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Soundtrack to Watergate Vol. 2: Pirates, Angels, Dinosaurs, Gas Masks — and Ziggy Again

If Donald Trump gets impeached he’ll leave office to strains of excess and decadence — think of the Jonas Brothers copping to “dancing on top of cars and stumbling out of bars” in “Sucker,” Ariana Grande cavorting amid waterfalls of champagne in “7 Rings,” and Lil Nas X’s genre whiplashing as he makes off with the loot in “Old Town Road,” to name just a very few.

The only time an impeachment forced a U.S. commander in chief from office was after the Watergate scandal, which can be dated roughly from the Watergate burglary in June 1972 until Richard Nixon resigned his office, a little more than two years later.

The ads in our second installment of “Soundtrack to Watergate” are all full-pagers — and mostly right-hand pages at that, because advertisers pay a premium to snag eyeballs on the side of a spread that readers see for a few extra nanoseconds as they flip through a periodical. Back in 1972, the Watergate scandal was simply a police blotter report that Republicans were dismissing as a “third-rate burglary,” even though the perps had ties directly to the White House. A number of the ads here feature a logo with the stars of the American flag replaced by the number 18, signifying the voting age, which had recently been reduced from 21, along with the exhortation “Use the Power — VOTE.”

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Nixon, a buttoned-down Quaker who was the antithesis of the counterculture that most of the albums trumpeted, would win in a landslide in November, which relieved his innate paranoia for a few months until the drip-by-drip revelations of his administration’s SOP corruption, self-dealing, and obstruction of justice became a deluge that even his staunchest supporters could no longer explain away.

We have to admit there’s a lot of music below that, almost half a century on, we had never heard before, even though the record companies back in the day thought they were worth an expensive ad buy. So we’ve plunged down a number of streaming-service rabbit holes to bring ourselves up to speed on the flea-market vinyl below.

Much of the archive scanning work here was done while listening to the Latin-infused rock of Macondo, who, according to various record-collecting sites, were an East L.A. group discovered by Sergio Mendes in the early ’70s. Any album with a T-Rex on the cover deserves a listen, and we were not disappointed by Albert Hernandez’s fire-breathing guitar licks and Fred Ramirez’s rollercoaster organ riffs, especially on “Cayuco.”

Jefferson Airplane recorded their seventh studio album using the time-honored tradition of avoiding personality clashes after years of creative intensity by recording a number of the tracks in separate sessions and then getting the band back together in the final mix. Perhaps the pirate in the ad was drooling over the cigars printed on the album sleeve.

Looking Glass gave the world “Brandy” — “a fine girl” who served whiskey and wine and whose eyes “could steal a sailor from the sea.” Not, however, the one seaman she really wanted, because, “Lord, he was an honest man / and Brandy does her best to understand” when he —most probably in a pillow-talk whisper — informs her, “my life, my love and my lady is the sea / It is, yes it is.” $4.49 for the 8-Track at Sam Goody.

Despite the innocent-looking cherub hawking their new album, Black Oak Arkansas was upfront about delivering “more raunchy rock from the good ol’ country boys.” With songs of nightriders in trucks and on horseback, you might get the impression that these southern boys were into raising some serious hell.

Jack Nitzsche worked with everyone from Phil Spector to Neil Young to the Stones. He also did the soundtrack to the film Performance, which featured Mick Jagger and James Fox as, respectively, a rocker and a gangster who eventually meet on a higher plane. Perhaps writing the choral arrangement for “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” prepared Nitzsche for his collaboration with another breed of “long-haired friends,” when he recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra in an ancient London church with the sonorous name “St. Giles Cripplegate.”

Tina Turner leaps across the ad for Feel Good, and with the exception of a cover of Lennon and McCartney’s “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” she also wrote all of the songs for her and then husband Ike’s 17th (!) studio album.

The Hollies had a top-ten hit with “Long Cool Woman,” which pulled their album Distant Light to No. 21 on Billboard magazine’s charts. For fans of the Hipgnosis design studio, the gatefold album cover — featuring Boschlike grotesqueries in the depths of a bucolic pond — made the $3.77 tab go down easier.

According to Billboard, covering the 1972 release of Phoenix, “Grand Funk have by now attained an almost permanent place in rock’s hierarchy. They have legions of devoted, ready followers at every performance and lining up to buy their every album.” However, as the website superseventies.com notes, Lester Bangs, reviewing the album in Rolling Stone, was having none of it: “It’s not that there’s anything wrong with mediocrity or cliché — could you or I have written ‘Sugar, Sugar’? — but when mediocrity loses all its flair, all its panache, becomes this bland and this pompous at the same time . . . it’s time for some Chuck Berry.”

