NINE GIRLS AND A GUY
Gathering on the sultry streets of New York’s Meatpacking District, nine reigning female musicians were delighted to pose for ANNIE LEIBOVITZ, not least because of talent No. 10, the mojo-rific Barry White, perhaps the only man who could single-handedly balance the lineup.
When the Concorde bringing Gwen Stefani to New York from London “nose-dived” (her word) shortly after takeoff on the morning of our cover shoot, all hell broke loose. The plane back to Heathrow, all Concordes were grounded for the rest of the day, and Stefani was in British Airways lounge, on the phone, sobbing. But, ever the trouper, she got another flight, did her makeup over the Atlantic, and arrived – albeil seven hours later than originally planned – to take her place (for the second year in a row) in the lineup of superstars for V.F.’s Music Issue. That spirit exemplifies Stefani, whose pop-rock-ska band, No Doubt, has persevered since their start in Southern California’s Orange Country a decade and a half ago. “After years of being a really dorky band, people decided we were cool,” says the platinum-blonde singer-songwriter, whose offbeat yet glamorous personal style has created a generation of “Gwennabes.” Having achieved stardom – No Doubt’s five albums have together sold more than 19 million copies – Stefani, 32, fulfilled another lifelong wish this fall, marrying her boyfriend of seven years, Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale. “The dream of my life has always been to get married,” she says. “Everybody in the group wants to have a family and normal lives – we all come from that kind of situation.” But don’t expect her to become a housewife just yet; this month the band launches another U.S. tour, headlining a bill with Garbage. – LISA ROBINSON
She sings. She dances. She acts. She’s gorgeous. She’s got a clothing line. She’s got a restaurant. She’s got her own brand of perfume. Still, when you meet her, it’s impossible not to like the very straightforward, very delightful Jennifer Lopez. And if her behavior at our cover shoot is any indication, she gets an unfair rap for all that diva stuff. There were no threepage lists of her requirements, no special candle or flower demands. She had her hair and makeup done in a cubicle that was the same size as everyone else’s. Even though she had just finished a long day of filming for Maid in Manhattan with Ralph Fiennes, Lopez was a dream. She hung out in the heat on the funky street in New York’s Meatpacking District where we shot the cover, signed autographs for policemen, waited for Gwen Stefani, and seemed oblivious to the paparazzi who follow her everywhere. Oh, and she had also spent some “spare” time earlier that week in recording studios – in two different states – working on her fourth album, expected out this fall. From an early listen, her voice sounds stronger than it did on her three previous multi-platinum efforts. “In the past I was always encouraged to go for the hits,” she says. “And I can always hear a hit. But now the songs are more in my range. This time I’m having more of a say.” – L.R.
Sheryl Crow might have made a big deal about the perils of turning 40 last February, but two months later her fifth album, C’mon, C’mon, entered the charts at No. 2 – a career high for the woman who writes her own songs, produces the records, and then micromanages the mixes. Things were different for Crow in 1986, when she drove alone from Missouri to Los Angeles to seek a career in the music business. She recalls: “I landed on the 405 freeway at 4:30 in the afternoon, didn’t know anyone, and just sat in my car and cried, thinking, What have I done?” Since then she has received eight Grammys for her consistently authentic rock ‘n’ roll. And in addition to working with Stevie Nicks, Liz Phair, and Emmylou Harris, Crow – a former Michael Jackson backup singer – is the only girl who gets invited on a regular basis to hang out with the boys. Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, and Willie Nelson are all fans, friends, and, occasionally, collaborators. Crow plans to tour for the rest of the year and then, perhaps, take some time off to enjoy her new hobby. Surfing, too, apparently, begins at 40. – L.R.
Singer, beat master, writer, producer – Alicia Keys wears many hats, both figuratively and literally. A classically trained pianist, she infuses her music with soul and funk and R&B; stunning enough to be styled like a pop confection, she sticks to her idiosyncratic street-chic style. Before she was out of her teens, she had signed on with and then left two very different institutions both named Columbia – the Ivy League university and the record label. Too busy with music to stay enrolled at the former, too independent to be happy at the latter (she cites “creative differences”), Keys found her way to Clive Davis’s J Records in 1999 and soon achieved platinum-record super-stardom with her first release, Songs in A Minor. That album, which put her at the forefront of the so-called neo-soul movement, earned Keys five Grammys in 2001. She’s currently bringing her manifold skills to bear on recording her second album, which is due out sometime in 2003. – ANDREA THOMPSON
Not just another pretty face, the new girl at the microphone can also carry a tune. She’s so good, in fact, that she’s likely to stop people in their tracks the first time they hear her voice, which has a sexy, sultry, whispery timbre reminiscent of Billy Holiday’s. Meet Norah Jones, the 23-year-old songwriter, pianist, and chanteuse. Her first album, lasy year’s Come Away with Me, an effortless distillation of jazz, folk, and blues, has gone platinum and cracked the Top 10 – a rare commercial coup for her record company, the venerable jazz label Blue Note. But Jones comes by her eclecticism naturally: the daughter of sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar, she grew up in Dallas, Texas, where she studied jazz piano and couldn’t help but absorb American roots music. When a friend asked her to share an apartment in New York City in the summer of 1999, she went, vowing to return to Texas. But the pull of the Greenwich Village music scene proved too seductive. Jones decided to stay and make a go of it in the big leagues. Thank God for sublets. – KATIE SHARER
