024. Discopravity: Psychic TV … & NYC, Nov. 17, 1983

BLOG Danceteria ad FACE Dec 84An ad for Danceteria from the December 1984 issue of The Face. (Scan by VA.)

024. Discopravity: Psychic TV, Danceteria, New York City, New York, November 17, 1983. $n/a

NOTE: While this second of a two-part entry covers Psychic TV’s gig at Danceteria (part one included a look at a Circle Jerks’ show at The Reggae Lounge), its focus is more on the hijinks, buffoonery and events experienced among my friends and I over several days in NYC in late ‘83.

Now this was a club!  Danceteria was utterly brilliant: a four-storey funhouse that was exactly what the doctor ordered (especially if he’d been Dr. Robert).

The main level had a stage with a dancefloor while the second was devoted entirely to being a dj/dance room. The top floor was more of a smaller, performance-art-type area, with the third in-between as more of a chill out space with video screens everywhere. It was true high-80s excess in all the right ways in terms of look and vibe and just what I had come to NYC to experience. I couldn’t imagine a better place to be while tripping heavily on the chocolate mushrooms we’d gobbled down back at the hotel than in this den of wonderfully indulgent overstatement to take in Psychic TV.

PTV were an off-shoot of the deceased Throbbing Gristle, those “wreckers of Western civilization” and the inaugural purveyors of what would come to be called industrial music, as per the name of their self-run indie label and their approach to the sounds they created. TG themselves grew out of the controversial art collective COUM Transmissions from north of England way, started by then couple Genesis P. Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti.

COUM’s apex was their infamous Prostitution show a the ICA in 1976. It caused a major uproar in the UK, with Tory MPs getting their knickers in a right twist over the graphic content (Cosey, on the other hand, simply got rid of hers for many of the more explicit shots), launching a media scandal that was in many ways a trial run for what was to follow shortly thereafter with the Sex Pistols on the Bill Grundy Show and punk rock outrage in general. (I remember reading in the papers over here about the buckets of moral fury being spilled in the UK regarding the Prostitution exhibition, with transgressive art and artists often striking a chord with me even then. It was only many years later that I made the connection that this art group was essentially an embryonic iteration of what became Throbbing Gristle.)

TG was created as a sound focused metamorphosis following COUM’s conceptual performance art, with Chris Carter and Peter Christopherson (aka Sleazy) completing the line-up along with Genesis and Cosey. While TG intersected with punk’s love of provocation, noise and DIY aesthetics, Throbbing Gristle’s music was a different beast altogether, often abrasive, disturbing and confrontational in ways that would not be common place until after the rise of the more experimental post-punk era. Even then, TG stood out as lone wolves with often anti-music music created from a desire to see how far they could push an audience. The dynamic of the relationship between TG’s sound art dissonance and willfully disquieting aesthetics on one hand and their audience on the other could be likened to that of a particularly sadistic SM Master and an only intermittently-consensual submissive.

Stylistically, though, their palate was also far more expansive than the punk of the day, for while it included blasts of white noise like “Subhuman,” grotesqueries like “Hamburger Lady” were more eerie than irked. Then there were the proto-indie-club tracks like “Hot On the Heels of Love” or the Tesco disco (as they called it) doom march of “United,” one of my favourite singles of the 1970s.

Throbbing Gristle, “United” (1978).

TG were ultimately undone by that most un-radical-art-esque of circumstances: an affair and the resultant dissolving of personal relationships when Cosey left Genesis P. for Carter, effectively turning Throbbing Gristle into the Fleetwood Mac of industrial angst.

Psychic TV was the phoenix that rose from TG’s smouldering ashes via P. Orridge, Sleazy and a fresh addendum of musicians. They were a new-ish band at the time of this gig and I wasn’t familiar with their meager output by that point — I was simply stoked to be seeing these TG deportees, thrilled that my NYC trip overlapped with their Danceteria show. I had faith that it would be suitably, audaciously bizarre.

Psychic TV did not disappoint on that front.

Tapping into the psychedelic drones of Porridge’s younger, flower child years but crossed with the willfully unnerving experimentation at the extremes of contemporary post-punk, I recall the evening as a hypnotic assault on the eyes, ears, and spirit. Long, dark, floaty meditations and a wonderfully trippy light show marked the performance from start to finish, merging with my own altered state as if in a dream on the edge of a nightmare, with that precipice ever-threatening but never tipping over.

