Tuesday, August 6, 2013

New York Niggers Pt 2 – Vintage 79 – Just Like Dresden 45

In which we record a single, have to move, hang out with Yoko Ono and play with the Plasmatics on Halloween.
Klaus Nomi with Joey Arias right, and possibly Jean Michel Basquiat foreground.
This post is dedicated to the memory of Klaus Nomi, another German expat who died of AIDS 30 years ago today, one of the early aids victims. Klaus was a very nice guy and pure soul, a classically trained singer, a unique performance artist. Here he is in a video of his first performance at the original Club 57 on 57 St Mark’s Place, December 78. We would run into each other at clubs or parties and talk about trying to survive and make it in New York. Klaus was put into the limelight with Joey Arias backing David Bowie on Saturday Night Live in 1979. Interesting how some established artist have the knack of recognizing emerging artists and trends and appear to the mainstream like they created it (see also the Stones below) while others fight or ignore the new.
Timeline 2

Poster with quotes

Poster with magic marker added band.

In 79 Leo and I follow the course set the year before, with frequent changes in the band’s lineup. We host regular loft parties and played quite a bit. There was a competition between Max’s and CBGB’s, so a band that played more often at one of the two was considered a Max’s band or a CB’s band. CB’s was bigger and had a better sound system, but at Max’s you always got a sound check, your name in the Village Voice, your own dressing room and got paid. None of these were guaranteed at CB’s. If you didn’t play at CB’s for a while you had to play on a Monday (audition night) again, no pay, no name in the paper and often no sound check. NYN became more of a Max’s band, in fact once we played there twice in one week, headlining on a Tuesday and opening up for JohnnyThunders Heartbreakers on Friday. Max’s was the legendary place where the Warhol crowd hung out, and the VU played their last gig, a one-week stint, with Lou Reed just walking out on the band on the last night. This was recorded on a small cassette recorder by the Warhol denizen Bridged Berlin (Polk) and published as The Velvet Underground – Live at Max’s. Of course we had been listening to the LP in Germany and that’s how I new about Max’s. Here is an excellent short docu about the place and Sunday Morning from those shows.
From left, the author, Victor, Wolf, Leo, Jerry.

Max’s had three floors. The downstairs was a business bar during the day and had its daytime jukebox. Next to it was a different jukebox and during happy hour one was unplugged and the other plugged in. The downstairs backroom was were Andy and his crowd held court. Patti Smith describes the scene in her Just Kids. The bands played on the low ceiling second floor. The stage was also quite low, pretty small, but had curtains, which was awesome. You could get ready in private, counting off the first song and the curtains would open. First you had to walk trough the entire crowd though, an experience in itself, coming from the dressing rooms, which were on the third floor. Two dressing rooms, one for each band, wow. During those days Max’s as well as CB’s had two shows every night, opening band, headliner, opening, headliner. The second show tended to be quite loose, since what would you be doing, in between sound check, first show, and second show?
One night, at the end of our second show, as usual the Stooges Search& Destroy, The Pope walked out onto one of the narrow table rows in front of the stage, which was packed with people, bottles and glasses. I thought, cool, I’ll walk out onto the other one. That all went well until I decided to jump over the seated people onto the tables that Leo was playing on. The tables collapsed and people, bottles and glasses shattered in all directions. Louis Tooloose and the drummer kept playing and so did Leo and me once were back on stage, a fitting Stooges tribute. Months later a guy came up to me in a club and offered me a drink with the words that that was the coolest thing he had ever seen. Hahahaha!
More and more clubs opened, left and right, many short-lived dives. We were one of the first bands to play some of them, Tier 3 on West Broadway in the spring of 79, where I met Caty Monnier (see below) and her then husband photographer Alex Kayser. Almost 35 years later Caty is still one of my best friends. A week after our gig the Bad Brains played their first NY gig there. Another one of those was the St Mark’s Bar and Grill on St Marks and 1st Ave, where the Stones shot their Waiting for a Friend video, in 80/1, I believe. To tell you the truth, this is the first time I really watched this video. It is kinda goofy but you can see the windows of the bar check out the inside. It was much funkier than it looks in the video. The scenes on the steps is a few doors down from the bar on the south side of St Marks place between 1st Ave and Ave A. Aid Haid was supposed to be in the video, but I don’t think he is sitting on the steps. I do remember two of the guys though. Aid could be the one in yellow, but I’m not sure.
Dresden lyrics with guitar string & Photo in plastic, 1979.

