Sunday, September 1, 2013

Eighty, one, two, three

in which NADA comes from Sanskrit and means divine sound and not nothing. I end up in the festival of patience, start practicing yoga and finally move into my own apartment.

As response to the last post, one of you guys was wondering if I couldn't wait to get out of the dirty city as soon as possible with bleeding gums, no money and all that. The answer is no, I never had that feeling. Yes, during the first year I did have quite of a rough time, but I never really considered returning to Germany. In the TAZ interview (see last post) I said that I'd rather be German in America than German in Germany. In fact, for the first time in my life I begun feeling ok being German. Remember, my generation's parents were the Nazi generation and growing up during the 60's we rejected everything German, the more the more conscious we became. Even post WWII German society carried many authoritarian structures against which we felt compelled to rebel against in forming our own identity. Yet, even the youth movement carried many rigid elements. European culture paid more attention to the collective in general, while America is based more on individual freedom. While at home we had to discuss and justify our ideas, not necessarily a bad thing, but often experienced as restrictive, in New York everybody said to your ideas, cool go for it. More than that though it was an internal freedom that I had never felt before. New York, at least back then was a place where you can leave your past behind and reinvent yourself, just like punk originally was. I always had a feeling that I was guided towards my destiny, whatever that would be. Below, the sections in italic are quotes from the timeline I wrote down in March 86 and the rest is written now.

Let us set the stage first. 1980 ended with me hitting a very low point and on December 31 1980 I decided that I had to stop drinking for at least 6 month or however long it would take to be well. I didn't go out that New Year's Eve, instead I picked up a small mass market book on yoga that I found in Joerg's loft. Intuitively I knew that I had to replace not drinking with something that would be better and carry me onto another level of being. In the early seventies I had met a traveling Swami, who gave me a couple of asanas and a mantra, that I still remembered and I read the book and started practicing yoga every day for the entire year.

 NADA flyer July 1981

NADA July 1981
NADA, Hans Keller, Dieter Osten, Billy Pidgeon, Hank (obscured), Big Al. CBGB's 1981.

“Spring 81

 I form a band called NADA (meaning divine sound in Sanskrit). The name gets later picked up for an all girl band in a motion picture: Get Crazy." The band in Get Crazy (1983) is called Lori Eastside & Nada, chances are good that the writers picked it up from one of our flyers or even saw the band*. Of course everybody thinks of the Spanish word which means nothing, especially considering the large Spanish speaking population in the city, even though I picked it up from reading about Vedic traditions, especially cosmic sounds.  In the picture above you can see the changed look too. Billy and Al where into blues and rockabilly. I still wore the ubiquitous black leather pants, but with a nice vintage shirt from T&V. During my 10 years in NY I wore black leather pants probably 90% of the time when I played. While I worked at T&V, I could replace them whenever I had worn them out.

"We have two guitars, bass, drums and violin in the band and start playing eastvillage clubs where we soon headline on sat nights. Of the 20 songs in our repertoire 15 are written by me. The East Village Eye writes a favorable review about us."

 "At the same time I have shows together with the violin player (Hans Keller) in clubs and at avant-garde events and parties under the name European Sons. We play my own songs and covers by Brecht/Weill, Edith Piaf, Lou Reed, Jagger/Richards.”

 During this time I went back to studying Dada and Surrealism. The flyers from top contain images from Man Ray and the Situationist International. Our first gig is at CBGB's on a Monday night, which is audition night, no name in the paper, no sound-check, and no pay. It must have went ok, since we are playing two weeks later on a Thursday, a good night.

Image Max Ernst
Image Max Ernst. org paste-up
NADA September 1981, Max Ernst

see also R&R Pt 2

In 2006 I blew up the Okt 2nd flyer and carved it as a woodblock print, part of my R&R series. It is not an image of Lou Reed, just a pic from a magazine, but it does represent the attitude from Lou's 1973 Transformer album back cover shot. Pure Rock'n Roll attitude. Andy Warhol to Lou Reed: "Lou, why don't you write a song about somebody getting hit with a flower."
Below more Surrealism, Oct 24, but the flyer esthetic keeps evolving. As you can see we play at A7 a lot, a small club on the corner of 7th St and Ave A, where amongst many other small local bands the Beastie Boys played as a hard core/thrash/metal band before they had their first underground hit with this song. Then they switched to rap. On Oct 24 we play  2+2, a club on second ave and 2nd st, one of those short lived ones, in an old industrial building. The dressing room was on the floor below the stage and the bands used one of those old cage, hand driven elevators to go up. trippy! Some gigs where floozies too, like the one on Nov 1st. Who goes out, the day after Halloween?

Notice the starting time, upper right.

As you can see, sometimes I announce the bands we are playing with. Frequently it was the Hi Sherrifs of Blues, Robert Johnson on speed sort of, in which my friend Joe Drake played bass at the time. The Blue Shadows was Lisa Pidgeon's band in which Billy played and maybe Big Al too. I sat in sometimes and Lisa with us. Lisa had a kinda Janis Joplin voice, very powerful. Lisa also possessed some of Janis's volatility.

Pic of Edith Piaf as a child...

