“[Bed Stuy] is not changing. It’s already completely changed. I’m not a big fan of a lot of that. I feel like they’re erasing history. If you renovate apartments and if you have nicer stores that’s cool. But when you get rid of historic places or things that mean a lot to the people from there I think that’s wrong. I can’t take my kids back and show them certain things because they’re gone.” -Big Daddy Kane
Sunday, August 8, 2021
Wednesday, August 4, 2021
“I worked last night slinging drinks to entitled douchebags, getting out of the bar at like 5am, so I woke up feeling like shit at around noon. Made myself a pot of Bustelo, turned on the TV to NY1, zoned out and thought about what I wanted for breakfast. Seeing as I was pretty hungover, I decided on Chinese from the spot up the block with the bulletproof glass. Walking back home I picked up the Daily News and a bottle of Manhattan Special (on Sundays I figure I deserve a treat). Back home to the couch to eat my food out of the carton and read the sports pages. Napped for a while. Woke up, counted my tips, and watched a western on TCM. I skipped lunch, napped some more, and ate what was left of my Chinese for dinner. I read the book I've been trying to finish for six months, showered, and crawled into bed... That's my Sunday Routine™." -bartender Marco Floyd, 47
Tuesday, August 3, 2021
We Fight Fascists: The 43 Group And Their Forgotten Battle For Post-War Britain (Verso) is the story of the Jewish World War II veterans (and their allies) who took to the streets to fight the resurgent fascist movement led by Oswald Mosley and others. This is a lovingly researched book (going back to pre-war UK), peppered with fantastic stories of espionage and violent direct action. Still a timely read, and a must for anyone who questions the use of violence against fascist scum. It's also interesting to note how The 43 Group were labeled as "political" (i.e. reds) as a way to tarnish and weaken their public support, when in fact their one unifying trait was being anti-fascist. (Sound familiar?) Also, who knew Vidal Sassoon was a total bad-ass?
Pictured: two original members of The 43 Group
Tuesday, July 27, 2021
Monday, July 26, 2021
Sunday, July 18, 2021
Friday, July 9, 2021
Tuesday, July 6, 2021
"To be happy in this world, especially when youth is past, it is necessary to feel oneself not merely an isolated individual whose day will soon be over, but part of the stream of life flowing on from the first germ to the remote and unknown future."
Words: Bertrand Russell from The Conquest of Happiness, 1930
Sunday, July 4, 2021
Sunday, June 27, 2021
It’s a massive historical oversight that 1969's Harlem Cultural Festival (aka "Black Woodstock") has never gotten its due... Until now. (The list of performers who played the multi-weekend fest is pretty mind-blowing: Nina Simone, B.B. King, Sly & The Family Stone, David Ruffin, Mongo Satamaria, Abbey Lincoln, Max Roach, The 5th Dimension, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Stevie Wonder, and Mahalia Jackson, to name a handful.)
Saturday, June 26, 2021
Playing The Bass With Three Hands is one of the best new memoirs I’ve read in ages; Will Caruthers is a hell of a storyteller, his voice lifting off the pages and flowing into your mind's eye with crystalline clarity. His tale is dark, laugh out loud funny, insightful, inspirational, druggy, and brutally honest. It's also nearly impossible to put down.
There’s really no need to be a fan of any of Cartuthers’ bands to enjoy the book — though it’s a must-read for Spacemen 3 fans, if only for the brilliant and hysterical chapter on the Dreamweapon concert, aka “A Night Of Contemporary Sitar Music” — as it’s much more than just a look back at a “career” in music. Anyone who grew up in a go-nowhere town craving escape, be it via chemicals, music or otherwise, will be enthralled, as well as anyone who spent any time working a shit job (there’s one particularly horrifying chapter on that). The book also works as a perfect primer on the grim realities of how commerce corrupts art, and how unglamorous life on the road in a band on a limited budget can be.
Rating: Three thumbs up.