Watching Eve strut through her videos dressed in gaudy designer outfits, you might be inclined to dismiss her as just another skin-baring female rapper going on and on about sex, diamonds, and D&G. Listen more carefully. You’ll hear funny, biting lyrics that deal with issues ranging from heartbreak to abuse – clearly, this self-described “pit bull in a skirt” has a more complicated and ambitious agenda than many of her sex-kitten M.C. rivals. With one platinum album and one multi-platinum album to her credit, as well as a Grammy, a clothing line, and a budding movie career (including a role in XXX), Eve, only 23, is definitely opening some eyes, as indeed she suggested she would in one of her five Top 20 singles – “Let Me Blow Ya Mind,” with fellow V.F. cover girl Gwen Stefani. (The two are good friends, and Eve was quite anxious about Stefani’s plane trouble on the day of our shoot.) Her third album, Eve-Olution, was released in August and debuted at No. 6 on the charts. Its first single, “Gangsta Lovin’,” features another of her covermates and friends: Alicia Keys. – ALEX MARTINELLI
The lyrics in singer-songwriter Nelly Furtado’s Grammy Award – winning single, “I’m Like a Bird,” threaten, “I’ll only fly away …” And with her debut album from 2000, Whoa, Nelly!, having gone multi-platinum, the 23-year-old Canadian has certainly proved she can stay aloft. She’s also demonstrated that you can remain true to your roots and still climb the charts. Born in British Columbia, the daughter of Portuguese immigrants, Furtado was infused with a love of music from the get-go. Using the lilting rhythms and melodies of Portuguese fado music as her wellspring, and taking further inspiration from the pop-culture heroes of her youth – including Kris Kross, Bell Biv DeVoe, and No Doubt – Furtadi (along with co-producers Gerald Eaton and Brian West) has created a singular amalgam of trip-hop, rock, folk, a spunky, genre-jumping sound that raises pop conventions to a new standard. Which is exactly what we expect her to do once more now that, two years after Whoa, Nelly!’s release, the touring and promotion for the record have finally slowed down and she has time to sink her teeth into a sophomore effort. – MATT TRAINOR
If Siouxsie Sioux, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, and Debbie Harry had somehow formed a sorority, the first new pledge might have been Shirley Manson, Garbage’s down-to-earth, alpha-female front woman. With full lips, widely set blue eyes, punked-out hair, and alabaster skin, Manson’s gamine-from-Mars beauty is as distinctive as her shadowy, insinuating, not-too-girly-sounding voice. Since Garbage’s inception in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1994, the band has gone on to sell over eight million albums and earn five Grammy nominations. It also recorded the theme song for the 1999 James Bond movie, The world Is Not Enough, putting Manson, 35, in the company of such old-school belters as Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones. Resolutely casual about success, she allows that “life will never pan out the way you think it will – ever. You have to be prepared to ride it.” And ride it she does with glee. As an S.U.V. carrying Manson and her entourage pulled up at our cover shoot, a few bars of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” were heard coming from the open windows. – LAURA KANG
Barry White, who has created some of the silkiest, lovemakin’-est music of the last 30 years, didn’t even want to be a singer. He began as the writer and producer for the Love Unlimited Orchestra, the San Pedro, California, group whose lush 1974 disco instrumental “Love’s Theme” (think ABC’s golf coverage) could well serve as the official anthem of the 1970s. Searching for a male singer to front a new act, White made three demos using his own voice to illustrate what kind of sound he was looking for. Producer and friend Larry Nunes heard them and immediately insisted White re-record and release them himself. The two men argued for three days straight, White finally relented, and, more than 100 million records later, his honeyed, kitchen-appliance-rattling rumble has made him a pop-culture touchstone, an icon of the seductive arts whose non amatory resume includes guest appearances on The Simpsons and Alley McBeal and his own Top 10 List on Late Night with David Letterman, “Words That Sound Romantic When Spoken by Barry White” (No. 4: gingivitis). Even more satisfying than those honors, perhaps, are the facts that Ultimate Collection, a new, comprehensive two-disc set of his hits on UTV, went gold, and that he recently signed with Def Soul Classics to record new material. By their own account, our cover coterie of female performers were thrilled to serve as Barry’s Praetorian Guard for our shoot, during which a tidal wave of mojo coursed through the Meatpacking District. – MARC GOODMAN
Debbie Harry, who came of age in the New York punk of the 1970s, is undeniably an original. The front woman of Blondie, which she co-founded with longtime lover (and now close friend) Chris Stein, she was known for her pouty aloofness onstage and her platinum hair – a shock in an era when the “natural look” was still big. More important, she was the first female sex symbol in pop to vie for recognition of her art and attitude, not just her looks; in this, she paved the way for Madonna, among others. With hits such as “Heart of Glass” and “Call Me,” Blondie would become the most commercially successful band to come out of the New York scene, and in the two and a half decades since the release of the group’s first LP, in 1976, Harry has shown her mettle by releasing 24 more albums, both with Blondie and as a solo act. (Nineteen ninety-nine’s well-reviewed No Exit was the group’s first new record in 17 years.) All signs indicate she’s not through yet: Blondie is currently in the studio recording an album for release next spring. – M.T.
