Sometime soon we’ll make a return to regular NYC lit and culture blogging. This week we’re still caught up in launching our 33 1/3 volumes on Some Girls and Marquee Moon.
Tuesday morning we’ll be live on This is the Modern World with Trouble, which runs from 9 am to noon on WFMU. Our conversation with Trouble will happen sometime around 10:30 and last for a half hour or 45 minutes.
Although we’ve had our head in 1970s NYC for the last year or so, we’ve been really keen on launching the books with a live music event that celebrates the sounds of our own moment. We hope these give you an idea why we’re so excited about these particular acts:
We are also planning a more festive launch party with live music from the current BK scene in Williamsburg on 6/26. We’re still working out details on that event and will post updates as soon as we have things finalized.
You can also tune in to hear us on WFMU the morning of Tuesday the 28th, where we’ll be talking with DJ Trouble about the NY scene in the 70s and perhaps even spinning some tunes related to our books. Find that at 91.1 FM or at wfmu.org around 10:30 that morning. Comment or post questions live as we go and we’ll do our best to respond.
We hope to see and/or meet many of you at one, two, or three of the above. Catch you on the airwaves/Internet for the fourth.
Over the next few weeks, to mark the release of our volumes in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, we are featuring a series of guest playlists from friends, critics, and fellow music lovers. Given that both our books focus on New York in the 70s, we’ve asked contributors to curate lists along the lines of a loose theme: “favorite NYC records.” What constitutes a “NYC record” is left to their discretion.
This morning’s playlist comes from our friend Caryn Rose, a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer who documents rock-and-roll, baseball and urban life. Her first novel, B-Sides and Broken Hearts, will be released in Summer 2011. Follow her on Twitter: @clr & @metsgrrl.
CARYN’S “IF YOU COMBINE SOME GIRLS AND MARQUEE MOON IN MY MUSICAL MEMORY BANK, THIS IS WHAT YOU COME UP WITH” PLAYLIST
Dance, Pt. 1 – Rolling Stones
Few albums say “New York City in the Summer” like Emotional Rescue does. They were my guilty pleasure back then, I didn’t know how to reconcile the Studio 54-ness of this record with the rest of the things that I loved but I just knew that I loved it. I heard it in my head as I walked around the city that year.
New York, New York – Dictators
Everyone has a love/hate relationship with the Dictators, but this is classic, and live from Coney Island High in 1997.
Down At Max’s – Jayne County
When I first heard this song out at a club somewhere, it was like the keys to the kingdom. All the bands I read about in Rock Scene. Bonus points since this footage is Jayne County with the Fast (who I was never a huge fan of, but people were) onstage at Max’s.
Rock N Roll – Velvet Underground
Her life was saved by rock and roll.
New York City Serenade – Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
I never really saw my love of Bruce and my love of punk rock as disconnected in anyway – to me he was always one of us, and this was before we knew he’d written “Hungry Heart” after seeing the Ramones or drank vodka in the Record Plant bathroom with Alan Vega. This version from 1975.
It’s not a song about New York, but the Speedies will indelibly be part of my early New York memories, and the video is an amazing period piece, filmed on the Brooklyn Heights promenade. (Take that, Ryan Adams)
This week I begin teaching two summer courses, both of which are outgrowths of the Writing New York course I team-teach each year with Cyrus.
The first is an undergraduate seminar called “Writing New York: The Downtown Scene, 1960-1980.” I pioneered it last summer as a way to get me in an appropriate frame of mind to work on my book for the 33 1/3 series. It’s a 2-week intensive seminar: four hours a day, five days a week, for two weeks. It’s baptism by immersion, and by the end of the second week we certainly feel like we’ve been through a full semester.
My second course this summer will be a graduate seminar called “New York in the Age of Warhol.” Compared to the undergraduate course, this one will have luxurious pacing, spread out over six weeks. This is still quite a bit faster than a seminar in the regular semester, though, meeting twice a week whereas in the regular semester we’d meet once.
The two courses share over 90% of the same readings, which is one way I can keep this load manageable. They begin with some seminal figures on the downtown scene — Ginsberg, O’Hara, Cage — and end with Patti Smith’s glance backwards in Just Kids. I’m going to be curious to see, though, what effect the course title has on our discussion. What will it mean to foreground the concept of “scenes” over any particular personality? Or to define an era by the influence of one figure — Warhol? The grad seminar will have a heavier dose of Warhol, it’s true: we’ll read Popism in full and even tackle “his” novel, A. In my 33 1/3 book on Television’s Marquee Moon I consider, following the critic and filmmaker Mary Harron, the long shadow Warhol cast over the downtown underground rock scene, even as some bands (including Television) eventually sought to define themselves by breaking with the Warhol-influenced glitter scene that preceded them. Implicit in my account, I think, is my own sense that we’ve not yet escaped the Age of Warhol. Will we ever?
Over the next six weeks I’ll have more to say here. I’ll also be using the Twitter hashtag #downtown11 to indicate material relevant to our discussions. Feel free to follow along and join in as you’re inclined.
Bryan’s last three lectures for Writing New York have traced the development of the West Village, East Village, and Downtown cultural scenes from Ginsberg and the Beats through Dylan and then the Velvet Underground, up to the CBGB’s scene. As part of last weeks’ reading, students were able to read some excerpts from the uncorrected proofs for his forthcoming 33 1/3 book Television’s Marquee Moon, due out on June 16.