There was a malevolent thrust to whole performance, like an paranoiac happening that was more Exploding Plastic Inevitable at the Dom ‘66 than Fillmore hippy ‘67. It was more of an audiovisual sensory overload than a standard one-song-following-another gig experience, substantially more compelling that then quickly tiring Circle Jerks show from the night before. Then as now, I think that if I ever had to be that completely off my tits at a show on hallucinogens, this was the show to be at.

Psychic TV’s accessible Top 30 UK hit from 1986, “Godstar,” Genesis P. Orridge’s fan note to The Rolling Stone’s Brian Jones who he had met in the 1960s and remained fascinated with.

For me, however, the strangest part of the set/night/entire time in NYC occurred when I had to make a pit stop into the Danceteria bathrooms to take a leak. They were near pitch black, so it was already adventure enough to local the urinal, get it out and aim correctly. In the process of doing so, something extraordinary occurred …

It’s a hoary (and generally inaccurate) old cliché about taking psychedelics and having full-scale hallucinations, like your aloe vera plant suddenly sprouting 10 feet tall in front of your eyes or your cat morphing into Mason Reese. But it was in the Danceteria’s opaque water closet with Yours Various trying to hit the mark with my John Henry that I began to see a grid-like rectangle of luminous orange dots, flashing and zooming at me at rapid succession. And the little critters dang well just wouldn’t stop pulsating at me — and since I was presently predisposed, I simply stood there and enjoyed the light show generated by the windmills of my mind.

 Danceteria black with orange dots

(Various) Artists’ rendition of the hallucinatory orange dots from my Danceteria bathroom experience. Above, the grid as it first appeared to me; below, an approximation of the orange dots flying toward me. Blink quickly while looking to get the effect.

 Danceteria black with orange dots BLURRED

Nothing like that had happened to me before — or since. I was alert enough in the moment to realize that this was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I simply observed and appreciated the event. To this day, that neat grid of flying dots is clear in my mind’s eye. However, one can only take so much of unconsciously self-generated micro-strobes, and it was an eventual relief to finally be able to zip up and walk back out the relative norm of Psychic TV’s Wagnerian psychodrama and the community-shared visuals.

All four of us night trippers seriously got off on the spectacle that was PTV. Afterwards, we spent a few hours exploring Danceteria’s variety of environs. At one point I was up on the fourth floor and noticed a partially open door leading to a back room, peered in, and saw Genesis P. post-gig sitting on chair in conversation with someone. I wasn’t about to interrupt though, worried that he’d cast a hex on me or something.

Nina Hagen’s “New York, New York,” from 1983 and soon to be a ubiquitous number in our circles. It namechecks Danceteria in the lyrics.

We blissed out on our continuing euphoria until pretty much closing time. Upon exiting, we foolishly decided to simply walk back to the hotel in the middle of the night — in 1980s downtown Manhattan (that alone is a good advertisement of how hallucinogens futz with logic) — but eventually flagged a cab to take us home, realizing that we were just too tired.

Or at least two of us were.

I think I conked out pretty much on contact with the living room pull-out bed as Sky simultaneously fell into his sleeping quarters one room over. Not so for the still quite-wired Artist and Lady Bennies who briefly awoke me when re-entering the room at dawn. Turns out they were up for a bit of adventure and ended up riding subway trains through the city and over into Brooklyn in the middle of the night for kicks.

 BLOG Miss Bennies

Miss Bennies not having her picture taken in the hotel room. (Photo by VA)

The gang of six regrouped early afternoon, making our way around the city on a grey Friday afternoon, doing some record shopping but also just continuing to take it all in. As with MZ, The Artist had a radio show on the campus station and had an idea to talk with and record the voices of interesting characters from the NYC streets, later editing the best bits into an audio collage to play on his show. (The tape deck also provided us with music in the room, which also meant that MZ could repeatedly play her p*nk rock humour/obsession number of the moment, The Fems’ “Go To A Party,” much to my considerable irritation.)

He brought the portable deck out with us on both of the last two days, easily finding plenty of vocal exhibitionists to orate at length into Mr. Microphone. One particular person that sticks out in my mind all these years later is a gentleman who referred to himself as Broadway Bob.

Broadway Bob was a tall African American fellow who told us a series of wholly unbelievable but decidedly entertaining stories about his life, past and present. The best bit was when he claimed that Brooke Shields was his wife. When we asked him where Brooke was, he said he kept her under the bed at home and didn’t let her out much.

Poor Brooke.

We did some tune shopping on the Friday afternoon in both indie shops and the larger stores: most sadly and shockingly now gone. M. Zeppelin recently reminded me that we were there for the grand opening weekend of Tower Records and that a film crew were also present to capture the event. The film crew tried to talk to and film M. Zeppelin just outside the store but she was unfortunately feeling hungover from the night before and could do little more than sit woefully on the curb and hope not to toss her cookies.

