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See all condition definitions — opens in a new window or tab Read more about the condition. About this product. Product gallery. Product Description. Review "A unique new perspective on the history of punk rock. As it originated in Manhattan's Lower East Side in the early s, punk rock was the apotheosis of a Jewish cultural tradition that found its ultimate expression in the generation born after the Holocaust.
Beginning with Lenny Bruce, the patron saint of punk, and following pre-punk progenitors such as Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, Suicide, and The Dictators, this fascinating mixture of biography, cultural studies, and musical analysis delves into the lives of these and other Jewish punks - including Richard Hell and Joey Ramone - to create a fascinating historical overview of the scene.
Reflecting the irony, romanticism, and, above all, the humor of the Jewish experience, this tale of changing Jewish identity in America reveals the conscious and unconscious forces that drove New York Jewish rockers to reinvent themselves - and popular music. Payment Policy. We accept Paypal and Credit Card via Paypal. Shipping and Return Policy. For estimated delivery times please refer to eBay listing. Items dispatch from various location, including our international warehouses.
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Ask a question - opens in a new window or tab. Postage and packaging. This item will post to Germany , but the seller hasn't specified postage options. Contact the seller - opens in a new window or tab and request a postage method to your location. Postage cost can't be calculated. Please enter a valid postcode. Less than a year after the Reeds moved to Freeport, the then twelveyear-old Lou embraced, to his parents regret, the world of rock n rollor its initial manifestation, rhythm and blues.
Reeds biographer Victor Bockris, in his book Transformer, describes the family as increasingly troubled by Reeds interest in the music, worrying that it would derail him from his, or rather their, plan that he become a doctor or, like his father, an accountant. Keeping a wary eye on their sons increasing moodiness, they hoped for the best, even as they indulged his more outlandish desires, such as his demand that he be given an electric guitar and, a couple of years later, a motorcycle.
In Standing on Ceremony, a song Reed claims to have written for his mother, he answers his parents fears with his own attack: Remember your manners, will you please take your hat off, your mother is dying, listen to her cough. We were always standing on ceremony, we were always standing on ceremony Growing Up in Public, This sterile world of manners and propriety rankled Reed, as it did many of his generation. The so-called gen-. Like Reed, the grandson of Russian Jews fleeing anti-Semitism, the Jewish Baby Boomers knew that their grandparents and, to a lesser extent, their parents had known hard times.
They knew that the lives theyd ed had contained ghettos, pogroms, and even death camps. Yet, at the same time, they knew that those lives had contained a multitude of positive experiences that were forever lost to their American descendants. As even Stalin had observed, albeit disparagingly, Jewish cosmopolitans had helped make European cities vibrant centers of cultural excitement. Growing up in the suburbs, divorced from his past his father had changed the family name from Rabinowitz when Lou was one year old , aware on some level that kids just like himself were being rounded up and gassed in Europe, Reed would have had plenty to feel angry, or at least nervous, about.
Prominent anti-Semites only a few years earlier, such as radio preacher Father Coughlin and auto magnate Henry Ford, had reected a general distaste for Jews among the American populace. As Bockris notes, even in childhood Reed exhibited that heebie-jeebieslike condition known as shpilkes. Perhaps he was a taboo-breaking bisexual though evidence suggests he may have been feigning effeminacy to torment his parents. Jewish love made Kafka feel like a cockroach. This precarious identity provided a particular perspective, a skepticism about life in general, a distrust of institutions, and a palpable anxiety that sometimes found its way into humor.
Whatever the case, one things for sure. When Reed began riding around his neighborhood on a motorcycle, a guitar strapped across his back, a sneer on his face in imitation of Lenny Bruce and Marlon Brando, his parents, whod heard more than enough from their son about his intention to become a musician, reacted, determined to put him right. They werent about to see him turn into some sort of beatnik fag folksinger.
They were going to nip this thing in the bud even if it meant subjecting their teenage son to procedures worthy of that Eastern European crypto-Jew, Dr. They allowed doctors to administer electroshock treatments nearly twenty-ve times during the summer between Reeds junior and senior years. They let those medical men play with his brain in an attempt to save the respectability of his soul.
He says that on the one hand, they taught him the power of electricity and so of electric music, and that on the other, they wiped out much of his memory and left him despairing of ever becoming a writer. Village Voice freelancer Jim Antonicello Marshall, who was friendly with Reeds guitarist, Robert Quine, says the doctors at the clinic would show him pictures of naked men, and if he got a hard-on he would get zapped with this electric pulse.
