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May 2, 2017

Book Notes - Phil Marcade "Punk Avenue: Inside the New York City Underground, 1972-1982"

Punk Avenue: Inside the New York City Underground, 1972-1982

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Phil Marcade's Punk Avenue is both fascinating memoir and a detailed, first-person account of the birth (and growth) of punk rock in New York City.

Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:

"....the book retains the madcap spirit of that time and place, suggesting how punk happened and why it had to end.... Must-read for those who love that era and want a fresh perspective on it."

In his own words, Phil Marcade's Book Notes playlist for his book Punk Avenue: Inside the New York City Underground, 1972-1982:

Alright! Now, sober up and listen to this:

The Swag (Link Wray)

Released in 1958 on Cadence Records as the flip side to Rumble, Link Wray’s ultra-primitive instrumental number The Swag is the absolute blue-print for all Punk Rock. Great song to start reading Punk Avenue, it will put you in the right frame of mind, and will put a smile on your face.

Each chapter in the book is a song title.

Here they are, one by one.
The first one is “Happy Birthday To You”, as I get sent to a Federal Penitentiary in Arizona on my 18th birthday. The version you should hear in your head is a real sweet one, sang by a loving Mom and Dad and siblings as you are about to blow your candles wearing a little cone hat on your head.

Going Mobile (The Who)

Released in 1971, it really captures the vibe of the times, for me. Goodbye Mom and Dad, goodbye school, goodbye Paris, I’m off to America.

We were listening to it all the time in our van, as I discovered the USA. It talks about traveling by van, playing the tape machine, making toast and tea while rolling down the highway. It’s the perfect sound-track to this road-trip part of the story.

“Hee Hooo! Beep beep!”

I Love That Dirty Water (The Standells)

One word: BOSTON.

This is the third chapter, when I move to Boston in 73. This 1966 Garage gem was not only the perfect song to illustrate Boston, the River Charles, lovers and thieves, but it also set the tone for the savage sound of Punk Rock and Garage Revival about to follow a couple of years later.

Venus Of Avenue D (Mink DeVille)

New York. The Lower East Side.

This is the fourth chapter. I just moved to New York and got a room at the Chelsea Hotel. On my very first night out I only had to go about a hundred feet across the street before stumbling into a little bar called Mother’s where Mink DeVille was playing in front of ten people. “She’s my inspiration dressed in red..”  sang Willie DeVille, who instantly became my inspiration dressed in black shark skin suits. This is New York, it’s September 1975 and something really new and magical is in the air.

Boogie Chillen (John Lee Hooker)

This is the beginning of The Senders in 1976. In his 1949 hit, John Lee Hooker sang “I heard Papa tell Mama: let that boy boogie-woogie. It's in him and it got to come out.”  And came out it did!! Punk Rock was exploding. We lived the Punk Rock life, but we were also huge Blues and Rhythm & Blues fans. That’s how we  participated in inventing Punk Blues, by accident. Boogie Chillen only stays in one chord. One note, really. It’s similar to an Indian Raga, hypnotic and transe- inciting (much like all the songs by Suicide). It’s also tough as nails.
My Gal Is Red Hot (Billy Lee Riley, 1957)

“My gal is red hot. Your gal ain’t  doodly squat!’ This is the chapter about the girls, the girlfriends and the one you end up marrying. Robert Gordon sang that song all the time, he did a great cover of it, so it reminds me of Max’s too. Big time! It also reminds me of the start of the Rockabilly revival in New York in 77, 78, with, first, Robert Gordon, The Cramps, Eddie Dixon, Freddy Frogg, then Buzz & The Fyers, Levi & The Rockats and, finally, The Stray Cats. The Senders were sporting greasy D.A.s and pointy shoes as early as 1977. Not many people understood that at Max’s and CBGB. We were often asked “What is it with the Sha-Na-Na look?” We’d be thinking “You just wait and see!”, or ‘Fuck you!!”.