I know I picked up a few slabs of vinyl while in NYC (and again heard the ubiquitous “Night Nurse” playing in one of the shops we went into), but the only two I am positive I purchased during the trip was a just-arrived import copy of The The’s Soul Mining and a 12″ single of PiL’s “This Is Not a Love Song.”

NYC Records Jacket Guinness BLOG

My leather jacket and some badges from those days draping the two record purchases I remember picking up in NYC — an import copy of The The’s Soul Mining and a 12″ of PiL’s “This Is Not A Love Song.” Also, some Guinness … an irritating libation to some, apparently. (Photo by VA)

One record I distinctly recall searching fruitlessly for throughout the shopping forays was a copy of Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High.” One can forget how difficult it was, prior to the advent of the then-just-emerging compact disc, to find a lot of older recordings. Things were routinely deleted far more easily and pressing lifetimes were generally far shorter. One of the most important offshoots of the CD revolution that would slowly explode in the years to come was that once they took off, seemingly everything got reissued and decades of essential music, previously inaccessible, was suddenly available again, often remastered and sounding better than ever.

I probably now have “River Deep, Mountain High” several times over in a variety of formats, and there it is among 17,000+ songs on my iPod. And of course, it’s right there to click on and listen to on YouTube as well, but in 1983 I couldn’t even find somewhere in New York City to buy one measly 45 rpm reissue or used copy. Let’s take a moment to be thankful for how spoiled we’ve become in that respect, even as the CD and physical format are sadly in decline, and how easy it is for all generations to now be able to go back and have access to all this incredible music history, to understand and appreciate that which has come before.

“River Deep, Mountain High,” the Tina Turner/Phil Spector summit (Ike Turner had nothing to do with this even though his name is on it): My elusive vinyl holy grail from the NYC trip during this pre-CD era.

We all headed back to the Executive, having another extended round of hijinks and tomfoolery that at some point included the refrigerator racks being used at musical instruments and a bunch of us picking up MZ and inexplicably throwing her in the shower (photographic evidence remains). I also have this memory from that evening of sitting on the couch in front of the window and thinking how cool it was to be able to look out of it over my left shoulder and be able to see the top of the Empire State Building just a few blocks away.

M&M eventually decided that they were heading out to CBGB’s for the evening, and I have no idea why the rest of us didn’t go. Perhaps the Circle Jerks had given us our fill of fast and noisy for the trip. She can’t recall who was playing or much else about the evening except that the famously filthy toilets lived up to their reputation.

So what did the rest of us do on this final night in town?

One thing we didn’t do was get high as kites again, at least not in the chemical or herbal senses, as we’d exhausted our drug supply save for a few speed pills, which doesn’t really count. Ergo, it was now down to a strictly liquid diet, something that myself, Miss Bennies and The Artist were more than adept with (Marcel also reconnected with us on this night, but laid low on the booze). And since we now only had the single intoxication stream and were on a roll from the past few days, the three of us we were drinking even more than normal, and that’s saying something for us in those days.

Sky, however, was a different matter. As mentioned, he was heretofore resolutely teetotal. And so it came to pass that he chose this night during a trip peppered with excess to break his no alcohol rule and not only start quaffing, but to try and keep up drink-for-drink with three people who were decidedly well versed in holding their liquor and, if anything, committed to raising this already high benchmark on this final evening in the city.

Bad idea.

Seriously bad idea.

Within a few hours, Sky was not only extremely drunk, but out of control. The sun left our Sky as threatening clouds settled in for a night of stormy weather. He’d taken to repeating himself over and over, stumbling around, and generally avoiding or unable to process any sense of reason we were trying to feed him. By this point we were getting into mid-to-late evening and decided it was time to head out and find somewhere interesting to take the party, but also figured that some fresh air and walking would help sober him up to a serviceable degree.

Nope.

We were all experienced foot soldiers in the party wars in those days and for the most part were able to kept it together. And even when we did overdo it, we tended to be happy, silly drunkenkinders. Not so with Sky. As we all came to discover, he was a most unpleasant drunk.

We made our way through various ‘hoods with a dark Sky upon us: loud and obnoxious, giddily confronting a train of decidedly unimpressed onlookers while frequently throwing his arms in the air to shout “Peace, Love and Groove!” at the top of his lungs. I particularly remember us walking through a bustling nighttime Greenwich Village, with glowering gaggles of enflamed eyeballs staring daggers at us, wordlessly transmitting “shut him the fuck up or we’ll kill you all.” (We also couldn’t have known it at the time, and maybe neither did Sky, but it turned out he had some festering mental health issues, and perhaps the booze exacerbarated this.)

