”51” was a magazine that was based on the idea that New York City should be the fifty-first state of the US. This is article written by Debbie Harry, was taken from the bio Making Tracks/The Rise of Blondie published by Da Capo Press. I chose to immortalise this article on the net since it’s almost impossible to get it from its original source and it really represents how things could be seen from the inside, by those who were part of this legendary era. It an honest, lucid look on how that particular scene was evolving coming from of an artist whose band Blondie was on its way to achieve international stardom. All the pictures were added by me. I hope they are helping setting the tone. -Tobe Damit
”51” Magazine, NYC, Late Summer of 1975
I walked into CBGB’s last Friday night at 2 a.m. The Bowery was thick with late night pollution and smog, a sea of sleeping winos, and broken glass.
Dee Dee Ramone spotted me through a Heineken Haze and slithered up wearing an electric purple pimp suit, a Jay’s T-shirt, ragged basketball sneakers and mirror shades.
Swaying slightly, he whispered in my ear, Oh Debbie, we just got signed; we’re supposed to be going on tour. I smiled. I wondered: Will Success Spoil… Dee Dee is bass player to The Ramones, consummate, awesome, punk rockers extraordinaire. The handsomest of the group, Dee Dee resembles Marcello Mastroianni or Steve Canyon, speaks German (born Berlin), was a highly paid hairdresser for a while, is very charming, handsome and childlike.
The Next day was ninety-seven degrees and I ran into Tommy Ramone, drummer and leader of the band, in front of Arthur Treacher’s on Sixth Avenue. Tommy, I heard you got signed, I quipped. He flashed me his disgusted look, Yeah, we got signed to the space program, three sets a night on the nest moon shot. I didn’t take it any further; it was very hot.
But for a few exceptions the NYC rock scene is built on dreams and fantasy. Dreams of love and power, of polite fascism and opulent anarchy: the have and have-nots; EEE, erotism, eccentricity, and eclecticism. It is more than fitting than that scene has filtered down to one tiny club on the Bowery. The expensive thoughts of all concerned could never have been contained in anything larger or more plush. (Except for Sunday evenings with the Miamis at Broadway Charlie’s, Miamis are not too tight with the manager of CBGB’s.)
The rock and roll sub-culture coexists easily with the wraith-like alkies; the angry young black men; with the emptiness and ruin of America’s attics, basements, and secret corners. Places where the out takes and out casts collect. Poverty Marches On… What the Hell: a bass player (now with the Heartbreakers) with so much sex appeal it could lead anyone, male of female into groupiedom, revolution be damned.
As I hinted at, an occasional glimpse of success is not uncommon here at CBGB’S house bar. Last Thursday played host to the magnificent men of Kiss, playing homage to their old friends the Harlots of 42nd Street, who were doing their best to entertain the natives. Other notable drop-ins were Mick Ronson (ohh) and Ian Hunter (ahhh) who surprised everyone no end, including the Fast who promptly set up and played a second hot set on an otherwise dead night at the rock palace.
A few of the Bowery denizen have succeeded in related fields. Fayette Hauser, Gorilla Rose and Tomata du Plenty, who are behind the scenes Hollywood writers for the new nationally broadcast Manhattan Transfer TV show. I do mean behind the scenes they’re still in NYC, but word has it that they’ll be getting some fresh OJ off their own tree within the month.
Just One More Thing . . . The great tower of power moloch Mainman is closing up shop. Mainman produced some fabulous shows like Wayne County at the Trucks, FAME, and Bowie, so much for EEE.
Penelope Spheeris’ documentary on the Los Angeles punk scene. Filmed between December 1979 and May 1980, featuring Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline, Circle Jerks, Fear, Germs, and X was this was the first of aserie of 3 ”Decline movies”.
Featuring interviews, live concert footage, and a feature on how punk was transformed from a trend to a way of life, UK/DK is a comprehensive look at the skinhead/punk movement. Some of the most notorious bands on the scene are featured, including The Exploited, The Vice Squad, The Adicts and many more bands from UK.
Veteran documentary filmmaker and hipster Lech Kowalski creates this film about his friend and hard-partying rock god Johnny Thunders,member of legendary proto-punk band the New York Dolls. Through archive footage and interviews with such musicians as Dee Dee Ramone and Sylvain Sylvain, the film details his stint with the Dolls, the formation of his other band, the Heartbreakers; his rise to fame, particularly in Japan; his descent into heroin addiction, and the mysterious circumstances of his death in a New Orleans hotel room in 1991. Born to Lose: The Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Movie also contains some rarely seen concert performances in Max’s Kansas City and the Mudd Club. The photo on the poster is by photographer Marcia Resnick.
From the interviews with seminal bands in their earliest stages, D.O.A features live performances by the Sex Pistols, The Dead Boys, Generation X (with Billy Idol), The Rich Kids, the X-Ray Spex, and Sham 69, with additional music from The Clash, Iggy Pop, and Augustus Pablo to the live coverage of the first Pistols show in America, ”D.O.A: A Rite of Passage” is thus far the ONLY film to truly capture the feel, spirit and philosophy of the era. A near-comatose Sid Vicious is hilarious, as is the truly terrible, ersatz punk band Terry and The Idiots, whose leader is interviewed about the scene throughout the film. The depictions of a very bleak, “no future” England sum it all up as succinctly as the music itself.
