‘New York, New Music’ and Old ‘80s Stories from those Who Lived It
We recently wrote about the new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, “New York, New Music: 1980-1986.” Filled with videos, photographs, and memorabilia, the show documents the period’s cross-pollination of the diverse musical genres exploding at the time.
We decided to talk to some of the people who were part of the incredibly vibrant scene, and it was no surprise that we wound up getting a lot of great stories. Here they are, in no particular order:
Tish and Snooky, owners of Manic Panic, and authors of Manic Panic Living in Color: A Rebellious Guide to Hair Color and Life (narrated by Snooky):
By 1980, more and more bands and celebs came to hang out or shop at Manic Panic by day, and then go to CBGB at night, since we were within walking distance. One sweltering summer day, a limo pulled up outside and a glamorous babe dressed to kill got out. We had no AC, and it was so hot I didn’t even bother getting up to help her when she came in. I couldn’t believe anyone would be so dressed up to go shopping on St. Mark’s Place on a day like that.
When she asked about one of Tish’s one-of-a-kind handmade dresses on the mannequin, I jumped to attention. It was the unmistakable voice of Cher! It was during her Black Rose period. She bought the dress, a “Sic F*cks” tee shirt (that was our band at the time!) and some Manic Panic makeup.
We usually didn’t accept checks, but in her case, I made an exception. It said “Cher”- no last name – just Cher!
Pat Ivers, co-creator of the GoNightclubbing archive:
When we created the Video Lounge at Danceteria in 1980, we were so lucky to shoot truly groundbreaking bands as Bush Tetras, 3 Teens Kill 4, and the Raybeats. The sets were 1am, 3am and 5am and the energy was so intense – it wasn’t hard to stay up all night!
Bob Bert, drummer, Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore, Lydia Lunch Retrovirus, and others; author of “I’m Just the Drummer”:
The Speed Trials was a five-day music and performance festival that was held at the White Columns Gallery on Spring Street in NYC from May 4 – 8, 1983. There was an album released on Homestead Records (I believe this is part of the exhibit). Some of the bands featured on the album recorded at the festival were Sonic Youth, Live Skull, Swans, The Fall, Beastie Boys & Lydia Lunch.
I joined Sonic Youth in 1982 and for a few months I was replaced by Jim Sclavunos (Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, 8 Eyed Spy, Cramps. Currently in Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds). I re-joined Sonic Youth and my first show back in the band was at Speed Trials.
I’ll never forget the afternoon that we were sound checking, The Beastie Boys, who were still teenagers and more of a hardcore band, came in with a whole posse of friends armed with a TV set. They plugged it in and watched “All In the Family,” while joking amongst themselves about the other bands being arty.
Michael Alex, producer, MTV News:
The giant video screen at The Ritz, which played early music videos, strange animations, movie clips, etc, was a physical manifestation of what was coming: music with pictures. The music of that time blew the dust of the ‘70s away with new sounds, new energy.
I was a guest DJ at Queens College’s radio station one day. The main DJ picked up an unopened copy of the first B-52’s album. We decided to play it without having any idea what was about to happen. That was the exact moment when the ‘80s began for me.
Janette Beckman, photographer:
In 1984 I was asked to photograph a “new” group called Run DMC for The Face magazine. I went to Hollis [Queens] and met them on the street where they lived [where] I took photos of them hanging out with their friends. The photograph in the show captures a moment in time and has become iconic. [The group’s] style – Adidas, Kangol, and Cazal – and [their] attitude, spoke to hip hop culture at that moment.
Keith Elliot Greenberg, journalist and author:
I interviewed Run DMC for a freelance article in the Houston Post around 1985. I met them in their accountant’s office in Manhattan, and the accountant had Beatles memorabilia, which greatly excited the members of Run DMC, because they loved rock and roll, which is why they mixed rock and roll into their songs.
Since I also lived in Queens, I offered them a ride home in my car. At one point, I was taking notes in the passenger seat while Joseph “Run” Simmons was driving. The interview was going really well, and when we got to Queens Boulevard, they said, “we’re going to give you a big surprise.” They instructed me to pull up to a White Castle and go inside without them. When Run DMC entered, I stood there as the place went absolutely ballistic – out of their minds.
Later that night, I was driving around alone. On Hillside Avenue, I heard a car honk, and it was Darryl “DMC“ McDaniels, waving.