Marshall goes on to say that Reeds mother was an ex-beauty queen. Reed refers to this directly in his song Kill Your Sons Sally Cant Dance, : All your two-bit psychiatrists are giving you electroshock. Dont you know theyre gonna kill your sons. As Bockris observes, Reed felt that if his parents really loved him, they would never have permitted the treatments. Of course, the treatments backred. Within months Reed was a student at Syracuse University, where he set about breaking with his past.
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And yet, being on some level a nice Jewish boy, he couldnt quite leave his old life behind. Instead, he danced back and forth between his old world and his new one. He chose to major in English rather than something more sensible. He refused to join a fratmuch less a Jewish fratbut he did allow himself to be adopted as mascot by the more socially progressive Sigma Alpha Mu house, offering himself up to the nice Jewish Sammies as a vicarious, wild-eyed extension of their inner bad boys.
Bockris notes that Jewish fraternities were not only more socially progressive during that time, but also that they would provide some of the most receptive of Lou Reeds audiences throughout his career. Perhaps most telling, though Reed skipped classes and played in black bars with his band LA and the Eldorados for Lewis, his rst name, and Allen, the rst name of his childhood friend, Allen Hyman , he chose as his roommate the very Jewish New Yorker Lincoln Swados, and as his girlfriend the equally Jewish midwesterner Shelly Albin.
As Bockris says, Lincoln came from one of those classic New York Jewish intellectual families that displayed all the interest in culture and thought Reeds parents had sacriced in their effort to be socially acceptable. Shelly, on the other hand, though a wild child herself, was the daughter of parents much like Reeds own. When Lou nally brought her home for a weekend, an event hed put off for months, his parents saw her as a perfect match for their son.
Shelly understood that Lou had conicted feelings toward his parents. He wanted to please them and prove that he was worthy of their respect, but he resented them, presumably for the electroshock and for their refusal to recognize his musical talent.
She could also see that their efforts at welcoming her into the family were doomed because Lou was determined to upset them, no matter what. He was just impossible, says Shelly. Id never seen so much anger in my life and it scared me. By the time she and Lou had returned to the Reed family for a second visit more than two years later, Lou had gotten his revenge, as she puts it. Shelly now had dyed hair and dressed like Miss Trash, Lous new pet name for her. As Shelly says, Reeds parents saw this nice, wholesome girl turned into trash and they said, Oh my God, Lou has done it again.
He has ruined somebody, he has won. In terms of his musical career, Lous English teacher at Syracuse, Delmore Schwartz, inuenced him as much or more than his roommate or girlfriend. A tragic gure in Jewish-American literary history, Schwartz is today probably best known through Saul Bellows thinly veiled portrait of him in the novel Humboldts.
Bellow, himself Jewish-American, tells the story of a gifted youth who is accepted as a literary star in the s despite the fact hes Jewish. Acclaimed for his poetry and stories, Humboldt becomes increasingly distrustful of his own talent. While others, both Jewish and not, follow in his literary footsteps, Humboldt the man begins to see anti-Semitism everywhere. Bellow shows that Humboldts madness grows in part from his perception that the Nazis, anti-Semitic FBI men, and Holocaust victims he imagines on his doorstep do, in fact, populate s New York, though they may not really threaten him.
Schwartz began his career like Humboldt, acclaimed for his poetry and short stories, then quickly saw his talent plummet. He, too, reacted by descending into bitterness, paranoia, and madness. Unlike Humboldt, however, Schwartz had been troubled even at the beginning of his career. In one of his earliest and best short stories, In Dreams Begin Responsibilities, a narrator dreams that he goes to a movie theater and begins to watch a picture, slowly realizing that it tells the story of his parents meeting and courtship.
The movie quickly becomes a nightmare of the horrors that await his parents, including their psychic confusion as Jewish immigrants and his own birth and troubled life. In a story composed soon after as a sort of companion piece, America! He was sick of the mood in which he had listened, the irony and contempt which had taken hold of each new event. He had listened from such a distance that what he saw was an outline, a caricature, and an abstraction.
