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tv2In Martvch 1974, a band called Television — Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell, Richard Lloyd, and Billy Ficca — played both their very first show (at Townhouse Theater on W 44th) as well as their first gig, a few weeks later, at a dive country and bluegrass bar on the Bowery recently renamed CBGB + OMFUG. They were not a country or bluegrass band. Within months CBGB had become a mecca for new music, underground rock and roll by New York’s unsigned bands, including The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and the Patti Smith Group. This is where punk rock was born.

Several events this week commemorate punk’s 40th anniversary:

Thursday, March 20, 7 pm, at The Strand, 828 Broadway: Richard Hell in conversation with Bryan Waterman, marking the pbk release of Hell’s autobiography, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp. [open to public]

Thursday, March 20, 6pm, third floor, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South New York University’s Fales Library and Special Collections presents the GoNightclubbing Video Lounge, a multi-media installation curated by Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong paying tribute to the infamous Danceteria Video Lounge, which they created in 1980. [open to public]

Friday, March 21 through Sunday, March 23, 11 am to 1 pm, Silver 401, NYU: “Punk and the City,” a three-day seminar as part of the annual American Comparative Literature Association meetings. Twelve presenters on a range of related topics, from Latin American punk to Pussy Riot. [registration fees apply]

so so glosSaturday, March 22, 7 pm, Great Hall at Cooper Union: Punk Turns Forty: A Plenary Sponsored by the American Comparative Literature Association and the Fales Library. Part I: Brandon Stosuy, editor at Pitchfork, interviews Richard Hell; Part II: Avital Ronell moderates a panel with Vivien Goldman, Kathleen Hanna, and Tamar-kali. [Free admission at 6:30 for ACLA conference attendees and at 7:00 for the general public, as space allows]

Saturday, March 22, 10:30 pm doors, Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South: So So Glos, with Household and Arm Candy, a concert to benefit Silent Barn. [$5-$10 sliding donation; all-ages]

Sunday, March 23, 5 to 8 pm, The Panther Room at Output, 74 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn: Classic Album Sundays presents Television’s Marquee Moon. Presenter: Bryan Waterman, author of Marquee Moon (33 1/3 series). [Tickets: $10 at the door or online here]



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We’re painfully aware how slow it’s been around here the last several weeks. We have some decent explanations, and we hope to be back up and running sooner than later.

First up will be our inaugural summer book club discussion, on Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City. Not to late to pick up a copy and join us. We’ll most likely commence next week.

Other stuff going on in our corner of the cosmos: Friend-of-the-blog Caryn Rose had a rock n roll novel come out this summer. Book launch party for B-Sides and Broken Hearts takes place next week at Soft Spot, on Bedford in Williamsburg. Details here. And a trailer:

Speaking of rock n roll, I’m going to be on WNYC’s Soundcheck on Wednesday, 8/17, to talk about Marquee Moon (the album and the book) and the downtown scene in the 70s.

More 70s news: we’re saddened this week to hear about the passing of NYC graffiti legend Kase 2. If you’ve never managed to see the 1980s documentary Style Wars, this is the week to queue it up. Kase/Case delivers some of the film’s most memorable moments. To wit:

And if you thought we’d forgotten about anything in the city pre-1973, think again. We’re so excited about the reopening of the New-York Historical Society this fall (11/11/11). Ever wonder what the oldest building in NYC is?

Stick with us. We’ll be out of vacation/moving mode shortly.

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We’ve decided to make our guest playlists a regular feature of the blog, and to kick off that series — or to continue the one we ran leading up to the release of our 33 1/3 volumes — we turn to an alum of a prototype for our Writing New York course. In the fall of 2001, one of the first two courses I taught at NYU was a small honors seminar called “New York Writing,” which contained a decent amount of material that would eventually wind up in the course Cyrus and I would launch together a couple years later.

Nicholas Taylor is an editor and writer from Long Island, now living in Seattle. I advised his undergraduate thesis at NYU on Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground, and the downtown 1960s NYC scene. He has also written on music and culture for Pop Matters, the Park Slope Reader, New York Spirit, and Cinemit. Find out more here.

Lou Reed is the James Joyce of New York. It seems he has made it his life’s work to understand this place that defies understanding, to provide snapshots of meaning in a place that often feels both meaningless and too full of meaning. From what brings outsiders to the city to the challenges and enticements encountered there, Reed’s work covers the gamut of the NYC experience.

