Impressions from my first few month in New York City via a newly discovered set of black and white images. you might like to scroll down to the bottom of this post to line-up a few killer songs that get you into the mood to feel the vibes of the city just a year after President Ford called New York to just drop dead. Enjoy!
Cleaning up a deep closet I found an envelop of color and black and white film negatives. I had never seen these and had no idea what was on them. Here are some of b/w ones. They are cover a couple of months till October 1978. Most of the photos were taken by Toni, my first female friend during that period, I assume on a point and shoot camera.
After an initial stint in Holly’s Hotel in Times Square, Aid Haid and Leo Faison from the band The New York Niggers had adopted me to live with them in their loft on Greenwich and Canal Street at the edge of Tribeca, an area with many loft spaces, small manufacturing and warehouses. 1977 was declared the worst year in the history of New York and this neighborhood was quite desolate and completely abandoned at night with a partially collapsed West Side Highway.
474 Greenwich St housed mostly bands, 5 living and about 8 rehearsing there with everything from progrock to punk, rock’n roll and art rock. Richard Hell and The Voidoids, Rhys Chatham, The New York Niggers, The Communists and others. The Ranch had 2 000 sq feet and was inhabited by Leo, Aid and often visited by Aid’s sister and brother. I was the only white person living there.
Aid was the first person I met in NYC, right at CBGB’s. The Pope (Leo Faison and Aid founded The New York Niggers. I initially joined the band on bass for a gig after which The Pope (Leo Faison) and Aid split up and Leo and I continued with various lineups until the spring of 1980, playing many gigs at CBGB’s Max’s, Irving Plaza, other clubs and some legendary parties at the NYN loft.
Iolsta was the a poet and lead singer of the Communist, who were great. We became good friends and after the band broke up Iolsta sang with us a couple of times. Iolsta was very stylish, the first woman in the city wearing her bra outside her clothes, years before Madonna.
Here are some photos of Toni and me exploring the city. I never found out Toni’s last name or were she lived. She just appeared and hang out with us for a few days, then was gone again. Toni was smart and fun and said that her father was a secret agent. My first secret agent black girlfriend always wore a hat.
Just above Times Square on 48th St was a row of music stores a heaven for musicians. Not that I could afford any guitars at this time, but it was always great eye candy and a year later I did buy a Gibson Les Paul Special, trading in my 62 Fender Tele, no inkling that these guitars would be quite valuable one day. We didn’t know and did not think much about further about the future than the next meal, the next gig…
We rehearsed every night till 10 and then hit the scene, drinking cheaper beer at The Grassroots on St Marks Place, and then went back and forth between CBGB’s and Max’s. On the weekend there were always parties somewhere.
These are the clothes I arrived in NY only a short time before. Black leather pants and a suit jacket from my dad.
The first gig with the new line-up, The Pope guit/voc, Loos Toulouse bass/voc (x Communist), Detour guit/voc and a drummer, whose name I can’t recall (there were many) was at Club Hollywood a disco on Second Ave around 12th. More and more bands demanded more places to play and all kind of clubs and bars jumped on the band wagon. NYN was an early band for a few places like St Marks Bar & Grill, where the Stones videoed Waiting for a Friend a few years later, TR3, where the Bad Brains had their first gig in NY a week after we played there, etc. Club Hollywood became the place were some of the early hip hop acts played when they first ventured downtown and I caught Africa Bambata there. Remember that NY wasn’t only the hotbed for punk and new wave, but Hip Hop, Disco and Salsa all exploded here at the same time.
I was a huge Patti Smith fan and the shoes were still the same I had arrived in from Germany via Paris and London and still my only pair. Remember Run DMC wasn’t around yet. While I might look stylish, I was dead poor often going days with no or little food eventually acquiring bleeding gums.
The music scene was still small enough that every body new every one else and bands were quite friendly with each other. It was a very inclusive scene, no matter when or where you came from. It was only in NY that I began to be ok with being German. When I grew up we had rejected everything German since its was our parents generation that had allowed the Nazi atrocities to happen or participated in it. My first big impression of America was that it was ok to do whatever you wanted to: “Just go for it!” the empire state of mind, at least in the city.
Coda: Here are a few more blogs about this time. There are some overlaps, since I received some of the material years apart. And if you didn’t yet check out the songs below.
In which I arrive on 42nd Street via the Boulevard Montparnasse, Portobello Road, a $99 flight and two days later, go straight to Rock’n Roll Heaven.
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.
In which we record a single, have to move, hang out with Yoko Ono and play with the Plasmatics on Halloween.
In which we dig deep, with a help from a friend, into life at the NYN loft, the people and Tribeca’s desolate landscape in the late 70’s.
in which we continue to show life in lower Manhattan in a time when President Ford tells New York to Drop Dead.
Songs: Great live version of the Doll’s most famous song.
These guys rehearsed down stairs from us and always borrowed some equipment from us, so we were always on the guest list. One of the defining songs of the era. I was fortunate to play and record with Ivan Julian later on. For more on that.
The Dead Boys had moved to NY from Akron Ohio and this song had been big with us in Germany already.
Well, we can’t forget about this one of course. The one and only. The original 7″ fetches up to $ 500 now. Re-issue available through yours truly.
Yes, we all were made to believe that Disco sucks. When I worked at Canal Jean the work force was completely integrated and we listened to the rock station in the morning and funk and disco in the afternoon, a fantastic education. In desolate, tough, dangerous NY Good Times could be had.