Factory fresh: 5 acts processed by Warhol’s machine

Portrait of Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol, November 1975.

Most fans with even a passing knowledge of The Velvet Underground know about its close connection with Andy Warhol. The band coalesced as part of the retinue of performers and personalities (a k a “superstars”) connected to the Pop legend’s Factory studio on East 47th Street.

You’ve heard the story: Warhol introduced Nico to the VU’s front line, exposed them to New York’s intelligentsia at his “Plastic Exploding Inevitable” events, and enabled the production of its first album. Peel slowly and see!

Despite all the amputations, Warhol and his Factory remained touchstones for the band and its members after their partnership ended. From the characters in Lou Reed‘s “Walk on the Wild Side” to Reed’s and John Cale‘s reunion homage to their late mentor (Songs for Drella), the Factory is a cornerstone of the Velvet edifice.

But those were different times: After the Velvet Underground’s salad days, other participants in Warhol’s entourage would stake their own claims to rock-‘n’-roll history. Here are 5(-plus) acts whose Factory connections you should know about.

Continue reading “Factory fresh: 5 acts processed by Warhol’s machine”

The Fast and 5 bands: Flyers from the Paul Zone collection

Backstage photo of The Fast.
Joe Poliseno, Louis Bova, Miki Zone, and Paul Zone backstage in 1979.

With a performance history that stretched from 1973 to about 1984, The Fast were among the most enduring of the first wave of New York punk bands — seminal but largely overlooked by mainstream rock history.

The band, built on the efforts of brothers Mandy, Miki and Paul Zone, made a mark at locations like Max’s Kansas City and Coventry and arrived early to the party at CBGB, playing with bands such as The RamonesBlondie, The New York DollsJohnny Thunders‘ Heartbreakers, Suicide and The Misfits. The Fast is also a testimonial to the LGBT roots of New York’s musical underground in the 1970s, playing an assortment of gay clubs in the city and beyond and eventually trading the Fast name for Man 2 Man.

As Gus Bernadicou writes in Punk Globe, “Paul Zone, with his brothers, created a brand of power pop and dance music that is instantly recognizable and addicting, yet catchy.”

Continue reading “The Fast and 5 bands: Flyers from the Paul Zone collection”

Never mind 2016: Here are 5 New Year’s gigs you should know about

"Sgt. Pepper's" style collage of 2016 deaths
2016 homage by Chris Barker.

Those of us who admire music-makers of renown shared many hard losses over the past year. And many us who treasure our own music scenes have lost local heroes as well.

Time passes, and young lions grow older — since their mortality reminds us of our own, and the music they made reminds us of our receding youth, it’s always personal. And for those of us of a certain age, 2016 seemed way too close for comfort.

But we’ll always have the music. On the eve of a year I hope will bring more good news than bad, I thought we’d take a quick tour of five shows from New Years past (and revisit some 2016 highlights from FiveBands): Continue reading “Never mind 2016: Here are 5 New Year’s gigs you should know about”

I was a teenage Street Punk: Peter Rossi, NY’s glitter-punk underground and 5 bands you should know about

Peter Rossi in hat.
Peter Rossi.

Peter Rossi is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker — but in the early ‘70s, under the name Peter Ashley, he played guitar in Street Punk, one of the forgotten stalwarts of the New York music scene that rose alongside the New York Dolls and presaged the Ramones.

Now Rossi is combining his professional passions with a film project aimed at documenting and celebrating the bands, street artists and poets of New York’s protopunk scene. (The working title is You’re In or You’re Out/Urine or UR Out.) Rossi describes the style — which is in pre-production through his company Tantamount Productions — as “cinéma vérité meets ‘The Last Waltz,’ and he’s networking with his contemporaries and other fans to raise the money to bring the project to a screen near you. (As actor and veteran New York musician Fenton Lawless remarked in a Facebook discussion, the project is “what Vinyl promised but failed sooo miserably. … It needed a Peter Rossi.”)

While many bands that powered the scene have expressed excitement about gathering for a live event 40 years later, Rossi emphasizes that he’s not looking to document a reunion that simply retreads the participants’ back catalogs. “This is about catching up with the artists who still have the fire in their souls,” he says.

Rossi is rallying some of the top acts of the era to top the bill again and demonstrate the chemistry that made New York a catalyst for a new generation of music.

In addition the chart-toppers, the event will provide an opportunity to hear other, worthy bands that played Coventry, Mercer Arts Center and Max’s Kansas City, including the Magic Tramps, the Harlots of 42nd Street and Teenage Lust (all of whom we’ve profiled here).

And the list goes on. Without further ado, here are five more bands that were essential to Peter Rossi’s scene:  Continue reading “I was a teenage Street Punk: Peter Rossi, NY’s glitter-punk underground and 5 bands you should know about”

Between KISS and the Ramones: Coventry and 5 bands you should know about

Exuma5L
“Exuma, the Obeah Man.”

The Ramones all originated from Forest Hills [Queens,] and kids who grew up there either became musicians, degenerates or dentists,” Tommy Ramone wrote in an early press release. “The Ramones are a little of each. Their sound is not unlike a fast drill on a rear molar.”

Sure, Queens has never had the cachet of Manhattan or Brooklyn, but the borough’s role in promoting New York musicians shouldn’t be overlooked. Consider Coventry in Sunnyside, Queens: The erstwhile Popcorn Pub changed its name at the end of January 1973 — the same weekend it hosted KISS’ first-ever gigs — and went on to feature an eclectic assortment of musical acts.

“It was a big club, around 5,000 square feet, and it held around 700 people,” recalled owner Paul Sub in Ken Sharp’s Dressed to Kill. “Everyone from KISS, The New York Dolls, The Ramones, Blondie, Sam & Dave, The Dictators, and Elephant’s Memory played there. I’d put on 10 acts a week, both local and national. The only act we turned down, because we didn’t want to spend $300, was Aerosmith (laughs). The New York Dolls were really the ones that kept Coventry going. They played once a month, and whenever they played, 700 people would show up. They had the main following of all the bands who played there.”

According to Dictators bassist Andy Shernoff, “The Coventry was one of the glitter-rock places in New York, and if you were doing original music, that was the ONLY place to play. If you were a cover band, you could play anywhere; that’s what people wanted to see.”

Many of the up-and-coming local acts to visit Coventry are now more closely associated with Manhattan clubs like Max’s Kansas City; the Mercer Arts Center; and CBGB, which would open later that year. (Before he switched noms de punk, Joey Ramone played at Coventry often as “Jeff Starship” with his first band, Sniper.) Others aren’t so well remembered, but they’re worth more than a casual listen. Here are five bands that played Coventry and you should know about:  Continue reading “Between KISS and the Ramones: Coventry and 5 bands you should know about”