photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
in the popular history of PUNK ROCK, the LEGENDARY BOWERY dive bar/ music venue CBGB'S gets a lot of shine. and that is partly for good reason, as its doors remained open for decades, from 1973 through 2006. it was by default the resident PUNK venue of NYC throughout the ALTERNATIVE ROCK explosion of the 1990s, when the UNDERGROUND music of the 70s and 80s (i.e. the PUNK ROCK, NO WAVE, POST PUNK, INDIE and HARDCORE scenes) gained a POPULAR national following. even at the dawn of the new millennium CBGB's was a VITAL venue in support of the NASCENT POST-HARDCORE and METALCORE scenes. its cultural cache is a testament to its relative longevity.
whats INTRIGUING is how MAX'S KANSAS CITY, another earlier venue with roots in the 1960s AVANT GARDE art and music scenes, has largely been remembered as a footnote to CBGB'S as the birthplace of PUNK ROCK when arguably it was the other way around. the film NIGHTCLUBBING: THE BIRTH OF PUNK IN NYC (CHIP BAKER FILMS, 2023) is basically an argument for MAX'S KANSAS CITY being the true breeding ground for what became PUNK ROCK and aims to correct the narrative. notable participants interviewed for the film include ALICE COOPER, FRANK INFANTE (BLONDIE), H.R. & DR KNOW (BAD BRAINS), JIMMY ZERO (DEAD BOYS), BILLY IDOL (GENERATION X), JAY JAY FRENCH (TWISTED SISTER), HARLEY FLANAGAN (CRO-MAGS), JAYNE COUNTY, BRIAN SETZER (THE STRAY CATS), LENNY KAYE (PATTI SMITH GROUP) and SYLVAIN SYLVAIN (THE NEW YORK DOLLS) among others.
and its hard to argue against them as MAX'S KANSAS CITY in its first incarnation under the ownership of MICKEY RUSKIN was essentially a restaurant frequented by the nearby ANDY WARHOL crowd of superstars and models that sometimes held special events in its EXCLUSIVE back room. in this context, WARHOL was able to showcase THE VELVET UNDERGROUND at the restaurant in some of their earliest performances. this in time led to other groups and artists like THE STOOGES, PATTI SMITH, WAYNE COUNTY, DAVID BOWIE and ALICE COOPER among others to follow suit. a new wave of bands, most notably THE NEW YORK DOLLS, then started utilizing the venue around the time that ownership switched to TOMMY DEAN MILLS and the upstairs space was expanded from fifty to a hundred person capacity. right in time for ECLECTIC bands like BLONDIE, THE RAMONES and TALKING HEADS to popularize the venue. what marked MAX'S KANSAS CITY from CBGB'S was its owners support of the scene, paying more of the gate to performers and providing them with food, as well as the INCLUSIVE nature of the live act and audience which blurred every line of GENDER, SEXUALITY, RACE, CREED and CLASS. CBGB'S was a dirtier affair that relished its SQUALOR (i.e. the notoriously DISGUSTING bathroom) and owner HILLY KRISTAL was famous for screwing over performers with his share of the gate proceeds. in essence, the venue took advantage of its good fortune in being the right venue at the right time. over time, however, CBGB's promoted a HYPER-MASCULINE culture that came off a bit XENOPHOBIC and HOMOPHOBIC at the very least and attracted a certain lug-head following.
much of the case for MAX'S KANSAS CITY seemed to circle around its ability to invite EXPERIMENTATION and publicize and celebrate the AVANT GARDE elements of society, as it could trace its lineage right back to THE VELVET UNDERGROUND. which is pretty INCREDIBLE. sadly the venue ended in 1981 after the owner sold the building after some shady business deals in ATLANTIC CITY went south. the loss to the arts COMMUNITY basically guaranteed its status as a footnote in the story of ROCK AND ROLL and PUNK ROCK in particular, as its name receded from view before the ascent of the UNDERGROUND scene in the POPULAR mindset a decade later.
makes you wonder about what other past CELEBRATED venues ended before their time had arrived. the MUDD CLUB (NYC)? the MASQUE, the COCONUT TEASZER, and MADAME WONG's (LOS ANGELES)?
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
narrated by the ICONIC AM radio personality WOLFMAN JACK, THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (NBC, 1972-1981) was a music variety show that was created to take full advantage of the popularity of THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON by airing after its late sign off at 1AM EST. during this period the other networks would close off during this period leaving THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL with no direct competition. the show is noteworthy for its eclectic live performances by everyone from MARVIN GAYE, CHUCK BERRY, BO DIDDLEY, IKE & TINA TURNER, AL GREEN and PRINCE to GENESIS, THE BEACH BOYS, ALICE COOPER, SPARKS, DAVID BOWIE, BLONDIE, DOLLY PARTON and KING CRIMSON.
recently these select performances have been made available on YOUTUBE. THE MIDNIGHT SPECIAL is definitely worth checking out even though the catalogue available is far from complete. i know i am not the only one hoping that the LEGENDARY JOBRIATH performances become available soon.
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO focused on the post-BRITISH INVASION stateside radio format of CLASSIC ROCK!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!