Sunday, August 8, 2021

Ain't No Half-Steppin'

“[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

Words: Village Voice interview, 2103
Photograph: Catherine McGann, 1988

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Sunday Routine

“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

Blood On The Streets

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

Monday, July 26, 2021

Man Reveals Himself.

Fare thee well to “the father of grass-roots organizing” educator, civil rights activist, and true American hero Bob Moses. May his memory be a blessing and an inspiration. Rest In Peace.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Red, Yellow And Purple

Photograph: Ceremony and mural unveiling held today in Warsaw
(Poland) commemorating the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War on
July 17th, 1936, as well as honoring the 13th International Brigade.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Pigeon Cloud

Photograph: Builder Levy, 1987 (from Brooklyneeze)

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

River Deep Mountain High

"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

The People’s Flag

True American patriotism is anti-fascist

Photograph: American volunteers from the Abraham Lincoln Brigade returning to
NYC after fighting in the Spanish Civil War, 1939. Colorized, photographer unknown

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sound Is In Your City

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

Ecstacy In Slow Motion

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

No Forgive Action

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

Happy Time

Tim Buckley season is here. This cut is taken from the newly issued archival release from Owsley "Bear" Stanley's vaults, and it's pretty damn glorious. I love that there's still sonic documents like this out there just waiting to be found and released.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

A Tale Of Two Cities

"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

Shelter Within

"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..."

Words: Haruki Murakami, 2002
Photograph: Lee Greenfeld © 2021

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Si Me Quieres Escribir

Fare thee well to Josep Eduardo Almudéver Mateu, the last known survivor of the International Brigades. Born in France to Spanish parents, Almudéver was only 16 years old when he lied about his age to join Spain's republican army during the outbreak of the Civil War; he was tossed out when after being wounded his real age was discovered. Not giving up on the fight against fascism, he joined the International Brigades with whom he proudly served until they were disbanded in 1938. He remained in Spain, but was imprisoned by Franco in 1939 and sent to a concentration camp where he was forced to watch his comrades be murdered one by one ("Never, in all my life, will I forget the screams of the people who were shot"). After spending years in various Spanish prisons, in 1944 he joined guerrilla forces to continue the fight against Franco, eventually going into exile in France. He returned to Spain in recent years, where in Valencia he was hailed as hero.

Josep Eduardo Almudéver Mateu passed away in France on May 23rd at age 101. The world lost a true hero, and an inspiration to all that continue to stand against fascist tyranny. Rest In Peace.

Monday, May 24, 2021

As Long As I Love You I'm Not Free

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

Lady Jane

"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

Discarded Gold

It blows my mind when bands record a song this fucking fantastic and decide to leave it off their album. Tough as nails, and the guitar solo from Jorma is simply scorching.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Fight It To The Top

Junior "Trinity" Brammer
Rest In Peace

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Endless Ruins Of The Past

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

The Gates Of Eden

Photograph: Bruce Davidson, 1969.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

¡Hasta La Victoria Siempre!

"We want control of our communities by our people and programs to guarantee that all institutions serve the needs of our people."

Photograph: Lee Greenfeld © 2021

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Death Is God

"But what is the philosophy of this generation? Not God is dead, that point was passed long ago. Perhaps it should be stated Death is God. This generation thinks – and this is its thought of thoughts – that nothing faithful, vulnerable, fragile can be durable or have any true power. Death waits for these things as a cement floor waits for a dropping light bulb. The brittle shell of glass loses its tiny vacuum with a burst, and that is that."
Words: Saul Bellow from Herzog, 1964

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Birth, Life, And Death


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

On The Horizon

"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

I Know Where You Live

Fare thee well to the great Yaphet Kotto. He had a long career with so many memorable roles, but the one that sticks with me was Al Giardello on Homicide: Life On The Streets, one of my all-time favorite TV shows. He also cut this fantastic 45 (produced by Hugh Masekela!) in 1967. Rest In Peace.

Monday, March 15, 2021

White Sheets

"Love me the way you do now, forever."

Empty white sheets and a propped pillow.
Black underwear and fallen golden hair.

Tomorrow is hope
Against hope.

"You are the best man I have ever met.
I love you like nothing I've ever known"

Eyes closed tight,
Temple throbs.

"Please be with me."

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Little Lover Does A Midnight Shift

Lou Ottens
Rest In Peace 

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

The Things That We Said

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.")