Ruben Blades plays “Pablo Pueblo” (acoustic)

A very handsome, 29-year-old Rubén Blades plays a piece of “Pablo Pueblo” on acoustic guitar, with translation, in 1977 (to humbly correct to the YouTube poster).

The original is the lead track from Metiendo Mano!, his first LP with Willie Colón. Their follow-up, Siembra, may be the biggest-selling salsa album in history—though given the accounting practices at the time, it’s hard to tell.

In any case, it’s definitely one of the greatest.

The New York Dolls at Max’s Kansas City, 8/27/73

So Love Goes To Buildings On Fire is out in 3 weeks. Woo-hoo! You can pre-order it by clicking one of the links in the righthand column.

The New York Dolls inspired virtually every New York rock musician I interviewed; they even impressed Bruce Springsteen, though he was a bit puzzled by their fashion sense. In fact, the book opens on the Dolls’ big New Year’s Eve show (with the Modern Lovers) at the Mercer Arts Center on January 1, 1973.

Their debut album had been released in July, and this song—the band’s greatest moment—had been released as a single on the day this video was shot by Bob Gruen, in late August, ’73.

“Get this,” a mincing, half-naked David Johnasen declares onstage, “We’re gonna be on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand!”

That’s Peter Jordan, their roadie, playing bass. Arthur “Killer” Kane had wound up in the hospital earlier that evening when his girlfriend Connie nearly cut off his thumb with a kitchen knife during a rather nasty lovers’ quarrel.

It’d been an eventful day.

The next morning, the band would fly to LA for a series of promo gigs. There, Johnny Thunders would meet his hero Iggy Pop, and try heroin for the very first time. He liked it a lot.

Laurie Anderson, 1976: A folk-rock singer-songwriter for 3.75 minutes at 45 rpm.

“It’s Not the Bullet that Kills You (It’s the Hole)” is one of Laurie Anderson’s earliest recordings, one of twenty-four different 45s she had pressed up for an art installation at the Holly Solomon Gallery in 1977. Her piece was called Jukebox, and that’s what it was.

Only a few of the tracks were ever released. This turned up on a compilation called Airwaves (One Ten, 1977). “New York Social Life” became part of her extended performance work United States. “Bullet” was written for Anderson’s friend Chris Burden, an extreme performance artist who had recently had himself nailed to the hood of a Volkswagen.

If the song recalls the music of Kate & Anna McGarrigle, whose debut LP also came out in 1976, it might be the influence of Anderson’s friend and collaborator Roma Baran, who had just moved to New York from Montreal, where she used to play coffeehouses with the McGarrigles.

BTW, I’ll be speaking about Anderson’s work and reading from Love Goes To Buildings On Fire this Saturday at the Flynn Center in Burlington, VT, before Laurie’s performance of a new work, Delusion. More info here

David Murray does Nat King Cole en Espanol

David Murray was a free-blowing tenor sax firebrand on the mid-’70s NYC loft scene. He lived across the street from CBGBs. As he told me when I interviewed him for the book, he used to cop weed from the same dude that took care of his neighbors, The Ramones.

But along with his more extreme playing, he also had a big, breathy, beautiful, Ben Webster-ish romantic streak, which you can hear on his new LP, David Murray Cuban Ensemble Plays Nat King Cole En Español. For a while, anyway, NPR is streaming the entire thing here.

I especially like the cha-cha-cha segment he drops into the arrangement of “Quizás, Quizás, Quizás” — my favorite song from the records Murray is re-visioning here. Some may recall the original as the signature theme in Wong Kar-Wai’s exquisite In The Mood For Love. (Music begins at :30)

CBGBs: Miller High Life

Love this shot: Jeff Salen and David Byrne hanging out against the CBGBs bar after a Talking Heads show in 1976. Note sticker for PUNK magazine, published and edited by Salen’s SVA schoolmate John Holmstrom, on the wall behind them. Also: the small patch of Byrne’s post-show shirt somehow not soaked in sweat. (Photo by Robert Spencer)

Happy 75th Birthday, Steve Reich

On the New York City composer’s 3/4-of-a-century birthday, a brief segment from the world premiere of his greatest work, Music For 18 Musicians, recorded live at Town Hall on April 24, 1976 — a landmark event in an incredible year for NYC music, as I chronicle in the book. (And that’s not to mention the blackout.)

Music For 18 Musicians, Part I/II, Town Hall, New York City, 4/24/76

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La Monte Young and the Theatre of Eternal Music

La Monte Young is the father of what became known as “minimalist” composition, an approach that inspired Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Adams, and many others, in New York City and beyond. In the ’60s Young worked in the shadow of his hero-turned-rival John Cage, collaborated with his friend Yoko Ono, and led a group that included John Cale, who later left to form the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed.

Young increasingly became obsessed with the idea of the “eternal” in music—a work that might literally last forever—and he began setting up what he called “Dream House” installations: rooms in which music was produced continuously by precisely-tuned sine wave oscillators, sometimes with human accompaniment. The initial and primary one was in his loft at 275 Church Street; it ran pretty much uninterrupted from September ’66 through January ’70.

Recordings of this music were somewhat beside the point. But Young often rolled tape, and in ’73 some of it became a French LP called Dream House 78’ 17”, long out-of-print. The number denotes the duration of the LP, and the “song titles” noted simply the date, time, and locale of the recording. The piece I’ve linked to here, side A of the LP, is titled “13 I 73 5:35-6:14:03 PM NYC.” It shows off vocal techniques inspired by Young’s work with North Indian master singer Pandit Pran Nath. The music runs for 39 minutes here. But presumably it began before the recorder was turned on, and continued after it was shut off.

Performances of extreme duration—lasting as long as, say, a psychedelic drug experience—were being explored by many artists and musicians of the era. New York Times critic John Rockwell identified a “newly meditational mode of perception” in audiences, partly code for saying most everyone was stoned to the gills.

Astonishingly, the Dream House is still operating, and you can experience it Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings for a small donation. It’s still at 275 Church Street, a dream-vision of ’70s NYC music culture trapped in amber. More information here