As the air was full of radios unseen voices, so the life he breathed in was full of these lives and the age in which they had acted and suffered. When Schwartz met Reed, he was only six years away from his death in a Bowery flophouse located, ironically enough, not far from what would later become CBGB. He shared Reeds dark oedipal vision, saw his talent, and encouraged him to write subversively. Reed has repeatedly discussed his close friendship with Delmore, referring to their times together at the local tavern as important meetings of two deeply intellectual minds. He paid tribute to his former teacher at least twice during his career, rst dedicating a song, European Son, to him on The Velvet Undergrounds debut album, and then offering him a eulogy of sorts on his comeback disc, The.
Blue Mask. These songs and others reveal Reeds ongoing preoccupation with his background as a Jew and as a New Yorker. Not long after he left college, he returned to the city his parents had ed. Like countless Jewish kids before him, Reed sought a job in songwriting, seeing there a path into music that was at once respectable his parents could see him bringing home a paycheck and reasonable Jews could exist behind the scenes even if they couldnt get onstage.
Carole King, Neil Diamond, and Joey Levine composer of Joey Ramones favorite bubblegum hit Yummy, Yummy ended up at the Brill Buildingthe former clothing warehouse at Broadway that held more than pop music publishing companies at the timebut Reed went across town to the less prestigious Pickwick Records. Brill Building writers attempted to create new hits that would climb the charts, while Pickwick writers were directed to craft songs in the style of whatever was a hit at the moment.
The job forced Reed to write songs in styles from garage to bubblegum to his beloved doo-wop. Thus, he began his career learning good old-fashioned Jewish song craft. In trying to churn out a garage-style tune with an animal name, imitating hits like Do The Monkey and Do The Bird, Reed composed a song that would change the course of his life. Do The Ostrich was no great work of art, but when a television show asked if the band could appear to perform it, Pickwick put Reed to work creating such a band, then later sent The Primitives on tour.
More than happy to move to the other side of the curtain, Reed recruited a group of talented studio musicians, among them his future collaborator and The Velvet Undergrounds cofounder, John Cale. A Tanglewood-trained classical musician from Wales who was all but starving while playing avant-garde music in the lofts of the East Village, Cale. Reed wanted to stretch the boundaries of rock so that it became art, and Cale wanted to stretch the art of the avant-garde so that it embraced rocks primitive and savage beat.
The Velvet Underground in effect became the rst art-rock band. It absorbed the lessons of innovative classical composers such as John Cage and La Monte Young especially the latters use of extended drones as well as the similarly bold concepts of Jewish composers like George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, and Aaron Copland Cales teacher at Tanglewood , who had brought popular forms of American music to their classical work.
Reed and Cales Jewish contemporary, Philip Glass, was just beginning to do the same. The first incarnation of The Velvet Undergroundat this point still known as the Warlocksincluded a bassist Reed knew and occasionally played with in college, a fellow Long Island native, Sterling Morrison. A student at City College during the early months of the band, Morrison later earned a doctorate in English and become a professor at the University of Texas, joining English major Reed and master of music Cale to create what has since become known as the most highly scholarshipped band in history.
Completing the intellectual tradition of this early lineup was a post-beatnik character named Angus MacLise, who undertook a kind of personal world music study of drums while sharing an East Village apartment with Ira Cohen. Ira, a hippie poet later famous for his photographs for record covers such as Spirits Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, had deep Jewish roots in New York. His cousin, Mayor Ed Koch, ran the city from to MacLise was a true bohemian. He added a trancelike loop to the music, only to drop out of the band when he learned they were being paid for their rst gig.
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In his place, Reed and company recruited Maureen Moe Tucker, a primitive in terms of musical education who nonetheless brought a strong, equally trancelike beat to the proceedings. For all its intellectual credentials and melding of high and low arta tradition particularly embodied by Jews in AmericaThe Velvet Underground was equally important for introducing a new aesthetic of menace. Early rockers such as Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, and even Elvis Presley had traded in the fear of sexualized juvenile delinquents bursting with potential violence. The Velvet Underground took this a number of steps further, creating a sense of menace that was as psychological as it was physical, threatening in part for the intelligence that showed behind it.
The Velvet Underground was honing an image of cool, ironic disdain and a love for art that transcended warm and. It was the epitome of the unsentimental, and Reed, the bands lyricist and visual leader, embodied it best. How much was due to his childhood in the Jewish suburb of Freeport and how much he picked up from college nights reading the work of Sade and Cline is anyones guess, but one things for sureit was far from disconnected to his earlier behavior as a college student and teen.