“Smalltown,” by Lou Reed and John Cale, from Songs for Drella (1990). This tale of Andy Warhol’s odyssey from Pittsburgh to New York beautifully captures what draws creative misfits from all over the world to New York. Here he focuses not so much on the greatness of the city but rather on the suffocating dreariness of the small towns that people leave. “I hate being odd in a small town / if they stare let them stare in New York City / at this pink eyed painting albino / how far can my fantasy go?”

“Rock and Roll,” by Lou Reed, from the live album Rock and Roll Animal (1974). The more optimistic version of the coming to New York story. Jenny isn’t persecuted and shunned like the gay Warhol in the Rust Belt; rather, she’s suffering from your more run of the mill suburban ennui. Here, New York, as the source of the rock and roll music she hears on the radio, is her Emerald City, the shining jewel on the horizon that promises something better. She’s not seeking home so much as heaven. “Then one fine mornin’ she puts on a New York station / she couldn’t believe what she heard at all / she started dancin’ to that fine fine music / you know her life was saved by rock and roll.”

“Sheltered Life,” by the Velvet Underground, demo recording from the Peel Slowly and See box set (1995). Another version of Jenny and Andy, this time more whimsical and innocent, romanticizing all the experiences one can have in the big city. As a fellow Long Island to New York transplant, I know exactly where he’s coming from. “Never walked about on the streets at night / never got into an uptown fight / never smoked a hookah, never saw a rug / couldn’t even squash a beetle bug. . . . I know it’s true, / guess I’ve lived a sheltered life.”

“I’m Waiting for the Man,” by the Velvet Underground and Nico, from The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967). . This is where the sheltered life starts to not look so bad. In this reinterpretation of the classic flâneur narrative, Reed pulls back the curtain, taking us on a voyeuristic tour of the city’s seedier side. Notice how the song’s rhythm mimics the subway train this neophyte would surely have taken up to Harlem to score drugs. “I’m waiting for my man / twenty-six dollars in my hand / up to Lexington, 125 / feel sick and dirty, more dead than alive.”

“Walk on the Wild Side,” by Lou Reed, from Transformer (1972). In his quintessential song, Reed paints a portrait of the Warhol Factory scene as a bunch of Jenny’s and Andy’s—they’re drawn the city by the desire for freedom and excitement, which they get, though they also experience a lot that’s not in the brochure, as it were. Reed positions the city’s allure as a siren song, enticing outcasts from all over the world, though the they may not like what they actually find. “Candy came from out on the Island / in the backroom she was everybody’s darling / but she never lost her head / even when she was giving head / she said, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.”

“Street Hassle,” by Lou Reed, from Street Hassle (1978). Reed comes full circle. He’s no longer focused on why out-of-towners come to New York, but rather just on what happens to them once they’re there. Even though this song is gruesome, the elegiac beauty of the music makes me think this is no morality tale. Instead of passing judgment of these denizens of the night, Reed finds the grace and drama of all the ways of life New York offers—even the ones most of us would probably rather avoid. “But why don’t you grab your old lady by the feet / and just lay her out in the darkest street / and by morning, she’s just another hit and run / you know, some people got no choice / and they can never even find a voice to talk with that they can even call their own.”

What’s on your NYC playlist?

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Thumbnail image for television.jpgThumbnail image for somegirls78.jpg

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.

Tuesday evening we’ll be reading at Word bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Here’s their Facebook RSVP for the event.

Then, on Thursday evening, we’re pleased to have a launch party at 285 Kent in Williamsburg, presented by Pellytwins. The lineup:

|| Real Estate
|||| Widowspeak
|||||| Vacation


| 285 KENT AVE |
285 Kent Ave @ South 1st | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
L-Bedford, G-Metropolitan, JM-Marcy | 6/30 | 8pm | $10 | all ages

Facebook RSVP for Thurday’s show.

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:

Be there.

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Launch party!

We’ve finalized the plans for our launch events next week, and you’re invited.

Tuesday, as previously announced, we’ll be at Word in Greenpoint, with a slightly different take on Marquee Moon, Some Girls, and NYC in the 70s than the one we delivered at McNally Jackson last week.

We’d previously announced a tentative release party for Sunday the 26th, but we’ve pushed it back slightly to Thursday the 30th.

We’re pleased to announce venue and lineup:

|| Real Estate

|||| Widowspeak

|||||| Vacation

| 285 KENT AVE |
285 Kent Ave @ South 1st | Williamsburg, Brooklyn
L-Bedford, G-Metropolitan, JM-Marcy | 6/30 | 8pm | $10 | all ages

The bands will be on stage. You’ll find us in the back w/ a stack of books.

