Like I mentioned in my previous post, I had the good fortune to sit down with the legendary, musician, frontman—and now author, Philippe Marcade recently. Here is a small transcript of our chat.
SSA: As someone who has been in the underground music scene in NYC for quite a long time, I wanted to know when you first heard about the garage scene in the 80s. Was it because of The Dive?
Philippe: From its beginning in New York, I always felt that Punk Rock was very rooted in Garage. The Dead Boys did a pretty good version of Little Girl by Syndicate of Sound, Wayne County did the Barbarians’ Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl?, The Cramps did The Crusher by The Novas and Primitive by The Groupies. But I think I first got aware of the 80s full tilt Garage Revival hanging out at Midnight Records on 23rd Street in 1984 and discovering bands like The Chesterfield Kings and The Fuzztones.
From your book, I know you dug many of the same sounds that many of us were into. Except years earlier! Were you surprised that a group of younger bands were now heavily getting into this period of music?
No, it seemed logical after the Rockabilly and Rhythm & Blues revival (The Stray Cats, The Blasters, Buzz & The Flyers, etc…). The years were moving on, only 20 years after!
Everyone has a Billy Miller story. What’s yours?
I think it was in 1997. The Senders were recording some demos at Coyote Studios in Brooklyn. I had brought a video camera and was filming some of our session when Billy walks in, shakes my hand with a rubber hand (!) then says “Do you want to film something cool? Come with me!”. He then leads me to the studio next door and there is Miriam banging on her drums while Cordell Jackson is playing some incredible diabolical instrumental. I got a minute of it on film. I even got Billy’s rubber hand..! You can see it on YouTube! I will always miss Billy. He really was such a great guy.
You must have a J.D. Martignon story as well. Brooklyn’s Bananas fanzine did a wonderful multi-part profile on him a few years ago that showed what a varied individual he was (Part 1, Part 2). I mean, besides being really ornery and difficult!
I liked JD a lot. He was a real sweet guy though, indeed, he could be moody.. I didn’t speak to JD for a few years, then, one day, I discovered he was on Facebook. I wrote him a message. He answered me with a message that was quite strange. He sounded a bit depressed. He was shocked to have just heard that Willy (from the band Da Willies) had passed away. His message ended with the words “Me, I’m stuck here, surrounded by records covered in dust. Here today, dust tomorrow.” Two days later I found out JD was dead too. I was truly shocked by that. I couldn’t stop thinking about his message for weeks.
While the Dive was certainly a fun spot, much of what I recall is unfortunately clouded by a heavy doses of alcohol. But, I do recall the cabaret-style setup and that it was the intimacy of the place that really made it special. The audience and the performers were as one. I missed the whole Max’s era, but I imagine that it was similar.
Yes, very much so. Everybody knew everybody else. It was indeed very “intimate”. And very fun.
It’s funny because while I do remember the characters, there is a whole group of other cool people who also hung out at the Dive that escape my memory. Like, Howie Pyro for instance.
How could you possibly forget Howie ?! He’s a pisser!
When the Dive closed, there was a short lull in the action. Soon though Gare and Deb Parker’s Strip took over as the spot to be. Followed by Ivy and Anne’s Minds Eye shows. The Strip shows were extraordinary because of the great bands that came through and played in a ramshackle old rummy bar. Do you have any amusing memories of that period?
I loved playing at The Strip, and I loved Gary and Deb. Alas, I can’t recall any special anecdotes there, though.
The second wind of the Senders came at the perfect time when The Dive and The Strip shows were starting to wind down. The Continental residency became the natural place for most of the scene people to gravitate to. Looking back, it felt like the natural outgrown of Gare and Deb’s idea of combining 60s/70s trash/punk/garage/roots sounds.
It’s an actual fact that I, personally, started the scene at the Continental Divide. Haha! I wanted The Senders to do a residency, somewhere, in the East Village. One day, noticing that they had a “jazz night” on Tuesdays at the Continental Divide (which was a restaurant at the time) I walked in and asked Alan Roy, the owner, if he would be interested in doing a “Rock night” or “Blues night” once a week too. He seemed to like the idea and decided to give The Senders a Monday night spot and see how it goes. The first Monday, we had about four people there, but the next week we had about twenty and the week after that about sixty. We called our Monday nights The Sender Thing. We really got into it, booking the opening bands ourself and by doing this we creating a scene. Within a few months, the Continental Divide was a Rock club. Alan raised our pay three times, although we hadn’t asked for anything. He also had a bigger stage built. These were the most fabulous times for the Senders. Our Monday nights became very successful. It was completely packed week after week. We teamed up with great bands, like The Raunch Hands, Da Willies and The Waldos. It was just so much fun.
The Continental was a great place …even though I never ate there (maybe that was a good thing!) I recall someone telling me how Johnny Thunders was banned because he tried to make off with a chicken from the kitchen. As a good buddy to Johnny, was there any truth to that rumor?
It’s a true story. I was there that night. I see Johnny come out of the basement (where there was an ice-box) looking like he was pregnant!! He had three frozen chickens under his shirt! One of the barman noticed that too as Johnny made his way towards the door. He was busted!!
Also, I have to ask, how did you wind up making pizza at the short-lived CBGBs Pizzeria? My pal was always fond of saying how no one could flip a pizza like you could.
I was badly in need of work to pay my rent. When I saw that they were looking for a pizza maker at that new CBGB Pizza joint right next door to the club, I went to ask Hilly Cristal if I could work there. “Can you make pizza?” he asked me. I answered him “They call me Phil ‘Pizza King’ Marcade!! I can make the best pizza you ever had!!. He told me to come the next day, make a pizza and, if it was any good, he’d hire me. In truth, I had never made a pizza in my life!! I promptly went to the pizza place next to the Continental Divide (where they knew me quite well) and asked them if they could teach me. They did! I practiced all day. The next day, I impressed Hilly with my (brand new) pizza making skills and got the job. I hated that job, though. As it turned out, I got fired for giving a CBGB t-shirt to one of the Butthole Surfers!!
Haha! Manhattan certainly was an amazing place. While it is easy to be nostalgic, it’s also important to remember that the very same atmosphere unfortunately took a whole lot of amazing people. Its rare—and wonderful—to meet someone who went through it all, and made it through.
So many friends died. I feel like I’m 95 years old, sometimes. I’m really 62, but it’s strange and sad to feel like one of the last survivor of the Titanic or something.
Thanks for the chat Philippe. Your book is a smashing read and I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone with even the slightest interest in the punk scene in NYC pick it up, like NOW.
Thanks Jeff. If the readers don’t know already, it’s called Punk Avenue (Inside the New York City Underground 1972-1982). It came out this May, from Three Rooms Press.