NORTH AMERICAN IDOLS
From left, Gwen Stefani (wearing a top by Christian Dior, pants by Ligia Morris for Primal Stuff, scarf by Sula, Swarovski-crystal garter by Zaldy, boots by Giuseppe Zanotti Design, jewelry by Christian Dior, Fred Leighton, Ileana Makri, and Terry Rodgers & Melody), Jennifer Lopez (wearing Atelier Versace, jewelry by Fred Leighton and Jacob & Co.), Sheryl Crow (wearing a vest by Dolce & Gabbana, custon leather pants by Agatha Blois of New York City Custom Leather, belt by Araik, and necklace by Maryvonne & Gerard), Alicia Keys (wearing a shirtdress, belt, and choker by Versace, coat by Lost Art, bustier by Eren Kobrinsky at Apropo, and jeans by Miss Sixty), Norah Jones (wearing a top by Alexander McQueen, pants by Taluba Babaton, and earrings by Bess), Eve (wearing a vest and gaiters by Michael Kors, shorts by DKNY Jeans Juniors, jewelry by Bulgari and Noir), Nelly Furtado (wearing a shirt by Sta?, jeans by Diesel, jewelry by M&J Savitt and Tanya Creations for House of Field), Shirley Manson (wearing a dress by Cigana, leggings by Donna Karan New York, boots by Chippewa, and ring by David Yurman), Barry White (wearing a custom shirt and suit by David K., tie and pocket square by Brioni, and sunglasses by Fendi), and Debbie Harry (wearing a dress by Michael Schmidt for Swarovski and shoes by Manolo Blahnik). Car by Bentley Arnage T. Hair products from Aveda, Bumble and Bumble, Kiehl’s, L’Oreal, Physique, and Redken. Makeup products from Club Monaco Cosmetics, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, MAC, Max Factor, Maybelline, Nars, and Vincent Longo. Manicures by Deborah Lippman. Set design by Bradley Garlock. Special effects by Drew Jiritano. Styled by Kim Meehan. Photographed exclusively for V.F. by Annie Leibovitz on July 15, 2002.
The New York 70s rock scene that saw the rise of Lou Reed, the New York Dolls, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Television, the Ramones, and Blondie began as an intoxicating mix of drag-queen theater, British “glam rock,” and a hard-core rebellion against uninspiring contemporary radio. LISA ROBINSON recaptures the amped-up, sequin-studded, punk-powered explosion she experienced at the Mercer Arts Center, Max’s Kansas City, and CBGB’s.
Mass recognition isn’t important to me. What’s important is individual recognition. It’s not how many people recognise you, it’s what those who do recognise you recognise you for. – Iggy Pop, 1971.
I was very concerned in the early 70s that rock ‘n’ roll, which I thought was such an important arena and the true American art, was going to crash. My mother always told me that she thought the music of Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman would last forever, but it toppled. We had these deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, and then we had glitter rock and it was sort of creepy – I looked at all that as a bad sign. I thought it was moving into the area of some big Broadway spectacular and the essence of rock ‘n’ roll was being lost. – Patti Smith, 1993.
Some say the 1970s New York rock scene started in the 960s with the Velvet Underground. Others insist that it began around 1968 with the Stooges and MC5 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Or with Lou Reed’s reconfigured Velvet Underground at Max’s Kansas City in 1970. Or Patti Smith’s poetry reading with Lenny Kaye on guitar at St. Mark’s Church in February 1971. Or in London in 1970, when David Bowie began sewing those pre-Ziggy Stardust costumes.
The truth is that the truth is not so simple. What really happened is that several things happened, all at once, all over the world. But nearly everyone would agree that in early 1972, when the New York Dolls performed every Tuesday night at the Oscar Wilde Room of the Mercer Arts Center in the Broadway Central Hotel, the 1970s New York rock scene was officially born. I was there covering the music and the scene for Creem, Rock Scene, Hit Parader, a syndicated newspaper column, and the British music weekly New Musical Express. I kept my tape recorder with me at all times and managed to take enough notes to remember that every night was New Year’s Eve with the New York Dolls.
The bands of the 70s are going to be fabulous. They’re going to give the secrets to the universe. – David Johansen, 1972.
I remember I was knocked out by the Dolls. My first impressions were that they were the early Stones in strippers’ clothes. Fabulous early R&B sound, but much sloppier and more vital. It was the humour, the fun and drunk “don’t give a shit” attitude of the band, that was intoxicating. – David Bowie, August 2002.
From my notes, August 1972: The New York Dolls – David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, Sylvain Sylvain, Billy Murcia, and Arthur Kane Jr. – sit across from me at my apartment wearing platform wedgies, hotcha green-trimmed sunglasses, sequined hot pants, transparent chiffon blouses, pink denim overalls covered by a dragon-appliqued apron. “When we formed our band, we knew we had the best rock ‘n’ roll band,” said David. “When the record companies come to see us, I think they get turned on. Their wives get drunk and start dancing and they go crazy. But then they think about their kids … and that’s what stops them. They start thinking about their kids.”
On February 22, 1970, at the Roundhouse in London, David Bowie performed with his band Hype, in what he believes was the first British “glam rock” performance. “We had superhero costumes made,” he says, “and I wore makeup and glitter for the first time.”
In November 1971, with much fanfare, San Francisco drag-queen troupe the Cockettes came to New York for their opening of Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma at the East Village’s Anderson Theater. In the audience that night were the Ahmet Erteguns, Rex Reed, Gore Vidal with Angela Lansbury, Elaine Kaufman, and Diana Vreeland. Fran Lebowitz was an usher. From then on, whenever a rhinestone or a sequin turned up in rock ‘n’ roll, you could make a case for tracing it back to the Cockettes. Or to the Playhouse of the Ridiculous on the Lower East Side, where John Vaccaro directed Warhol “superstar” Jackie Curtis and actress Penny Arcade in the low-camp Heaven Grand in Amber Orbit. Or to Pork, the 1971 show based on tapes of Brigid Polk’s phone conversations with Andy Warhol, directed by Tony Ingrassia and starring actor Tony Zanette, drag rocker Wayne Country, and, most important, platinum-blonde Cyrinda Foxe. (The only female Marilyn Monroe look-alike in this scene, Foxe was David Johansen’s girlfriend, Bowie’s introduction to the Dolls, the “trois” in the alleged Bowie menage, the inspiration for Bowie’s song “Jean Genie,” an apparent role model for her contemporaries Angela Bowie and Debbie Harry, and, eventually, Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler’s wife.) Pork went to London in August 1971, and an enthusiastic Bowie – who had already been working on his Ziggy Stardust show and costumes with designer Freddie Buretti – showed up, befriended the cast, and would later be accused of “borrowing” their style.