Herbie Mann’s flute (and David “Fathead” Newman’s sax) cover much musical terrain here, beginning with the traditional spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and concluding with a rock standard for the ages, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The ad’s illustration reinforces aspirations both high and low.

Take your pick that fall of 1972: Roberta Flack and Quincy Jones in September, The Fifth Dimension hitting the stage near Thanksgiving, with Bowie, Elton, America (of “A Horse With No Name” fame), and other chart toppers in between. Top ticket price was $8.50 for Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold George Dorsey), who once told the Hollywood Reporter, “I can hit notes a bank could not cash.”

According to the ad copy, Bonnie Raitt was a balladeering belter who’d been described as “earthy and innocent, winsome and whiskey-headed.” When asked for her own opinion, Raitt told the ad agency that her “batting average for the summer is something over .250.” Considering that this propulsive collection of rocking blues filigreed with New Orleans brass accents landed on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, we’d say she was swinging an even hotter bat back then.

Tim Buckley (1947–1975), whose music ranged from jazz to all manner of rock into funk, poses with a gas mask in the full-page ad for Greetings from L.A. A postcard of the City of Angels blanketed in smog on the album cover gives an idea of the down and dirty tunes on the vinyl.

Prog rock was ascendant in the early 70s, and it doesn’t get much more proggy than Curved Air’s synthesizer solos accompanying the Renaissance-festival-like vocals of lead singer Sonja Kristina on Phatasmagoria’s “Marie Antoinette.” The ad copy beneath the undulating logo reads “The one group that might be too good for America.” Indeed, these folky Brits hit No. 20 in the UK, but Phantasmagoria didn’t chart in the states.

Spokane, Washington, native Danny O’Keefe, on the other hand, hit it big with his single “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues,” which pulled his LP, O’Keefe, up to No. 87 on the album charts. The single has long since been etched into the pop pantheon, having been covered by artists from Waylon Jennings to Mel Torme to the King himself, Elvis Presley. The world-weariness of one particular verse has resonated with different singers; the original, “Ya know my heart keeps tellin’ me / ‘You’re not a kid at thirty-three’ / Ya play around, ya lose your wife / Ya play too long, you lose your life,’ “ gains a decade in Charlie Rich’s telling, the country maestro figuring he’s finally grown up at age 43.

If you had dreams of stardom back in ’72 you could’ve done worse than to head over to the former Fillmore East on Second Avenue and audition for . . . well, since they were seeking not just your standard-issue actors, jugglers, and fire-eaters but also “Dancing Bears,” “Aging Astronauts,” and “Animal Tamers and Big Namers,” we’re just sorry we weren’t around to see what kind of show they were putting together.

If hard rock was your jam, then Ramatam fit the bill. The band featured some established heavyweights, such as drummer Mitch Mitchell, late of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and former Iron Butterfly guitarist Mike Pinera. The quintet also featured a rarity for that time — a hard-rocking female guitarist. April Lawton (1948–2006) was a Long Island native who some hailed as the female Hendrix, but although Ramatam’s second album sported the enticing, semi-eponymous title In April Came the Dawning of the Red Suns, the band never caught the whirlwind.

If it was sun you were seeking, you could at least get it on vinyl in a two-record set capturing the “Mar y Sol” festival, held earlier that year in Puerto Rico. The eclectic gang had all been there, ranging from B.B. King, the Allman Brothers, Dr. John, and J. Geils to the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

And speaking of the prog gods, ELP was also promoting their own album at the time, Trilogy, which featured, among other virtuosic instrumentals, the trio’s take on an American classic, Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown.” The album hit No. 5 on the Billboard charts, though Voice music critic Robert Christgau bluntly disagreed: “The pomposities of Tarkus and the monstrosities of the Moussorgsky homage clinch it — these guys are as stupid as their most pretentious fans. Really, anybody who buys a record that divides a . . . composition called ‘The Endless Enigma’ into two discrete parts deserves it. C-”

And if you didn’t get enough of the J. Geils Band on the “Sea and Sun” discs, you could buy their live album Full House, which featured a winking Queen to let you know the hand was actually only a three-of-a-kind. More important, the title implied that they could sell out any venue they played.

Geils and crew were indeed bringing their boisterous rock to ever larger audiences, but they still didn’t have the drawing power of Alice Cooper, who was headlining a show at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City. The concert was a big deal — Cooper flaunted his sexuality in a solo ad as the big day drew near — but the venue’s greatest claim to fame came on April 18, 1946, when the home team, the Jersey City Giants, a farm club of the New York Giants across the river, hosted the Montreal Royals. The Royals trounced the Giants 14 to 1, but anyone who was there was undoubtedly impressed with the debut of the Brooklyn Dodger’s farm team’s second baseman, Jackie Robinson, who had four hits in five trips to the plate, including a three-run homer.

