Monday, July 29, 2013

New York, rookie year

In which the Pope and I set the NYN reset button, I get a crash course in American culture and drink champagne from a fountain.
Elliot Harris = Aid Haid - Leo Faison = The Pope - Dieter Runge = Detour, Lenny Ducati -
Iolsta Hat = Poet, lead singer of The Communists
Louis Tooloose = Lou Ferreiro, bass player for The Communist/NYN
 Oh yeah. The name. Legend goes that Leo was friends with Patti Smith and that he inspired the song Rock'n Roll Nigger. I never heard that from anyone involved. This is my understanding: Punk age - the word nigger is demeaning - yes we are the oppressed, so up yours - New York Dolls - Patti's song - detournement. Just listen to her lyrics, Jimmy Hendrix, Jackson Pollock, Rimbaud, all oppressed people. I could completely identify, and once I was in the band I made a stencil that I used for t-shirts, flyers, and completely covered a jacket that I wore every where. I never got into trouble, and one morning I found my self in an after hours club sitting at the bar, the only white boy. It could'a been a scary scene. There was a woman with nails that were longer than her fingers sitting on one side of me and a guy on the other. After a while the the guy said:" You know what? You're so crazy you're cool." A good mix of ignorance, naivete, attitude and enthusiasm went a long way.

A timeline I just discovered, written in 86.

Yes, I had run out of $'s, kicked out of Hollis Hotel and now was at the 2 200 sq ft NYN loft on Greenwich St and Canal St on Manhattan’s lower west side courtesy of Aid and The Pope. Across the street was the Holland Tunnel, and two blocks to the West was the closed down elevated west side highway on which you could walk among plants sprouting out of the cracks in the concrete. The building had five floors all occupied by bands. The lower floors were mostly art rockers like Rhys Chatham, who played the open e-chord for an hour at a time. The 4th floor was divided in two spaces and occupied by NYN and The Communists. The top floor housed a progressive fusion band. Richard Hell & the Voidoids rehearsed below, but didn't live in the building. Since they always borrowed stuff from us, we were usually on the guest list. They were one of my favorite bands. Great songs and the slashing double guitar attack of Bob Quine and Ivan Julian was cuttingly brilliant and very influential just like Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, Years later I would play and record with the Voidoid’s Ivan Julian. I loved The Communists and became good friends with their lead singer Iolsta Hat. Iolsta wore her bra outside her clothes years before Madonna and was Goth before the term existed. The Communists were conceptual and rocked. They had great songs and presence. I roadied for them a couple of times at CB’s and Max’s, dressed in black leather pants and a white dinner jacket from the $2 bin at Canal Jean.

Aid Haid - Elliot Harris, 1978

The Pope - Leo Faison - at One Fifth

Poet/singer and Goth pioneer Iolsta Hatt.

Louis Tooloose - Lou Ferreiro. 1978

The NYN loft was just one undivided room with a stage for the band and the beds lined up against the walls. There was a couch and a TV that ran all the time, except when we rehearsed and that was everyday. Since the TV was on all the time I got crash course in American culture. Actually, one of the first shows I remember was the Saturday Night live show when The Stones introduced Miss You, but the daily dose was I love Lucy, Honeymooners, The Odd Couple, Hogan’s Heroes, Sanford & son, and my favorite the Twilight Zone. We'd be kicking back on the couch with the guitars on our laps, practicing scales. I would be the only one ever to turn off the TV.
Aid and the Pope were the founders of NYN and their respective songwriters, guitarists and singers. They both hailed from Utica, upstate NY. Aid’s brother Wayne and his sister Cassandra often came down and stayed with us for stretches of time. They were also good musicians and played and sang with us. So, here I was, one German guy, living with 4 African Americans, a great education.

The author at the ranch
The floors of the building were made of wooden planks with about an inch space between them. One could hear what was spoken. Just imagine the cacophony of three or four bands playing at the same time. Of course we all knew each other’s songs intimately. One of bands downstairs had a song that went on for about 20 min with the singer going: “I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself…” After about 20 minutes one of them would go 1,2,3,4 and they'd end the song. The art rockers from downstairs soon got a big break with the Brian Eno produced New York No Wave LP. 
The knowledge of each other's songs came in handy when we got ready to record our single and had no drummer once again. Eddie, the drummer of the prog-rockers upstairs just came into the recording studio and nailed it. Later I would play and record most of my songs with him on drums. Besides all the cacophony all the bands stopped at 10:00 PM, except on weekends when there were jams or parties. The biggest and wildest ones were the NYN parties. Usually there were 2 or more bands and we either sold liquor or charged at the door and provided drinks. The parties were generally packed, people making out on the fire escape or on the roof. On one particularly hot night, outside temperature was 100F plus, one a woman arrived in a glitter bikini, which hung behind the stage after the second song. Some people had tar on their bodies after returning from the melting roof. Usually the cops shut us down sometime in the morning. If you search 474 Greenwich St on line you can see pictures of a beautiful space. It sells for more than $ 1 000 000.- , 1 100 sq ft now (you can find a pic of the building). Back then, we paid $ 375.- monthly for 2 200 sq ft. Yeeeehah!

474 Greenwich St.

 The building is cleaned up, all the doors and windows are new. The NYN loft were the four windows on the left, second floor from the top. There was a liquor store in the corner of Canal St, building on the right.