But, according to Bowie: “Many of my influences were primarily [British mime] Lindsay Kemp and his coterie. They were a much smaller and less-profiled Soho London outfit than the Warhol crowd, but nevertheless a highly flamboyant bunch who opened my eyes from 1967 on. As much as I enjoyed the Warhol crowd (temporarily) thematically, my map was already drawn.”
In 1972, lower Broadway was abandoned at night. The Mercer Arts Center was a place where people went to hang out, drink, pick people up. There were avant-garde plays and “happenings.” Performers included Wayne Country and the actress and singer Ruby Lynn Reyner. But everyone really went to see the New York Dolls. Before they were the Ramones – whose singer Joey had an early glam rock band called Sniper – the Ramones went to see the Dolls. Patti Smith opened for the Dolls, reading poetry. Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine went to the Mercer to see the Dolls before they formed their band the Neon Boys, the precursor to Television.
We knew in our hearts that we were hipper than anybody else. So at least we didn’t have a confidence problem. – David Johansen, 1978.
People said the Dolls couldn’t play. People had also said Bob Dylan couldn’t sing. That wasn’t the point. “What is all this talk about being musically proficient?” David Johansen asked at the time. “I mean, I just saw Monterey Pop, and if you look at the Who or Janis Joplin at that stage of their careers, well, we’re just as musically proficient as they were then.” Danny Fields (manager of the Stooges and, later, Lou Reed and the Ramones) said, “Don’t talk to me about music. It’s absurd. Anyone connected with this industry who talks about music, well, it’s astonishing. Play music indeed. Thank God they don’t have to.”
The audience at the Oscar Wilde room was so fabulous, all my favorite people were out there. So we had to be incredible…. “Drag” just means my clothes. To somebody else it might mean drag queen, someone who’s impersonating a woman. I’m not impersonating anybody. I’m perfectly satisfied with what I am. – David Johansen, 1973.
This isn’t a woman’s dress, this is a man’s dress. – Iggy Pop, circa 1971.
In fact, Johansen wore a dress onstage only once, at Club 82 (“Although I had been known to don the occasional Capri pant,” he says today). In 1972 the Dolls were asked to leave the Mercer because the theater didn’t want rock ‘n’ roll there, but it lost so much money at the bar that it had to take the band back. Then one day in 1973 the Mercer Arts Center (and the entire Broadway Central Hotel) collapsed. For no apparent reason. The building just fell down.
I move in another dimention. – Patti Smith, from “Ain’t It Strange” (1976).
After the Mercer collapsed, Patti Smith, wearing a feather boa, performed a combination of poetry and cabaret songs at Reno Sweeny’s on West 13th Street, backed by Lenny Kaye. Soon the duo would be joined by Richard Sohl on piano; later, guitarist Ivan Kral and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty would flesh out the Patti Smith Group.
What I really think is happening is that I’ll be a catalyst for rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t want people to be so glib and fat and Roman about rock ‘n’ roll. At its best, rock ‘n’ roll is inspiring, and I’d like to inspire people. I’d like them to see our concerts and listen to our record and then say, “Well, fuck her,” and go off and do something on their own. – Patti Smith, 1975.
From my notes, September 1971: I met David Bowie for the first time in the RCA Records New York offices. He had long hair, a floppy hat, and Mary Jane shoes. He didn’t wear the dress he was photographed in when [Mercury Records rep] Rodney Bingehnheimer took him around on the previous Valentine’s Day, but the effect was the same.
RCA had just signed Bowie, Lou Reed, and the Kinks, and my husband, Richard, was a producer at the label. Bowie was with his manager, Tony DeFries – who was straight out of the sleazy school of the British music business – and Bowie’s artfully butch, boisterous wife, Angela. I started to tell him all about how he should meet the Warhol crowd, and then, as if on cue, in the door came Tony Zanetta, actress-poet-groupie Cherry Vanilla, and Pork stage manager Leee Black Childers – all of whom, it appeared, had already signed up to be part of DeFries’s Mainman management company “staff.” I arranged a small dinner that night at the Ginger Man restaurant near Lincoln Center. Despite the stories that had grown around this “fateful” meeting, it was relatively sedate. White tablecloths and filets mignons. Lou Reed, none too gregarious, was with his then wife, Betty Kronstad (who I think later changed her name to Krista Kronstad). We called Danny Fields mid-meal to tell him to send Iggy up. We met Iggy later at Max’s, and while no one remembers much about the evening, I do remember that Iggy was not stoned (that night), as the fiction in the movie Velvet Goldmine had it, and that he and Bowie instantly hit it off. The next day Iggy moved into the Warwick Hotel, where the Mainman camp was in residence. A few nights later, the Bowie’s, the Reeds, and DeFries came to our apartment. Three things stand out in my memory of the evening: Betty/Krista go-go danced alone in the living room. A rare copy of the East Village Other with an article on the Velvet Underground disappeared. And Lou and David locked themselves in a small back room while Angela Bowie banged on the door, screeching for them to let her in.
From my notes, December 1972: Lou Reed, Richard [Robinson], and I went to London, where Richard was producing Lou’s first solo album. We were invited to a party at Bowie’s house. David greeted us at the door flaunting his new look – black-and-grey jumpsuit, red patent-leather boots, short spiky orange hair. I burst out laughing. So, you’ve gone from 2001 to A Clockwork Orange. He laughed that wicked cackle with a full display of his [then] rotting teeth. Despite having been asked not to have liquor around, since Lou was not at his most delightful when bored and drunk [and he seemed very bored during the London sojourn], David teasinly dangled a bottle of Dewar’s in front of us. Angela was in the kitchen cooking. Later that night the Bowie’s, their friends, Lou, Richard, and I all went to the gay dance club El Sombrero. When I left several hours later, Lou and David were on the dance floor, slow dancing.
