentine, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Franz Ferdinand, Echo & the Bunnymen, Ocean Colour Scene, Laika, Ride, St. Etienne, Link Wray, Art Brut, The Church, Cornershop, Unrest and countless others. Not for nothing, but the man’s also played in an equally august list of formidable bands like Th’Faith Healers, Stereolab, Swearing at Motorists, Add N to (X), The Hangovers, Too Pure, PJ Harvey and more. When we started corresponding, he was (and remains, at the moment) on tour with a band called Cavern of Anti-Matter. Check our man out below on the drums … that’s him.
Anyway, to make a very long story short (oops, too late), Joe was sympathetic to my plight, and shares a similar appreciation for geographic location and detail. While not a New Yorker (he’s a Londoner, but from Germany originally), he did indeed remember the day, … and the general location (and yes....it's purportedly somewhere in the East Village). Most accommodatingly, Joe offered to share the contact sheets from the photo shoot with me. He’s touring, at the moment, with the band above, but told me he’d get me those assets upon his return. Ideally, the images contained therein should illuminate the situation considerably.
As a taster, however, Joe was able to send me an alternate shot from the same session. Herewith the Lunachicks continuing to be suitably provocative on that same spot.
For those who’ve made it this far with me, the prize is in sight. Hang in there.
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.
Hey all. Apologies for the (relative) slow-down, but it’s been a busy week. In any case, I stumbled upon this clip earlier this week and meant to share it here sooner, but time got away from me.
While it won’t blow a new part in your hair, enjoy this brief trip back to the winter of 1993 on St. Marks Place. While I still vividly remember the events of that year, it’s prudent to remember that 1993 was …. Jesus… 23 years ago.
As such, treat yourself to fleeting glimpses of the old Second Avenue Gap, Kim’s Video, the original Electric Circus/Dom building (i.e. before the gutting and Chipoltlization), Dojo, St. Marks Sounds and the original iterations of St. Marks Bookshop and Trash & Vaudeville.
All of those ventures have vanished from this strip today.
At the time this video was shot, I would have been 26 years old, still living on the Upper East Side, just freshly laid off from LIFE Magazine (as detailed here), still writing for a variety of middling music periodicals, still obsessing over a star-crossed office romance and shortly to start working at TIME Magazine. My listening habits would have been dominated by Cop Shoot Cop and the first album by Suede.
ADDENDUM:Same neck of the woods (and beyond), one year later....look for Tower Records, the Great Jones Diner and Gray's Papaya (all r.i.p.)
I’ve literally scoured the pavement, over the past couple of weeks, criss-crossing vast swathes of NoHo, NoLiTa, Greenwich Village, the East Village, the West Village, the Meat Packing District, TriBeca and parts of Chinatown, but I have -– thus far -– not rediscovered that particular, ripped-up patch of concrete. I’ve had a few readers chime in with ideas, but nothing has really gelled as yet.
I’ve shot a note or two out -- via Facebook -– to erstwhile members of the band like Gina Volpe and Theo Kogan, but neither have gotten back to me, which, honestly, isn't entirely shocking. I had half a mind to go check out the Roebling Tea Room in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the current venture of bassist Sydney “Squid” Silver (pictured above), but, in retrospect, decided against it, as I would really rather not want to inadvertently come across like some kind of weirdo stalker, let alone prompt Squid to beat the crap out of me. I’m sure she’s perfectly reasonable, but … still.
Even if I did manage to momentarily corner a genuine Lunachick, I’d be asking her an inordinately detailed and frankly ridiculous question about something that fleetingly happened twenty-six years ago. In the strenuously unlikely event that I did manage to talk to any of them, they may not even remember.
More to the point, I’m looking to spot a location. The fact that the Lunachicks are even featured in the photo is almost incidental. I mean, I love the Lunachicks and they completely fuckin' rocked, but I’ve now just become fixated with solving the goddamn mystery … SO I CAN GO BACK TO SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT!
I did get some sympathy for my similarly inclined friend Bob Egan of Pop Spots, who postulated with the following…
Food for thought on Lunachix, using stretched photo (attached).
1) It looks like they are taking up a whole sidewalk. Seems to be indication of the street edge bottom right, above right shoe. 2) SInce no sidewalk, rough ground they are standing on is probably a driveway to an empty lot. 3) Seems like an awful lot of empty space at the far right, indicating not in a dense tenement area. Possible water tower far right. 4) Looks like 6 story tenement in back. 5) There is a tree in front of the tenement so probably a lot after the building with the large windows. 6) Odd that those windows would not be protected since so close to ground. 7) At far left looks like horizontal bricks continue behind the fence. 8) I see COST - where's REVS? 9) There is a different graffiti tag to the left of COST. 10) Keep pluggin' away..... -Luna Bob
Anyway, here’s Bob’s stretched version below…
And here's the band playing live circa 1999 .... nine years after the photo in question was taken.
I’m prone to proudly tout my first ever concert as being Devo at Radio City Music Hall on Halloween night, 1981 (which was the same night, incidentally, that FEAR wreaked havoc on “SNL” just around the corner at 30 Rock, my old place of employment). It was probably the most prestigious New York City venue Devo would ever play, and remains a truly special, visceral memory for me.
Devo lost another key member of their organization yesterday, as news came down that Robert Mothersbaugh Sr., otherwise known as General Boy, the band’s early spokesman -– and, more significantly, the father of Mark and Bob 1 -- passed away. In searching for video of the great man on YouTube yesterday, I discovered that the someone had uploaded a high quality bootleg of the Radio City show I attended. Here’s the fine print, penned by Ian Weil.
Today I present a very special bootleg - Jerry Casale's favorite Devo show! He says that at the beginning of the show, the crowd could see nothing but an empty stage with the backing track playing. Then, he says, the full Aztec temple w/ treadmill stage rose out of the basement like an aircraft carrier (this explains the long "Nutra Theme" and crowd going nuts). Enjoy this wonderful Nutra show with good quality! Don't you just love Nutra stuff? Pictured are tickets from this show and photos from this show (sorry they have watermarks).
Like I said, I have nothing but fond memories of this show. I attended with my fellow Devo-obsessive classmate, Walt. We were about 14 years old, and in awe of Radio City Music Hall. I ended up buying both a t-shirt (of course) and a gleaming red Energy Dome. The shirt no longer fits and is long gone, but I picked up an anniversary edition of the same design not too long back. I still have the Energy Dome, and will never part with it.
Here it is, while it lasts….Devo at Radio City Music Hall on Halloween, 1981. Picture me grooving as a gormless 14-year-old in yellow-rimmed, punky sunglasses and a black Pink Floyd the Wall t-shirt under a blue blazer.
Incidentally, the photograph in the video screen grab below was taken by the great Allan Tannenbaum. I actually bought a print of a different image from that same show from Allan a number of years back. He's also responsible for the group portrait of theirs that graces the sleeve of Duty Now for the Future. Beyond his Devo pics, though, his work is spectacular. Check it out here.
Duty Now, Spuds. Rest in Peace, General Boy!
Shortly after the show in question. Those are the same sunglasses alluded to above. And yes, I still have the Yellow Suit...
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.”