Presented by Pellytwins & Todd P || special thanks to Molly Hamilton, Michael Stasiak, and Jenn Pelly for help w/ lineup

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Over the next week or so Cyrus and I are officially launching our 33 1/3 volumes on the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls and Television’s Marquee Moon with a series of readings, a radio appearance, and a big bash with live music (the details of the last have yet to be ironed out).

Monday 6/20 we’re reading at McNally Jackson, on Prince Street in Nolita, at 7pm.

Tuesday 6/28 we’re reading at Word in Greenpoint, BK, also at 7pm.

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 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.

Thanks for your support!

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Our Friday afternoon playlist comes from Jenn Pelly, a Brooklyn-based music writer and recent NYU grad in English and journalism. Her music writing, often about the current BK DIY scene, has appeared on Altered Zones, Thought Catalog, and elsewhere and she maintains the weblog Pelly Twins with her sister Liz, who writes about music for the Boston Phoenix. Jenn is a WNYU alum (though she’ll host the New Afternoon Show through this summer) and is also a veteran of #wny11 and the first run of my Downtown Scenes course last summer. Follow her on Twitter @jennpelly.

NYC mixtape

This mixtape is half all-time favorites and half contemporary locals, which to me totally exude “New York.” I left off many of my actual favorites for the sake of avoiding the obvious and out-of-place, but these songs are all steeped in my memories of bumming around the East Village in high school and floating around today’s Brooklyn DIY scene. Download the entire thing right here, or stream Side B below.

A –
1. Eric B. and Rakim – I Know You Got Soul
2. Blondie – Fan Mail
3. Bob Dylan – Talkin’ New York
4. Arthur Russell – That’s Us/Wild Combination
5. Sonic Youth – Bubblegum
6. Swans – God Damn the Sun (Live at WNYU 1987)
7. Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Blank Generation
8. Suicide – Rocket USA
9. Shangri-Las – Leader of the Pack
10. Jeff Buckley – Je N’en Connais Pas La Fin [

B –
1. La Big Vic – FAO
2. Widowspeak – Harsh Realm
3. Crystal Stilts – Crystal Stilts
4. The Babies – Meet me in the City
5. Holy Ghost! – Wait and See
6. Woods – September with Pete
7. Black Dice – Glazin’
8. Vivian Girls – Damaged
9. Coasting – Coasting
10. Juliana Barwick – Choose

jp’s pwhny guest playlist – side b by jennpelly

Side A kicks off with one of my favorite tracks from Eric B. and Rakim, who, like me, were transplanted from Long Island to E. 4th and Broadway. I can remember exactly where I was the first time I heard the smooth, golden beats and scratches of Paid In Full: the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts near Lincoln Center, reading about the album in a dusty, faded SPIN back issue. I’d been living in the city for just a year, and “It ain’t where you’re from, it’s where you’re at” was exactly what I needed to hear as I dealt with my morphing New York identity. Another highlight here is a live recording of Swans playing “God Damn the Sun” live on WNYU, July 1987—in the last ten seconds, catch Gira thanking Hilly Kristal for “doing what he’s done for us at CBGB’s.”

01 Swans on WNYU 07 20 1987 by jennpelly

I tried to avoid the obvious, but I couldn’t help including a few. Blondie, Richard Hell, and especially Jeff Buckley are, for me, the musical equivalent of that part of Joan Didion’s essay “Goodbye to All That” where she talks about what New York was like for her “before she knew the names of all the bridges,” when everything was still exotic and unfamiliar. They remind me of my romanticized 15-year-old notions of the city.

What I love most about this playlist is how traces of Side A can be found all over Side B; when I took Bryan’s “Downtown Scenes” class last summer, I couldn’t help consistently drawing parallels to New York’s underground music culture today. If you’re into music, nothing’s more enthralling than your own times. At least when you’re 21 in a place like New York.

Starting up Side B is “FAO” from retrofuturistic Brooklyn band LA BIG VIC, which includes New York native Emilie Friedlander on vox/violin, guitarist Toshio Masuda of Osaka, and synthesist Peter Pearson. Emilie is editor of two music websites, Altered Zones and Visitation Rites; Toshio previously performed in a major label J-Pop boy band; and Peter is an apprentice to Pink Floyd’s former live sound producer, Jeff Blenkinsopp. They’re the type of band that could have only formed in New York.