To create an art movement, you have to set something up and then destroy it. The only thing to do is what Dadaists, the Surrealists, did – complete amateurs who are as pretentious as hell – and just fuck it up the ass. Cause as much bad, ill feeling as possible…. You’ll only create a movement when you have a rebellious cause. – David Bowie, 1976.
In July 1972, David Bowie invited a group of American journalists to see him perform the Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars show in Aylesbury, outside of London. Playing that same weekend on another bill were the early punk sensations the Flamin’ Groovies and the Stooges, and, at the King’s Cross Cinema, Lou Reed. The famous Mick Rock photo of David, Lou, and Iggy was taken at an afternoon press conference at the Dorchester hotel; Mainman was now handling all three stars. Onstage, Lou wore black lipstick and was, as Lenny Kaye said tactfull, “not in the best shape.” But later that year Bowie would produce Lou’s Transformer and help Lou get his biggest hit – “Walk on the Wild Side” – and would then go on to produce two of Iggy’s best albums: The Idiot and Lust for Life.
From my notes, October 1974: In a jam-packed week, Lindsay Kemp was performing on Broadway, Labelle was at the Met, [“Papa” John Philip’s wife] chanteuse Genevieve Waite was at Reno Sweeney’s, Frank Sinatra at the Garden, and Lou Reed at the Felt Forum. With the release of his latest album, Sally Can’t Dance, Lou has found a truly hideous audience and provides them with the caricature that they came for. Four thousand people paid to see him tie a rubber hose around his arm when he sang “Heroin,” which was either tragic or hilarious, depending on your sensibility. Big cheer from the crowd every time he said “fuck” or “motherfucker.” What was most boring was the backup band, none of whom he chose to introduce.
From my notes, December 1974: I cannot believe what I saw on TV last night. David Bowie was on Dick Cavett’s show as a special guest. Cavett came on minus a tie for this “hip” occasion and introduced Bowie as an artist who “changes like a chameleon.” The studio audience cheered. Bowie performed (and I use this word loosely) “1984” and “Young Americans.” Then he and Cavett sat down for a chat. David Bowie is obviously not a well man. He is thin beyond belief. Eyes flashing, fingers flickering, constantly tapping a cane – an absurd prop, but then again, perhaps he needs it. Cavett, fawning and uncomfortable in the presence of a “rock star,” did not help matters much. In between almost constant sniffling, Bowie managed to get out that he isn’t very academic, he reads only the good reviews, he likes working with a band. “How is your wife’s name spelled?” asked Cavett, grasping at straws. “Angie or Angel? I’ve seen it both ways.” Huh? “Oh, it’s Angie,” said David, who proceeded to talk about how she was an intellectual, a revelation to those of us who know Angela Bowie.
I wanted to elevate the form. I thought I could just do it on an intelligent level. People may have contempt for rock ‘n’ roll, but then you go and stick something into it and expand its horizons, and you get criticized for it twofold. – Lou Reed, 1986.
From my notes, November 1976: In a concert billed as an evening with “The Rock and Roll Heart,” Lou Reed performed at the Palladium in front of 48 black-and-white TV sets. (“I got them from a hospital,” he told me later. “They were switching to color sets for the Medicaid patients.”) Despite the long, somewhat rambling concert, it did have more heart than Bowie’s cold, black-and-white “Thin White Duke” show he’d done earlier that year. At the after-show party at Feathers, Lou greeted his guests, including, for some reason, Diana Ross. What did she say to you?, I asked Lou. “What could she say? She has all my albums?”
In my live work, I was going for the quick thrill, rather than spending time concentrating on my voice. I figured I’d get on, make as many quick movements as I could, dance my ass off for five minutes, move into the insult portion of the evening, and then, at the end, create some kind of chaos until the 45 minutes were up. I remember when I used to play second bill to Ten Years After and 3,000 people would sit there in just total silence after each of my songs, until finally I would just cut my chest open. Just to hurt their feelings. – Iggy Pop, 1977.
In 1973 the symbiosis that had marked Bowie’s relationship with Lou Reed extended to Iggy, who was financially supported by Mainman. Holed up in the Hollywood Hills, he dyed his hair platinum and took heroin almost full-time. “You know,” he would say several years later, “when I met you and a lot of people in New York, well … you know where I come from [a trailer park in Ann Arbor, Michigan], and I was thrown into a scene that was very … mondo. And I think it turned me a little bit evil.”
I think the whole basis of fashion is contempt. The whole idea of fashion and style expresses a preference for abstract aesthetics in opposition to human values. – Iggy Pop, 1977.
Bowie didn’t have an influence on me other than friendship. Friendship is a very underrated influence in these modern times. Basically, David and I exchanged information. It’s great to meet somebody else who thinks they’re always right. – Iggy Pop, 1986.
After the Mercer collapsed, except for Club 82 and upstairs at Max’s Kansas City, there were no places for loud rock bands to play on a regular basis. That all changed one day in 1974 when guitarist Tom Verlaine, who had formed Television with Richard Hell, walked into a tiny club on the Bowery at Bleecker Street and asked owner Hilly Kristal if they could perform there. Although Kristal had hoped to have country and western in the place, he agreed. Afterward, he said, “Television was terrible. And the Ramones were even worse.”
