Nightclubbing

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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 | 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 | 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 »

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Nightclubbing | Helen Wheels, 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.

Poster for Helen Wheels show (Armen Kachaturian)

“I could describe her to you in details, but those are just facts. She was unforgettable, and everybody who knew her, loved her.”

That was Scott Kempner of The Dictators and the Del-Lords describing Helen Wheels, a woman who to the mainstream may seem like a punk rock history footnote, but who to CBGB veterans was a beloved icon. Keep Reading »

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Nightclubbing | The Suburbs, 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.

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 6.27.02 AMNew York and London were the first cities to feel the heartbeat of punk, then bands started springing up in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Like a contagion, the new music spread and mutated from basement to garage, from Athens, Ga., to Santa Cruz.

It was thrilling for New Yorkers to hear about these regional bands and by 1980, we were finally seeing these alternative bands tour. The Suburbs arrived in New York from Minneapolis that summer. They brought the heartland to us with an urgent bounce, playing a brand of danceable new wave that was as funky and melodious as it was infectious. This video clip of their song, “Music For Boys,” captures them at Danceteria when they were at their muscular, modern rock best. Keep Reading »

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Nightclubbing | Bush Tetras, 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.

Ritz Furs.

“You don’t need a million to look like a million!” So went the tagline touting Ritz Furs in a ubiquitous late night commercial that ran throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Ladies were urged to sell their skins or buy them second-hand at a fraction of the price because, like the man said, “Some women ski in St. Moritz; other women just look that way.”

Cynthia Sley, lead singer of the Bush Tetras, got to live the dream. One night, she found a full-length fur coat lying on an East Village street. She picked it up, dusted it off and the next day sold it to Ritz Furs. The cash allowed her to live another month in New York, pursuing her art instead of a paycheck.
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Nightclubbing | The Cramps

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.

Halloween poster.

After a weekend of belated Halloween and Day of the Dead celebrations, how about another bit of eerie entertainment? Better than a bag of candy, more shiver-inducing than a zombie apocalypse: ladies and gentlemen, we present The Cramps.

For more than a quarter of a century, the band cave-stomped their signature brand of rockabilly and blues with a blend so stripped down that for years, they used no bass. Relying on sinuous guitars and drums to stake their rhythms, they created a sound that invoked surf rock, grade-B horror films and a whiff of medicine show. Lead singer Lux Interior hated the use of the term psychobilly to describe their sound but the fans embraced it. Keep Reading »

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Nightclubbing | After-Hours, 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.

Danceteria video lounge (Photo: Emily Armstrong)

When BAD Burger announced last month that it was ditching its plan to stay open 24/7, it seemed like one more market indicator of the neighborhood’s shifting demographic from boho stronghold to, well, we’re not sure what it is anymore, other than upscale. It got us thinking about how much things have changed from those wild years in the late ’70s and early ’80s when rents were low, charm was currency and after hours clubs were everywhere. The fact that these establishments were blatantly illegal barely furrowed a brow back then. They were just part of the city’s recession economy.

For a lot of people, those early Reagan Years were also the Up All Night Years. Typically, an after-hours spot opened around 3 a.m. and gave up the ghost around noon. Somehow, they were always packed and never too hard to find. Given the variety and sheer number of options available, folks tended to flit from place to place, but clubs did have individual identities. AM/PM in Tribeca attracted a mix of Wall Street types, downtown rockers and artists, while Crisco Disco and the Anvil were for the gay boys on the West Side. The Jefferson was shabby chic, a derelict vaudeville theater and a bit of a death trap; there was only a narrow staircase to the second floor where the festivities sometimes spilled out onto a rickety marquee overlooking East 14th Street. It did have romance: a friend of ours met his first wife there. Keep Reading »

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Nightclubbing | Pylon

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.

Pylon’s debut album.

A few years ago, a woman took her 14-year-old daughter to a Sleater/Kinney concert. After the show, a band member approached the mom and breathlessly asked, “Are you Vanessa from Pylon? We love you!” Score one for the parental unit.

Pylon is the greatest group from the new wave scene that you probably never heard of. When Rolling Stone saluted R.E.M. as the best band in America in 1987, their drummer Bill Berry disagreed. “We’re not the best rock ‘n roll band in America.” He thought Pylon was.
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Nightclubbing | Iggy Does Sinatra

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.

Time’s a funny thing, especially where musicians are concerned. If the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones doesn’t scare you, perhaps the realization that we’ve shared nearly 36 years with Bono and 29 with Madonna will.

Still, it’s a little surprising that a mere 21 years separates the release of “Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely” in 1958 and the above video of Iggy Pop covering the LP’s iconic track, “One for My Baby,” at Hurrah’s in 1979. At first glance, the culture wars of the ’60s would seem to render irrelevant the bars, broads and bruisers ethos that Ol’ Blue Eyes represented. But for the generation that made up the original punks, those childhood memories of cigarette smoke, parents’ late nights and Sinatra’s music ran deep. Keep Reading »