Return To Sender (Elvis Presley, 1962)

“Return to sender, address unknown. No such number, no such zone.” is a bit of a metaphor for when I returned to the Senders after a trip to Ann Arbor playing drums with Gang War and the fact that I had no fixed address. It’s not the greatest song in the world, but it really swings and it’s sung by The King.

Chinese Rocks (The Heartbreakers, 1977)

No song could describe Punk Avenue better than this one. It has it all! Written by Dee Dee Ramone (and partly by Richard Hell), it was The Heartbreakers’ National Anthem. “Somebody called me on the phone, says Hey, is Dee Dee home? Do you wanna take a walk, do you wanna go cop ? Do you wanna go get some Chinese Rocks?”. Chinese Rocks was really good heroin, and this was a really good song. It’s New York Punk Rock at its best and may be Dee Dee’s finest. He took the unfinished song to Richard Hell when it was vetoed by The Ramones, telling Richard he could have it, if he wanted to finish it. Richard wrote two additional verses and took it to The Heartbreakers.Their rendition is a true gem. Jerry Nolan excels on drums, here, and Johnny Thunders plays his best “signature” guitar licks. He also put his name on the writing credits when The Heartbreakers released it on their album LAMF. This started a battle with Dee Dee that would last for years.  

Run, Run, Run (The Velvet Underground, 1967)

“Gonna take a walk down to Union Square. You never know what you’re gonna find there.” This is the last chapter of the book. Everything accelerates and spins out of control. Like the song, it ends in a cacophony of screaming, screeching guitars and amplifiers feed-back. Panic sets in. No more Thanksgiving turkey at Johnny’s mom’s in Queens, now it’s “cold turkey” on E.3rd Street with Bill Moser. It was also essential to me to end the book with a Velvet Underground song, since they started it all in New York, really. There would have been no Television or Patti Smith without The Velvet Underground. Nor any of the other Max’s bands that followed. It’s all their fault!!

Now, here are a few more tunes that are not chapter tittles in Punk Avenue but that would be good to listen to while you read it.

She Does It Right (Dr. Feelgood)

BANG! They changed it all. It’s 1974 and this British band from Canvey Island is playing R&B like maniacs on speed, wearing wrinkled suits and short hair. They wipe out Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and all the other boring progressive, hippie stuff of the time in one instant. Over! They started a scene called Pub Rock and were simply opening the door for all the Punk Rock that was about to follow.

Blank Generation (Richard Hell)

Need I say more?!

Judy Is A Punk (The Ramones)

Listen to this while reading the part when, in '74, a party was thrown for me and my friend Bruce in a loft in Soho where I happened to witness the very dawn of the Ramones.

Garbage Man (The Cramps)

Listen to this!! It’s ferocious! It’s the greatest (or gravest) song ever! DO YOU UNDERSTAND ?! It should remind everyone how important The Cramps were. This is a beaut’!

Love Me (The Phantom)

1958. One minute and thirty eight seconds of pure Psychobilly madness!

Cherokee Dance (Bob Landers with Willie Joe & his Unitar)

Talk about Punk Rock! This has to be the wildest R&B record ever. Released on Specialty in 1956, this manic cut features Bob “Froggy” Landers on vocals. Listen to this guys’s voice! He supposedly died of throat cancer only a week after the recording. Couple his singing with Willie Joe’s Unitar slapping and you got the most incredible Rock & Roll record ever made. The Unitar was a six foot tall guitar with only one string that Willie Dixon made for his friend Willie Joe. It had a door hinge in the middle so that you could fold it in two while traveling. Willie Joe played it by slapping it with a leather belt.  

Listen to this record than you will understand why The Senders wanted to play music. And why I love Rock & Roll so much. And why I lived the life I loved, and loved the life I lived. And why, years later, I wrote this book.

Phil Marcade and Punk Avenue: Inside the New York City Underground, 1972-1982 links:

video trailer for the book

Foreword Reviews review
Good Times review
Kirkus Reviews review
Punk Globe review
Razorcake review

Three Rooms Press interview with the author
The Villager profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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