anonyrrie: Mummy, What Was Punk Rock?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Mummy, What Was Punk Rock?

Downtown NY in the mid 70's was an exciting place to be if you were into music. In fact, it was an exciting place to be if you were in your 20's and feeling ready for just about anything. It was before the gentrification of the lower east side, before the city got cleaned up and polished, and it was gritty, scary, full of characters and full of possibilities. The "Summer of Sam" might have been a horror show for many, but for me... it was a pageant of energy and people and music.

A place that figured largely in my experiences in NY at that time was CBGB. I saw lots of great - and not so great - bands play there, but it was really the atmosphere that made it all happen. I remember when I saw The Ramones play there; I had never seen them play live, and I was over the top excited about it. I waited with a couple of friends for a few hours just so we could get front row seats. We ended up second in line, behind some hippie chick whose t-shirt was festooned with all kinds of punk buttons, including the requisite "Disco Sucks." Our patience was rewarded with up-front seats next to Legs McNeill and some other person from Punk Magazine and an unobstructed view up Joey Ramone's nose. The music was beyond loud and so relentlessly fast that it impossible to resist the urge to pogo. We even left with a door prize: ringing in our ears that persisted for days. There was no doubt about it...It was an awesome show!

I read in an article by John Pareles in the NY Times last Sunday that it looks like CBGB will be evicted in September from the location on the Bowery where it's been for almost 32 years. There's talk of possibly turning it into a punk rock museum or moving it to Las Vegas...both options decidedly very much counter to the whole spirit of what punk rock was about in the first place. But, things do change over the course of 32 years...I can attest to that...although it still made me feel a little sad.

So I got out the step ladder and rummaged through my old journals on the top shelf in my office closet (yep...they're in the "out of circulation" section), and found an entry about that show and some people I knew who were into the scene downtown at the time. Above is a picture of me and a girl named Alison that I sketched to go with the following entry written January 24, 1978. I did alter it by adding the background after I scanned it from my journal.

Alison is a nice girl, but she looks like a scolded mole. Big nose, long bleached blonde shag, terrible posture, and a perpetual apologetic expression. I ran into her in the florist's the other day. I was buying flowers to enhance a sit-down dinner for ten, and she was buying flowers for Joey Ramone's quick recovery. A teapot blew up in his face. Very strange. I can't picture him drinking tea.

So...that's my little bit of randomness for today. This button, a gift from a friend who brought it back from London, perhaps speaks in favor of creating a punk rock museum. After all, how else will future generations answer such important questions?


Blogger andrea said...

I lived in London in 1983 and by then the punk movement had become a bit sad and tired. I remember a group of punks who would dress every day as if for a stage show, then hang around in Sloan Square to charge tourists money to take their photos.

NYC in the '70s. Maybe it's part of the reason why Annie Hall and Manhattan are among my favourite movies. I've always wondered if Woody Allen's New York was typical or just a bit too educated, Jewish and left-wing to be typical. But then one person's typical is another person's eccentricity.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, at least you guys weren't in a California *suburb* in 1984 thinking you were some sort of punk! The California "scene" was more of a jock work-out center than arts movement by that point. Still we had the Dead Kennedys (at their end) and other fun stuff.

Than pin is really great Carla! I'll have to keep my eye out for it.

12:30 PM  
Blogger carla said...

You know, when we go to Starbucks, we amuse ourselves by watching the kids come in wearing their different outfits. More often than not, my significant other finds himself muttering, "trick or treat," especially when a group of punk/goth types comes in. I have to laugh, because we all took ourselves so seriously when we were young and dressed up in our various costumes. It must be hard to come up with something entirely new these days...the worst are the girls who started showing up in butt-tickling flouncy skirts carrying chihuahuas. By the time a "look" gets here, it's pretty much over everywhere else. But, you gotta love it!

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Big Harry H said...

Hiya Carla!

I'm a new visitor to your site, and i just wanted to introduce myself and say hello.

I also wanted to say i enjoy your work and writings!

I maintain a blog of my own and hope you can stop by sometime.

OH, and in my younger years, i was a featured musician at CBGB's. Perhaps our paths crossed in another life!!!!

Take care, Big Harry =0)

9:03 AM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

Hi your blog. Thanks for commenting on my red-hairdo lady... yes, I agree with you that she has a husky (and New Yorkish!) voice, probably like Brenda Vaccaro! ;c )
I will definately be back to visit... I enjoy your writing and your art.

BTW, I noticed Big Harry commented... definately check out his blog... it is very good and funny! I'm a regular fan of his and have him linked on my blog.

All the Best, Carolyn

10:37 AM  
Blogger Cynische said...

Great story and illustration, very retro. I remember back in Junior High listening to the Sex Pistols and the Who and thinking I was just about the coolest guy that side of the Mississippi.

I took myself way too seriously :)

2:15 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

great story - the Ramones rock...weren't we all just precious in our teens and twenties? LOL!

8:59 PM  
Blogger Drazen said...

Hey thanks Carla for that old journal entry. Very funny.
The Ramones was one of my earliest live shows as a teenager and I still have my vinyl copy of Its Alive signed by
the band from the End of the Century tour.
I envy you for seeing those bands there and at that time. I love Television and the dead boys and most stuff from that era/scene and if you have never read Please Kill Me. you might really enjoy it. a sort of amazing time capsule of the period in New York from the velvet underground to Johnny thunders. Nice for us who were never there.
awesome button!

11:19 AM  
Blogger Afterthoughts Ltd. said...

My freshman year at UMASS (1986) I worked security for the Ramones when they played the Student Union Ballroom on campus. The security guards ended up sitting on the stage with our feet holding up the folding tables that had been layed on their sides to form a makeshift barrier between the crowd and the stage. As I was sitting there, probably looking like a deer caught in the headlights, and wondering how I got myself into this situation...Dee Dee Ramone comes up behind me, puts his knee in my back and uses me as leverage to lean over the crowd hammering away on his bass. What a surreal moment I will never forget. I still have a guitar pick from the show!

9:51 AM  

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