Saturday, October 5, 2013

Life of the New York Niggers, Oct 1978, part 2

in which we continue to show life in lower Manhattan in a time when President Ford tells New York to Drop Dead.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Iolsta Hat, a great poet, singer, performer, fashion pioneer and friend. During the research for this blog I came upon this news (see epilogue), so most of the blog is written before I knew.

Iolsta Hat
Looking West down Canal St at Varick St (7th Ave). The NYN loft bldg in ctr back.
The author in front of 474 Grenwich St.

Keep the comments and questions coming, face book, e-mails, anything is welcome. Last week somebody wrote that the blog takes a lot of work. Yes, but it is work of love, especially when it connects us. Besides that, I try not to be attached to the fruits of my labor, yeah, that is hard sometimes. All photos in this blog were taken by Martin (Mattus) Simons on his trip to NY in the fall of 1978, unless otherwise indicated.

 Scanning the 400 or so negatives, took time, probably 12 hrs at least (Big Mahalo to Stephen Whitesell), then selecting, resizing and making adjustments, mostly using PS curves, on each picture separately, another 8 hrs. Writing one blog, probably more than a full day. A fellow musician told me how much he liked the music links, “so much energy,” he said.  I try to select and place them so it is a soundtrack to the story. In one of the first shots in this video the Stones pay tribute to CBGB's and the movement that made them obsolete, for a while at least. The album is their attempt to catch up and in the following tour Mick wears Vivian Westwood clothes. The Bee Gees still ruled the Top 100. No punk anywhere on that horizon. The only song by the new artists to break into top 100 was Patti Smith's Because the Night, co-written by The Boss.

Iolsta Hat

Iolsta Hat

These pictures feature Iolsta Hat again. She was such a talented and fascinating woman and Mattus took lots of pictures of her, so we go along with it. It does lead to the confusing impression that she was an important part of the band, which wasn’t the case. She just came up for a couple of songs, one in particular was the Communist’s Let’s Blow Up Soho. Soho is the neighborhood between Houston and Canal St and Broadway and 6th Ave, which by this time already had undergone the transformation from a nowhere land, where only artists and musicians lived to featuring galleries and more and more clothing stores. For more background on this time in NY check out the excellent documentary NY 77 The Coolest Year in Hell, which brings the whole emergence of hip-hop, punk and disco into its historical context. Yes, it even explains the story of the naked ladies riding on white horses on Halloween that year, which we witnessed. You have to understand that disco was one response to the dangerous raw city and the need to have a good time. But the soundtrack of the scenes and people shown here went more like this: L.A.M.F. came out in 1978 on vinyl and Johnny Thunders and other musicians sometimes dropped by for a late night jam at the loft parties.
From the fire escape you looked right onto the corner of Canal and Varick streets and the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. At rush hour often all cars came to a stop, engines running, honking everywhere. Imagine this on a hot New York summer afternoon in the 100's. Yeeeehah!

Rush hr at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.
As you can see there were no separate rooms or any other divisions. We all lived together.

The ranch.

Aid Haid, ?, The Pope.

Visitors, especially from Germany kept coming all year, brought on by the exploding scene in Germany, the desire to experience the origins of the new wave of music, my writing in No Fun magazine and $ 99 flights of Laker Airways.

The Pope, Loose Toulouse.

Two European visitors, Leo, The Pope.

Rarely did we eat like this; a communal meal only happened because of Mattus' visit or whenever I had money.

Eating together on stage.

3 Germans in front of Radio City Music Hall...

and at Times Square.

I cut out a stencil and here we are making t-shirts. I also had New York Niggers stenciled over an entire jacket. The story is told in an older blog.

Mattus working on something.

Mattus making t-shirts.

Not sure what I'm doing here, but pretty foussed.

Detour, Iolsta, George. DIY guitar pick earring.

Putting up 500 or a thousand posters was mandatory every time. It wasn't without danger either when somebody broke a window on the second floor of a building and a bunch of glass rained on me; almost couldn't play. I had to get stitches in the flesh between my thumb and first finger. Here we're putting up posters for the Oktober Fest party at the loft.

the author, Leo, wheat paste, brush and flyers

yeah, covered everything

Oktoberfest flyer

 Downtown denizens at the party. Michelle Robinson, center, before she became the last girlfriend of Sid Vicious.

Michell Robinson Center

Al, left, Stereo, right

Al and Billy Stereo, fellow musicians from Chicago. NYN wasn't the only band featuring black musicians playing rock'n roll.

Xsessive was a musician and The Ghosts were his band. He left his tag everywhere.

Iolsta talking to Michelle Robinson.

NYN attracted artists...

...and rock'n rollers. Angel Rodriguez

Scene in the kitchen. Angel in the back.
 The two pictures above show Angel Rodriguez in a Vivian Westwood sweater. Angel was the soul of Trash & Vaudeville and always stylish. I didn't know her then, but a year from this moment we would work together at Trash. For more about Angel and T&V check out previous blogs.

Audience. Steve De Martis in leather jacket.

Mattus wrote an article about his NY trip for Hollow Skai’s No Fun magazine, later published in the book Wir Waren Helden Fuer Einen Tag. The day of the NYN party Mattus first went to a Ramones gig way out in Queens. We’ll pick up his story when he is back at the loft (I left all the capitals and punctuations like it is in the book and translated it as closely as possible): 

Detour, Loos, Leo, George.
This was the lineup for that moment. We played Max's and other places. A year later we recorded the single produced by Leo and me and all new members. See older posts. The songs were Headliner written by Leo and my first song just Like Dresden 45.