I finished writing my first song called just like Dresden 45. The song was inspired by Iggy’s Lust For Life. My opening line became: ‘I was thrown into this world by chance, now I got to stick around.’ Which in turn came from a question I posed my father about what he was thinking when I was conceived. This is another story that I actually have written, but am not ready to publish yet. I wrote the chord sequence and most first verse still in Germany and the bridge and the rock’n roll rhythm guitar came from what I had picked up since coming to NY. Leo never considered NYN punk, he coined us a high energy decadent rock'n roll band. That was fine with me.
The original 45 worth about $ 500 today.

In March 79 we recorded Just Like Dresden 45  and the Leo penned Headliner. By this time we had added Victor Godsey as lead singer and Jerry (sorry I forgot your last name) on bass. Ed Steinberg who lived upstairs just sat in on drums and nailed it (see also the post New York, rookie year). Victor auditioned with Dresden 45, which we had given to him on a cassette. Not only did he nail the song, but during the guitar solo, he whipped out his belt and started pounding the stage. We stopped the song and just told him that he was in the band. Victor was an accomplished musician and later recorded and toured with many jazz greats playing keyboards. I didn't add a link for victor because they are all dis-satisfying, but he later played with the likes of Al Di Meola and Bill Frisell.
We printed 1 000 copies, just a white dust jacket, no sleeve. We put it in various jukeboxes in downtown Manhattan, record stores etc. It didn’t get too much airplay, except some college stations. John Peel plays it on his BBC show and it gets favorable reviews in various magazines (for more details see the image timeline2, above). Over the years I have received various requests to reissue the 45, but made it always contingent on Leo’s agreement, which nobody ever got. Calls to him were not answered. Rumor has it that he is back in Upstate New York were he lives as a Christian priest. The single has been bootlegged apparently sells for up to $ 500 by now. In December 2012 Eric Cecil published an article on the band based on interviews with Louis Tooloose and me. It has a few mistakes, but is the most extensively researched article on this band whose single 45 rpm output contains the favorite songs of the period for quite a few people (Human Being Lawnmower # 3) The songs can always be found on youtube and I have posted Dresden 45 on soundcloud for free downloads, In 2008 I decided the reissue the single with a picture sleeve based on a painting of the bombing of Dresden and a collage of the various band members on the other side as part of my MFA thesis exhibition (see the posts thesis exhibition 1 and 2). 250 numbered copies are available with picture sleeve and I have another 250 in plain white dust-jacket. I am working on a video for Dresden 45.
Cover of reissue, printed by letterpress after an oil painting by the author.

Cover of reissue, other side, after collage by the author.

Some of the gigs I remember:  outside on Greenwich St, right in front of the house, the only time we played The Who’s My Generation, but since you know the Who's version, here is Patti Smith with John Cale on bass. On Halloween 1979 we opened for the emerging Plasmatics at My Father’s Place on Long Island. there is a two hour documentary on Wendy O'Williams if you are interested. We also opened for the Cramps at Club 57 Irving Plaza, a big old dance hall, where it had moved to, NYN one night and The Misfits the other. Cramps had mics placed in front of the stage were their core fans were yelling and screaming and played it back through the PA augmenting the excitement. We also played a transvestite run after hours club called Stickballs at 84 E 4th St in which Ron Wood later opened a club. The first show was scheduled at 3:00 AM with the second to follow at 5:00. The first show starting around 5:00 AM was more like what happened.
Poster for NYN loft party with 5 bands.The original color is pink.
We were friends with the all girl band Cheap Perfume and I had a short intense with their lead singer Lynn O'Dell as you might infer from the pics below. a video of their 2009 reunion gig at Kenny's Castaways.

...with Lynn, the lead singer of  Cheap Perfume,

the kiss and the (Leo on the left)

subsequent show. The look, decadent ragtag elegance.