Another megastar coming to town was less abrasive than Alice Cooper: John Denver was promoting his album (and single) Rocky Mountain High. Carnegie Hall had probably never felt vaster.

Then again, in the same week, that storied music venue would also host Ziggy Stardust. And he’d come all the way from Mars.

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Taking the Stage with Alfred E. Neuman

Before she won six Tony awards, between 1970 and 2012, and prior to her 1979 Emmy for her lead role in the TV show Alice, Linda Lavin appeared on stage in The Mad Show, singing Stephen Sondheim’s (uncredited) “The Boy From …,” a breathy parody of “The Girl from Ipanema,” which includes such lines as “When I tell him I think he’s the end / He giggles a lot with his friend.” In this case, girl does not get boy.

And before she became a household name on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Jo Anne Worley trod the boards alongside Lavin to bring the satirical magazine’s gags to life in a 1966 production at the New Theatre on East 54th Street.

The first hint Village Voice readers had of this hybrid of the printed page and live theater was an ad in the December 23, 1965, issue announcing “A New Musical Revue Based on MAD Magazine,” to which Alfred E. Neuman declaims, “ECCH!”

Two weeks later the paper included a publicity photo of three mugging cast members.

At the bottom of that same page, the magazine’s mascot’s mug appears again, blasé about the show’s opening date, Sunday, January 9, 1966.

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The following week there is no word from Voice critics, but others have weighed in. In the ad, the clip art of Alfred remains stoic.

Come January 20 and the Voice passes judgement in the Theatre Journal column. This time, the production department took pains to keep the ad on page 19, separate from the editorial critique on page 20.

Critic Michael Smith liked the show, but lamented the omission of the magazine’s “threat of savagery in its satiric bite”:

“The Mad Show” is a speedy and consistently funny musical revue. Its five performers are likable and highly skilled, Steven Vinaver’s direction leaves barely a moment unoccupied, Mary Rodgers’s music is energetic and versatile, and the sum is thoroughly diverting. It’s difficult to break the show down into its parts, since it moves at an almost blurring velocity. Linda Lavin is absolutely bewitching in “The Boy From,” and Paul Sand’s “The Real Thing” is a flawlessly performed miniature. MacIntyre Dixon and Dick Libertini, previously familiar as the Stewed Prunes, are as unpredictably zany as ever, and Jo Anne Worley has comic expertise to spare. Together and separately, they look like the ideal revue cast.

“The Mad Show” is based on Mad magazine. It shares the comic book’s irreverence, sometimes mimics its mating of the far-fetched with the dead-pan, but omits its air of tenuous control, the threat of savagery in its satiric bite. Much of the time the source is not visible, and I would have preferred to see more risks taken, more point of view, more precision in choosing targets for satire. I prefer theatre to be less innocuous; despite its shambling exterior, “The Mad Show” would not be outré in a chic midtown boîte. (But when would you find time to drink your drink?)

In other words, if you like this sort of thing, this is an excellent example of it. Aesthetic commitments ablush, I report it readily recommendable.

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Soundtrack to Watergate: Ziggy, Cheech, and Chong Hold Their Heads High

There was a lot of anxiety on Main Street during the Watergate scandal. We will be posting music ads that appeared in the Voice from the period that started with the bungled burglary in June 1972 and ended in August 1974, when Richard Nixon resigned from office in the face of near-certain impeachment due to his self-dealing, corrupt practices, and obstruction of justice.

Those were heady times. The rock was classic — we just didn’t know it yet. And even as it was becoming canonical, it was also progressing. Or at least morphing into the technical virtuosity that characterized Prog rock.

We’ll start with a passel of ads from the early days of the scandal that brought Nixon down. Released one month before five men broke into the Democratic National headquarters in the Watergate Complex, the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street set the musical tone for the coming national nightmare: two discs of warped, dirty Americana.

In support of Exile, the Stones had embarked on a 50-date American tour that made headlines for all the wrong reasons. The week before the Watergate break-in, 60 Stones fans were arrested outside the band’s San Diego show, while police used tear gas on hundreds more. Two nights after the inept burglars were caught in the act, the Stones were trashing the Playboy Mansion, in Chicago.

Although they were not as huge as the Stones, Argent had a major top-10 hit around the globe with “Hold Your Head Up.” We’re not sure, though, just what those surrealistic objects beyond that particular Door of Perception in their ad might be. Not pillows at least — Jefferson Airplane took care of that way back in 1967.

Bill Graham’s Fillmore East had had a brief but storied history: Located at 105 Second Avenue, it hosted all the legends of the era — Hendrix, the Doors, Miles Davis, the Bonzo Dog Band — before closing its doors in June 1971. Today, the space — a block from the Village Voice offices — is home to a bank.

