Someone gave me this great new book called No Wave Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980 by Thurston Moore and Byron Coley. The first thing I had to ask myself as I plunged into this book was why oh why did I not just move to New York back then. This particular era and anti-genre held the artiest noise ever made. Even Brian Eno says so.
Well, I do recall my first visit to New York in 1975 – a real shocker and every bit like Taxi Driver, which on film looks great but isn’t exactly easygoing in the flesh. And you do feel like nothing but vulnerable flesh when you land at 18, clearly some goof from elsewhere. Even though I had just spent four months in Europe, the visual violence of New York was unnerving. At least no one, even the police, had guns in London.
The book is sewn together as oral history from the likes of Lydia Lunch, Arto Lindsay, James Chance and the rest of No Wave, with a few wise words from Eno. As you can imagine, he’s the cool and removed observer while Lydia Lunch is the impassioned instigator.
Here’s an interview in which she’s asked: People say you’re a bitch. Are you? To create what came out of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, could there be any other way? This is not about walks on the beach. You’ve got to joyously hate so much to make what she made.
What I am most nostalgic for is not the art or music per se. It’s that land of possibility found in the rubble, something which exists mostly within our imaginations and will. New York was abandoned, often a shell. “Tribeca, before it was Tribeca,” as it is recalled here, had buildings of no heat and no electricity, there for the taking, a place to make noise – not even really Rock or Jazz or “New Music” but something else. Without heat in the winter, these artists stayed in the bars all night until they had to leave. All of those places are the homes of hedge-funders now.
There was still a bit of that spirit when I moved to NYC in the 80s. The squalor I do not miss, but this thing called possibility I miss very much. You have to work at it as you get older and try your best to not get settled into patterns and expectations.
Someone on boingboing commented that so many of these books of this time are oral histories. I think this is because a lot of it didn’t get written about in any official way at that time. The people who are telling the story are the ones who know about it; they are the experts. It came and went very quickly. Someone else made the comment that Post-Punk seems to be happening earlier and earlier. Again, I think that goes back to the same lack of an official record. The whole thing was fairly extreme and often dismissed. Journalists were just catching on to Punk when this tide just came and went. We tend to think cool things are always recognizable to the savvy but that’s not true. Here's an excerpt.