Mattus writes: “ I had put up 8 spots, so you could see something al least – THE NEW YORK NIGGERS played with total abandon. They are always awesome when they have an audience. Their playing and stage presence gets wilder and wilder and culminates in << Let’s Blow up Soho>>, when Iolsta (x – COMMUNISTS) joins them on stage and sings lead. Then they play  “Search & Destroy” (Iggy & The Stooges). Steve de Martis, who lives next door (ex – ERASERS), can’t control himself , steals the mike from Pope Leo and rages, and the NY NIGGERS can’t stop.

Iolsta, Loos, Steve during S&D.

The band playing Search & Destroy

The author joins the audience and dons a new shirt for the 2nd set.

George Darrow - intense

The NIGGERS play rather POWERfull and fast. The new drummer George has a good beat and an even better ear; he is from Queens and played with the MIGHTY MINDS. Detour* pushes and wants to play faster and faster. In S&D he plays a staccato rhythm and his einz, zwei, drei, vier count always kicks the band into high gear. Loose Toulouse,former bassplayer with the COMMUNISTS, plays a sexy clean bass with fast runs, that you can’t follow. Pope Leo’s soli float above it all (Leo destroyed his best Gibson guitar at another party when they played S&D). Leo is the bandleader and wrote most of the songs.

* Aid Haid converted Dieter to Detour, it stuck for a while, but didn’t make it into my later NY life, good.

The Pope giving an interview
The NYN were written up a few times. Glenn O"Brian from Andy Warhol's Interview Magazine came up with this quote: "The New York Niggers sound like Jimmy Hendrix jamming with the New York Dolls." generously poetic.

Mattus again: " During the second set around 3:00 AM, the NY Niggers eventually jump off the stage and spill into the audience. The audience went nuts dancing and suddenly collapsed into one huge pile on the floor. – it was also crowded at the door to the fire escape. People just wanted to get out, hang out or make out.”


The Pope playing a solo.

Door to the fire escape, Aid, unidentified, Leo.

Rotz Kotz poster and drawing.

Unfortunately, Mattus didn’t take too many pictures of the action in the second set, he describes. Most likely because he was too involved himself.
Besides loving to play we also tried to make some money to help with the rent. Only Leo had a real job, as chef at the restaurant 1 Fifth (Ave). We either sold drinks as you see here or charged at the door and provided drinks. Everything was super low budget and so was the wine, beer or vodka.

Aid Haid, Michelle Robinson (back), Steve de Martis, and Tony at the bar.

we're trying to make the rent.

Yes, there was dancing, I don't think we can tell from the pictures how wild this or other parties really were. Mattus was most likely not ready to take pictures when things got a bit more funky.

get down with your bad self.

the author later that night.

After the gig, time to wind down

Loos Toulouse

George Darrow

The author.

Mattus, George.

George & Leo.

Too loose?

The author contemplating the future?


During my customary research and checking on youtube for links, I came upon these comments on   the Dresden 45 single.

youtube screenshot

  This is the first time I hear that Iolsta has passed away. After our time living in 474 Greenwich, I saw Iolsta occasionally for a while and then lost touch with her. She had gotten involved with another musician guy who's name I forgot. He played a sort of industrial slow heavy metal and had a very dark vision, was into Aleister Crowley and other black magick stuff, but most of all abused Iolsta. I have no idea what happened to her.

The other comment makes me equally sad. For German Neo-Nazis, the bombing of Dresden is a rallying cry, which I could not anticipate when I wrote the song. I am really at a loss of what to say about this right now, only that racism in 2013 is quite depressing to me.

Another comment talks about the hatred in the song. The sentiment in the song is trying to be kind in the midst of desperation. I offered the writer to send him a copy of the lyrics. Here they are again, so you can make your own judgement.

Dresden 45 lyrics and collage with guitar string. Pic taken in front of CBGB's winter 78.

I remember this as a more innocent time, full of enthusiasm and the spirit of do it yourself and anything is possible. Of course we did ran up against the walls of a certain reality of power and prejudice, especially with our name, but I will be forever grateful for this time and the opportunity of living in a multicultural and multiracial group. I thank everyone who was there from the bottom of my heart.

Nothing is ever the same except the stillness in the center of our being.


Documentary on NY and the connection between Punk, Disco and Hip Hop: NY 77 The coolest year in hell. 

Paul Ott/Hollow Skai (publishers), Wir Waren Helden fuer Einen Tag, Reinbeck, 1983.


hiram bollock said...

Nice Story.

anonymus no. 2

Baby Jane said...

Hi, are you still in contact with Michelle Robinson? Ps thanks for sharing this..

lynn pearl said...

Iolsta and my Mom were friends since they were little girls. She was so loved by us :) I was so excited to see this blog. We miss her

jp said...

i remember that loft very well, i used to rehearse there with "lost hatts". in fact i remember hanging out with iolsta and drinking that cheap gallo wine, it was my birthday, when i left i fell down that old wooden staircase, what came next is kinda fuzzy. i somehow managed to be able to walk back to where i was living on bleecker and the next day i could't open my eyes, i was very fucked up, my girlfriends mother thought i was hit by a car, i was one big bruise.