Hits don’t get much more massive than “Lean on Me” — the Bill Withers classic topped the charts in June 1972. Just months earlier, Withers had won a Grammy for “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and in July the R&B singer was scheduled to play a weeklong residency at the Bitter End.

Those with more highbrow tastes could attend a Mozart and Bach fest. (Nixon was a Bach fan, which writer Tom Carson touched on in his brilliant Voice obituary of the disgraced president: “ ‘Do you know why Bach is better than Brahms?’ the grizzled, not-a-­crook former president demanded of a star­tled Gary Hart not too many years ago, when they were seated together at a state funeral. ‘Bach is tougher than Brahms.’ ”)

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If you wanted an evening of avant-garde inspiration, the New School was celebrating John Cage’s 60th birthday.

The Grateful Dead were also in town (well, actually, across the Hudson at Roosevelt Stadium). Nixon was gearing up for a final, typically dirty political campaign spearheaded by the minions of the CRP — Committee to Re-Elect the President — which became more popularly known as CREEP.

Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Dead wanted the youth of America to use their newly acquired right to vote, hopefully to turn Nixon out of office in November. That wouldn’t exactly work out.

Cheech and Chong were concerned with different numbers when they released their second album, Big Bambú, which reached No. 2 on the charts.

Finally, David Bowie was on his way to becoming the Man Who Fell to Earth. Released on the eve of the Watergate break-in, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars was Bowie’s breakthrough: By 1974, the British showman would be big enough to inspire a look-alike contest … and Richard Nixon would be out of office.

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New Year’s Eve Parties — 20th-Century Version

It’s New Year’s Eve half a century ago. What to do? Well, according to the December 31, 1958, issue of the Voice, you could stay home with your “impressionable friend” and have a bottle of 80-proof vodka or some “N.Y. State Champagne” delivered right to your door from Heller’s Liquor store on Greenwich Ave.

Or perhaps you prefer your booze mixed with some serious jazz jams? If so, the Five Spot, on Cooper Square, was the place to be — on New Year’s Eve 1958, both Sonny Rollins and Charles Mingus were on the bill.

A decade later, you could head over to Broadway, near West 3rd Street, and party with David Peel and the Lower East Side as they belted out such no-bullshit numbers as “Show Me the Way to Get Stoned” and “Here Comes a Cop.” For those feeling even more raucous, MC5 were also in the house. (And we’ll just note that, in those days of cutting up type with X-Acto knives and pasting it onto production boards with hot wax, sometimes a piece of copy would fall off. No doubt the Broadway Central Hotel was pissed that its headline “!GET! ON DOWN FOR SIXTY” was missing the “NINE.” Hey, it was the late Sixties, there was always a party going on — even in the Voice production department.)

That same year you could meander over to the Electric Circus (formerly the Dom) to soak up the paisley vibe of the English psychedelic rockers Deep Purple. The club’s ad was straightforward: “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”

Come the late Seventies, your choices were even more widespread. CBGB’s on the Bowery was apparently having so much success that it opened a new venue on Second Avenue. If poetic punk rock was your cup of tea, you couldn’t do a whole lot better than a double bill of Patti Smith and Richard Hell. Or, if you were in a symphonic mood, what better than a live “Star Wars Laser Concert” on Broadway for a fresh start to the new year? It was, after all, “the Ultimate Laser Trip.”

The Reagan Eighties specialized in crassness, so who better to ring in 1989 than that potty-mouthed greaser throwback Andrew Dice Clay? Who wouldn’t want to “Spend New Year’s Eve with the Hoodlum of Comedy”?

Fortunately, there were other options. One in particular caught our eye. Back in the day, it also caught gossip columnist Michael Musto’s attention, and he would later reminisce about the multilevel dance club Mars: “Inspired by Blade Runner, but with distinct echoes of H.R. Pufnstuf [Mars] had walls of lava lamps and surreal statues to add to the all-around trippy experience.”

Come the late Nineties and it’s just a smorgasbord of sonic sensation all over town. You’ve got Isaac Hayes bringing his hot buttered soul to Life on Bleecker. The more nostalgia-minded could take in a Beatles tribute band at the Rock ’n’ Roll Café, or go back in time to 1984 at the Pyramid Club.

But if we could hop into the Wayback Machine, we’d head over to the Hammerstein Ballroom to blast off with George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars. Because, sometimes, old school never gets old.

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Ads of Christmas Past

It’s yuletide in the East Village, 1970 edition: MGM, the big movie studio, is setting up shop to capture some local color on Second Avenue. But, as Howard Smith reported in his weekly Scenes column, Kip Cohen, of the Fillmore East, was having none of it, fearing the out-of-towners might exploit “the whole East Village scene.” So the club manager covered his venue’s marquee with black drapes and devised a “sound mechanism” to distort the filmmakers’ audio track.

The two-page spread in the December 10, 1970, issue of the Voice exemplified a new decade looking to make sense of the advances, struggles, love, and violence of the tumultuous Sixties. Smith also reported on the travails of Art Raveson, who was having “some really big hassles trying to sell boxes of Christmas cards portraying himself as a kind of tenement Jesus crucified on a fire escape ladder.” Smith added that the long-haired Son of God ringer had turned his one-room apartment into “a miniature Hallmark factory,” and that reaction on the street to his wares ranged from “the standard New York blank stare to outrage — one woman hurled a box of the cards into the gutter and stomped on it after a five-minute harangue.”

Almost half a century on, the ads on that spread reveal that the times were definitely a-changing. The Beatles were no more, but the Plastic Ono Band were releasing an album featuring one of the world’s most famous couples, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, in alternating portraits. A much smaller ad presaged that a more raucous style of rock was waiting in the wings: “PUNK MUSIC BY SUICIDE” exclaims the copy in an ad for a show at the Village Vanguard, more commonly thought of as a temple of jazz. The Ramones would not burst onto the scene for another few years, but Suicide bandmates Alan Vega and Martin Rev were already promising some “nasty punk.”

Another ad from that same month featured a man who needs no introduction now but was still a fresh phenomenon in 1970: Jesus Christ Superstar. As the copy asks, “Was he God, myth or magician?”

Well, he wasn’t yet a Broadway star, but the double album about his life was climbing the charts and would hit number one a couple of months later. Decca bought a full-page ad in the December 3 issue of the Voice to stoke the buzz and tell people what was happening, quoting a reviewer in the L.A. Free Press: “Potentially the single most important recording since Edison waxed his first cylinder.”

What would Christmas be without some serious hyperbole?

 

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Giving Thanks — For Jimi Hendrix

James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington, on November 27, 1942, the day after Thanksgiving. He went on to become the gold standard of rock guitarists. The English musician/singer/songwriter Terry Reid once told an interviewer about seeing one of Hendrix’s early performances in a London club, in 1966, with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney, and other British rock luminaries in the crowd: “He breaks into ‘Wild Thing,’ and it was all over. There were guitar players weeping. They had to mop the floor up. He was piling it on, solo after solo. I could see everyone’s fillings falling out. When he finished, it was silence. Nobody knew what to do. Everybody was dumbstruck, completely in shock.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Hendrix had an equal impact on the Big Apple. In the November 21, 1968, issue of the Village Voice, concert promoter Ron Delsener placed an ad for “An Electronic Thanksgiving,” which featured the Jimi Hendrix Experience and, somewhat incongruously, the harpsichordist Fernando Valenti, who was better known for his recordings of Bach compositions.

Two weeks later, reviewer Annie Fisher wrote, “[Hendrix] is a born entertainer as well as musician, very much at home on stage, but as the innovator he is, he is at his best exploring, experimenting, or even just noodling around in the freedom and challenge a jam provides.”

Hendrix died tragically young, in 1970, but his legacy lived on in New York City.

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In 1976, the musician and songwriter Earl Solomon Burroughs appeared at Town Hall under the stage name Jack Hammer, presenting “Electric God — The most earth shattering new musical event inspired by Jimi Hendrix.”

Burroughs (1925–2016) is probably most well-known as co-writer of the classic rock ’n’ roll tune “Great Balls of Fire.” Although seventeen years older than Hendrix, he touted a similarity in appearance to boost his credentials to carry on the guitar god’s legacy. As writer Jerry Hopkins reported in the December 2, 1976, issue of Rolling Stone, “Jack Hammer, a musician and composer (‘Great Balls of Fire’) Hendrix had known in his early days in Greenwich Village, was there. His rap is a doozy; it goes on and on until, by his count, there are 22 coincidences in their lives, including an astonishing physical resemblance. Hendrix, he says, told him: ‘There are such things as two people who are so identical it’s as if they were cloned one from the other.’ But Hammer believed it was nothing more than coincidence ‘until Hendrix died on my birthday, September 18th, two days after our conversation. The day we talked, the 16th, sitting at the same table at the Speakeasy with Jimi and me was Big Mama Cass, Janis Joplin and Jimi’s manager, Mike Jeffrey, all now dead except me.’”

The full-page ad in the November 22, 1976, issue of the Voice gives some credence to Hammer’s mirror-image claim; we are still checking our archives to see if any reviewers commented on his guitar-playing skills.

Twenty-one years later, Hendrix was still a Thanksgiving draw, featured in the Black Rock Coalition’s 7th Annual Jimi Hendrix Tribute.