And it made him a gure of excitement and intrigue for the cold, calculating thrill-seekers at Andy Warhols Factory. Reed met the Factory crowd in when they saw the band perform at the Caf Bizarre. Warhol in particular loved Reeds black-leather look, while his followers embraced the music.
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It was loud, hypnotic, yet driving enough to dance to, a mixture of primal beats, electric viola loops, and simple drum patterns that drew the listener up into a wall of sound-surrounding lyrics as self-consciously eviland at times comicas anything by Delmore Schwartz or Jean Genet. Warhol encouraged the band to play at the Factory, and before long was telling them that he would like to manage them and take them on his traveling multimedia show, The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. This was among the coolest names in the city, and the band could not afford to turn Warhol down.
Cale joined the show for pragmatic reasons. He found Warhols Factory scene petty and catty. Reed, however, was clearly drawn to the cutting and largely camp atmosphere that blossomed there. For one thing, he was the center of attention. As early rock talent scout Danny Fields says, He was so beautiful, everyone wanted to sleep with Lou. And for another, he was again nding his literaryor at least artisticambitions being supported by a respected father gure.
Warhol, though only fourteen years older, was an established name in the art world and more than happy to atter Reeds ego. Still, despite his growing power and importance at the Factory, Reed seemed at times quite lost there. Those around him began to notice that he got rattled and nervous for no apparent reason, as if he didnt know how to handle himself. Perhaps thats why he began to gravitate toward a gure that seemed completely out of character for him, the Teutonic goddess known as Nico. Though many biographies and memoirs of the VU stress that Reed hated Nico for usurping him as lead singer of the band then-manager Warhol had insisted on the change , their relationship was far more complicated, being predicated on love as much as hate.
Sometimes it seems as if the Nico-Reed relationship has been intentionally expunged from the record, as if those involved in it were blind to what was happening, or had decided in retrospect. Yet, Reed not only took up with Nico despite his anger toward her for joining the band, he also fell madly in love with the tall European with long axen hair, as Bockris puts it. In fact, according to Reeds childhood friend, the Jewish Richard Mishkin another member of the almost totally Jewish LA and the Eldorados , Reed told him that Nicos the kind of person that you meet and youre not quite the same afterwards.
She has an amazing mind. Before long Reed was staying at Nicos apartment, composing songs for her. One of these, Femme Fatale , is among his most revealing. If Nico was his Femme Fatale who built [him] up just to put [him] down, why was he attracted to her? Again, Reeds friend Richard Mishkin seems to hold the key.
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According to Mishkin, Reed loved the fact that Nico was big. The Velvet Undergrounds biographer Joe Harvard elaborates: People whove only seen her picture dont realize what a large woman Nico actually was. She was huge, almost manly, and imposing with her icy stare and manner.
Reed clearly was drawn to her, as if she were a towering presence that he needed to overwhelm. Considering the fact that he was a little Jew from New York [Reed is ve foot eight] and she was a big woman from Germany withat least in her familya Nazi past, one can make assumptions. I dont need to spell it out. If Harvards assumptions seem to be off the mark, consider how the relationship between Reed and Nico ended. Continually threatened by the possibility that Nico would steal the spotlight, Reed abused her in public, even if he did continue to see her in private.
For the most part, Nico seemed willing to take this. As she recalled later, what she most loved about Reed was that, at heart, he was very soft and lovely. Not aggressive at all. You could just cuddle him. In other words, he was a nice Jewish boy. Then one day, after one of Lous more strategically placed barbs, Nico fired back. Waiting until the other band members and an assortment of Factory regulars were present, she proclaimed in a strong, calm, clearly audible voice, I cannot make love to Jews anymore.
Whether Nicos comment was anti-Semitic and it appears that it wasnt is not the issue. What really matters is how Reed reacted. As Cale says, It took a lot to calm Lou down after that. I think he went to a doctor at noon and got a full bottle of Placidyl, a full bottle of codeine and by nine oclock that night was completely paralytic.
He couldnt move.
The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's: A Secret History of Jewish Punk
Everybody saw that and somebody took it upon themselves to relieve him of the bottles, but it was only for his own good Whats Welsh for Zen: The Autobiography of John Cale. Reed broke off from Nico andaside from joining her and Cale onstage in Paris in and allowing her to stay with him briefly in New York in barely spoke to her again, even in later years when she was hooked on heroin, broke, and desperate for the songs he could have written. Cale, who did write and produce songs for Nico until her premature death caused by falling from a bicycle, says, Right through the seventies I hoped Lou would write her another song.