...and Chuck Berry

Rimbaud inspired...

and Chuck again.

The original paste-up.
Image from a blue jeans commercial.

“April 82, The European Son continues to do occasional shows while NADA dissolves.”

By The count of the 16 flyers posted here we played at least once a month, not bad for this little band,  a band without great ambitions and my first time as a bandleader.

“September 82,A friend of mine (Christine Heise) from Berlin who is a radio dee-jay visits me and decides to finance a demo.”

“ December 82. We record one song of mine (Let me be your Company) at Intergalactic Music and Unique. A DJ at WLIR hears the song and wants to give it airplay.”

This song was inspired by a young lady who I helped buy a guitar and gave a few lessons to. The players were two colleagues from T&V, a rockabilly guitarist plus Fran Powers on bass, me, voc/guit and the great Ed Steinberg on drums. Fran and I became friends (till today) and he played guitar in the original lineup of EAST of EDEN, so did Ed. There might be a black/white video done by a German journalist, but I have no copy. By this time the German New Wave had taken off and a few of my old communards had become major players**. This song is my attempt of jumping in it. It had potential but alas, in "spring 83, we run out of funds and can’t properly mix the song. I give the project a name, Festival of Patience***, after a Rimbaud poem and play one show at ABC NO RIO. Throughout the rest of the year I work on new songs and intensify my studies of meditation and tai chi that I started 2 years ago.

promo flyer

Opening Party for the Williamsburg Bridge Sculpture Show.
After practicing yoga by myself for a year I felt stagnation and thought that it would be great to find a teacher. In a health food store magazine I found this ad: Taoist Esoteric Yoga and Six Healing Sounds, a 5 week meditation class. That sounded good to me, especially the 6 healing sounds was an extra attraction. The class was in Chinatown and taught by Mantak Chia, who had just published his first of many books**** to come. I continuously studied with Mantak Chia for 4 years, taiji, qigong, meditation and the fire walk, During this time I also met Master T.K.Shih a traditional Chinese master, who had his own acupuncture method handed down to him through five generations of his family. He taught taiji, gigong, tuina (massage), acupuncture, and practiced calligraphy and painting. I also spend about 4 years with him. When I first encountered taiji, I thought, wow, I have been looking for this my whole life. I had to go to New York to find it. I will dedicate a separate post on my studies of meditation, taiji and yoga. I never stopped taking classes and workshops until I left New York and for many years after, til today.

I wrote several songs while living in 23 St Mark's place and distinctly remember writing Mystik Mood on the roof, so it must have been in the spring of 1981. Shortly after I moved out, for some time spending in two different apartments with room mates, both on 2nd Ave and finally in October of 81 into the fifth floor of 432 E 13th St between 1st Ave and Ave A. This was the first time that I ever lived all by myself and I would stay there until I left NY and even keep the apartment for another year. It was a rent stabilized apartment for $ 373.50 and $475 seven years later. Twice, we went on rent strike, which we won.

A couple of weeks ago my old friend and communard Mattus (see various posts) told me tha he had about 500 black and white negatives from a 1978 trip to New York. Meanwhile they are here and i have begun to scan them. They are fantastic and I'll post some of them. Here is a preview.

George Darrow with NYN at the loft 10//78. Background graffiti by the author.

Next time I will talk about 1984 one of my most productive years and my most enduring and successful Band East of Eden, unless of course, something else comes up. Not that I am in any danger of running out of things to write about, but I'll be happy to take suggestions for blog post themes also. Let me know. Until the next time, it's only rock'n roll *****.

The author at CBGB's 1981.


* I actually did watch the movie Get Crazy. It is an over the top comedy pushing every Rock'n Roll cliche with Maclcolm McDowell playing an old school rock star. Lori Eastside and NADA is a new wave girl band and Lou Reed plays basically himself and does a nice stripped down performance of Little Sister over the credits.

** Juergen Teipel, Verschwende Deine Jugend, suhrkamp taschenbuch, Frankfurt, 2001.
 The title translates as Waste Your Youth. This is an account of the German Punk and New Wave similar to Legs Mc Neill's  book about NY Punk Please Kill Me.

Hollow Skai, Alles Nur Getraeumt, Fluch und Segen der Neuen Deutschen Welle, Hannibal, Innsbruck, 2009. Title: Just Dreamed it All, Curse and Blessings of the German New Wave. A critical account of the history with focus on Duesseldorf, Berlin, Hamburg and Hannover. Hollow Skai is my old roomate and created No Fun, the fanzine as well as the label. He wrote for Der Stern and published several books on Rock'n Roll. Check him out on his own

***Arthur Rimbaud, Rimbaud Complete, Poetry and Prose, Random House, Modern Library Paperback, 2003
This book translates the original Fetes de la Patience, the title of a group of four poems, as Patience Celebrated. The book I had back then called it Festival of Patience.

****Mantak Chia, Awaken Healing Energy Through The Tao, Healing Tao Books, Huntington, NY

***** In this hilarious official promo The Stones are having fun in a goofy way. They are not using their regular guitars and drums, since everything is going to be emerged in bubbles, but the best is Mick Taylor's smile starting at 3:15. I've never seen him smile like that, if ever.

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