The tradition continued into the aughts. For instance, the 19th Annual Jimi Hendrix Birthday Bash was held at Terra Blues on Bleecker Street, in 2009.

And for Thanksgiving 2018, you can once again get your fill of Hendrix. It’s nice to know that some things never change.

 

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Andy Land 8: Ads For — and Attacks On — the Avant Garde

It’s 1964 in downtown New York — do you know where your demimonde is?

As it turns out, some of its denizens were in jail.

In the March 19, 1964, issue of the Village Voice, Jonas Mekas, the paper’s resident explicator of the underground scene (and a filmmaker in his own right), delivered a first-person account of his “Kafkaesque journey into the womb of the Tombs.” Mekas was yelled at, stripped naked, and kicked for the crime of screening Jean Genet’s Un Chant d’Amour, which a companion article on the same page described as “a homosexual love story.” The second article added that the film had been shown in the first place to “raise money for a defense fund for Mekas and three associates arrested two weeks earlier for showing the Jack Smith film ‘Flaming Creatures’ at the New Bowery Theatre.”

The mid-Sixties were perilous times for those pushing the boundaries of what was then socially acceptable. As Mekas wrote in his own account, “One of the detectives who arrested me told me, at the theatre, that he did not know why they were taking me to the station: I should be shot right there in front of the screen.” (We’ll just note here that Mekas is still going strong, at age 95.)

Just a few weeks later, an ad in the April 9, 1964, issue of the paper offers a plaintive declaration: “You have noticed that our butterfuly [sic] has disappeared from The Village Voice. One after another, the independent and avant-garde film showcases have been closed, either by the District Attorney, the Police, the State Division of Motion Pictures, or the Department of Licenses.”

The illustration in the ad looks to have been doodled by Andy Warhol, similar in line and design to a sheet of butterfly drawings he did in 1955, titled Happy Butterfly Day. The pop artist’s film Newsreel was one of the movies that had been seized, along with Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures (as well as rushes from Smith’s work in progress Normal Love) and Genet’s Un Chant D’Amour. The ad for the “Film-Makers’ Cooperative Anti-Censorship Fund” argues that an “important shift in the ways of life, in moral attitudes, is about to take place in America. Really, the shift has been going on for some time: what’s lacking is the official stamp. That’s what this is all about. The clash between a going-away generation and a coming generation. Much of what the Old Generation calls immoral and obscene; much of what it calls non- or anti-art — to us is Beauty, because it is part of our life.”

In that same April 9, 1964, issue, the paper reported on the arrest of comedian Lenny Bruce, for giving an “indecent performance” at the Cafe Au GoGo. (A grand jury had listened to tapes of two Bruce shows at the venue and found “sufficient evidence” to charge Bruce and the club’s manager.) The article notes that an “Emergency Committee Against Harassment of Lenny Bruce” had been formed and had sent a petition to Mayor Robert F. Wagner charging that “‘obscenity’ has become a cudgel against free speech and only encourages intimidation of performers and their public.” (Bruce’s travails have been fictionalized in the Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.)

In an accompanying Voice article, Bruce displays surprising equanimity by blaming his arrest on the “mores or the times,” adding, “I’m either behind or ahead of the times.” Reporter Stephanie Gervis Harrington follows Bruce around the city: “Later, in his room at one of the Village’s less elegant hotels, where there is no carpeting, just blankets and miscellaneous junk on the floor, Bruce kind of nervously jumps around, occasionally flopping down on the messed-up bed with a law book, all his attention focused on working out the legal strategy to get him out from under the latest charge against him. His steadily mounting experience in cases like this has made him somewhat of a specialist on the subject.” At one point Bruce offers backhanded compassion for the cops who keep running him in: “They die for less than $400 a month. And they’re ashamed of being cops. It’s a shitty gig.” Then Bruce puts his finger on the main problem the authorities have with his act: “The key word is ‘prurient.’ Don’t get people horny.”

While this culture war was raging, Warhol was toiling away in his studio on what would ultimately become one of his most popular series: the “Flowers” paintings and prints. A tiny ad for his solo exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery on the Upper East Side joined many other announcements on the Galleries page of the November 19, 1964, issue. Over the previous two years, Warhol had created large paintings of car crashes, suicides, and tragic film stars, and the curator Henry Geldzahler claims to have told the artist, early in 1964, “Andy, maybe it’s enough death now.” But the flower images, with their coarse black photo screens over broad swathes of magenta, yellow, orange, and other brash colors, had their own dark undercurrents. In September 1964, supporters of President Lyndon Johnson had implied — by way of a television ad featuring a little girl picking flowers as an atom bomb explodes — that the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater, couldn’t be trusted with America’s nuclear arsenal. Warhol, as usual, was coy when a reporter asked him about his flowery imagery: “I was going to make the show all Goldwater if he won, because then everything would go, art would go.”

