If it’s one thing you can be sure of in NYC, it’s change. News came recently from Ms. Miriam Linna that the Norton Record Store in Prospect Heights will be moving to another location. You can read her announcement here. In the meantime, if you have never been to the store, what are you waiting for?? Pick up some wax and run into some colorful characters. This certainly is not your average record store!
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.
The New York punk scene has long roots. There’s the stuff everyone knows about like CBs, the Ramones, Blondie, Television…etc., etc. Then are the things that totally fly under the radar for all except a lucky few. The Senders were one of those things. Living, loving, and performing alongside all the hottest bands of the time, one could not have been faulted for missing them. That is, until you met lead singer Philippe Marcade or saw his group play.
Thankfully, Philippe recently released a fascinating and amusing book chronicling his early punk years called Punk Avenue. Amongst the really hairy tales (that you really have to read to believe) Philippe narrates with an equal amount of tenderness and sincere affection for the characters in his past. Part chronicle, part confessional, the book radiates the sort of warmth and good humor that Phil was always known for.
This was very evident at the book release party at Poisson Rouge in downtown Manhattan on May 2nd. It seemed as if every friend Phil ever had was in attendance, as well as many others whose lives also centered around the punk scene in the late 70s.
The evening started with a small discussion moderated by Legs McNeil that discussed Phillipe’s music career and touched on a few amusing recollections. But the main draw was the musical lineup. Starting off with Brooklyn’s Daddy Long Legs, the night continued with The Waldos with guests like Andy Shernoff, Dee Pop, Danny Ray, J-F Vergel, and Shige Matsumoto. Closing was of course Philipe doing the “Sender thing” with The Rousers backing him up. When Philippe came onstage toting a bagful of colorful party streamers to hand out, it was obvious this show, was going to be a memorable one. Aided by guests like Lenny Kaye and The Willys’ Lynne Von, it did not disappoint.
The Senders left a small footprint on the NYC garage scene as well. When they reformed for their second run in the late 80’s, their hard-driving R&B rock was naturally noticed by New York’s garage rock aficionados. The Monday residency at the then-new Continental Divide quickly became the place to be on a Monday night. Not only did they host an amazing assortment of supporting acts such as the aforementioned Waldos, but veteran scene bands like The Headless Horsemen and the Raunch Hands also made appearances.
I wholeheartedly encourage anyone interested in NY’s punk scene to pick up Philippe’s book. It deservedly belongs next to your copy of Please Kill Me and New York Rock. Keep tuned to this space, interview coming up!
This is my first post in a long while here. There is a reason for that. A little over six months ago we lost a huge part of what I believe made the New York music scene as special as it was to many of us. And to be quite honest, celebrating this time and period in the mid-80s garage scene is quite hard without paying some sort of homage to this man.
On November 13, 2016 we lost record collector, fan, and musician Billy Miller. Billy took his pure love of rock n’ roll and created a world in which he and many, many, others could live in and enjoy. Starting very humbly with just a fanzine and an unending passion, he forged a path produced by his own fevered vision of a world where unsung musicians were lauded and rewarded with long-overdue praise.
So while it was well known amongst his closest friends that he was battling cancer, it was nevertheless a shock that to hear of his sudden passing. Since then, many many writers much more eloquent than myself have shared their views of his passing. All touching on some part of his life that made his very presence a pleasure to thousands around the world. From the New York Times obit, to Billboard magazine all the way to Lindsay Hogg’s impassioned blog post on his Next Big Things website. Its all covered.
So what could I add? Not much really. Just preaching to the choir at this point. Nevertheless, I am sure I feel the same hollow feeling inside that others do when they think about Billy. A feeling that cannot begin to match the one felt by his loving partner Miriam Linna. Loss is never easy. In fact, while the garage scene tends to focus on some aspect of loss…it is only because we never really understand it. Its a deep, shared, experience that humanizes all of us. Billy knew this. In fact, I am sure, somewhere, Billy is looking down and hoping we start a band…cause thats just the kind of guy he was. RIP good sir.
As a kid growing up in Briarwood, a neighborhood in the borough of Queens, I never really felt that I was a “New Yorker”. Despite being within the geographical confines of NYC, it seemed like another world. When compared to the mythical OZ across the river, all we really had to mark ourselves as New Yorkers were The Mets and the ’39 and ’64 Worlds Fairs. Any excursion to Manhattan was even labelled as a trek to the “city”. So, with this mindset, my pals and I would often take a 30 minute walk to Forest Hills to satisfy our young wanderlust. It was one of the few places in our world where you could hang inside a record store, see a movie, and grab some fast food (a rarity at the time!). Little did we realize that merely a few blocks away, four guys were cooking up something that was to change…well, everything.
