An Acoustic History of Punk Rock Sheds Light on NYC’s Lower East Side (NSFW)

With elec­tric­i­ty just restored to low­er Man­hat­tan and sub­ways still sig­nif­i­cant­ly dis­abled six days after Hur­ri­cane Sandy, it seems a fit­ting time for an unplugged His­to­ry of Punk Rock and Its Devel­op­ment on the Low­er East Side, 1950 to 1975.

This neigh­bor­hood salute comes cour­tesy of anti-folk hero/comic book writer Jef­frey Lewis, who was­n’t born until late in the peri­od he describes, but he’s got tons of street cred, hav­ing grown up with­out a TV in one of the very build­ings whose dark­ened stair­wells have dom­i­nat­ed recent head­lines. The clip was orig­i­nal­ly avail­able as a mini cd, pack­aged with FUFF #1, one of Lewis’ com­ic books. Here, he deliv­ers the goods in one cat­er­waul­ing, NSFW, eight-minute take, accom­pa­ny­ing him­self on a stick­er cov­ered acoustic gui­tar. The break­neck, charm­ing­ly off-key primer name checks every­one from The Holy Modal Rounders and the Fugs to Pat­ti Smith and Richard Hell, with son­ic exam­ples of their work crammed between instruc­tive rhyming recita­tive.

To whit:

In ’71, Lester Bangs first writes the word ‘punk’
to describe ’60s enthu­si­as­tic teenage rock junk
’72, Lenny Kaye puts out the ’60s Garage comp. ‘Nuggets’
and coins the phrase ‘punk-rock’ in the lin­er notes of it
Though punk-rock would soon come to mean some­thing dif­fer­ent
from what Lester and Lenny thunk
(They meant raw 60s punk songs)

Even if you’re still pissed about that John Var­vatos bou­tique open­ing in the build­ing that once housed CBG­Bs, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to help New York­ers clob­bered by Hur­ri­cane Sandy. Espe­cial­ly if Lewis’ trib­ute has expand­ed your men­tal pic­ture of who an elder­ly per­son on today’s Low­er East Side might be.

Those with the pow­er to do so can down­load FUFF #1 in dig­i­tal form, and lis­ten to the His­to­ry of Punk Rock on the Low­er East Side via leg­endary New Jer­sey radio sta­tion WFMU.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of CBGB, the Ear­ly Home of Punk and New Wave

The Clash: West­way to the World

The Talk­ing Heads Play CBGB, the New York Club that Shaped Their Sound (1975)

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the author of the Zinester’s Guide to NYC.

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