We tried to get into a number of bars, including returning to Danceteria, but in every instance the doorman would tell us “you three can come in — but not him.” And I can’t fault a single one of them for doing so. I had thrown around the suggestion of us attending a late night showing of (fittingly) Liquid Sky, the big underground movie of the moment that I was keen to see, but there was no way that Sky would have been able to sit quietly and behave in a theatre for two hours with all that liquid and its effects streaming through him.

BLOG Liquid Sky FACE Dec 83

I had hoped to see the big underground film of the moment during the trip, Liquid Sky (article from The Face, December 1983, above), but Sky being so filled with liquid killed the idea. This pitch-black comedy satirizes the downtown club scene as well as sci-fi b-movies, featuring vaporized aliens searching for heroin highs in NYC and instead tapping into orgasms for fixes. Below, the big minimal-music highlight, “Me and My Rhythm Box,” filmed at Danceteria. Blonde Anne Carlisle played both female character Margaret and male character Jimmy.

Somewhere around midnight, and after two hours of dead ends, it became clear to us that we weren’t going to be allowed in anywhere with Sky on board. Nor were movement and fresh air sobering him up. Crestfallen, we jumped in a cab and headed back to the Executive in a desultory mood, myself feeling especially angry that my last night in town had been squandered in such a way. Back in the suite, Sky fell face down into his bed and immediately slipped into a snoring deep sleep. Miss Bennies felt knackered and decided to call it night, while Marcel too felt he’d had his fill and returned to his room.

But not I. There was no way that I was going to spend a Friday night in Manhattan sitting in a hotel room watching TV, deciding then and there I was heading back out to catch a cab to Danceteria. The Artist was right there with me and, after we downed the last of the speed to keep our spirits flying, headed back down to the club and straight onto the second-level dancefloor.

We spent hours there, alternately hanging out or going our separate ways for periods, but mostly doing our own thing to the great varied music that DJ was spinning (and again, on one of the floors tonight, I heard “Night Nurse” for the third time this trip). At one point I was taking a breather on the chill floor when this one vid came on that struck a note with me. It was atypically cute for me at that time—“cute” most often a term I employ derisively, but here meant as sincere as I thought it worked well. It was a catchy, straight-up pop number delivered by a wacky young woman in swaddles of thrift store garb and teased out hair (looking not a million miles like our own compadre Miss Bennies), complaining to her parents that she just wanted to have fun, eventually leading a dancing train of prototypes through the streets of New York.

I mentioned this memorable video that I had seen at the club to several friends upon my return. It didn’t take long for them to see it themselves as it turned out to be by a woman named Cyndi Lauper for a song called “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and was culturally wallpapered around us less than two months after this trip.

Cute in a non-ironic way: Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (1983) video which I saw during the trip. Two months later, it was ubiquitous.

With the wee hours encroaching, the speed wearing off, our energy depleting, and the knowledge that we had to be checked out by 10 or so which was just a few hours away, the Artist and I regrouped for the taxi home, headed up to the room, opened the door, and …

WHAT? ….

THE??? …

HELL?!?!?! ….

The two of us stood there at the gateway to the suite, momentarily stopped in our tracks with mouths and eyes gaping, trying to process what we were seeing, for the room had been utterly trashed. True, it had been in a modest state of disarray before we left, understandable given that a bunch of us had been camping out there for a few days now amid party-time shenanigans, but it had simply been a bit disordered. This was inexplicable to behold, leaving us briefly in shock over what lay before us.

Furniture had been turned over, lamps lay askance with shades removed, items were strewn around the room, food and vomit was smeared across the walls and hotel items, a ripped out window screen was sitting on the floor …

After being hit with that initial visual wallop, we realized that Miss Bennies was curled up asleep in a chair under clothes and amid the carnage, while Sky was asleep in the bedroom where we had left him.

Shaking Miss Bennies awake to find out WTF had gone down, the poor thing drowsily came to (little did we know she had only just been able to fall asleep after her extended ordeal) and filled us in.

It had gone like this: moments after The Artist and I headed out, Sky rose, bounding awake and out of bed, and proceeded to go on a rampage. Bens said that it was as if he had gone totally mad, with a craziness and intensity that went beyond anything we had witnessed earlier in the evening.

At this point our concern turned to that of her personal safety, but she assured us that while he was aggressive, compulsive and raging, he was never violent towards her although it was pretty scary.