It was only as an adult that I began to grasp how inconceivable it was that everything that I held dear about music, came to existence a few subway stops away—in Queens yet! So, I couldn’t have been more pleased this past summer to see that the ultimate garage punk band, The Ramones, were honored by an exhibition at the Queens Museum. As I told a few people, the exhibit served as a way to not just honor the band but also honor the spirit of the fans, the borough and even New York City. It was wildly satisfying on so many different levels. Even if it did oddly make me feel like a living fossil.
When it was announced that The Ramones would have a street naming ceremony in Forest Hills on October 30, I knew there was no way that I could miss this. Actually, I had also attended the dedication of Joey Ramone Place near CBGBs way back in 2003. But this ceremony seemed much more personal in a lot of ways. For one, it was finally on home turf.
Bracing for a crowd that I thought would rival the Manhattan ceremony, I was surprised to see only about 100 mostly older die-hard fans milling about the front of Forest Hills High School. Maybe it was the time. 11AM on a Sunday morning did not endear itself to anyone even remotely used to sleeping in on the weekend. Nevertheless, spirits were high as fans happily chatted while Ramones tunes played in the background.
The ceremony started off with the usual speeches from the assembled politicos and school executives. Each (oddly) describing their personal Ramones memories. But the real treat was hearing from a select group of people closely associated with the group. Tour Manager Monty Melnick, Band Manager Danny Fields, Joey’s brother Mickey Leigh, ex-Cramps drummer Miriam Linna, and even The Damned’s Capt. Sensible all shared an anecdote or two, but also spoke about how deeply the band mattered to them. You couldn’t have thought of a nicer way to close off the first part of the ceremony. After the speeches, the street sign was summarily unveiled. And, while it was nice to see, I couldn’t help but feel it was almost anti-climactic. Just having the band acknowledged and held dear by so many was the real kicker. Gabba gabba we accept you one of us.
Vinyl Junkie Alert: Miriam Linna, who along with Billy Miller own the outstanding imprint Norton Records, recently released a piece of Ramones history that collectors would find well worth their time seeking out. As part of Norton’s offering for Record Store Day this year Norton pressed up a limited run of 100 7″ copies of The Ramones 1975 demo for Judy is A Punk on clear blue vinyl. And as if to make the single even more interesting, the cover image is a rare shot of the boys actually smiling. Obsessives take note!
While we’re on the subject of New Jersey garage/mod bands of the 80s, you really cannot forget the Phantom Five. While they never got to play the Dive, the group did play many of the most well-known venues of the time like Tramps, CBGB, and McCarthys/The Strip. In fact, they even ventured as far out as Bethlehem, PA and Nyack!
Started in 1985, by the brothers Grogan, Larry(D), Vince(B) and Chris (G) soon joined forces with pal Bill Luther and recorded a fantastic EP titled Great Jones Street in late summer 1986. Put out and produced by Mod Fun‘s Mick London (in an actual garage no less!) the EP showcased the bands great knack for catchy garage punkers. The Five were also unique in that while many groups strived for a calculated image, these guys were more than content to just let the music speak for itself. They were the very epitome of an actual mid-60s garage punk band. In 1987, John ‘Bluesman’ Rahmer replaced Bill Luther.
Tunes were recorded for a second EP that was to have been released on Stepford Husbands’ Dave Amels label, Cryptovision in 1987. Unfortunately, plans fell though and the EP never came out. The band soon called it quits with the various members moving on to other projects. Chris formed the Grievous Angels, Vince joined Gigantic, Bill the Tea Party (pre-Insomniacs) and Larry returned to doing zines.
These days Larry remains a fan of music, moving into collecting and DJing as well as tending to his fantastic soul and pop culture blogs. Former member Bill Luther also a collector and DJ, maintains his own 60s related music blog as well. —Many thanks to Larry Grogan for invaluable info.
When it comes to discussing the Mod scene in NY/NJ, during the 80s a couple of choice names always seem to come up—Mod Fun and The Secret Service. While those two ensembles certainly lived up to the intense buzz they created, no one back then would have guessed that three of their fans from across the Hudson would form their own group and end up surpassing their idols.
The Insomniacs originally consisted of the brothers Robert and David Wojciechowski who, along with their pal Mike Sinnochi, formed the core of the group for many years. As long time denizens of the Dive, all three were all well aware of and active participants in the mod and garage scenes. Soon after the demise of the brothers’ previous band, The Tea Party, Dave, Bob and Mike began performing newly written material under the name The Insomniacs.