In a December 3, 1964, review of the flower exhibition, Voice art critic David Bourdon first discusses the 1962 science-fiction film The Creation of the Humanoids, which features a post-apocalypse society of humans and “clickers,” a species of humanoid robots. Bourdon writes, “The denouement comes when the heroine and the hero (a militant anti-humanoid who goes around throwing bombs at uppity ‘clickers’) discover themselves to be machines. This is the happy ending of what Andy Warhol calls the best movie he has ever seen.” Bourdon further speculates that behind Warhol’s genial facade “there is a lot of cybernetic circuitry.” Pursuing this notion, the Voice critic hits on something very important about the appeal of Warhol’s mechanically derived imagery: “The literalness with which Warhol renders his second-hand images actually lands him on the far side of realism, in a region where visual fact turns into phantasmagoria that becomes all the more hallucinatory because it is without a shred of fantasy.”

As the Sixties gathered more countercultural steam, the actions and reactions continued. In the December 31, 1964, issue, a five-column-wide ad proclaims, “Just back from four months in Africa: Malcolm X speaks on ‘1965: Prospects for Freedom.’”

Malcolm X had earlier broken with the Nation of Islam leader, Elijah Muhammad. Now running his own mosque, Malcolm remained a fiery speaker. The speech referred to in the ad posits that “no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom,” and was being given under the auspices of the Militant Labor Forum.

On the same page, a short notice informs Voice readers where they can send letters to Julian Beck and Judith Malina, founders of the downtown Living Theatre, who were briefly imprisoned for contempt of court because they wore theatrical getups during tax evasion hearings.

Although the cops were once filmed breaking up a jam session by the Velvet Underground — the house band at Warhol’s Silver Factory (so named because much of it was wallpapered with shiny tinfoil) — Warhol apparently avoided any time in the slammer for his various transgressions. In the March 18, 1965, Voice we get an ad for his “six hour epic SLEEP,” being screened at the City Hall Cinema.

By 1966, Warhol was branching out into live extravaganzas, and there is some evidence that his wide-ranging creative forays were leading to cash-flow problems. The February 10, 1966, edition of the Voice features a Bulletin Board notice that reads, in the bumpy syntax of ad copy dictated over the telephone, “I’ll endorse with my name any of the following: clothing AC-DC, cigarettes small, tapes, sound equipment, ROCK N’ ROLL RECORDS, anything, film, and film equipment, Food, Helium, Whips. MONEY!! love and kisses ANDY WARHOL, EL 5-9941.”

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History shrouds what endeavors might have arisen from his Bulletin Board pitch, though later Warhol would go on to produce the Velvets’ first album, famously putting nothing save the image of a banana and his own oversize signature on the cover. In later decades he would go on to endorse numerous products, including Vidal Sassoon shampoos, Pioneer stereo components, and Sony video tapes.

The same February 10, 1966, issue that featured the Bulletin Board plea also includes a small ad for Andy Warhol Up-Tight Presents, which promises a bevy of demimonde acts, including the Velvet Underground and the “whip dancing and leather” stylings of Mary Piffath and Gerard Malanga. Interestingly, the then-sixtysomething surrealist master Salvador Dali still rated all-caps treatment from the downtown scenesters. Perhaps the Spanish painter’s own legendary bids at self-promotion — such as his underwater burlesque show at the 1939 World’s Fair— resonated with the fame-obsessed Warhol.

A little more than a month later, the Up-Tight shows had a fresh come-on and a new name:

COME BLOW YOUR MIND
the silver dream factory presents the first
ERUPTING PLASTIC INEVITABLE

 The Velvet Underground, along with chanteuse Nico, had become the bold-faced attraction.

Like biblical patriarchs, Up-Tight begat Erupting, which begat, a few weeks later, a name familiar to fans of both of pop art and timeless rock ’n’ roll: The Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

Warhol’s eruptions and explosions were held at 23 St. Marks Place, in the Polski Dom Narodny, or Polish National Home, a social hall for weddings and other gatherings. For the same issue of the paper where “erupting” morphed into “exploding,” Voice photographer Fred W. McDarrah headed to the Dom, as the venue was known, to capture the various happenings (both onstage and in the hallways).

That same weekend, McDarrah captured Warhol in front of his cow-wallpaper array, which, along with floating mylar “silver clouds,” were part of that year’s exhibition at the Castelli gallery.