CBGB’s was a dump then and is only slightly less of a dump now, but it was our dump. Some who went there on a regular basis never drank anything that wasn’t out of a bottle. But there was an undercurrent of change that gave a sense of mission: trying to bring rock ‘n’ roll out of its “soft rock,” Journey/Styx radio-band doldrums. Some were naive enough to think that it would change the world. Forget trying to change the world – the music of the 1960s had actually changed the world. In the 1970s the bands were just trying to change the music back.
At that time, the city was still affordable for misfits who came from elsewhere to flee boredom and seek adventure. (Lou Reed from Long Island. Debbie Harry and Patti Smith from New Jersey. Tom Verlaine from Delaware. The Ramones from Queens.) It wasn’t just the drugs and the promiscuous sex – although that was a plus. It also was, truly, about the music. No one talked – ever – about the stock market. No one went to the gym. Everyone smoked. Bands did two sets a night. Television jammed for hours at a time. Onstage (and off), Patti could talk like nobody’s business. Her shows were part dance party, part circus, part political rally. All that snotty, punching-the-air energy. Pretentious? Probably. Indulgent? No doubt. Didn’t matter. Patti Smith and Television and the Ramones and Talking Heads and Blondie were like our own little black-and-white 8-mm. movies that we thought would conquer the world.
I have no fond memories of CBGB’s. All I can remember is never having a door on the dressing rooms. You’d play there and wouldn’t get a free beer. – Johnny Ramone, from the Patti Smith documentary, Dancing Barefoot.
The story is that I “discovered” the Ramones one night in 1975 when Danny Fields and I “divided up shows” to go see. What I actually recall was that they had been pestering Danny to go see them so he could write about them in the Soho News, and had been calling me because they wanted to be in Rock Scene and Hit Parader. So, one night, I told Danny that I’d check them out. They took my breath away. I called Danny the next morning – well, whatever passed for morning at that time. “You have got to see this band,” I said. “They scream out ‘One, two, three, four!,’ and then rush at breakneck speed into the loudest songs I’ve ever heard. People were rushing out of there with their ears covered. The band wear jeans, T-shirts, and leather motorcycle jackets. They’re all called Ramone even though it’s not anyone’s real name and none of them are brothers. All their songs are under three minutes. Their entire set is only about 20 minutes. They changed my life.”
Everything’s kind of a joke with us. You can’t take things too seriously or it doesn’t pay to live. – Joey Ramone, 1978.
From my notes, May 1977: Paris. There is a strong cult of European rock fans who are enamored of what they call 2the New York Underground” – Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Television, the New York Dolls, John Cale, Iggy Pop, the Ramones. But the Ramones aren’t about to return the favor on this, their first tour of Europe. In Zurich their amps broke. In Geneva the customs officials and telephone company were on strike. It took two days to drive to Marseilles, only to discover that the club didn’t have a stage. In Le Havre, the musicians got severe electric shocks onstage. In Holland, Johnny Ramone’s leather jacket was stolen, and he had to have another one mailed from New York. The contrast was great between the Ramones – four boys from Queens who went to bed early, wanted to watch TV, and bemoaned the lack of lasagna – and their opening act, the art-school rock quartet Talking Heads, who traveled on a bus with the Ramones throughout Europe. “It’s like a vacation for me,” said Talking Heads lead singer David Byrne. “Everything is so scenie.” The Ramones were not enthusiastic. “Nobody talks English,” said Johnny Ramone. “It’s not like America. I miss home. We can’t find lasagna or ravioli, and I miss milk. All the milk here has stuff floating on top of it.” Joey Ramone added, “Even the orange juice and the Coca-Cola tastes weird.” Dee Dee chimed in, “But I’d like to find an apartment here in a crooked old building.”
They all live for publicity. Who’s the biggest star? Patti. They can’t envy her money, because they don’t see evidence of that, and none of these bands really live very differently than any other. So the only way they can judge that a band is getting big is by publicity. – Danny Fields, 1976.
Some of the stuff that’s written about me, I don’t even know what they’re talking about. I just like to look at Rock Scene or Creem to see what I had on, or if the pictures are good. – Patti Smith, 1975.
Rock Scene was an irreverent cult music magazine edited by Richard Robinson, Lenny Kaye, and myself that began in 1973 and documented and celebrated the rise of glam rock and punk in New York City. It was inspired by Woman’s Wear Daily’s “Eye” column and Jerome Zerbe’s book of photographs of socialites at El Morocco. Part tabloid, part fanzine, Rock Scene was where you could see what happened before or after the show, the social world beyond the stage. “The real secret of Rock Scene was not about us sitting around your apartment and coming up with photo captions like ‘Lou Reed in a pensive mood’ or ‘Patti Smith in a rare portrait,'” says Lenny Kaye. “It was about going backstage and bringing them back alive.” Rock Scene was put together a few nights every other month. We never thought anyone outside the downtown rock world saw it, but it made everyone in that small scene think they were huge stars. There were photo spreads of “David and Cyrinda at Home” and “The Ramones Buy a P.A.” Backstage pix of Bowie in his dressing room. An advice column from Wayne Country. Cover lines included “Holly Woodlawn – The New Cher??” and “The Stones Have Lunch.” Every so often, there would be an attempt at an “editorial meeting” with Danny Fields and Fran Lebowitz, who would suggest headlines. (Some of Lebowitz’s were AVERAGE WHITE BAND-I’LL SAY; BRYAN FERRY ILL-IN QUALITY HOSPITAL; and QUEEN: JUST ANOTHER BUNCH OF LIMEY QUEERS.)
“Rock Scene was national,” says Danny Fields, “but it had a small circulation. Still, it seemed as though everyone who bought it formed a band.”