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
If you’re of a certain age and grew up in NYC you know the thrill of seeing a fully painted train car pulling into the subway station. There’s nothing else like it. FUTURA 2000 was taking things to another level well before graffiti was in any way respected as true art — or commodified by companies looking for street-cred — rocking this classic top-to-bottom full-car back in 1980. He went on to do stellar work for The Clash and others, and produced the stone-classic Phillies Blunt shirts (with SHARP, if I’m not mistaken). To see a corporation which attempts to portray itself as a “street” brand ripping him off (and writing off his legacy), is disgraceful.
Spread the word: boycott The North Face and all affiliated brands (Vans, Supreme, etc.) until they do the right thing and pay the man. And fuck ‘em, boycott them after that too.
Photograph: Martha Cooper
Monday, June 7, 2021
Saturday, June 5, 2021
"I cherish my memories of those first few days of freedom in NY [in 1943], especially my sense of liberation from not having to submit to any authority, and knowing that I could go anyplace and do anything at any time. One night I went to Washington Square and got drunk for the first time. I fell asleep on the sidewalk and nobody bothered me. It was ecstasy sleeping on the sidewalk realizing I had no commitment to anything or anyone." -Marlon Brando
Over the last few weeks the police have been clearing Washington Square Park of regular people for doing little more than enjoying the park as it was intended. A few blocks away in the East Village, the privelleged transplants (bros and woo woo girls) can act the drunken loud fool to their hearts' content.
Anyone who grew up in New York City, or is a student of the city's history, knows Washington Square Park has always been a destination, a cultural center, and a hub for activism (way back in 1834 the city's stonecutters rioted in the park in protest of NYU's use of prison labor). It is the people’s park.
Photograph: The Face Of The Village by Weegee, circa 1955
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
"Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones..."
Thursday, May 27, 2021
Monday, May 24, 2021
The first, very intimate live performance of "Abandoned Love," a song so perfect that the birthday boy tossed it aside.
"On a Thursday night in July 1975, I headed out to see Ramblin' Jack Elliott at [The Other End] in New York City. Because I wanted to learn his technique, I got there early enough to get a seat near the front so I could watch him play guitar. After the first set, a P.A. announcement told us we were welcome to stay for the second set if we honored the two-drink minimum. As the lights flashed on and I got up to leave, I glanced around the club and was stunned to see Bob Dylan seated toward the back with Jack, wearing the same striped tee shirt and leather jacket he had on in a photo with Patti Smith on the cover of the then-current Village Voice.
Naturally, I sat right back down. There was absolutely no way I was leaving at that point. Soon, others began to notice him, too, so Jack and Bob left their seats and went backstage. But when the engineer set up another microphone, we knew Bob was going to sit in. The electricity in the room was tangible as the club began filling up with more bodies. Finally, Jack came out and started his set. After a couple of songs, he began "With God on Our Side." After the first few lines, he turned his head toward the back of the stage and said, "Bob, you want to help me out on this?" The place went nuts as Dylan walked onstage. I can still see that shy look on his face as he nervously squinted out into the audience. He was so nervous, in fact, that he didn't notice that the capo on his guitar was crooked and buzzing badly.
Their first song was "Pretty Boy Floyd," with Bob singing harmony and his guitar buzzing right along. Then Jack started "How Long Blues." After the first verse, he looked at Bob in a way that seemed to ask him to sing a verse. Bob simply shook his head and mouthed something inaudible. When the song finished, however, Dylan began strumming his guitar. But since it was still buzzing, he asked Jack to trade instruments with him [this can be heard in the video at . At that moment, everyone in the room was in a trance; it's not every day one gets to hear an impromptu Bob Dylan performance in a tiny club. After a couple of lines, we realized he was performing a new song, with each line getting even better than the last. The song was "Abandoned Love," and it still is the most powerful performance I've ever heard.
Ramblin' Jack started strumming along in the beginning, but he soon realized the rarity of the moment and stopped and stepped to the side. As Bob sang, the nervousness so evident earlier vanished completely. He was so moving. There he was, hitting us with new material, with everyone hanging on his every word. It was an incredible feeling to be in that small club listening to Bob Dylan perform a new song. We all felt we were watching history in the making. After he finished, he returned to his seat near the back of the club and quietly watched the rest of the show. Jack appeared so speechless and overwhelmed by Dylan's performance that he started his next song with Bob's buzzing guitar.
