The new issue of Wax Poetics is devoted to NYC salsa’s golden era in the ’70s. The guy on the cover is Eddie Palmieri, and it contains not just one but two great interviews with him.
I write about the 24-minute film below in Love Goes To Buildings On Fire. It’s centered around a concert in Woodstock, New York on August 26, 1973 – just two days after the Fania All-Stars’ beautiful train-wreck of a concert at Yankee Stadium. It shows the difference in approach at the time between salsa’s two greatest acts. The band is pure fire.
The Love Goes To Buildings On Fire panel discussion, a benefit for Housing Works with Fania All-Star Larry Harlow, DJ Kool Herc, Laurie Anderson, Lenny Kaye, Robert Christgau, and myself is tonight at 7P, and it’s free. More info here
Two very raw, very rare clips of one of rock’s greatest bands, assembling songs at the apartment of manager Terry Ork, who worked with Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell at the book store Cinemabilia.
Richard Lloyd had just signed on, and they’re still getting their act together, evidently. But Verlaine’s guitar tone is fully formed. So is Hell’s cool-as-shit persona. The first song, as he puts it, “expresses man’s desire to orally know … a photon.”
A pretty good description of all their songs. Musically, anyhow.
Or, as the late Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records said after auditioning the band for a possible deal: “This is not earth music.”
Tom Verlaine smiles a lot in the second clip – that’s pretty rare in and of itself.
Television at CBGBs was the first time I ever saw a band perform in a bar, as opposed to a big theater or an arena. By that point, a year or two after this was shot, they were as great as any “famous” band I’d ever seen. It blew my mind.
Here’s another clip from that Max’s Kansas City show 8/10/72 (tho this is posted elsewhere on the web, incorrectly, as being from the Gaslight).
The song is called “Henry Boy.” You may recognize melody and cadence in verses from “Rosalita,” which turned up on his second LP in late ’73. Dude’s still working it out. Van Morrison soul-poet vibe in full effect.
My book Love Goes To Buildings On Fire is out today. It’s available through Inbound, Amazon, and others. You can download the ebook on your iPhone, iPad, or Kindle, too; see the links in the right-hand column.
I write about this performance from December, 1975. (YouTube, which barely existed when I began the project, was an incredible resource.) The Heads had played their first show at CBGBs in June.
“Psycho Killer,” their early signature, is fully formed here. Byrne had debuted it with his previous band, The Autistics, at a Valentine’s Day party last year, up at RISD college in Rhode Island.
The lyrics would evolve a bit, though. “Listen to me now, I’ve passed the test/I think I’m cute, I think I’m the best.”
In September, the Fania All-Stars with their newest member, Celia Cruz, got on a plane to Zaire to play a huge music festival scheduled in Kinshasa around Muhammad Ali’s fight with George Foreman, the much ballyhooed “Rumble In The Jungle.” The festival would be headlined by Soul Brother #1, James Brown, and broadcast around the world, along with the match.
Unfortunately, as the musicians found out in-flight, Foreman got injured in training, and the fight had to be postponed — for an entire month, it turned out. But the music festival went on as planned. It was filmed, and although it wasn’t broadcast after all, the footage finally surfaced in the 2009 documentary Soul Power.
This is an outtake: Celia Cruz, with Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barretto, Larry Harlow, and Héctor Lavoe, rehearses the folk song “Guantanamera”— about a peasant girl from Guantánamo — in an empty stadium. They turn it into a pan-cultural anthem: Afro-Cuban music going home for a long-overdue visit.
They also played a private concert for President Mobutu, apparently.
Trombonist Willie Colón is conspicuously absent here. He never got on the flight. As he tells it, he heard God speak to him while he was waiting to board the plane at Kennedy, instructing him not to go. He told Jerry Masucci he was going to the bathroom, walked out of the terminal, and caught a cab home, never bothering to retrieve his bag. He used the time to begin work on a new album, which paired him with a young singer, Rubén Blades. It was a very good match.
A very early performance. Chris Stein is still rocking hippie-style long-hair. Debbie Harry doesn’t seem to have arrived at her trademark bleach job yet. But she looks quite fetching nevertheless.
The song is an original, though it sounds like a bit like a Shangri-Las b-side, with some hard rock and reggae riffs thrown in for flavor. The band never recorded it. But it’s an early glimpse of how they could take an established style and make it their own. (See also “Heart of Glass,” “Rapture,” and their cover of “The Tide Is High”).