Any group that gets onstage, even in CBGB’s, dreams of becoming as big as the Beatles. – Chris Stein, Blondie, 1979.
Television was more bohemian, but deadpan, detached, glamorous. Patti’s Soho News review/mash note to Tom Verlaine (reprinted in Rock Scene), which described him as having “the most beautiful neck in rock ‘n’ roll” and his guitar as sounding “like a thousand bluebirds screaming,” began their romance – which enhanced Television’s reputation. So, tripping over each other to get record deals were the Patti Smith Group, Television, Talking Heads, the Ramones, Blondie, and dozens of other bands – Tuff Darts, the Shirts, Mumps, the Dictators, the Dead Boys, Mink De Ville.
The truth was, these bands didn’t like each other very much. Blondie’s Chris Stein disliked Patti, which may or may not have had something to do with the fact that guitarist Ivan Kral left Blondie to work with the Patti Smith Group. Despite reports to the contrary, Patti was not all that aware of Blondie. There was no compelling male lead singer, no apparent “art” there – it just wasn’t her cup of tea. But Debbie Harry and Chris considered themselves intellectuals ho had created Debbie’s blonde bombshell as an art-rock piece. And Blondie was pissed off at Television for “stealing” bassist Fred Smith. (“Boy, did he make a mistake,” Debbie would say later when Blondie had huge hits.) The Ramones were wary of just about everyone. And, except for the Patti Smith Group (and even his enthusiasm for them was probably tempered), Tom Verlaine thought that just about everyone else stunk, and he, in particular, didn’t want to be thought of as being part of a scene. He forced Richard Hell out of Television and consistently had intergroup tensions with guitarist Richard Lloyd. Band dissension was not uncommon. “The truth is,” said Joey Ramone, “if Johnny [Ramone] and I weren’t working together, we probably wouldn’t see each other at all.”
From my notes, 1976: Patti as stylist: Patti wears a Lion of Judah T-shirt that reads, LOVE RASTAFARI-AND LIVE. A Milwaukee Braves red-and-black zippered jacket. Black Capezio ballet slippers – size 7½. Wildly colored, striped, Peruvian all-wool socks. Moroccan scarves. (Keith Richards has one, Patti gave one to Bob Dylan.) Conservative black suit jacket and trousers. Bob Marley button. Mint-green cashmere V-neck sweater. CULT FIGURE T-shirt. Green khaki army-surplus pants tied at the ankles. Black support hose. A man’s 100 percent cashmere black coat. “I like getting more money and buying more clothes,” she says, “but I never can find anything I like. I’m a girl, you know. All that stuff about being beyond gender, that’s great for art, but when it comes to present … When I have a lot of money I want a mink jacket. Mink because it’s status. That’s all, a dark mink jacket, lots of Rastafarian T-shirts, and 12 pairs of custom-made pants.”
From my notes, August 1976: Confrontation in CBGB’s last night. Television was about to go onstage when Lou Reed walked in with a cassette recorder. “What’s he doing with that tape recorder?” mumbled Tom Verlaine. “Do you think I should ask him to keep it in the back?” Ask him for the cassette, I suggested, or the batteries. “Hey, buddy,” Verlaine said to Reed. “Watcha doin’ with that machine?” Lou looked up, surprised. “The batteries are run-down,” he said. “Oh yeah?” responded Verlaine. “Then you won’t mind if I take it and hold it in the back, will ya?” Lou handed a cassette over, then said, “You’d make a lousy detective, man. You didn’t even notice the two extra cassettes in my pocket, heh-heh.” Verlaine was not amused. “O.K. then, pal, let me have the machine. I’ll keep it in the back for you.” Reed handed over the machine, then said. “Can you believe him?” His eyes widened in surprise.
From my note, 1977: Patti as art director: Patti is at home, lying on her queen-size bed covered with green-and-white checked sheets and a Moroccan bedspread, surrounded by rock magazines, fan mail, a 1920 picture of Antonin Artaud, a pearl-handled stiletto from Dee Dee Ramone, the complete works of Rimbaud, signed works of William Burroughs, a sacred ritual belt from Morocco given to her by Paul Getty III, a bronze incense burner, Ethiopian baskets filled with silk rags, a royal babuka rug, a Smith Corona typewriter, a Brian Jones scrapbook, the complete works of the 16th-century Japanese warrior Ninja Han, an 8-by-10 glossy of Rimbaud in Paris, a fill-color map of Ethiopia, six copies of Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, a hand-combed hair shirt from Abyssinia, several pairs of ballet slippers, 22 copies of her new album, Radio Ethiopia, a transistor radio, a lion pipe made from the clay found at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, postcards with dervishes on them, a cardboard fretboard to learn guitar chords, a monkey box filled with radiant dirt, 30 photos of Jim Morrison’s grave, copies of Crime magazine, a Raggedy Ann doll dressed like Patti, old Rolling Stones Hyde Park newspaper headlines, Charles Lindbergh’s autograph (signed, she points out, on Brian Jones’s birthday), and a pale-green silk party dress – “Some kid must have stolen it from his mother; it looks like a Balenciaga.”
From my notes, March 1980: Lou and Sylvia Morales got married on Valentine’s Day 1980. The ceremony was in his apartment on Christopher Street, with the reception afterward at One if by Land, Two if by Sea. After the ceremony, I told Lou’s father how important Lou was to the culture. How his songs would last. Forget the Beatles, Hendrix – in that time capsule would be “Sweet Jane” and “Sister Ray,” and probably even Metal Machine Music. Mr. Reed looked at me. “You know what really makes me happy?” he asked. “Guess what Lou and Sylvia wanted for their wedding present?” I waited. “Storm windows,” he said.
