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.
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.
I've been posting a lot of pictures lately of since-vanished places around NYC. Granted, I do this a lot. In any case, here's a clutch of photos of spots that had either already pulled up stakes and called it a day or were in the process of imploding when I happened to walk by them with my camera.
This was the Westbeth Theater in the West Village. I saw a few great, intimate shows here by artists like Julian Cope, Gavin Friday and the mighty Skeleton Key. For some reason, they closed up shop at this location (although the organization still exists in some other capacity). Here's the former entrance....all bricked up at some point in the mid-2000s.
This was what remained of Sal's Pizza on Avenue A before an upscale makeover.
This was the corner of East 13th and Fifth Avenue. Originally, I believe it was a lavish Schraft's ice cream parlor, but as far back as I can remember, it was the Lone Star (with the big iguana on the roof). Then it became something else. In the `90s, it was a bar called Mr. Fuji's Tropicana (my friend Rob dated one of its bartenders, who lived in a basement level studio apartment on Bleecker Street with no windows). After that, it became an ill-fated deli (a good place to go if you wanted runny, "frambled" eggs). Then it closed and sat dormant. Then it was torn down. Now, it' s in the process of becoming a luxury high-rise.
This was a tiny, humble Italian restaurant the wife and I quite liked in the West Village called Valdino West. Nothing fancy. Not sure what stands in its footprint today.
On the Upper West Side, here's where the iconic P&G Bar & Grill once held court. That's me looking portly in the foreground, beneath the corner where it's signature neon once was.
I can't say I ever set foot in the place to my knowledge (although maybe when I was a kid), but here's the old New York Doll Hospital on Lexington Avenue. This spot is significant to slackjawed rock dorks like myself, as it's the business that inspired a certain band to name themselves the New York Dolls (guitarist Sylvain Sylvain worked in a shop across the avenue). I believe this space is still vacant, but I could be wrong.
Here's the front of the old Hog Pit on 9the Avenue in the Meat Packing District, which was an old favorite haunt of mine in the `90s. After this it moved to 26th street, but I've never been to the new place. Back in the Hog Pit's heyday, the Meat Packing District was an endearingly squalid backwater. I greatly preferred it that way. What was once the Hog Pit is now a chain restaurant of one kind or another. Read more about the ol' Hog Pit here.
Here's the outside of the old Empire Diner on West 22nd and Tenth Avenue, taken after it had been closed for good.
Here's my little Charlotte, a few of years back, standing in front of what had been Subterranean Records on Cornelia Street. There's still nothing there today.
Finally -- you knew this was coming -- here's me in front of what was CBGB and is now the John Varvatos emporium of ridculousness.
More dregs from the dwindling picture pile on my desk. Maybe I've posted some of these before. I can't be sure. In any case, here's another small selection of sights that can no longer be seen. Click on each to enlarge.
Springing off yesterday's post about the Astor Place cube, here's a nice shot of the open space we used to take for granted. Taken at some point in the `90s.
This loving replication of the cover of London Calling by The Clash formerly graced the wall adjacent to a relatively indistinct bar on the corner of East 10th and First Avenue. The bar's gone on to change hands a couple of time. The mural was painted over eons ago. This was taken probably circa 1999.
Probably from about 2001 or 2002, this is the vacant lot on the corner of 1st and Bowery (adjacent to CBGB and CBGB Canteen). Today's it's a Chase Bank.
This one's tougher to place. This dates back to about `98 or so. It's the rose window of the church that formerly stood on the corner of Sullivan Street, facing the rear of Washington Square Park. This was taken, meanwhile, from Third Street looking north (i.e. behind it). Roughly between Sullivan and Thompson Streets, if I'm correct.
Earlier this week, I made the above photo (taken some time in the late 90's, if memory serves) my "cover photo" on the dreaded Facebook. A few friends chimed in their "likes" and reminiscences of the fabled cube. Some pushed it around. Some rode on it. Some remember flyers being plastered to it. Etc.
Breathe easy, readers. The Cube is still there. For now, at least, although it just doesn't loom as large as it once did.
While not the same vantage point, here's a sligthly comparable shot of the same basic area today.
I spotted the above photo on Tumblr earlier this week, and felt the need to pass it on here. I have no idea what year this shot was taken, but if I had to guess, I'd say sometime in the mid-`80s. This is, of course, the inimitable LL Cool J and posse perched at the entrance of the Jones Diner, which formerly held court on the corner of Great Jones and Lafayette Streets. Don't bother looking for it now, it's long gone .... along with LL Cool J's credibility in the wake of this laughable gaffe.
I was always a sucker for the Jones Diner. I frequently wax rhapsodic about the soon-to-close Pizza Box on Bleecker Street, but I do remember ducking into the Jones Diner on several occasions after several rack-worrying sorties through Tower Records on East 4th and Broadway (also gone, but you knew that). It was great for a dish of fried eggs and bacon or a burger. Probably not the healthiest grub in the world, but hey ... we were young.
The Jones Diner also plays a central -- if dubious -- role in the 1992 video of "Two Princes" by the all-but-forgotten Spin Doctors. I'm not going to lie: While I hated much of the hippy-dippy jam band scene that the Spin Doctors were spawned from (largely thanks to Wetlands), I found them hugely less offensive than, say, fucking Blues Traveller or Phish or (insert your favorite here). Lyrical claptrap aside, I actually didn't mind "Two Princes," but that might just be because its video featured the Jones Diner.
Today, the spot where the Jones Diner stood is vacant. There's a big construction project underway there, yes, but it seems to be stalled (not that I'm in a great rush to see it completed, mind you). That all said, it pains me that the Jones Diner's no longer there.