Also of note here is “September with Pete” from Woods, whose place at the center of the Woodsist label makes them poster-children for my generation’s NY music culture. (Not to mention that, at the drummer’s recording studio, Rear House, sessions “usually start with a conversation about the first Ramones record.”) I love the sense of community that seems to circle Woodsist, the cultural importance of which I first felt in ’09 at the inaugural Woodsist/Captured Tracks festival. “September with Pete” also features Pete Nolan of Woodsist band Spectre Folk.

Repping the Captured Tracks camp here is the young band Widowspeak, whose debut “Harsh Realm” 7” is like a more magnetic Mazzy Star. Where indie rock and pop is concerned, Side B has also got The Babies, Vivian Girls, and Coasting. Coasting is Madison Farmer (of Dream Diary) and New Zealand-transplant Fiona Campbell (drummer for Vivian Girls), who met while working at DIY shows in Brooklyn.

On the slicker side of the spectrum is Holy Ghost!, a disco-inspired duo of Manhattan natives who take more than a few cues from New York scenes of the 70s and early 80s. Their debut LP was released this year on James Murphy’s label, DFA — who also released early LPs from the experimental electronic group Black Dice. I like to think of my life’s milestones in terms of live music events, and seeing Black Dice (who grace Side B with 2009’s “Glazin”) at Bushwick venue Market Hotel in 2008 certainly makes the cut. I was 18 and living on the Upper West Side, and it was my first time at Market Hotel; I had no idea where I was, and the kids at the shows were all so hip, they looked like aliens to me.

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This week, to mark the release of our volumes in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, we continue our series of guest playlists from friends, critics, and fellow music lovers. (Check back late afternoons: we’ll probably be posting two a day.) 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 list comes from Bart Plantenga, host of the Amsterdam-based radio show Wreck This Mess (formerly on WFMU). He’s also author of the (NYC set) novel Spermatogonia: The Isle of Man and another novel, Beer Mystic, which he describes as being “about beer and mysticism in NYC c. 1987 and is currently going around the world excerpt by excerpt via the world’s longest pub crawl.” Follow him on Twitter @bartplantenga.

NYC soundtracks: bart plantenga, Wreck This Mess, Amsterdam

In 1998, I co-produced a 5-hour radio show on Radio Patapoe in Amsterdam with 2 fellow DJs Ron and Grrrrt from Jonges van de Vlakte [Boys from the Plains] during which we attempted to circumnavigate the globe via 170+ geographical location songs: “Amsterdam” by Jacques Brel, “Moi Mon Paris” by Renee Lebas, “Cannes” by Edwin Rotten & Martine Rotte Dweil, “San Tropez” by Pink Floyd, “Per Le Strada di Roma” by Puerro Piccioni, “Upper Egypt” by Pharoah Sanders, “Abu Dhabi Check” by Mad Professor vs Puls Der Zeit, “Timbucktu Express” by African Head Charge, “Hong Kong in Stereo” by Yummy Fur …

The thing was, we could’ve spent hours “in” Paris and NY. There are probably many reasons why there are so many songs about NYC and Paris — some of which are honorable, enthusiastic, and laudatory, while others may be more sycophantic or opportunistic such as built-in airplay or esteem by association. Some may be hyperbolically respectful, oozing civic pride or nationalism even. So more often “New York, New York” than, say, Gil Scott-Heron’s “New York is Killing Me” or middle period Lou Reed, when he was just getting crusty enough to be indignantly grumpy on songs like “Dirty Boulevard,” where he takes on the betrayal of promise head on.

In any case, city songs require a few designated landmarks that anchor them to a particular place. A street, club, or building name may instantly evoke a thousand memories, a confluence of mind’s eye film footage flooding past… And what about wordless songs that evoke the ambiance of the city?

1. “New York USA” by Serge Gainsbourg

Strangely enough for you, not me, my favorite NY song is by Frenchman Serge Gainsbourg [Tim B. already beat me to it!] A perfect song, jungly rhythms of a cosmopolitan/Parisian version of an Olatunji song and great lyrics (“I’ve seen NY / Never seen anything like it / I’ve never seen anything so high / it’s all high in NY”) and then listing the names of some skyscrapers: “Empire State Building, oh, it’s so high” Rockefeller Center, International Building, Waldorf Astoria, Pan-American Building, Bank of Manhattan, Time and Life Building, American Hotel, C.B.S. Building, R.C.A. Building like a concrete mantra … Serge is a unique French performer who did it all; there is no one like him in Anglo culture: part Leonard Cohen, Dylan, Dean Martin, Kerouac, Oscar Wilde… Excellent 1964 video [during the Scopitone heyday] with Serge hanging from a skyscraper ledge, singing. A magical remix: “New York U.S.A.” Snooze vs Serge Gainsbourg. Snooze hits it head on.

