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