Malcolm [McLaren, the Sex Pistols’ manager] came over, he had clothes, and he started hanging around us during a particularly uncreative period. We wrote this song called “Red Patent Leather”; it was about a particularly physical relationship where people wound up with marks on them, a real rocker. So Malcolm made all these beautiful red vinyl clothes, but they looked like patent leather. But Malcolm wasn’t really our manager, he was our haberdasher. Then he took off with half our equipment, the bum. – David Johansen, 1978.
The Dolls played with reckless abandon and celebratory magic. It was never totally captured on record, although those who were there can hear it in the band’s two albums. They were despised by the record industry. But in the end it was rampant drug use, intergroup tension, and poor business sense – along with no help from the outside – that destroyed the Dolls. Their influence, however, crossed the Atlantic.
I came from art school and didn’t care about rock ‘n’ roll. I cared more about fashion and I took up the Sex Pistols because I thought they would help me sell a lot of trousers. It really was a seasonal thing for me. – Malcolm McLaren, 1984.
From my notes, December 9, 1976: I take the train from London to Manchester to catch up with the notorious Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the U.K.” tour. The band said “fuck” on live television, and all hell has broken loose. That gang of hysterical Fleet Street drunks has declared the Pistols the lowest form of humanity. THE FILTH AND THE FURY, screams one headline. The tour – with the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Buzzcocks, and New York’s own Heartbreakers – has been banned all over England. Malcolm McLaren tells me that EMI Records has held shareholders’ meetings to decide whether or not to drop the band. When someone tells Johnny Rotten that the day’s headline is ROTTEN INSULTS QUEEN, he says, “The group? Or Her Royal Majesty?” The Clash performs for 20 minutes, and I will not stop talking about it for the next six months.
Chrissie Hynde and members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols had gone to the Roundhouse in London to see the Patti Smith Group in May of 1976. The Clash and the Sex Pistols saw the Ramones at a sold-out show at the Roundhouse on July 4, 1976, where, according to Danny Fields, Clash bassist Paul Simonon told Johnny Ramone, “We don’t think we’re good enough to go out and play yet.” To which Johnny replied, “Wait until you see us. We stink.” Some say what happened was that the Clash ripped off the Ramones, the Sex Pistols ripped off the Dolls. And despite the bad rap Malcolm McLaren got for ripping off the Dolls when he “formed” the Pistols, and all his talk about how Richard Hell’s song “Blank Generation” and torn PLEASE KILL ME T-shirt were his “inspirations,” the truth is that the truth is not so simple. Some say Pistols guitarist Steve Jones was in the audience when Iggy played the King’s Cross Cinema in 1972. Others say that it was Johnny Rotten who was there. Music journalist Nick Kent says that Steve Jones was the real leader of the Pistols and that the band had nothing to do with McLaren’s “crackpot art-college concepts.” Certainly there was a rock underground in London with musicians who knew and loved American bands like the Flamin’ Groovies, the Stooges, MC5, the Modern Lovers, and the Dolls.
After 1978 the New York rock scene started to fizzle out. The Dolls were over. Bowie was starring on Broadway in The Elephant Man. Television broke up. Blondie had a disco hit with “Heart of Glass” and was starting to incorporate rap – which was brand-new – with “Rapture.” Lou Reed and producer Richard Robinson were in Germany recording Street Hassle and pioneering a novel recording technique that involved Styrofoam heads with microphones stuck in the ears. Patti Smith was already on her third album (Easter), which contained her hit – “Because the Night,” written with Bruce Springsteen. After it reached the Top 20 (and following Wave, her fourth album), she eventually moved to Detroit, married former MC5 guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith, raised two children, and stayed away for 14 years, until after Fred’s death in 1994. The Ramones continued to tour the world.
The Ramones were our own breed of band. When we started, there was us and Donna Summer, “Disco Duck,” Boston, Journey … faceless, spineless radio rock. Everybody wanted us to disappear. They didn’t know how to deal with us except for the people who found us refreshing, like yourself or Andy Warhol – those outcasts. – Joey Ramone, 1994.
Epilogue, 2002: Patti Smith still does poetry readings and performs concerts with her band. She is writing a memoir and currently has a show of drawings at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Lou Reed, who lives in New York City with performance artist Laurie Anderson, is considered rock’s poet Laureate and has a new album, The Raven, out later this year. David Bowie, who lives in New York City with wife Iman, released his 30th album, Heathen, to great acclaim last June. He recently was part of Moby’s Area2 tour, and he continues to paint, write, record, and perform. Cyrinda Foxe-Tyler died in New York City of brain cancer last month. Iggy Pop is currently living in Miami and continues to record and perform. David Johansen leads an authentic folk-blues band, the Harry Smiths. Joey Ramone died of lymphoma on Easter Sunday 2001, and Dee Dee Ramone died this past year of a drug overdose, three months after the Ramones’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – where Dee Dee thanked himself. Johnny Ramone, who at the induction asked God to bless President George W. Bush and America, lives in Los Angeles and has produced a Ramones tribute album. Former Clash lead singer Joe Strummer performs with his band the Mescaleros and so far has resisted attempts to reunite the Clash, whose “London Calling” is now featured in a Jaguar TV ad. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein successfully reunited Blondie in 1999. Blondie’s 1979 song “One Way or Another” now helps sell Mazdas. John Lydon, who is consulting on a movie based on his autobiography, appeared most recently at an anti-jubilee show in London with a reunited Sex Pistols. Max’s Kansas City is now a delicatessen. CBGB’s is still open for business at 315 Bowery. Copies of Rock Scene can occasionally be found in magazine-memorabilia shops for upward of $50 each. And, after more than two decades of making solo records, Tom Verlaine put Television together this past year for a series of rare shows. They still sound ahead of their time.