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‘He Was a Survivor’: More Musicians and Writers Remember Lou Reed

(Photo: Bonnie Datt)

(Photo: Bonnie Datt)

In his rock and roll heart, Lou Reed was first, a storyteller. His songs were rockhard vignettes of New York street life. There were tales of choices made, good and bad, and remembrances of beauty found in the most unlikely of places. If you lived in the Village in the 70’s, you recognized some of the real players in his songs,  like Rollerena, the ubiquitous drag queen on skates in the elegiac, “Halloween Parade”: “But there ain’t no Hairy and no Virgin Mary / You won’t hear those voice again / And Johnny Rio and Rotten Rita / You’ll never see those faces again.”
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Nightclubbing | Buzz and the Flyers, 1980

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong are sifting through their voluminous archive of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at NYU’s Fales Library. 

Buzz and the Flyers (Photo: Mick Rock)

Buzz and the Flyers (Photo: Mick Rock)

“We wore ’50s clothes, we loved ’50s music, we wanted ’50s amps — if it had been possible, we would have been in black and white.” That’s how Dig Wayne, lead singer of the great rockabilly band Buzz and the Flyers, recalled the band’s obsession with all things midcentury. “We even wanted to have one of those great big old microphones ’cause they looked so cool, but they sounded awful. So we got an old one and rewired it so the guts inside were new and the outside was old and fantastic.”
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Nightclubbing: DNA at Mudd Club, 1979

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong are sifting through their voluminous archive of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at NYU’s Fales Library. This week: a look back at DNA.

“How dare you play your guitar like that! Don’t you know that’s the same instrument that Eric Clapton plays?” Audience members were often quick to share their dissatisfaction with the screeching dissonance that Arto Lindsay wrung from his instrument during a feverish set. So whenever his no wave band DNA finished up, Lindsay was sure to pack up quickly.

“It was the music I liked to play,” Lindsay says. “I thought the more far out you were, the more likely you were to be hailed as the next Jimi Hendrix. I just wanted to see what music would do to people. “
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Nightclubbing | Strange Party, 1980

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong are sifting through their voluminous archive of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

Described by the Soho Weekly News as “New York’s best party band,” Strange Party was a witty, stylish group serving up a fizzy cocktail of performance art with a dash of Latin-infused new wave. They were a huge outfit with six backup musicians and four vocalists upfront. And what vocalists! Led by downtown art star Joey Arias, the quartet was rounded out by Tony Frere, Paige Wood, and Janus Budde. They were eccentric and compelling — their guitarist George Elliot once described the band as “a little like heavy metal Ricky Ricardo.” Joey suggested they were just trying to turn art into fun.
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Nightclubbing | John Cale Band, 1979

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

John Cale on the road. (Photo: Robert Medici)

Five Favorite Facts about John Cale:

  • He studied musicology at London’s Goldsmiths College in the early 1960s, where his teachers dubbed him “Most Hateful Student” before awarding him a prestigious Leonard Bernstein scholarship to study with the Boston University Orchestra.
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Nightclubbing | Student Teachers, 1979

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

(Photo: Steve Lombardi)

It’s that time of year again: Spring break! While college students are streaming like lemmings to the usual spots — Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean — there’s been an uptick of revelers heading for New York this year. You can see them — earbuds in, texting and stumbling around the Lower East Side and Williamsburg, updating their absent pals. We hope they’re enjoying themselves.
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Nightclubbing | Richard Hell and The Voidoids, 1979

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library

(Photo: Nicole Batchelor Regne)

Well, it is officially Richard Hell month. His newly published book, “I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp,” has enjoyed a glowing review in The New York Times. There has been a flurry of personal appearances in bookstores and a string of interviews in print outlets and on the radio.

It has probably reminded this self-deprecating and essentially very private man why he dropped from the public eye to begin with. The tension between his introversion and the will to perform has always been Hell’s biggest conundrum. And what better way to help relive that dichotomy than a book tour? Maybe it’s a form of therapy. We have the feeling he would rather chew glass.
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Nightclubbing | Human Sexual Response, 1980

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

It is hard to overstate the giddy hedonism of the early ’80s. Riding the tide of the ’70s sexual revolution, when feminism and gay power met the “if it feels good do it” ethos of the era, it was a great time to be young and on the prowl.
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Nightclubbing | Lounge Lizards, 1979

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

Lounge Lizards (Photo: Pat Ivers)

We finally shot the Lounge Lizards at CBGBs in the spring of 1979, just a few months before we bought our first color camera. Good thing, too. They just looked better in black and white.

Some called what they played fake jazz but we loved their sinuous stew of no wave, be-bop and cinematic soundscape that Robert Palmer of The New York Times famously described as “somewhere west of Charles Mingus and east of Bernard Hermann.”
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Nightclubbing | The Offs

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

LP cover.

Looking back at the cover of the L.P. that The Offs released in 1984, we didn’t remember that Jean-Michel Basquiat had designed it. But the image of their lead singer, Don Vinyl, face down, his bicep glistening with the tattoo of a .45 pistol — that we had not forgotten.

We recall Don coming to our apartment the day he got the ink, his arm still red and a little bloody. “Paul Simonon is getting the same one!” he told us, excitedly. It was the summer of 1981 and everyone in the East Village was getting tats, even The Clash. Bob Roberts, The Offs’ saxophonist — and also a tattooist — had done the work for both.
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Nightclubbing | Ballistic Kisses

Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong continue sorting through their archives of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library.

(Photo: Emily Armstrong)

In 1980, Ronald Reagan ushered in a long cold winter of conservatism in America. But a little bit of heat was generating on the Lower East Side. Over on the Bowery, the Ballistic Kisses were in their loft, practicing. With a sound that combined post-punk and politics, they brought something new to the downtown club scene.

Michael Shore, rock critic for The Soho Weekly News recalls, “In those days we did not even have a name for electropop, synth or what they were doing. And their lead singer, Mike Parker was very intense. They were the first NYC band with genuine, serious political thought, but with an interesting difference from the Sex Pistols — they seemed to be more street level. The Ballistic Kisses had an honest, urgent, sincere political thing going on.” Keep Reading »