At one point, he had gotten it into his head that it would be a good idea for him to toss the still sizable chunk of the side of ham that he’d purchased out of the window of our top floor room, down onto Madison Avenue (hence why the screen was off one of the windows). He apparently had the ham dangling from his hands at one point, his arms extended outside the window, and Miss B couldn’t recall exactly how she did it or what she said to him, but she finally persuaded him against the spectacle of flying hams on Madison.

It was now the middle of the night and we all had to be up and at ‘em and out in just a few short hours. With everyone exhausted and little else we could do, it was time for shuteye all around, as The Artist collapsed into his bed and I was careful to find somewhere to crash out for a few hours that wasn’t vomit infested.

All too soon, the blaring sun roused three sets of bleary eyes, while Sky was grey and would not rise.

M&M had kipped out once again in The Zeppelin Quarters, and our shock and horror from the previous evening replayed itself in the morning when M&M traipsed up to the suite to re-join forces and discovered the visual pandemonium that was the destroyed room. With soft skulls, leaden limbs, and numble fingers, we showered, packed, dressed and readied ourselves to head down to the lobby where everyone’s luggage would be stored in a safe room until the dinnertime bus took us back to Londonia.

We tried jostling Sky amid his mewling and mumbling, but it just wasn’t happening and we had to get going. Ergo, we left him in the room knowing that he would have to rise and, er, shine within the next few hours as cleaning staff would eventually be arriving.

After checking our luggage, we quintet bee-lined it for a requisite greasy breakfast with life-saving caffeine before spending our final day in the city wandering and shopping.

It was a gorgeously sunny and atypically warm late November Saturday as we walked about. We were making our way through the Bowery when NYC’s thoughtful citizenry presented itself to us yet again. Both M&M were major fans of The Stranglers and MZ was wearing an official band jacket, their name emblazoned across the back accompanied by their logo, a rat. A guy in his 20s stopped us and asked MZ about what the jacket meant. She explained they were a band from England to which he responded, “Ahhhhhh … ok then. Well, I decided to stop you folks as you don’t look like you are from around here and I thought I’d let you know that to most people in this area, it looks like you’re wearing a gang jacket. If one of the gangs in the area sees you wearing it, they’ll probably beat the shit out of all of you.”

Thanky kind New Yorker! Noted!

And off went the jacket for now, The Stranglers tucked to away to come out and play another day.

Aside from buying a few records, I left all my other purchases until this final afternoon as I didn’t have a lot of cash to bring down, and this way I would know how much I would have left to work with. There were two purchases I most remember: one was this very sharp silvery-black vintage suit jacket that I bought a the legendary Trash and Vaudeville on St. Marks Place (still going strong 39 years later!). I wore it regularly over the next few years, often in tandem with a hot pink shirt with narrow black collars and a pair of 1950s zoot-suity grey-and-pepper pants that I had raided from the back of my father’s closet, to complete the vintage look.

Trash and Vaudeville

Trash & Vaudeville, in 2013, where I bought a great silver-black vintage jacket in 1983. 39 years after it opened, it’s still there. (Photos by Sharon Watts — Thank You Sharon!)

Trash and Vaudeville

The other item was my very first Walkman. Then as now, I love new technology and, as a music nut to boot, coveted Walkmans highly at that time. They were relatively new and just starting to explode as a widely purchased consumer device. I was pretty cash-poor throughout much of the 80s, particularly at this point, and couldn’t afford one for what stores were charging back in London, Ontario. I reckoned that I could probably get a good deal on one in NY and was right.

In one of my few alone times in the city, I headed down to the good old bad’n’sleazy pre-Disneyfied Times Square and got one for I think around $20-25, about one third of what they were going for back home. I had brought some tapes down in anticipation of my purchase for a test drive, and remember walking around Times Square for a bit listening to Prince’s “Lady Cab Driver” before heading back and meeting up with the gang in front of the hotel for us to retrieve our luggage and catch the bus.

As for Sky, he’d had a blue day indeed. Not long after we’d left, he was half-awake enough to register a cleaning lady entering the room, seeing the devastation, letting out a yelp, and then running back out. A few minutes later the door burst open, with a few burly hotel staff roughly dragging Sky out of bed and generally flipping out on the disoriented lad with the splitting skull. He was made to clean the entire room himself and was not let out until it had been done so to specification, a brutal experience that capped off this most unfortunate experience that sent him right back into teetotalland.

He had actually gotten out to do some sightseeing alone in the afternoon, and now, as with the rest of us, was ready for a break from the madness of the past few days, looking forward to a quiet trip home and some downtime.