Later in 1966, the little butterfly fluttering atop the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque ad announced:

The world premiere of 8 hours of the new epic film by
Andy Warhol
“The Chelsea Girls”

Warhol’s split-screen, color and black-and-white exploration of characters in various rooms of that bohemian beehive, the Chelsea Hotel, must have been scoring at the box office, because five months later it was still playing in town. One critic who was blurbed in the ad proclaimed the film a “Tour de force of technical and sexual ingenuity,” while another deemed it “one of the most powerful, outrageous, relevant and noticeable movies anyone anywhere has made!”

Warhol himself told The New York Times, referring to the film’s split-screen design, “If you get bored with one, you can look at the other.” He also implied that he had shot way too much footage, so he’d cut the running time in half by splitting the movie in two. Even still, Chelsea Girls clocks in at roughly three and a half hours.

Below the ad for Chelsea Girls, a two-week-long happening titled “Caterpillar Changes” was announced, offering musical performances, film screenings, and other events to support, we think, “N.Y.’s United AcidHeadSpeed Relief Fun Ball & Glitter Parade.” Along with the Velvets, the proceedings promised “THE DENTAL DESTRUCTION OF THE CHAIRS a MASS MENTAL CONCENTRATION AGAINST FURNITURE BY MOVIES MOVIE MOVIES SLIDES & LOOPS & BURNING PROJECTORS” among other enticements.

We don’t know the name of the graphic designer who riffed on Warhol’s original butterfly doodle, below, but he or she certainly got into the speed-drenched spirit of the time.

A couple of years later, after Warhol had survived the trauma of being shot by a deranged hanger-on in June 1968, the ads for his films take on a more mainstream edge. Perhaps that was because he had become less involved in the films, turning more and more of the work over to Factory colleague Paul Morrissey, who once quipped, “Andy an auteur? You must be joking. Andy’s idea of making a movie is going to the premiere.”

By December 1968, Warhol was again branching out, this time with a book titled, a: A Novel, which consists of transcripts of 24 hours’ worth of conversations Warhol recorded with one of his “superstars,” Ondine (real name, Robert Olivo), who was famous for being a rapid-fire raconteur. Different typists were used to transcribe the various tapes, one of them Moe Tucker, the Velvet’s drummer, who refused to include the swear words heard on the tape. In another instance, the mother of a high school girl who was hired to do some of the transcribing threw the tape out in disgust. The final “novel” includes typos, conflicting abbreviations, and other idiosyncrasies of the individual typists. Warhol wasn’t particularly worried about the format, observing, “Doing something the wrong way always opens doors.”

What more can you say.

 

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Six Decades of Labor Day Leisure in NYC

In the late 1950s the Voice was often only twelve or sixteen or twenty pages, not yet the cultural juggernaut it would become in the next decade. But Jonas Mekas was already covering movies that were not coming from Hollywood, and over Labor Day weekend in 1959 he was alerting readers to films from the “new French wave,” such as The 400 Blows, The Cousins, and Back to the Wall, a “coldly, clinically executed thriller, impersonal, grim, humorless, too humorless.”

If that didn’t sound fun enough, you could at least go to the “Cool Brooklyn Paramount” (it was air-conditioned) on Flatbush and see Kim Novak in Middle of the Night. There were also plenty of Bergman flicks in town, but if that was also just too grim, you could head to the Greenwich theater (also “Air-Conditioned”) for Billy Wilder’s uproarious Some Like It Hot.

Come 1968, with the counterculture in full bloom, you could spend the weekend shopping for groovy threads in the East Village: velvet shirts at the What-Not Shop on St. Marks Place, Cossack shirts and dresses at Eko on Second Avenue, and hand-embroidered and beaded dresses at the Secret Garden on East 5th Street. And if you were looking for a gross of black lights, all you needed to do was head over to the Gelb Fixture Co. Inc., on Avenue A.

Well…the Seventies. September of 1978, to be exact. Still hadn’t seen John Belushi’s rollicking turn in Animal House? Better that than the unintentionally laughable Jaws 2. And Robert Stigwood’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band featured everyone except any of the Beatles. The result was predictable.

Ten years later jazz is representing all over town, although the Blue Note and other clubs were dark on Labor Day Monday. But you know what you could do back then, after a late night in the East Village? You could still go to Yaffa Cafe. Man, do we miss Yaffa.

Come 1994 and movie theaters are for losers. All you need is a VCR and the Tower Outlet on 4th Street and Lafayette. What better way to spend a three-day weekend than plowing through Ambulance, The Big Sweat, Batman II, Caddyshack II, The Cemetery Club, Crocodile Dundee II, The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag, Joey Breaker, Uncommon Valor, Whore, “and tons, tons more!!!!”

C’mon — what do you expect? This wasn’t Kim’s…

And for the new millennium? Wigstock. Sure, the move to the West Side piers had sapped the event of its original Tompkins Square Park/Eighties exhilaration, but a girl could still dream, no?