In the summer of 1975, Pat Evers filmed a famous festival of unsigned rock bands at CBGB, which included Talking Heads, Blondie and the Ramones. Ivers had unauthorized but easy access to the equipment, thanks to her day job in the public access department. manhattan cable tv, and other members of its video collective, Metropolis Video, helped.
“I was the only girl,” Ivers said in a recent interview. “And everyone said, ‘You’re crazy. We’re not making money on this.’ They wouldn’t do it anymore, so for about a year, I was sad at the end of the bar at CBGB. Then I met Emily.”
Emily Armstrong was the head of sociology at the City University of New York, who also held a job in public access at the Manhattan Cable, and shared with Ivers determination and a love of punk rock. The pair shot dozens of concerts, and hosted a weekly cable show, “Nightclubbing”, which featured their videos. Ivers said that the Hawking Ikegami camera he used “like a Buick on my shoulder”. They would shoot the band almost until sunrise, go back to Manhattan Cable’s offices and return the equipment before anyone left.
Sean Corcoran, curator of prints and photographs at the Museum of New York City, graduated from college in 1996 and was in kindergarten when Ivers and Armstrong were assembling their collection. But he is fascinated by the flowering of new music that began in New York in the late ’70s. When a colleague proposed an exhibition to mark the 40th anniversary of MTV’s August 1, 1981 arrival, Corcoran set out to create a showcase for music that emerged in the wake of New York City’s 1975 near-bankruptcy, the subsequent economic crisis, and AIDS. swung at the opportunity. and pandemic crackdown.
When Corcoran started curating “New York, New Music: 1980-1986,” The one who opened Friday knew most of the photographers documenting the era, including Janet Beckman, Laura Levine, and Blondie’s avid guitarist Chris Stein. While exploring the copious downtown collection of NYU’s False Library, he noticed List of Ivers and Armstrong’s collections, which the library acquired in 2010, and was thrilled. The material from that pair, as well as footage from Merrill Aldighieri, and the team of Charles Libin and Paul Cameron provided Corcoran with a vast but rarely seen video catalog.
“New York, New Music” describes a variety of genres, including rap, jazz, salsa, and dance music, but the videos in the exhibit emphasize post-punk, the joyful, happily unprofessional cousin of the new wave of the moment. are brothers. . (s) The Indispensable Apple Advertising Campaign Delta 5’s edgy makes use of the 1979 song “Mind Your Own Business”, which was considered so uncommercial it was not even released as a single in the United States.) The sound of the era, Corcoran, played. Said, “Never mind getting the disco and punk.”
Thanks to the advent of portable (if Buick-sized) video cameras, these five canine videographers documented this fertile music, which was politically progressive and included race and gender. All were DIY self-starters, flush with Moxie, who made the best of borrowed tools and gothic lighting. Aldighieri also shot outside the Time & Life building with videotapes retrieved from dumpsters. It wasn’t until MTV spread across the country and turned the videos into flashy commercials for stardom, that the ghoulish, beauty of their pants was the dominant language of music videos.
Like Ivers and Armstrong, Libin and Cameron immerse themselves in the scene. The pair met as students in the film SUNY Purchase, bonded over their love of Wim Wenders and Martin Scorsese. In 1979, they went to the 62nd Street nightclub hooray in Manhattan, and shot a 16mm film featuring a colorful new band from Georgia, B-52, playing a jittery surf-rock song “Rock Lobster.” He edited it using university equipment, then showed it to hooray by projecting it on a white bedsheet. The music video was still a new idea, and “people got ballistic,” Cameron said.
The head of their film department went ballistic for different reasons, and expelled the two for using the equipment without permission. Freed from academic distractions, he moved to New York, bartending at Hurray and shooting dozens of the best bands of the era; He contributed videos to the jagged funk bands Defunct and James White and the Blacks at the museum show. After a few years, his video work enriched a career as a cinematographer, leaving no more time for late nights in clubs.
Filming this scene was stressful and sometimes risky. While working at an unlicensed club danceteria near Penn Station, Ivers and Armstrong were arrested along with other employees; A significant part of his collection was also stolen. “It made us bitter,” Ivers said. In April 1980, after shooting for Public Image Ltd, he ended “nightclubbing”.
“The scene we loved was over. A new scene was coming. I didn’t like Duran Duran,” Armstrong said. More than a dozen of his videos, including punk bands The Dead Boys and the Cramps, and Louch, the chaotic jazz-rock of the Lounge Lizards, is on display at the Museum of the City of New York.
Aldaghieri, a die-hard Massachusetts College of Art and Design grad who worked as a news camerawoman and an animator, was hired by Hurray to play the video between sets, and the house camera to shoot the band. was used. She filmed over 100 different bands there, some more than once: “I was there five to seven days a week,” she said. But in May 1981, Hurray closed, and subsequent late-night looting scared him into nightclub retirement. Aldighieri created a short-lived series of VHS video compilations for Sony Home Video, worked in production and postproduction, then moved to France. From his collection, curator Corcoran used four clips, featuring jazz avant-gardeist Sun Ra and South Bronx sister group ESG, to play minimal funk.
Footage from the five filmmakers makes up “the core of the video material” in “New York, New Music: 1980-1986,” Corcoran said. It’s just a happy coincidence that the show comes at a time when post-punk music is finally in the limelight.
The acerbic British band Gang of Four released a boxed set in March; Beth Bee’s documentary of No Wave Warrior Lydia Lunch opens this month in New York; And the Delta 5, which was frequently heard in Apple advertising, has been cited as an influence by emerging groups in the United Kingdom (Shopping), Boston (Guerrilla Toss) and Los Angeles (Automatic).
“It’s always surprising that there’s still resonance after 40 years,” Ross Allen, who played bass at Delta 5 and is now an animator and senior lecturer at the University of Sunderland in England, said in an email. “‘Mind Your Own Business’ has got a catchy beat and bass lines and a crackling guitar break, and then there’s ‘Go. [expletive] Your song.”
The Gang of Four drummer Hugo Burnham, now an assistant professor of experiential education at Endicott College in Massachusetts, said in an email, “A lot of interesting and enduring music was made during that post-punk/pre-New Romantic time. He continued, “And maybe our own kids are generous enough to click ‘Like’ and allow us to have relevance once again.”
During the 1980s, Corcoran noted, New York changed from an unregulated city to a hospitable city for artists, to a tightly polished city for stockbrokers, which brought the era to a close. Most of the footage he chose is rarely seen, and other important video documents from that era are frustratingly difficult or impossible to find.
Chris Struth, a musician and filmmaker who spent years researching videotapes of the M-80, staged a two-day musical marathon in Minneapolis in 1979. After he finally found it, he spent “four or five years,” he said, turning it into a feature-length documentary. At the last minute, the vocalist of an obscure local band refused to name the permission pulled to use the footage, which Struth described as “heartbreaking”.
Some filmmakers did not receive signed releases from the band, which limits their commercial use. Some found releases that have disappeared or did not anticipate the rise of digital media. In lieu of the contract, the video cannot be licensed without facing opportunistic lawyers and members of the Moody Band. “It’s hell,” Stroth said with a hurt chuckle. “Music licensing is hell.”
But it was not always so. Ivers was able to film almost every act since the late ’70s, except for Patti Smith and television, who refused permission. Thanks to Ivers and others, an obscure era of music was utterly memorable. “The show we saw – my god,” she said. “It was lightning in a bottle. It was only going to happen once.”