Jubilee is a 1978 cult film by Derek Jarman heavily influenced by the 1970s punk aesthetic in its style and presentation. Shot in grainy colour, it is largely plotless and episodic. Location filming took advantage of London neighbourhoods that were economically depressed and/or still contained large amounts of rubble from the London Blitz during WWII. Unlike the others this one is really a movie, not a documentary and that is why I thought it would be interesting to include it on the list. The Plot:When Queen Elizabeth I asks her court alchemist to show her England in the future, she’s transported 400 years to a post-apocalyptic wasteland of roving girl gangs, an all-powerful media mogul, fascistic police, scattered filth, and twisted sex. With Jubilee, legendary British filmmaker Derek Jarman channeled political dissent and artistic daring into a revolutionary blend of history and fantasy, musical and cinematic experimentation, satire and anger, fashion and philosophy. With its uninhibited punk petulance and sloganeering, Jubilee brings together many cultural and musical icons of the time, including Jordan, Toyah Willcox, Little Nell, Wayne County, Adam Ant, and Brian Eno (with his first original film score), to create a genuinely unique, unforgettable vision. Ahead of its time and often frighteningly accurate in its predictions, it is a fascinating historical document and a gorgeous work of film art.
Fresh from making his cinematic debut with The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, director Julien Temple wrote and directed this short promotional film Punk Can Take It for punk band the U.K. Subs. The promo mixed live performances—shot during the U.K. Subs’ tour to promote the single “Stranglehold”—with a comedic pastiche of Temple’s source material—a Second World War propaganda film London Can Take It, which had shown the plucky Londoners’ resilience to Germany’s bombing campaign. In Temple’s film the U.K. Subs provided the “symphony of war” while Eddie Tudor Pole and Helen Wellington-Lloyd are embattled punks fighting for victory against crass blood-sucking commercialization of the music they love. The U.K. Subs (short for “Subversives”) were among the original bands who led the British punk charge in 1976. Still performing and recording today, this film captures the Subs at an early high point in their career under the pairing of Charlie Harper (vocals) and Nicky Garratt (guitar) who created a blistering output between 1979-1982.
If you were disappointed by the shitty CBGB’s movie made a couple of years back starring Alan Rickman, then you will get a better sense of the energy, talent and musical revolution that took place at CBGB’s in the mid-1970s with this hour-long TV documentary Blitzkrieg Bop . Focussing on The Ramones, Blondie and the The Dead Boys, Blitzkrieg Bop mixes live performance with short interview clips and a racy newscast voiceover. It’s recommended viewing.
Punk: Attitude is a film by Don Letts. It explores the “punk” revolution, genre and following from its beginning in the mid-1970’s up to its effect on modern rock music and other genres. The cast is a veritable list of alternative musicians and directors offering their opinions on what has been called a musical revolution. One of the film’s celebrated attributes comes in the form of its cast, showcasing the who’s who of punk tock/alternative culture contemporaries like David Johansen, Thurston Moore, Henry Rollins, Captain Sensible, Jim Jarmusch, Mick Jones, Jello Biafra, Siouxsie Sioux, and Darryl Jenifer.
From Lemmy filmmaker Wes Orshoski comes the story of the long-ignored pioneers of punk: The Damned, the first punks on wax and the first to cross the Atlantic. This authorized film includes appearances from Chrissie Hynde, Mick Jones (The Clash), Lemmy and members ofPink Floyd, Black Flag, GNR, the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Buzzcocks, and more. Shot around the globe over three years, the film charts the band’s complex history and infighting, as it celebrated its 35th anniversary and found its estranged former members striking out on their own anniversary tour, while still others battle cancer.
Jarmusch has commented: “No other band in rock’n’roll history has rivaled The Stooges’ combination of heavy primal throb, spiked psychedelia, blues-a-billy grind, complete with succinct angst-ridden lyrics, and a snarling, preening leopard of a front man who somehow embodies Nijinsky, Bruce Lee, Harpo Marx, and Arthur Rimbaud. There is no precedent forThe Stooges, while those inspired by them are now legion.“He added that the film “is more an ‘essay’ than a document. It’s our love letter to possibly the greatest band in rock’n’roll history, and presents their story, their influences and their impact, complete with some never-before-seen footage and photographs. Like the Stooges and their music, ‘Gimme Danger’ is a little wild, messy, emotional, funny, primitive, and sophisticated in the most unrefined way. Long live The Stooges!”
A movie by Ullie Lommel featuring Richard Hell,Andy Warhol and Carole Bouquet. Nada, a beautiful French journalist on assignment in New York, records the life and work of an up and coming punk rock star, Billy. Soon she enters into a volatile relationship with him and must decide whether to continue with it, or return to her lover, a fellow journalist trying to track down the elusive Andy Warhol. Also a 1976 documentary by the same name HEREfeaturing Patti Smith, Television, Ramones, Blondie and Richard Hell.
“Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90)” is a documentary film that examines the early DIY punk scene in the Nation’s Capital. It was a decade when seminal bands like Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Government Issue, Scream, Void, Faith, Rites of Spring, Marginal Man, Fugazi, and others released their own records and booked their own shows—without major record label constraints or mainstream media scrutiny. Contextually, it was a cultural watershed that predated the alternative music explosion of the 1990s (and the industry’s subsequent implosion). Thirty years later, DC’s original DIY punk spirit serves as a reminder of the hopefulness of youth, the power of community and the strength of conviction. There is also an earlier documentary called ‘‘A History of DC Punk” that predates Salad Days’ overlook of the DC Punk scene.
Roxy club disc jockey Don Letts was given a Super 8 camera as a present by fashion editor Caroline Baker.When Letts started to film the acts at The Roxy, it was soon reported that he was making a movie, so Letts determined to film continuously for three months. The film features live footage of The Clash, Sex Pistols, WayneCounty & the Electric Chairs, Generation X, Slaughter and the Dogs, The Slits, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Eater, Subway Sect, X-Ray Spex, Alternative TV and Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers. Backstage footage of certain bands, such as Generation X, The Slits and Siouxsie and the Banshees, is also included. All live footage was shot at the Roxy, except that of the Sex Pistols, who were filmed at The Screen On The Green cinema in London on 3 April 1977. The performance was Sid Vicious’ first public concert with the band.
Danny Says is a documentary on the life and times of Danny Fields. Since 1966, Danny Fields has played a pivotal role in music and “culture” of the late 20th century: working for the Doors, Cream, Lou Reed, Nico, Judy Collins and managing groundbreaking artists like the Stooges, the MC5 and the Ramones. Danny Says follows Fields from Phi Beta Kappa whiz-kid, to Harvard Law dropout, to the Warhol Silver Factory, to Director of Publicity at Elektra Records, to “punk pioneer” and beyond. Danny’s taste and opinion, once deemed defiant and radical, has turned out to have been prescient. Danny Says is a story of marginal turning mainstream, avant garde turning prophetic, as Fields looks to the next generation. When I asked Legs McNeil what documentary I should watch, this is the one that he pointed out to me so imagine my joy when I saw it was featrured on Netflix. I’ve watched it twice in a row, and then some more…
Vince Lombardi High School continues to lose its school principles. The students are more concerned with rock ‘n’ roll than their education until the new principle, Miss Evelyn Togar is hired. She promises to set Vince Lombardi High School straight, and get the students focus back on education. However, a Ramones concert is coming to town, and Riff Randall, the biggest Ramones fan at the high school, plans on getting tickets to the concert in order to give them a song that she wrote entitled “Rock N’ Roll High School”. A series of events including Miss Togar taking away Riff’s tickets, a record burning and a taking over of the high school by Vince Lombardi High students and the Ramones, leads to a school evacuation by the police and an even more surprising ending!
Let Malcolm McLaren show you how to achieve fame and fortune by making your pop group the most despised band in the world! This film about the brief but eventful career of The Sex Pistols primarily focuses on McLaren, their manager, as he presents his ten-point program on how to achieve success through chaos, ineptitude, and abusing the music industry. Despite some remarkable footage of The Sex Pistols’ infamous Jubilee Day performance and clips from their final concert in San Francisco, there’s surprisingly little screen time devoted to the group actually performing. Instead, The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle offers McLaren’s agit-prop philosophies on music, culture, politics, and the entertainment industry, as well as an amusing (if often inaccurate) account of the band’s rise and fall. Along the way, we’re also offered some curious animated sequences, “film noir” episodes starring guitarist Steve Jones, footage of the band recording with exiled British train robber Ronnie Biggs, and Sid Vicious singing “My Way” (he had been dead for over a year by the time the movie was released). The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle began life as “Who Killed Bambi?”, a project written by Roger Ebert and directed by Russ Meyer, which closed down after two days of shooting when funding fell through. By the time McLaren and Julien Temple got it off the ground (with a radically different script), Johnny Rotten had left the group, which explains why the band’s front man is hardly in the movie. The rest of the group broke up a few months later. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
Donna Santisi was one of the very few and lucky photographers who were able to capture the new punk rock craze and scene that had spread from New York to Los Angeles. On any given night Donna would be at The Whisky A Go Go, The Starwood, or any number of clubs with camera in hand to capture on film what would soon be the hardcore punk scene. I don’t think anybody was ready for this explosion, especially The parents of the newly found punk rockers that their children turned out to be. Ask the Angels!
”Los Angeles used to have a lot of spectacular vintage restaurants and still does, but we are still losing many every year to owners who retire, sell out for money or lose their long-held lease to nasty gentrification. I’m a sucker for a joint with history, charm, character and stories. I’m not as selective about a menu as I am about the ambiance, atmosphere and what I am experiencing. I’m a junkie for vintage architecture and old signs. I pray that old places don’t renovate their mid-century or even mid-’70s decor.” – Nikki Kreuzer, Editor of the Offbeat