Vanity Fair - November 2002
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
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
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"
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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,
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