Leo was a friend of Richie Stotts, the original guitarist for the Plasmatics, so we saw their early shows at CB’s. Richie plays the Flying V and Wendy the chainsaw. One of those times Leo & I went to a bar between sets with the band and an Asian woman and sat around a table drinking beer and talking. On our way back to the club Leo asked me if I knew who that woman was. Yoko Ono. I never found out about the connection between her and the Plasmatics, but I always saw them as more of performance art than music, so that might have been it. What is the difference you might ask? I think the one you must see and the other must be able to stand on its own when you put it on the turntable.
In early 79 I finally found a steady job at Canal Jean, the original location on the amazing funky and busy Canal Street, which went from the exit of the Holland Tunnel, the NYN loft across lower Manhattan through  Chinatown ending on the Manhattan Bridge connecting New Jersey with Brooklyn. Canal Jean was interesting because of its diverse clientele and employees. To keep peace there was a strict policy to play the rock'n roll station in the morning and the disco station in the afternoon. While going with the trend and rejecting disco in the beginning I soon learned how cool some of it was, especially Chic
Watching the bins outside Canal Jeans with a German friend.

The shop had $2 bins outside. I found a white see-through jumpsuit that I wore for one gig, also on the street and for work, which almost got me fired, since there happened to be no underwear. Here is another good one from that time. The pic above is another slide to color xerox, great esthetic but not very stable over time.
By the fall I graduated to Trash & Vaudeville on St Mark's Place, the premier Rock'n Roll clothing store. Trash & Vaudeville had an all punk downstairs with all the newest stuff from London and great vintage stuff upstairs from Aloha Shirts to 50's sharkskin suits. T&V was the very first place to have black jeans, skinny and without a label. It was the standard uniform of all New York Rockers and every band's first stop in NY was the T&V store. I shook Johnny Cash's hands (huge) and sold clothes to Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Prince, Paulina Porizkowa...., but this is a whole other story.
Posters next to T&V's downstairs entrance. David Johanson.

 Oh, I almost forgot. Leo and I put up all the money for the single instead of paying rent. So eventually we had to move out. Leo and I found a 2 bedroom apartment on 10th St between 2nd and 1st Avenues.  This was the end of the era of the NYN loft and the beginning of my complete immersion into the East Village. I heard that the rent for the loft was raised to $ 10 000 from $ 375. Times were a changing.
Here is a shot on the roof of our 10th St place, taken by Angela Seifert, who recently reconnected to an old friend of hers who also lives here and landed at Honolulu International last Saturday.

The author on the 10th St roof. Pic Angela Seifert, 1979.

 Am I looking to the post NYN future in this shot? You might find out in one of the next installments of the festivalofpatience.


BBC once upon a time in New York covers and contextualizes the  birth of Hip Hop, Disco and Punk in four parts. Excellent. The second part has some great shots of the Dolls, the beginning of CBGB's and when Patti comes on at 10:30 chills still run down my spine. Later the members of Talking Heads talk. In part four we learn what Blondie's # 1 Rapture did for hip hop. true or not.
And the fantastic second installment of William Kelley's How to Train Squirrel Martial Artists “Lesson #2 - Lower Body Strike” . 29 sec. For more about William Kelly check his 2008 post on this blog.
and in case you missed the first one. 48 sec.
Patti Smith, Just Kids, Harper Collins, 2010, national book prize must read.
My friend Caty Monnier, re Shannon still lives in New York, has three sons and works as a healer.

Last Friday was the opening of HI Tides at the arts at Mark's, which shows my 8' x 12' painting 'Water'. A quick run through the opening focuses on the painting.
On Friday August 16th I will have a pop-up art show at Yoga Hawaii as part of Honolulu's Kaimuki neighborhood's third Friday.
Last Saturday I put on a pre b-day party at my house. A short clip of Alice Neel performing Can't Fool the Music shows the good time to be had.


Anonymous said...

Can you tell me where can I buy NYN single on CD? I remember that few years ago I didn't won on Ebay this 7" with one bonus track. Maybe you will release sth else (demos, unreleased studio, live)? Best regards from Poland. Paul
PS. please send info to: powerpop(at)op(dot)pl

Anonymous said...

Thats not Jean Michel Basquiat, its Tony de Fries who was always in bands with Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi