No Comments

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 »

No Comments

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 »

No Comments

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 »

No Comments

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.
Keep Reading »

No Comments

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 »

No Comments

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 »

No Comments

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.
Keep Reading »

No Comments

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 »

No Comments

Nightclubbing | The Raybeats

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. In this edition: the discovery of a lost Philip Glass recording.

(Photo: Gary Reese)

In 1687, Newton’s third law of motion explained that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For punk rock, that reaction was the Artists Space 1978 music festival. With a line-up featuring the Contortions, DNA, Mars, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, it spawned the No Wave scene. The sound was atonal, abrasive and utterly new, combining elements of funk, jazz and just plain noise. As Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group observed, “the edge that originally attracted people to punk rock, that splintered sound, was almost gone by the late ‘70s. No Wave kinda picked up the artistic banner.”

In 1980, the pendulum swung again for four of No Wave’s most influential musicians. Jody Harris, Donny Christensen and George Scott III were veterans of the Contortions and Pat Irwin had performed with George in 8-Eyed Spy with Lydia Lunch. They were done with moody lead singers and wanted to try another way. They formed The Raybeats. Keep Reading »

No Comments

Nightclubbing | Girl Groups: The Go-Go’s and Pulsallama

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.

When the Go-Go’s arrived in New York City from the West Coast in August, 1980, they were a sweet, goofy package of pure pop in a New Wave wrapper. They provided the kind of light summer fun that can prove irresistible and were well received when they played their first night at Danceteria (see clip).

The reviews were a little harsher back in L.A. Wayzata Camerone, founder of Hollywood after-hours club the Zero Zero recalls, “They were laughed at; we thought they couldn’t play and they had insipid songs. But Belinda [Carlisle] was sweet and polite.” Keep Reading »

No Comments

Nightclubbing | Max Blagg

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.

Max Blagg (Photo: Emily Armstrong)

August 1980 in the Lower East Side: it was the Summer of Heroin.

Clinton Street was not yet restaurant row – it was lined with shooting galleries, rows of cars with Jersey plates and steerers plying their wares. “We got Snoopy, 7-Up, Yellow Bag; we got the stuff that can kill you, man!” – a pitch both fascinating and confounding. Junkies were on every other corner and street muggings were rampant. Home break-ins were a fact of life so common that it became uninteresting unless it happened to you.

Which it did. We came home one night to find our apartment tossed and our video equipment gone. At the time, we were running the Video Lounge at Danceteria and our coworkers rallied to our support, organizing a benefit. Poet Max Blagg, then a bartender at the club, read his epic, “Smack Yourself Senseless.” His poem, a brutal five minute take-down of heroin chic, was a comfort. Keep Reading »

No Comments

Nightclubbing | Richard Hell and the Voidoids

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.

Richard Hell with set list.

You can’t talk about punk rock without talking about Richard Hell. Television, the band he founded in 1973 with then best friend Tom Verlaine, was one of the groups – along with Blondie and the Ramones – that laid the foundation for the downtown scene at CBGBs. Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren purportedly looked at a poster of Television in 1974, pointed at Richard and said, “I want to start a band that looks like him.” Keep Reading »