|The ‘Hood: The East Village, including the Lower East Side wasn’t so much the place to be as it was the place where it was all still actually happening. Partially because both CBGB and Max’s Kansas City were close by. But also because it was still a section of town that was affordable to artists. Both Joey and Johnny Ramone each had apartments within a block or two of us. You’d also run into people like Stiv Bators and Cheetah Chrome going about their business in the street. As well as Blondie’s Clem Burke, once-and-for-all time NY Dolls David Johansen and Johnny Thunders and so many more who were the pioneers and disciples of NYC street rock. McDonalds, The Gap, Starbucks and the Multi-Cinema movie complex were still many years away. Eighteen was the legal drinking age and you could still get a good slice of pizza on almost any corner. Bars were dimly lit smoke-filled places where people went to chase down hot shots of real whiskey with a cold bottle of Bud or Miller and spend a couple hours telling rock ‘n roll war stories. Webster Hall wasn’t even The Ritz yet, it was still a Puerto Rican dance hall. This was a real neighborhood with family owned bodegas, grocers, bakeries, butchers, pawn shops, restaurants and taverns. These established businesses co-existed in off-key harmony with the new storefront art galleries, performance spaces and punk stores that were popping up with regularity. It all meant a bit more prosperity for the mostly Hispanic and Ukrainian communities. Just about all the young people on our block had been born there, many of them related to each other by blood or marriage, or both and they either still lived with Mom and Pop or had gotten nearby apartments of their own. Over the years, we saw snot-nosed kids grow up there, get married, get some bread together to move out to the burbs. Some got themselves killed. Some came back from prison terms only to get hauled back a short time later. And on and on – life. We were all friends and hung together, jammed at block parties, but even after almost twenty years Lorry and I were still considered as the new kids on the block – and I guess we were.
The Look: The easiest way to peg an outsider (besides their 'tude) was by their clothes. No one, but no one on the Lower East Side would venture out of their apartments without throwing together ‘a look’. This included even when on a quick jaunt to the corner deli for a sixteen ouncer or pack of smokes. Baggy shorts and a t-shirt? Probably a slob from Jersey, though the boys from the West Village did favor the short shorts look at the first sign of Spring. At a club with a mall bought punk outfit? Bridge and tunnel crowd most likely. Then there were those that got jazzed up at Trash ‘n Vaudeville - at least they gave it a legitimate stab - they could be from anywhere, including one of the boroughs or uptown. Putting together a look was an art form that people took seriously. A combination of street, bargain basement and glitz, the fashion world was spying and this year’s NYC street look would be the worldwide fashion craze in a couple years time. Conformity through non-conformity? Hardly. The trick was to come up with something uniquely your own (just how many ways could you do black?). Lorry and others fashioned their own clothes and accessorized in novel ways. It made leaving your flat an event and there was always a show to be seen on the street.
The Scene: The club scene seemed like a rock ‘n roll version of Disney World to us. We were used to a handful of clubs to play at in Boston. In New York, besides CBs and Max’s you could venture downtown to the Mudd Club, uptown to Hurrahs and Trax, westward to Tier 3, RT Firefly’s and the joints in the West Village on 8th and McDougal Streets. And every month or so a new club or two would open up, be wildly popular, fail eventually, and be quickly replaced by another two or three. And the other thing. New York wasn’t a week-end town. The clubs were hopping every night of the week. It didn’t matter if the hottest band in town was playing a Tuesday night at a jam-packed CBs, Max’s would still be elbow to elbow regardless of who was on their own stage that night. So would all the little joints. There was lots of bar-hopping to catch sets from an assortment of bands and you kept running into the same people at different joints throughout the night. Lorry quickly established that she expected to be ushered into any place she honored with her presence and it didn’t hurt if you bought her a cocktail, too. Amazing how far a Diva ‘tude went in those days before everyone and anyone thought they were one. And then there were the hidden after hours places that opened at four or five in the morning like Berlin on Broadway where to skirt the law you had to buy a ‘club membership’ ticket each time you wanted a drink. Or the always dark and edgy Nursery on Third Avenue which was our virgin introduction to being electronically searched for weapons with a prod (I guess you had to check your guns at the door if you had any – just like the Wild West), however they would let you keep a knife on your person. The first time you leave a club and step out into shockingly bright mid-morning sunshine quickly convinces you to always carry your shades when you go out at night .
The Music: By the beginning of 1979, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie and Television were no longer playing the clubs of course, though you would often find members of those groups still putting in cameo appearances. A new batch had replaced them: The Testors, Tuff Darts, The Plasmatics were some of the bigger club acts at the time, but there were lots more, each pretty good in their own way or at least original. It was pretty stiff competition and Lorry and I knew we had to take things to another level to hold our own as NYC rockers. First off we needed a killer rhythm section ... and that was our initial quest.