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The Man Who Fell to Earth: David Bowie’s Formative Years in ’70s New York

Mourners laid flowers and outside David Bowie's apartment on Lafayette Street (Kavitha Surana)

Mourners laid flowers and outside David Bowie’s apartment on Lafayette Street (Kavitha Surana)

By now you’re well aware that David Bowie has died, just days after his 69th birthday and the release of his 25th studio album. During the wee hours of January 10, it was announced that the beloved glam-rock icon who embraced androgyny and far-out, endlessly influential aesthetics “died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer.”

After finding fame in his hometown of London and absconding to the U.S. in 1974, Bowie moved amongst New York’s downtown crowd, popping up at places like Andy Warhol’s Factory and Max’s Kansas City, before relocating to Los Angeles. We consulted a number of publications — one of them yet to be published — that offered an eye into Bowie’s life in early-’70s NYC.
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Here’s What Happened at the Mudd Club Rummage Sale

Last night, the legendary Mudd Club made a slight return, as Steve Mass, the owner of the ’70s and ’80s hotspot, hosted a rummage sale to benefit the Bowery Mission. Items included a beehive wig belonging to Kate Pierson of the B-52s, who performed “Roam”; a cheetah-print jumpsuit donated by Deborah Harry, who was also floating around (it was scooped up by a Jersey City vintage shop); photos by Godlis and William Coupon, also in attendance; and this piece by Kim Gordon, going for $10,000.

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Watch the House Videographers at CBGB Call Richard Hell a Crybaby

As you may have read over at Rolling Stone, Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong — in what’s sure to be one of the highlights of the CBGB Festival — are screening some of their rare late-70s and early-80s concert footage at Bowery Electric tonight, between performances by Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys, Syl Sylvain of the New York Dolls, and Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols. We were lucky enough to have the authors of our weekly Nightclubbing column into the B+B Newsroom last Friday, along with Richard Boch, who’s working on a memoir of his time manning the door of the Mudd Club, and Pat Irwin, the guitarist for the Raybeats, 8 Eyed Spy and the B-52s, who spoke about his recently unearthed collaboration with Philip Glass.

If you missed Friday’s discussion, watch the replay above. Here’s what the gang had to say about Suicide (we spoke to Martin Rev of that band back in June) and the evolution of the Ramones.
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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 | Stilletto Fads

Tomorrow, as part of the CBGB Festival, Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong will discuss the Downtown Collection’s recent acquisition of their Nightclubbing archive of punk-era concert footage. In this week’s installment of their column for The Local, they speak with Tish and Snooky Bellomo, who will be playing with the Sic F*cks tonight at Bowery Electric and tomorrow at Fontana’s. That band was hardly the only one the Bellomo sisters had a hand in.

Tish and Snooky Bellomo (Courtesy Manic Panic)

In the beginning, there was the Stillettos: Debbie Harry, Elda Stilletto and Roseanne Ross. As flashy and trashy as glam bands got, they played CBGBs so early in the game that the Ramones opened for them. By 1975, Debbie Harry had gone on to form Blondie. Elda transformed the Stillettos into the Stilletto Fads, with Tish and Snooky Bellomo as back up singers.

The Bellomos were no strangers to the CBGB scene. “We used to come down to the city from Riverdale,” said Tish. “We would hide our ‘subway’ shoes in some hedges outside of Max’s and CBGB and change into our cool stilettos and rock-and-roll wear before we went in, then change back on the train on our way back to the Bronx so we wouldn’t scare the neighbors.” Their fashion sense paid off: realizing how hard it was for New Yorkers to get the cool tight black pants that English kids wore, they used $500 to open Manic Panic on St. Marks Place in 1977. “Sometimes, we only made a $2.50 sale all day,” recalled Snooky, “but everyone would drop by, so you almost didn’t care. It was a while before we started making any money.”

Meanwhile, they sang with the Sic F*cks – at CBGBs, Max’s, Mudd Club theme nights, and wherever fun was to be had – and with the Stilletto Fads. Keep Reading »