The Author, The Pope, The Drummer (George Darrow). Pic of Debbie Harry and flyer for Pure Hell.
 Pure Hell was an all black punk band band from Philly. I loved their flyer. Everybody was dressed in black leather. Here is their LP.

Life at the loft, summer 78

 In June 78 NYN was scheduled to play a 2-day festival in a dance space on Lafayette St, when the bass player had an offer to get paid to play in a band and quit. “I’ll play bass,” I said, never having played before. Leo and Aid had a friend who did some artwork for a Kiss LP and instead of $$, got paid with a bass from Gene Simmons. It still had some of Gene Simmon’s blood on it. Mine would follow soon. This bass, a Gibson Grabber was quite ugly and very difficult to play. I practiced for hours day in and day out and we did the gig. When we set up for the sound check Wolf nailed his drum set to the parquet floor, which didn’t go over too well. We played ok, but something had been brewing between The Pope and Aid and the band dissolved.
Leo and me vowed to continue, with me playing the second guitar. We started to practice and looked for more players.
One day, exploring Manhattan I found a cheap guitar in a garbage can on 110 St. I walked it back all the way to the ‘ranch’, that what Aid called it, some 120 NY city blocks. It fixed up enough to use as practice guitar and during the summer my friend Ruediger brought my Tele over from Germany. That summer a few friends came visiting across the Atlantic and I heard that people had to camp out for several days in the London airport to catch a $99 Laker Airways flight. There were visitors at the loft all the time. A 16-year-old Michel Basquiat was one of them, often sitting on the stage while we were rehearsing. Did hanging out with NYN inspired his art? Hahahaha!

Untitled, 1981, Jean Michel Basquiat.
By September we started to play again. Bob and Iolsta broke up and the Communists dissolved. Louis Tooloose their bass player joined us and we went through various drummers and had a singer for a while. For the rest of the year we played at Club Hollywood, CBGB’s, Max’s and our Loft.
I worked some odd jobs, but mostly was broke, not pretty. Leo, who had a day job as a chef at the legendary One Fifth (Ave) (Patti Smith lived upstairs with Allan Lanier from Blue Oyster Cult) helped me a lot through this occasionally rough and depressing time. I was often hungry and my gums were bleeding, caused by the lack of fresh food, yet I never felt that I wasn't in the right place. Keith McNally managed  One Fifth and almost became our manager. He subsequently opened the Odeon, Cafe Luxemburg and other now legendary restaurants.

First gig after reset.

Oktoberfest, first loft party

...and at Max's. Louis, Detour, Pope, drummers changed.
The owner of One Fifth put on a nice x-mas party for all the employees and I got to go to the upper west side with Leo, having wonderful food and drinking champagne from a fountain. NYN had all kind of fans from Seymour Wakshal, a violin professor to Michelle Robinson, who later became Sid Vicious last girlfriend. Sometimes Leo and I were invited to Seymour’s house on W 67th St, by Lincoln Center and we partied with opera singers. Seymour played for the opera and taught at NYU. On Jan 5th there was a big party at One Fifth and I got to hang out with the likes of David Bowie, Ric Ocasek (The Cars) and talked to Iggy Pop for a couple of hrs, all about Berlin and German History, about which he knew a lot.
Earlier in 78, CBGB’s and Max’s were the center of the scene, then more and more clubs opened, Club 57 on St. Marks place, which later moved to Irving Plaza was one of the first ones, Club Hollywood of 2nd Ave, were I first saw Afrika Bambaata and other hip hop acts and in October the Mudd Club which mixed the art and rock’n roll crowd and became an instant hot spot. "This ain't no Mudd Club or CBGB's."  Early on I saw the  B 52's, Percy Sledge, Marianne Faithful and many other bands. Broke all the time I developed skills to talk myself into almost every club. Once you played a club, you usually got in. With the Mudd club it was a bit harder, but I managed to go out every night for the first 3 years in the city. There were also many other loftparties besides ours and often when there was a performance I’d go to the kitchen to get some food, sometimes waking up in the morning with half a sandwich in my pocket, which would never be wasted.
Aid liked to listen to reggae and frequently played the Generation X LP he had back then. Leo had bought the Johnny Burnette Trio's LP so we could learn The Train Kept a Rolling (While I was in the band we only did 3 covers, The Stooges Search & Destroy, Train Kept a Rolling and the Who's My Generation). The pop soundtrack of that year was kinda dominated by The Cars, who rode the new music wave with pure pop.

Next time, The Niggers really get going and record a now sought after 45 and open for the Plasmatics on Halloween 79.
The writer immediately after a show at the loft, in the elevator which served as dressing room.

                   Notice the peculiar look of the picture It was taken from a slide to xerox print.
more sources:
Here is a one hour long documentary on the early Brit punk scene, a great quote from the movie: Punk is what the 70's should have been. It would have been a very boring decade otherwise.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dear dieter ..
imagine the surprise when i read the tribute to my sister stephanie ...
i am so happy to learn you are alive & well ...
hopefully you will receive this ,
as i didn't know where else to write ...
it was very moving to see stephs' writing ..
& the strangest thing is i'm here with the exact same book by lorca here in the studio in a mountain forest as an inspiration....
kindest regards to you friend ,