Or at least most of us wanted this.

Our new acquaintance, Marcel, who had remained the essence of sobriety and understatement while hanging out with us degenerates, decided that since the trip was now over and he no longer had the desire to keep his memory banks sharp, he would shift into party-boy mode. Marcel proceeded to down a large bottle of vodka, sans chaser, on the bus throughout the first portion of the trip. I had wanted to try and sleep on the way back, and so my seat buddy, Miss Bennies, went and sat with Marcel so that I could try stretching out a bit for some exhaustion-fueled shuteye.

Unfortunately, Poor Miss Bennies went two for two, having to directly deal with yet another out-of-control drunken madman, as the formerly low-key Marcel became a shouting, unhinged lunatic. As with Sky the night before, logic and sanity left the Marcel building as he alternated repeatedly shouting, chanting “Pterodactyl!” and “Manifestation!” at no one in particular while occasionally changing up the act by screaming verbal abuse at the bus driver.

Miss B tried once again to the be the petite voice of calm and reason to someone flying right off the mental rails, but with less successful results this time. Not only did everyone one the bus — who wanted nothing more than this trip home to be positively smothered in a Zamfir-like tranquility — each want to personally strangle Marcel with their bare hands, the beleaguered bus driver eventually pulled over to the side of the road halfway home, stopped the bus, and then threatened to abandon it and all of us in it if we didn’t shut him up.

While I don’t in any way blame the put-upon driver for being angry at having to shoulder this uncalled for abuse, it wasn’t our fault that Marcel had suddenly turned into Liam Gallagher and we were all more than ready to slap the dickens out of the bugger owing to our own thorough annoyance. Surely it should have been Marcel who found himself a fetching new roadside home and not the rest of us.

Somehow — perhaps owing to a threat of group violence — Marcel toned it down a bit after that, eventually Manifesting and Pterodactyling himself unconscious.

We did all indeed make it back home, spending most of the next few days in chill’n’slippers mode, reveling it what a wild ride it had been. The trip also had a multi-pronged legacy for us. For starters, we’d made a new pal in The Artist, who would be at UWO for a while yet and will figure in some of the upcoming entries. In getting to know The Artist, we got to know some of his community of friends too, with further social intersections taking place. Sky also remained intermittently in the picture as he came up to visit from his Toronto base a number of times. Unfortunately, his mental health issues began to deepen and exact their toll, presenting himself and his family with some tough situations and his eventual institutionalization before we lost contact completely.

Then there’s Marcel. After initially losing contact upon our return, The Artist ran into him at a screening of a Three Stooges retrospective at the New Yorker, prior to a planned meet up with us later that night, starting out at Xmas party at MZ’s. The Artist brought him along and, voila!

While Marcel floated in an out of our orbit for the next year or so, the real legacy was that he and his bus ramblings inspired an intermittently ongoing sound (and later video) music(?)/humour-heavy sound art project (read: highly silly, often willfully ridiculous parodic conceptual nonsense) among a shifting collective of us that exists until this day as Marcel and the Pterodactyls (that’s Marcel as in the NY dude and Duchamp … and, hey, we’ve even had college radio play in a few countries over the last 30 years).

Marcel and the Pterodactyls’ “Pterodactyl Hop (31 st Anniversary Megamix). The communal nonsense and buffoonery continues after starting with this trip in 1983, here with our low budget salute to Norm McLaren on his centenary.

Oh, and that fleabag hotel we stayed at? It was purchased one year later by former Studio 54 whiz kids Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, transforming it from the Executive pumpkin that it was into to the sleek, boutique Cinderella that soon became the very first Morgans Hotel.

BLOG Morgans Executive Madison Ave
The former fleabag Executive morphed into the high-end Morgans one year after we stayed there (from therealdeal.com)

“Discopravity” by Psychic TV (1985).

Next On Stage —> Birmingham reggae outfit UB40 played London, Ontario twice almost exactly a year apart, although this next entry will focus primarily on the first show from March 1984 and especially the afterparty with the band, where I had a fun chat with singer Ali Campbell.

025. Here I Am: UB40, Centennial Hall, London, Ontario, March 7, 1984, $10.50 / Alumni Hall, UWO, London, Ontario, March 14, 1985

But first …  with many technical-related problems at my end finally solved and with yesterday’s announcement of the 2014, 20th Anniversary lineup, I’m finally sticking up my pieces on last year’s Ottawa Bluesfest.