Still, Cale understood how deep Lous hurt went. Andy and Nico liked each others company. There was something complicit in the way they both handled Lou, for instance. Lou was dazzled by Andy and Nico. They caught him time and again. She would say things so he couldnt answer back. Lous affair with Nico lasted through January and halfway through February.
By then she was finished with him. Nico just swatted him like a fly. Was it his Long Island Jewishness and the self-doubt that it instilled in Reed that left him so vulnerable to Nicos attack? Was it in fact what drew him to the Factory in the rst place, that atmosphere not exactly pro-Jewish even if it wasnt anti-Semitic? Most of the members of the Factory were wealthy WASPs with blue-blood pedigrees that Warhol, a working-class Catholic outsider of a different sort, seemed to crave.
As Nat Finkelstein, a Jewish photographer and regular at the Factory during its heyday remembers, Andy didnt talk to me much or seem very impressed by my presence, but then one day he asked me if I wanted to go to lunch with him uptown where he had to meet some women who were interested in buying his paintings. As it turned out these women were nice Jewish ladies of the Upper West Side variety, and Andy did everything he could to atter them while having me sit next to him.
After the women had left and we were sitting there in silence, I asked him outright if he had asked me along because he wanted to impress those women by having a friend who was obviously Jewish. Oh, yes, he said. You dont like Jews very much, do you, Andy, I replied. Oh, no, he laughed. But he wasnt really joking, he meant it. Warhol was notoriously cryptic during his life, and rarely answered questions directly. His actions speak louder than his words. Though a number of Factory regulars were Jewish, such as Nat Finkelstein, Danny Fields, and writer Lynne Tillman, they were rarely more than bit players Tillman, in fact, was only in the Factory because she was dat-.
When Warhol did allow Jews to gure prominently in the Factorys affairs, they were either established celebrities like Bob Dylan whom the Factory regulars mocked mercilessly behind his back or pathetic types who functioned as entertainment, like bipolar superstar Andrea Warhola Whips Feldman, famous for stripping on command at Maxs Kansas City and later leaping to her death from her Fifth Avenue apartment.
Though Warhol had nominally produced The Velvet Underground and Nico, many say he merely sat in the studio and nodded his head at what the band was doing. He gave his imprimatur by providing artwork for the coverthe famous banana that peeled to reveal pinkbut the album tanked, the result of bad luck Factory regular Eric Emerson sued to either be compensated or have his picture removed from the back cover , lackluster management as Warhol by this point was becoming more interested in lm , and audience resistance.
In fact, the album was about as different from California Dreamin, then sweeping the nation as the theme song of the Summer of Love, as any record could get. Where in Frisco, youths were wearing owers in their hair and looking like Jesus, in New Yorkespecially the New York of The Velvet Undergroundthey were discussing Sade and acting like true European sons, as Reed wrote in a song of the same name dedicated, not coincidentally, to Delmore Schwartz. A combination of romantic and sinister, The Velvet Underground and Nico was an aural and psychological assault that didnt go down well outside of New York.
In the city itself, the message was loud and clear. Here was a band that meant business. A band that kicked ass and was cool. It was Lenny Bruce all over again, the leather-jacket, snarling, sarcastic Jewish thing given a rock context. Like Bruce, Reed could be as funny as he was dark.
Reed could. His story-songs about New York characters such as the white boy waiting uptown for his drug connection Im Waiting for the Man presage a career-long interest in the people and places of the city. A reviewer for Americas largest Yiddish daily, The Forward Forverts , Elizabeth Gold, How the Godfather of Punk and the Epitome of Cool Twists Stereotypes Around, April 21, , compared his ability to explore the little people on the outskirts of society to Grace Paleys an early feminist writer whose work was largely informed by her Jewishness.
Capping off the album with one of the most beautiful ballads ever committed to vinyl Ill Be Your Mirror , Reed seemed to bring to rock the sophisticated song craft and lyrics made famous by Jews on Broadway and Tin Pan Alley for decades. Indeed, it is on this recordand with this song in particularthat the VU achieved their denitive avant-garde statement, its mix of rock, trance, risqu lyrics, and crystal-meth-driven guitar pushing pop into extremes never before achieved. It was an extreme that Reed refused to extend. The critics hated it, and the public rejected it more thoroughly than the first album.
