Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Broadway Looked So Medieval

1977, New York City. The center of the universe is in fear, nervous, anxious, yet blissfully awaiting the new world, the new decade. Son of Sam was on his killing spree, the election for mayor has reached a tipping point, the blackout caused uproar and violence. Music saved them. Disco, hip hop, and, maybe most importantly, punk saved New York City.

The Ramones were busy, only three years into their twenty-two-year world tour, just releasing their third, and maybe greatest, most beloved album, Rocket to Russia. The Talking Heads released their influential debut Talking Heads: '77. CBGBs was the hippest place to be on the Lower East Side. CBGBs was where rebellion came alive, where poets, artists, and musicians fame together in the 70s. CBGBs was an underground version of Max's Kansas City, made famous by the godfathers of it all, the Warhol Superstars.

I first learned of the 1970s punks at eight, I think. I fell hard in love with them at eleven. Legs McNeil and Lester Bangs were my soul brothers in writing. I tried so fucking hard to write like them. My teacher asked me what I wanted to do in twenty years I said, "Resurrect Punk magazine." I got my first motorcycle jacket (yes, there are multiple motorcycle jackets) in sixth grade. I wore my hair like Patti Smith, I made a t-shirt with a target on it saying "Please Kill Me," in honor of the Richards: Richard Lloyd and Richard Hell, who is the mastermind behind the death-defying life changing song "Blank Generation."

Punk just suited me at the time. I was a moody little twelve-year-old that just hit my menarche. I liked things loud, fast, and hard. I still do, but then it was so new to me, I sort of bowed down to my record player every time I played The Voidoids, every time I played Television, every time I played Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Punk, no-wave was so new to me. It was pure anger, aggression. It was pure love. Between the heavy riffs and angry lyrics, I felt the musician's love for what he or she was doing. When I first heard Tom Verlaine force out the phrase "prove it" I felt his love. When David Byrne was singing "Psycho Killer" I knew he was passionate about his music. I knew Tina Weymouth was passionate. I knew Chris Stein was passionate. They all were. They needed something new. Pop was so boring, so dull. They all ready heard all of the Rolling Stones albums over and over again. It was their turn to create music, to break the mold.

I don't know. I guess I just liked the tall skinny guys with long hair playing guitar and singing about sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. But I think I knew the meanings even with my young, naive age. I knew their anger. I felt their anger everyday. I went to a suppressive Catholic school. Jesus was constantly forced down my throat. I took "What Would Jesus Do?" and changed it into "What Would Richard (Hell) Do?" Which would be drugs and blowing everything off. So I took the initiative and went with "What Would Tom Do?" That was better. It was more mellow, more suitable for a girl in sixth grade.

Punk was the reasoning behind everything I did. When I wrote, I wrote for Lester, for Legs. When I flirted with boys, I'd act like Patti Smith. When I acted up, which was more often than not, it was a subconscious way of acting like Richard Lloyd and Dee Dee Ramone. I was a total punker. Then I went to Ireland, and I met a very nice, shy violinist and he reminded me of the Velvet Underground. John Cale was his idol, though John was a viola playes. I stored my motorcycle jackets for a rainy day and got myself a double-breasted black pea coat. Black turtlenecks replaced my Circle Jerks t-shirt. Crisp black pants were the new tight ripped jeans. Polished black riding boots replaced my Dr. Martins. The black pea coat became the replacement for my signature piece, my style staple, my time machine, my security blanket, my motorcycle jacket.

John Cale became my new Tom Verlaine. Nico was my new Lydia Lunch. Edie Sedgwick was the new Debbie Harry. Lou Reed was the new Richard Hell. Andy Warhol was the new Hilly Crystal. I left the Ramones with a sincere farewell, and moved into the Factory, where speed was the drug of choice, and heroin was just a musician thing. With becoming an obsesser of the Factory, superficiality was respected, was encouraged. I tried not to remember no-wave, and the beliefs around that. I wanted to be Andy. I wanted to be Nico. I wanted to be the Superstar.

I feel somewhat wistful over the punks, how they've comforted me, how I've learned to color outside the lines from them. Warhol seems so unobtainable. Punk was my first. New York City was my heartbeat for years, and still is. But Manhattan was never in the question until I met the guy from Ireland, it was always Queens. Life was Connie Ramone throwing TVs off of rooftops trying to hit Dee Dee. Chaos kept me going. It still does. Now I've balanced my love for punk and silver. I wear the pea coats only in winter, I wear the motorcycle jackets every other season. I have become recognized from my motorcycle jacket around town. My boyfriend told me that a year before we started dating he knew me because of the motorcycle jacket and ratty black Converse high tops. There's this old dude that chatted me up because of my motorcycle jacket. He's a funny little acquaintance that I always talk to when we bump into each other. The motorcycle jacket with the 1960s style make up became what people recognized me for. They still recognize me for it. Punk with the sprayed-on silver lining is my identity. It will never change.

Triangles were fallin at the window as the doctor cursed
He was a cartoon long forsaken by the public eye
The doctor grabbed my throat and yelled "God's constellation prize!"
-- Richard Hell "Blank Generation"

1 comment:

Hey, comment please!
I enjoy praise, everyone does.
So comment. Or else. :]