To recap once more: After a dismal 2012, Ottawa Bluesfest came roaring back with possibly the best overall lineup in its history. I will be recapping the many acts I took in with a three-parter. Stay tuned for a bevy of animal costumes, mutli-faced vocalists, the massed sound of meowing cats, inflatable alligators, Coventry curmudgeons, potential Mrs. Naugatuck sightings — or was it Mrs. Slocombe or Elsa Lanchester? — and more.

178a. Magic Chords: Ottawa Bluesfest 2013 (Pt. 1) with The Black Keys, Sharon Van Etten, Femi Kuti, Neko Case, Bahamas, and more, July 4-6, LeBreton Flats, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

178b. Enjoy Yourself: Ottawa Bluesfest 2013 (Pt. 1) with The Specials, The Waterboys, Animal Collective, Solange, Balkan Beat Box, and more, July 8-12, LeBreton Flats, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

178c. Declare Independence: Ottawa Bluesfest 2013 (Pt. 2) with Björk, B.B. King, Phosphorescent, Austra, Stars, and more, July 13-14, LeBreton Flats, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

 

© 2014 VariousArtists

Comments From The Original opensalon.com Posting

Man, you ought to be writing a book. This is extreme stuff, informative and wildly amusing. Sort of Gonzo Journalism meets Punk Rock.

I must confess I really don’t like CDs and never have, because of the lack of depth and range in the sound compared to vinyl. But you are absolutely right about them unleashing hordes of hard-to-find recordings.

 
I’d love to eventually turn this into a book, but there first has to be a market for it in an oft-dying industry. In the meantime, I see this series as being the book, hence why the entries tend to be longer, although admittedly this was particularly lengthy (and believe it or not I cut a bunch of stuff to boot).

While there are things I still love about vinyl, CDs are my favourite as unfashionable as that is to say at the moment. And while I still like to have the core disc for the sound, I also like the variety of options available to people to do, from digital tracks for portability down to vinyl’s resurgence as a (strong) niche market. I’ve even bought a few new pieces of vinyl in the last few years, mostly collectable 45s/EPs.

 
VA, thanks for this second installment of your fascinating time in the city! I wish I had taken the time to see places such as Danceteria back in those days. A friend had been to the Mudd Club prior to ’83 and related the story to me in December of ’83–one month after your time in the city.

To read about the hotel sent up some burly staffers to make sure the room was cleaned up is about the only time I’ve ever read or heard about this, but I imagine it’s happened plenty of times to many people!

It was a year or before ’83 that I also bought a Walkman player in the city, except the salesman talked me into buying a Sanyo that cost less. Worked well for a few years and then stopped working. In ’85 I bought a real Walkman that also recorded–a dual sided machine that’s now rare to find on Ebay, etc.

I’m so impressed by the many, many details you were able to remember and having dealt with pulling memories from the past out of the gray matter I can appreciate that effort all the more!

 
designanator: Ah, you had one of the recording Walkmans — I didn’t know many who had them but they were coveted as they were perfect for recording live gigs/bootlegging. And Danceteria was truly something else. So glad I got to have those experiences, with or without the hallucinations!

As for the burly staffers … well, the room was destroyed, and not of our collective doing, but then again he literally went out of his mind. But, there were also other issues involved as we later found out. There had to have been repairs involved for the room but if Sky was reached for billing, we didn’t hear about it.

As for the memories, since this trip was special, the memories are a bit sharper. Also, I had several conversations with my still-pal MZ about this trip to compare our memories before and during writing.

 
First some music notes. From your description I was expecting not to like the Throbbing Gristle cut but it was pretty good. Ditto for Godstar. Your comments about Tina Turner’s River Deep reminded me of a theme I explored in one of my early posts – musical imprinting. I have a tendency to prefer the first version of a song I hear. So for River Deep it’s the Deep Purple one, especially their bass line. Het, a big thumbs up for the Strabglers shout-out. My first overseas trip was to London in the spring of 77 and Peaches was the first punk song I remember hearing.

Great that Sharon supplied you with a photo. But man, the company you kept back then. In the wilder days of youth I encounted a few psychos in training but nothing like the Sky and Marcel episodes. One incident like that and they would have been out of my life forever. All in all a great adventure trip very well told Various.

 
Abra: Re: the music notes … United & Godstar are almost misleading tracks, especially in the case of TG, being relatively accessible numbers, although TG had a few others too. But, as you know, I have a taste for the extreme among other things and my love of TG are part of that. Their “Entertainment Through Pain” album remains one of my all time favourite compilations. As for the whole musical imprinting aspect, it’s one of those things where I “know” this is the case with some people but have no ability to “understand” it. I don’t doubt it, but it’s out of my sphere … and we may have our all time disagreement on these particular versions so we’ll just have to shake on this one.