Reed was in this for the long haul, as a business. Even more important, he was a rocker, a man of the people. He wasnt composing for an elite audiencehe wanted to reach the very outcasts that he wrote about in the songs, the kleine menschele, as Jewish critic Irving Howe referred to themthe little manbeloved by Yiddish writers and Jewish socialists decades before Reed penned his best works. As Factory member Ronnie Cutrone put it, Lou didnt. He wanted to be pure rock n roll.
You know, enough was enough Please Kill Me. And so, as if born again, Reed red Cale and toned back the avant-garde, naming the next VU album simply The Velvet Underground , as if the band had been reborn as well. The insinuation was that the VU had been Reeds band from the beginning, long before it had acquired a chanteuse as lead singer, an anti-artist as producer, and an avant-garde classicist as cocomposer. Reeds band, the real Velvet Underground, played in a lo-, casual style that was not only borderline acoustic in tone, but straight-up religious in content.
Im set free to find a new illusion Im Set Free , Jesus, help me nd my proper place Jesus , its truly. We cant read these songs in the spirit of Bob Dylans born-again albums. An ironic, undercutting humor pulls the rug out from under the sentiments they seem to profess. What sort of religion would demand wine in the morning and breakfast at night? That sounds like the churchor shulof rock n roll. So does a religion or illusion that sets you free to envision your alltoo-happy disconnected head rolling like a bowling ball on the ground.
No, irony is the point. It must have grown out of Reeds placeor rather, nonplaceat the Factory. Nico proclaimed she could no longer sleep with Jews, and then Reed cut her out of his life. Warhol bristled when Reed questioned his handling of the groups finances, freezing out the suburban Jewish son of a businessman long before Reed announced his counter-rejection.
Reed must have been stung by the insinuation that he only cared about money. If not laced with anti-Jewish feeling, certainly it echoed such feelings strongly enough to set off alarm bells in Reeds mind. Is this why Reed seemed to grapple with issues of a religiousand clearly non-Jewish nature on his new album? Is this why the jokes lie embedded subtly in the songs, like time bombs waiting to go off amidst the gentle arrangements? The most affecting song on the album, the painfully sincere ballad to a lost loved one, lingers on that ultimate sign of goyish beauty, second only to blonde hair, Pale Blue Eyes.
The regret, love, and self-loathing or is that bitterness? Reed is expressing longing, but he also is expressing dissatisfaction with himself. He cant keep the figure with the pale blue eyes, the artist, the chanteuse, the flaxen-haired god or goddess that walks upon the surface of the earth on blue-blood feet.
With shades of Warhols rejection lingering between these lines, we learn that the singer does still have his lover at times, but only in secret, in sin, away from her his? This exiled figure who is spoken to in monetary terms is allowed just so far into his former lovers life. He lingers on the periphery, in the realm of sin, but never again can he step into the mirror. This eponymous third album by Reeds VU was a melancholy, bittersweet tour of spirituality gone bad. The next, Loaded as in loaded with drugs or hits , was more upbeat and tuneful.
Loaded returned Reed not only to the people like Jack, a banker, and Jane, a clerk, both of whom save their money , but to his people, perhaps not the Jews as a whole, but the songwriters of the Brill Building tradition. Yes, New York rock n roll, the kind of rock n roll Reed himself loved as a teenager when Brill Building, doo-wop-avored hits were all you heard on the radioall that you needed to hear. On this album, Reed explores in depth the songwriting technique that would serve him so well in the years to come.
In Sweet Jane You can hear Jack say. The technique reaches its zenith in the album-as-novel that deals with Reeds most cherished subject, the city of his birth, New York. Here, all the little people get to speak, from the ghetto Romeo and Juliet to the queens in the Halloween Parade to the angry Lou himself, fed up with Nazi fugitives like Kurt Waldheim and anti-Semitic candidates like Jessie Jackson and even more deeply anti-Semitic political gures like the Pope.
Its not exactly punk in volume, but its still punk in DIY populist spirit. Reed gives dignity to all of his characters, who are just trying to get by, doing it for themselves. But Loaded was a third failure with the public. Reed, the refugee from suburbia who ed to New York, found himself exiled once again.
Or he felt that he was exiled, which amounts to the same thing. Its deeply Jewish, the feeling that ones skin is turned inside out so that emotions bleed at every pinprick, die at every insult. Its born as much from centuries of oppression by the church in Europe as from self-seclusion in the shtetl of the soul.