Later, as we began filing out into the night onto Bleecker Street, we could see Bobby Dylan through the outside windows, leaning over his table and deep in conversation with someone, the candle in front of him highlighting his face. It's a moment I'll never forget."
Story of the performance by Joe Kivak
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
"To approach a city, or even a city neighborhood, as if it were a larger architectural problem, capable of being given order by converting it into a disciplined work of art, is to make the mistake of attempting to substitute art for life. The results of such profound confusion between art and life are neither life nor art. They are taxidermy. In its place, taxidermy can be a useful and decent craft. However, it goes too far when the specimens put on display are exhibitions of dead, stuffed cities."
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Friday, April 9, 2021
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
Two bands that are totally polarizing: the Grateful Dead and Steely Dan, both of which I've loved both since I was a little kid, and through all the stages of my life. I do understand why people don't dig 'em though: with Steely Dan the slickness is usually the turn-off, but the songs, playing, and especially the lyrics transcend the overly-polished production for me. In fact, the gloss of the recordings doesn't bother me in the least. With the Dead it's usually the fans and their often awkward dancing, extended jamming*, and a lot of false perceptions: lyrically the Dead are not really a "peace and love" band — tell me "Black Peter," "Wharf Rat" or "China Doll" isn't some seriously dark shit? (I do think a lot of people get off on saying that they hate the Dead without giving them a deep listen).
In my early DJing days I'd often spin "Cream Puff War" and without fail some garage-punk acolyte would eagerly ask me who it was. Their face inevitably changed to horror when I informed them.
* It baffles me when someone tells me that don't like the Dead due to the jamming, yet they're big jazz fans (particularly Coltrane or Miles Davis, both of whom happened to be a big influence on the Dead's vision of how far out music could be taken).
Saturday, March 27, 2021
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
Sunday, March 21, 2021
I'm very selective when it comes to free jazz — having a homebody roommate in the '90s who played Peter Brötzmann on what felt like a constant loop dimmed my appreciation — but I recently discovered this stunning D.I.Y. private press release* from 1969 and am truly blown away. There's a real balance between chaos and melody, played with passion by what sounds like a full group not a trio. And despite it being instrumental there's a real lyricism in the grooves.
The album was reissued in 2020, with a recent repress by Gotta Groove.
Saturday, March 20, 2021
"The state can only be what it is, the defender of privilege and the exploitation of the masses, the creator of new classes and monopolies. Whoever does not know the role of the state does not grasp the essence of the current social order and is incapable of showing humanity the new horizons of its evolution."
Words: Rudolf Rocker, 1921
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Monday, March 15, 2021
Empty white sheets and a propped pillow.
Black underwear and fallen golden hair.
Tomorrow is hope
I love you like nothing I've ever known"
Thursday, March 11, 2021
I don't know that there's a single invention that had more of an impact on my life and the directions it took than the cassette tape. And that's no exaggeration. My love for tapes started in the early '80s with live Dead shows passed on to me by older cats from uptown and my own recordings of DJ Red Alert and Marley Marl's weekend radio shows (as well as my endless quest to capture a complete "Hey Hey What Can I Do" off of WNEW), and the game-changing homemade hardcore and punk mixes that seemingly travelled across the five boroughs in increasingly lower quality. Then came the bootleg hip hop tapes I'd cop in Times Square, and most importantly the mixed tapes I made for friends, pen-pals, and of course, my crushes (I miss the long afternoons in front of the stereo, dropping the needle and hitting record at just the right time, naively thinking about how the songs I chose would change my life ). In the '90s my love of a good mixed-tape was still going strong, with the international punk-rock and 1960s rarities mixes I'd eagerly wait for, obsessively checking the mail. Thanks you Mr. Ottens for your life-changing invention.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Wonderful 1973 cover of the Small Faces soaring mod classic. The album the single was pulled from was produced by Alice Cooper producer Bob Ezrin, in time for Flo & Eddie's opening slot on Cooper's Billion Dollar Babies world tour. (The album also features a beautiful cover of the Kinks' "Days.")