2. “ Tribeca” by A Certain Ratio

Here is a live, sloppier rendition of the very pristine acr:mcr [A&M 1990] version by this great white funk band from Manchester, UK. In the same category as Liquid Liquid, Rip Rig & Panic, Pop Group, early New Order… I like lyric-less songs about NYC that evoke the sound and feel of the city [Charlie Parker et al.] Here we have serious grooves oozing ironic frivolity driving a sense ignored existential gloom. The Manchester studio version just feels like a hot day on the city streets, humane and percussive with shimmering hints of street ambience.

A Certain Ratio – Tribeca [embedding disabled]

3. “Piss Factory” by Patti Smith & Lenny Kaye

It’s not exactly why I moved to NYC but this great declamatory clenched fist manifesto did help justify/motivate the move. “I’m gonna get out of here, I’m gonna get on that train, / I’m gonna go on that train and go to New York City / I’m gonna be somebody, I’m gonna get on that train, go to New York City, / I’m gonna be so big, I’m gonna be a big star and I will never return …” And of course she was right.

4. “O Little Town of East New York” by Shelley Hirsch

This brilliant full-CD memoir by this gifted vocalist evokes vivid, visceral, highly poetic images of growing up in East New York, Brooklyn. Hirsch’s repertoire –- which includes abstract vocals, storytelling, comedy, local accents, memoir, urban history, and singing –- is perfectly equipped to handle NY’s hectic audio overload and make some [non]sense out of it.

5. “A New York Minute” by Alan Licht, A New York Minute, XI, 2003.

OK, this is such a simple idea, weave together a 15-min. yarn of radio weather forecasts to create a true sonic, rapid-fire logorrheic tapestry of NY -– especially in the morning on snowy/stormy days -– and the human/NYer preoccupation with weather reports. So simple it’s genius. I once produced a similar but less-brilliant, piece “Trafficante Onosphere,” and what surprised me was how winter weather reports remixed can evoke a certain apocalyptic angst. Despite the motormouth velocity of Licht’s composition, these weather reports have a kind of meditative effect – soothing and mesmerizing. Also: Charlie Morrow, “Central Park 1850” and Central Park 2007” on Toot, XI, 2011.

Alternate version of New York Minute via Ubuweb

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This afternoon’s installment in our NYC-themed playlist marathon comes from Jonathan Williger, WNYU and #wny11 alum and founder/proprietor of the Brooklyn-based label Blackburn Recordings. (Pelly Twins interview from early 2010.) He writes: “I was trying to write little blurbs about each one and then remembered I’m not a music writer. hopefully this is a nice change of pace.” Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @blackburnrecs

a nice change of pace

Sharon Van Etten – Give Out

Sightings – Sugar Sediment

Krallice – Wreched Wisdom

Winter – Eternal Frost

Steve Reich – Clapping Music

woods – twisted tongue

brian eno & david byrne – quran

meredith monk – gotham lullaby

william basinski – disintegration loops

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This week, to mark the release of our volumes in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, we continue our series of guest playlists from friends, critics, and fellow music lovers. (Check back late afternoons: we’ll probably be posting two a day.) 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 list comes from our friend Peter Kay, who describes himself as a NYC native who works in book publishing” and adds: “He wishes he had gone to see New Order at the Ukrainian National Home instead of Marshall Crenshaw at the Pier.”

He also adds, by way of liner notes: “Unlike Gerry Mulligan, Pepper Adams played baritone sax like a Brooklynite and went to Knicks games.
A slender, beautiful girl once threw a bouquet of flowers at the obese, chain-smoking Morton Feldman on the Upper West Side and said ‘You are our Schubert.’ Albert Ayler was found in the East River.”

Follow peter on twitter @pkay225

a pretty groovy list…

Bobbi Humphrey: Harlem River Drive

Pepper Adams: A Child Is Born

Treacherous Three: Feel The Heartbeat

Albert Ayler: From John Coltrane’s funeral, July 21, 1967, St. Peter’s Lutheran Church.

New Order: Everything’s Gone Green (Live at Ukrainian National Home, New York, 18 November 1981)

PJ Harvey: You Said Something

Morton Feldman: Projection IV

What’s on your NYC playlist?

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