Iggy Pop Conducts a Tour of New York’s Lower East Side, Circa 1993

I moved to New York City in 2000, and to the Low­er East Side in 2002. To my dis­may, the grit­ty down­town New York I’d loved from afar since childhood—represented by films like The War­riors, bands like Son­ic Youth, and graf­fi­ti artists like Zephyr—was near­ly at an end. CBGB’s was stag­ger­ing toward its final years; local venue Brown­ies, right across the street, closed dur­ing my tenure, then re-opened as anoth­er bar, the live bands replaced by a juke­box; the few remain­ing artists from the old days holed up in their apart­ments, surly and for­got­ten; and rumors of Whole Foods and glass & steel con­dos proved true in the com­ing years. It was sad.

But oh, to be there in the 80s and ear­ly 90s, when flow­ers of dirty punk art grew from the nee­dle-strewn Tomp­kins Square Park and the decay­ing squat­ters par­adis­es along Avenue A. Of course I’m roman­ti­ciz­ing a time of high crime, pover­ty, and low expec­ta­tions, a time many native New York­ers do not remem­ber fond­ly (then again, it seems, just as many do). There are many, many doc­u­ments of the old East Vil­lage mean streets—too many to prop­er­ly list in this short post. But I can imag­ine no bet­ter tour guide to pre-mil­len­ni­al NYC than Iggy Pop.

In the short film above, watch him show Dutch film­mak­er Bram van Splun­teren around Alpha­bet City. Grant­ed this is 1993. Things weren’t near­ly as hairy as they were a few years pri­or (a fact Iggy points out right away), but it’s still a world away from the Low­er East Side of today. Pop traipses through the neigh­bor­hood, point­ing out favorite land­marks and pieces of graf­fi­ti. No stranger to urban decay, the Detroit native seems right at home. This being New York, Pop can stroll around with­out being molest­ed (or most­ly even rec­og­nized). All in all it’s a pret­ty leisure­ly tour of the 90s Low­er East Side on a bright and sun­ny day with the guy who more-or-less invent­ed punk. What more could you want?

via Coudal.com

Relat­ed Con­tent:

From The Stooges to Iggy Pop: 1986 Doc­u­men­tary Charts the Rise of Punk’s God­fa­ther

Jim Pow­er, aka “the Mosa­ic Man,” Adorns the Lamp­posts of New York City’s East Vil­lage

Nico Sings “Chelsea Girls” in the Famous Chelsea Hotel

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (5)
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  • STARCHY says:

    King Tuts Wah-Wah Hut !!

  • Bucky Wunderlick says:

    That’s fun­ny. I saw Iggy walk­ing around the LES just like he’s doing in this film in 1990, which from the doc­u­men­tary is when he first moved there. I was hav­ing lunch with a woman friend who, coin­ci­den­tal­ly, was a HUGE fan of Iggy’s — but we did­n’t chase him down or say any­thing.

    And while I lived in NYC 1984–1990, I spent a fair amount of time in the East Vil­lage and some time in the LES. Yeah, there were def­i­nite­ly parts of the neigh­bor­hoods that were sketchy, but it was gen­tri­fy­ing pret­ty quick­ly even back then.

    For those who either did­n’t live here, know this area or peo­ple and who now live a com­fort­able exis­tence in anoth­er time and place, yes, I can see how this might appear to be squalor. But the film above is just anoth­er form of “doc­u­ment­ing” the city life also writ­ten about in Luc San­te’s LOW LIFE as well as Mar­tin Scorce­se’s “Gangs of New York.” This IS the urban immi­gra­tion expe­ri­ence that repeats itself over and over again through­out our his­to­ry. By dis­miss­ing it and the peo­ple who live here, one only short­changes him or her­self.

  • Peter Grootheest says:

    Leuke film Bram !

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