The birth of the breakbeat, by Kool DJ Herc

Kool Herc explains and demonstrates The Merry-Go-Round — his invention, and the conceptual seed of hip-hop music. (Also see “Apache,” “Bongo Rock,” “The Mexican,” etc.) Speaking with him was one of the high points of writing this book.

Long live The Ramones

I took this picture on a street in Berlin a few years ago. Never did get a chance to see the musical.

“Becoming a man…” (Springsteen at Max’s)

When he was getting his legs in the early ’70s, Bruce Springsteen played a number of shows at Max’s Kansas City, home to/hang for Andy Warhol + the Factory crew, Lou Reed, the New York Dolls, and assorted local up-and-comers: Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Meyers (later Hell), Tom Miller (later Verlaine). As Springsteen told me over the phone a while back, “the scene was unusual for a provincial guy out of New Jersey.”

This clip from the summer of ’72 is dude playing a beautiful version of “Growin’ Up” in his solo singer-songwriter guise, opening for Greenwich Village folk guru Dave Van Ronk. Springsteen’s first LP had yet to come out. A year later, he would headline Max’s with his band while other up-and-comers opened for him — in one notable case, making their NY debut, Bob Marley + the original Wailers.

Bruce begins with the words “becoming a man,” and then sort of backpedals through the gender assumptions of his intro. After all, Max’s was famous for its transgender clientele. Maybe Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn were checking him out from the bar.

David Murray, Milford Graves + Stanley Crouch’s foot

David Murray is about as giant a jazzman as we have nowadays. He just released a great new record, titled David Murray Cuban Ensemble Plays Nat King Cole En Espanol.

He’s based in Paris now, but his career began in NYC in the mid-’70s. Here’s a clip from a long-lost documentary, featuring Murray and Milford Graves, about the legacy of Albert Ayler + “spirit music.” Check the commentary by Murray’s ex-roomie, a young and very boho Stanley Crouch, who is seen briefly using his foot in a very unconventional manner during a drum solo.

Celia Cruz + Orquesta Harlow – “Gracia Divina”

This is the hit that simultaneously ushered Cuban expatriate Celia Cruz into the New York salsa scene and crowned her queen of it. Magnificent. From Larry Harlow’s Hommy, 1973, a salsa reinvention of the The Who’s Tommy. (Seriously.)

In which Television is entirely surrounded by water

Television, East Village, 1975

Television, East Village, 1975

Does anyone know where this is? I’m guessing the NW corner of 1st Ave. and 12th Street.

Love Goes To Buildings On Fire

OK, let’s do this: Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: Five Years In New York That Changed Music Forever (Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux) hits brick and digital bookstores on November 8, 2011. You can pre-order it now at Indiebound (support your local independent bookseller), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere.

It’s a book about the creative explosions in NYC’s music scenes—punk rock, hip hop, disco, salsa, jazz, classical—during some of the City’s most troubled years. It begins at the Mercer Arts Center on January 1, 1973, and ends at the Lower Manhattan Ocean Club on December 31, 1977. It’s an inspirational story about a city that’s changed a lot in thirty-plus years, but in some ways hasn’t changed at all. Dramatis personæ: Patti Smith, DJ Kool Herc, Bruce Springsteen, Miles Davis, Richard Hell, Willie Colón, Bob Dylan, Laurie Anderson, The Ramones, Arthur Russell, The New York Dolls, Grandmaster Flash, Nicky Siano, Rubén, Blades, Rashied Ali, Television, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, David Murray, Blondie, Lester Bowie, David Bowie, and many, many more.

This blog will let me share some of music, video clips, photos, stories, and other ephemera I collected over 6+ years of research, along with relevant new stuff. I hope it will enhance and extend the experience of reading the book.

For starters, check out the full wrap-around cover, drawn by former Village Voice cartoon journalist Mark Alan Stamaty . Thanks Mark; you rock.


“Love → Building on Fire” (’75 demo)

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This version of Talking Heads’ debut single (it was not included on Talking Heads: 77) is, as far as I’ve been able to suss out, from a CBS demo session recorded in late ’75, just a few months after the band came together. Chris Frantz told me the title originally had the arrow, but it became known colloquially as “Love Goes To Building On Fire,” and the group used that title for most of the single sleeves.

In borrowing it for my book title, I made it plural. I liked the image of something powerful and beautiful going up against something powerful and destructive. I like to think that, in the end, love + beauty always win out.