And as for The Stranglers, my pal MZ is actually now pals with one of them! I first heard them on a trip to the UK in ‘77. “Something Better Change” was the first Stranglers number I heard but quickly picked up “Rattus Norvegicus” which has “Peaches” on it.

And back to the topic for a taste of the extreme … I’ve also had a pull towards that with people sometimes too, especially back then as it was a much extreme milieu but it was also an often interesting one. Not that I’d want that level of extremity in my life now. However, I will say this — and in light of your great piece from yesterday about nightmare bosses — at least most of these people were fun and creative more often than not and brought something to the party, whereas the typical professional corporate drone nightmare typically brings all the pain but with zero humour, imagination or sense of fun. I can think of several sometimes extremely trying people with whom I have some sense of fond memories about, whereas I can’t say that about one single corporate nightmare.

 
In a perfect world you would teach modern history via music ~
 
Boy oh boy did I miss out. i was living there then and never made it to the club. Goes to show I was not on the road of the beating pulse but i did think of the place. Your memories are so vivid here esp with the videos that I only feel half as bad for being there then when it was the Top place around. Cheers and Keep on Keeping on.
 
catch-22: I’m down with that perfect world, catch.

Algis: That’s cool you were living there at the time. It’s something you should write about. It was real blast to have experienced Danceteria although I’ve long kicked myself for not heading out to CBGB’s while there, even if it was way past its glory days by then.

 
Geez, what’s not to love about this post? You did New York right. Music, drugs, art, aimless wandering of the streets of the greatest city in the world. God I miss it. The energies in early 80s NY must have been intoxicating. When I finally left in 2011 it all felt like a competitive, overpriced rat race where everyone aspired to be Wolf of Wall Street douche-tastic or could think of no better idol than Carrie Bradshaw.

Very jealous of the music you saw, too. Did you know Genesis Porridge was investigated for satanic ritual abuse? Very stupid. As far as Nina Hagen and New York, New York, I will some day try to write that definitive post on my obsession with Nina. Oh, and I also was recently looking for the Phil Spector produced “River Deep Mountain High”.

Good good stuff, VA. Thank you.

 
Chiller: Yep, I did read that about Genesis P. There was a bit of an invented witch hunt for him over the in the UK for he having been such a provocateur. Have you seen the terrific, bittersweet documentary “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye”? And what’s Nina Hagen up to these days? My pal Special Guests saw her live in Toronto circa this period and raved about the show.

As for NYC, I haven’t been able to get back since the 80s although we plan on making it happen soon. However, my longtime obsession with the city has waned because of the things you mention (I actually like S&TC but I know what you mean). It sounds like almost everything I always liked about it has essentially been financially vanquished. Sad. The NYC I love is gone. It was truly a creative powerhouse during those decadent 70s and 80s.

Advertisements

4 Comments on “024. Discopravity: Psychic TV … & NYC, Nov. 17, 1983”

  1. This was an excellent read while I’m sitting in the Pearson airport. I don’t know if you remember I wrote about Larry from psychic tv.. Had a little grift shop in Berkeley and lends half his time in India.. Hugggggg

  2. DIRNDL SKIRT says:

    omg…what a trip! Ferocious and funny reportage, making me feel that I certainly missed out on, well, SOMEthing! I love the details that Time has made quaint: the walkman, “Liquid Sky,” an unknown Cyndi Lauper, a Three Stooges bill at the New Yorker. I would have directed you to a record store on Carmine Street for “River Deep, Mountain High.” You answered questions I had as I read, like where was the Executive (that is was considered downtown), and what it became. And did you tip the maid. omg, V.A,…you lived to tell, and tell it well. (I am happy to contribute some visuals!) I still have my T&V baggy, pleated zoot-suity men’s sharkskin pants. Haven’t worn them in 30 years but simply cannot pass them along.

    • For starters, thanks so much Sharon for letting me use your Trash and Vaudeville pics: one of the few things in the city that seemingly hasn’t changed much in all the years.

      I hadn’t thought about it but you’re right re: there being so many now “quaint” aspects … I sure never thought I’d see “quaint” and “Liquid Sky” mentioned in the same breath (although I rewatched it not too long ago and it’s still wickedly funny.) Although I wish I’d known you then so that you could have directed me to the right record store.

      And I can’t recall if we did tip the maid but I certainly make damn sure I’m a good tipper in that sense when I stay at hotels these days.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s