According to numerous accounts, New York in the late 70s-early 80s was one of the least safest places in the world. Gang wars and general sense of danger threatened to tear the city apart, yet those same horrible circumstances also led to fantastically low prices on lofts/apartments, which allowed artists to move into the city.
It was during the late 70s that the atmosphere allowed few separate crowd and genres to mix and co-exist – the stories of Hilly Crystal club CBGB/OMFUG and Studio 54 are well-documented, but then there’s also no wave. a bastard child of Ramones, dirty New York streets and Suicide. It came out of nowhere, it went nowhere, it was powerful and destructive and it was something that will never happen again.
In the late 70s, renowned producer Brian Eno (Roxy Music, 801) moved to New York and out of his desire to document the burgeoning musical scene, he created a compilation called “No New York”, which included 2 cuts by 4 bands that, in his opinion, represented the scene/movement the best – Contortions, Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, Mars and DNA.
Unlike the original Eno compilation, “No Wave” offers a complete picture of short-lived but incredibly vital/volatile / powerful movement. The book includes more than 150 great black and white photos of members of New York music/art community, as well as interviews with the likes of China Burg (Mars), Lydia Lunch (8 Eyed Spy, Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, Beirut Slump), Arto Lindsay (DNA, Lounge Lizards, Golden Palominos, Locus Solus) and Robin Crutchfield (Dark Day, DNA), among many others.
Further Reading / Links:
Amazon | BoingBoing | Litmob – Interview with Thurston Moore | PrefixMag Review | This Recording
Goodbye 20th Century
Written by David Browne (“Dream Brother: The Lives And Music Of Jeff And Tim Buckley”), “Goodbye 20th Century” is a story of Sonic Youth and all the trials and tribulations that they went together – from being mistreated by Neil Young fans/road crew to their struggles with being accepted in the post-grunge world to band members being witnesses to 9/11.
More importantly, it is also the story of a band that was able to overcome those problems, stay together and do things their own way.
Goodbye 20th Century is an even-keeled biography about a band that has struggled for nearly 30 years to balance artistic ambition with financial success. Sonic Youth always maintained artistic freedom and somehow managed to do it on major record labels without selling any records. Any other band would be dropped after the second album didn’t meet the sales goals. Sonic Youth survived on its credibility. Its presence on the label added a hip quality that other acts could latch onto. The term indie cred may have been invented for Sonic Youth.
Many of the acts that came up under Sonic Youth went on to big financial success. That lack of commercial success is something the band members half-joke about, but it seems to be the one thing they could never make happen.
Browne does a commendable job unearthing the various personalities within the band as well as the characters outside of the band. He also does not rely on digging up the dirt – there is no dirt to be dug. That is a refreshing change from the flood of rock tell-alls that drop all the dirty bits to help push units.