Almost immediately they built up a strong following in the NY/NJ area. That, coupled with the bands incendiary live performances were enough to catch the attention of Estrus records honcho Dave Crider, who signed them to his label in 1994. This 45 produced in 1991 however, is the first single they put out. It showcases the bands strong, hard-edged, 60s flavored pop songs that would garner them acclaim not just here, but overseas as well. Sharp fans will notice that this 45 version is markedly different from the version that wound up on 1994’s CD collection Wake Up! As Dave said “The Estrus version was a totally new recording for the “ghoul” ten inch. It’s much faster as by then we were playing all the time and that’s how we did it live.”
Advance apologies for the snap, crackle, and pop. My copy somehow amazingly managed to survive not only being stepped on, but also having cheap beer spilled on it! A testament to the raucous record release atmosphere at McCarthys Bar that night.
The band still performs occasionally, with new drummer Joel replacing Mike Sinnochi who retired from performing.
I hate to say it, but there are few people I really look up to in terms of graphic design. And, it’s definitely not because of the lack of talent out there. While I was able to carve out a career in publishing in spite of myself, what truly makes my wheels spin is an entirely different beast. One that is entirely at odds to what is generally perceived to be the typical design aesthetic.
Looking back, I guess coming of age during the 60s and 70s nailed directly in front of a B&W television didn’t help. As Joey Ramone said “It’s TV’s fault I am this way”. The tube shaped not just my design appreciation but also my cultural tastes. One that fit perfectly into what was to soon become the 80s punk side of me. From that point on there was no looking back.
It was during these years of discovery that I started running across designer Art Chantry’s work. I couldn’t believe that not only did someone actually think the same way I did, but was able to make a career celebrating lo-fi vernacular art. Suddenly I didn’t feel quite so out if place digging for discarded 50s clipart in my publishing companies trash pile.
As the years went on and Art’s work started becoming more and more well-known outside punk circles, I began to feel like the guy who saw the Stones when they played at the Crawdaddy. Imitators started piling on and pretty soon you couldn’t sneeze without running into some company milking the “nostalgia” bandwagon. Nevertheless, Art kept on doing what he did—like no one else.
Interviews and exhibitions furthered my admiration and respect for the man. It also emboldened me to know that yes, you could do what you are passionate about and be successful. Its a simple thing that pretty often we all lose sight of. Especially in a culture that values self-promotion and loudness over substance.
Thanks Art. I still have my clipart…
Being NYC, many smaller bands from outside the area always made it a point to make the city a stopover. One of those bands, The Mockers, came all the way from Virginia Beach, VA. Details of how I found out about their NYC gig is still a bit hazy…but with a name like The Mockers, any 60s music fan worth his salt would be curious. There was no question where I would be that sunny weekend afternoon in 1987—NYU’s old Loeb student union.
At this point the group was only a few years old and, like most bands at that point in their career, they were hungry to win over the audience. True to form they delivered a perfect 60s-flavored pop set that even made converts of people who just happened to wander into the performance area by accident. After the show ended I went over to head Mocker Seth Gordon and complimented him on a wonderful set. Seth sincerely thanked me and did something that used to be a lot more common among bands and fans. He handed me a demo tape in appreciation.
The 1987 demo version of Outdoor Cafe (which was to eventually make its way to 1995s Somewhere Between Mocksville and Harmony LP) is minimally produced and shows the band as close to live as you can get. Truly a gem of a song, and performance.
Nowadays The Mockers are in the midst of an extended hiatus. However, over the years they did go on to have a long and fruitful career overseas. Big in Japan indeed.
If this site had a patron saint, it would have to be The Vipers. For the short period that they existed, they not only laid the ground work for the scene but also inspired innumerable others to take up the cause. To this day, even garage music fans in Japan know about them. So, to know that the first LP was never properly reissued was truly a crime. One that ex-Viper Paul Martin was happy to take on.
Now the fruits of his labor of love are available for anyone to purchase. How good is this album? To quote Mike Stax in Ugly Things fanzine “The Vipers set themselves apart with superior songwriting chops and a melodic, harmony-based sound that was closer to the Knickerbockers and the Turtles than the Seeds or the Music Machine. While other bands got by on attitude and bluster, the Vipers used finesse, a quality that served them particularly well on Outta the Nest!”
While the disc does not have any extra tracks, the sound was remastered from a pristine original pressing and pressed on heavy vinyl. To say the sound jumps out at you is putting it mildly. Its an amazing job considering the material. A 24″ x 36″ poster rounds out the package.
Garage music die-hards can do themselves a favor and pick up the vinyl straight from the source. Rocka-Rola Records 101A Clay Street, San Francisco, CA 94111. $25 (US & Canada). Paypal devotees & inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org!