For Monday, the students have excerpts from my 33 1/3 book, The Rolling Stones’ Some Girls, which juxtaposes the history of the band with the history of New York City in the Seventies. Here’s an excerpt, which happens to highlight a point of connection between the Stones and Television, with some hyperlinks added:
My first record player was a Panasonic combo-unit with both a turntable and a tape player. Not audiophile-worthy, but it served me well while I was in high school. The first album that I bought was the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967),but the second was the Stones’ compilation album Hot Rocks 1964-1971. By the time I got to the end of Side 3—”Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Gimme Shelter”—I knew which side of the fence I was on. Andrew Loog Oldham, whom Keith Richards describes in his autobiography Life as “the great architect of the Stones’ public persona,” deliberately constructed a public image for the Stones that made them out to be “the anti-Beatles.” Stones vs. Beatles? After side 3 of Hot Rocks, it was no contest as far as I was concerned. (Richard Lloyd, the guitarist for the legendary New York punk band Television, once said something similar: “When I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I thought it was interesting. Musically it was okay. But I really liked the Rolling Stones. So there were two camps: The Beatles camp and The Rolling Stones camp. So I was definitely in the Stones camp. Much darker.” Television would include a cover of the “Satisfaction” in their live shows, and two different versions are preserved for posterity on The Blow Up and Live At The Old Waldorf, both recorded during the band’s 1978 tour.
The quotation from Lloyd comes from an online interview, which you can read in full here.
While I’ve been working on my book about Television’s Marquee Moon I’ve had ample opportunity to poke around the history of Club 82, a historic downtown drag venue (founded in the late ’50s by the mob, who controlled much pre-Stonewall gay nightlife) and an important early site, alongside nearby CBGB’s, for New York’s underground rock scene. (Here’s the entry from About.com’s Gay and Lesbian Travel section; here’s a fan site brimming with photos from the club’s earliest days.)
Everyone played there: Television, The Stillettoes (pre-Blondie), Wayne County (of course). The New York Dolls played an important show there in April of ’74 in which all the members but Johnny Thunders played in dresses. Lou Reed and David Bowie were in the audience now and again. Debbie Harry once said Club 82 was where kids from her New Jersey high school went after the prom; when she played there with the Stillettoes, members of the Who were in the audience.
Poking around to see if any video from the club existed, I came across a great video memoir of the scene, recorded by T. Roth, former frontman of the glitter band Another Pretty Face, who currently has a substantial following on YouTube where he posts videos under the name Zipster08. Here are his fantastic recollections of the club:
And of course a bit of video from the club does exist: Here’s Ivan Kral’s footage of Wayne/Jayne County in stage at the 82:
The Marquee Moon project I’ve been working on in earnest for the last several months has given me occasion to read an enormous amount of music journalism from the scene at large and also the excuse to spend countless hours on YouTube looking for stray footage that’s survived and been made public.
Here are a couple clips I find quite compelling. They’re united in their indebtedness to simple rock and roll structures, though the Suicide track obviously pushes the boundaries and reimagines the form a little more forcefully than the rather straight-forward Mink DeVille song. But the acts are related as well by their mutual impulse to define themselves against the band Television, who were clearly, from 1975-77, kings of the scene. Tracks first, talk later:
Here’s Willy DeVille ragging on Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell (and the Ramones, for good measure) to NME in August 1977:
The first time Mink DeVille played CBGBs they opened for The Ramones and before the show they almost got into a rumble with them. “What a buncha fuckin’ pussies, man! ‘Punk Rockers’ and we’re antagonistic!” Maybe Mink were just a bit too real – or maybe the Ramones just felt threatened: “We used to play double bills with the Ramones and end up in fisticuffs. It is a very competitive scene in New York and as soon as the contracts started floating around everyone started getting edgy.
“Yeah, the Blank Generation – I understand what guys like Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell are talking about, but they’re fuckin’ rich kids from private schools in New Jersey. Personally I live close enough to the void that I don’t have to flirt with it. Once I walked around the streets for a coupla months thinking I was dead – but I couldn’t remember dying.”
And here’s Suicide’s Martin Rev, interviewed for the book Suicide: No Compromise, on their disconnect with the CBGB’s scene:
I was never close with either Television or Patti. The only conversation I had with any of their members was one occasion with Richard Hell, who once at an after-club party told me how much he dug Suicide. He also asked me to join his new group, the Voidoids, which he was forming when he left Television. He seemed genuinely disappointed when I avoided coming to the early rehearsals. I told Hell, I have a band, it’s Suicide.
Turns out Television was indirectly responsible for Suicide cutting its first single. Rev again:
I heard that there was a Television single on the jukebox at Max’s. I asked Tommy if we could put a single in the juebox and he said, “Yes.” I took a tape of “Rocket USA” and “Keep Your Dreams” to a guy on 48th Street. We cut two copies of the single and I put one on the jukebox. That was our first record.
The quality of the vinyl, apparently, was negligible. These were meant to be cheap pressings to pass to labels. After a while on the Max’s box, the sound started to deteriorate, but somehow that seemed fitting for Suicide’s general aesthetic. Recalled Peter Crowley, the booking agent at Max’s: “It just added another layer of sound.”
More Television from 1974. I’m close to finishing my volume on Marquee Moon and have found myself mesmerized by this early demo track, never officially released. It’s become my favorite early Television song. Yes, that’s Richard Hell on bass.
Maybe Cyrus will weigh in with some more Stones as the week goes on.
As you may have noticed, blogging has been a little slow and thin around here over the last month. Cyrus and I are both laboring under multiple writing deadlines and will continue to post when we can. In the meantime, we’ll try to offer shorter posts directing you to stuff you may have missed elsewhere.