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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 | 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 | 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 »