But its there, ready to swallow you upjust as it swallowed Reed soon after the public refused to clasp his album Loaded to its heart. No, after Loaded Reed seemed a beaten man, briey limping along with the band as he gradually turned it over to his new guitarist Doug Yule, then, after a show at Maxs Kansas City, heading back to his parents home in Long Island, where he either suffered a nervous breakdown, began working for his dads accounting business, or both.
One of his central conicts during this period was his fear of becoming too strange, too odd, too much the rock n roller who would never understand the simple pride and joy of working in the nine-to-ve world like his father. Back on Long Island, he wrote a piece about Brian Epstein in which he describes both the life-and-death importance of music and the madness of the rock n roll lifestyle.
When he eventually returned to the city and to music to undertake a solo career, he did so with a new appreciation of his father. As if claiming it as his own, he began to refer to his Jewishness indirectly, and on occasion directly, as when he sang about his friend and teacher.
Yet it wasnt till , when Reed asked those four other questions at that gathering of rockers, klezmer musicians, poets, and other hip members of the New York Jewish scene known as the Downtown Seder that he really seemed to come home. For it was there, with his dog, partner, and a hundred fellow Jews looking on, that he combined Edgar Allen Poe with Jewishness, sounding as pissed off and bored as he had decades before, talking about servants named Severin and shiny boots of leather.
They were macho men. They sort of marched, you know? And they were literally the sons of automobile workers who came from the Appalachians. I just thought the virility of it was somethingI mean, virility is not, shall we say, a characteristic of the Jewish community. In Jewish [culture] the women are the most important thing. Danny Fields, Virile? You dont have to breed that out of New York Jews? I mean, The Catcher in the Rye? My God! Danny Fields, Like Woody Allens character Zelig, a certain face pops up repeatedly in the pictorial annals of punk.
Patti Smith. Christ, you can even see him with a young Jonathan Richman years before he introduced Jojo to his future Modern Lovers, just as you can see him again with a young Edie Sedgwick who lived with him when she moved to New York. Hes everywhere, the man of the moment, the man at the center, the great and powerful Oz. Yes, Danny Fields was forever the coolest guy in the room. An offstage master who discovered, supported, and promoted key talent, he was also forever at heart a nice Jewish boy who embodied punks simultaneous reaction against yet embrace of New York Jewishness.
If we go back to , we can see the ten-year-old Fields in his parents house in Richmond Hill, Queens, pressing his chubby face against the window as his neighbors pass on their way to work. Its an odd sight, considering how we know he will end up, and a sad sight, too. For like those neighborsIrish-, German-, and Italian-American bar owners and laborers, for the most partwe can hear the Bach B Minor Mass and the Beethoven quartets issuing from behind Danny in that house, the house of his father, the neighborhood MD, second only to the local priest in status. And though we wave, we can see that he barely waves back.
Hes far away, in his own world, to which we have no access. They see Danny in line at lunch and wandering down the halls between classes, but they rarely interact with him. In fact, they barely notice hes there until hes skipped two grades and gone off at age eleven to become the youngest student ever to enter John Adams High Schools sophomore class.
Its all in keeping with the plan as Dr. Fienberg Danny changed his name after college and the neighbors see it, young Danny preparing himself for a respectable career in the tradition of his father and his people. And yet, below the surface, tensions are simmering. Other kids ignore him as they stand beside Danny waiting for the bus, the Jewish kids especially. They were just so shrimpy and pathetic, says the now sixty-four-yearold Fields, sitting in his eighth-oor apartment overlooking the Hudson River and the now-vanished Twin Towers.
Im reading Catcher in the Rye. Heading off to parties in Brooklyn or dates in Manhattan, Fields became ever more enmeshed in the world of New Yorks elite. Those were my kind of people. You know, they went to the Hamptons in the summer, and they were cool. And then they all went to Harvard and Cornell and Radcliffe and all of that, and I just felt more at home there.
Indeed, by fteen, graduated and with an acceptance to the University of Pennsylvania, Fields was ready to make his break from Richmond Hill complete. When my girlfriend gave me Bachs Mass for my birthday, I played it day and night. My father was berserk. He has become a Christian, he has become a goy. What is this goyishe music? Dad, its a mass, which is Catholic, but he was Lutheran.
Its just music. I was alienated from him, as much as I was from outer-borough values and Jewishness. I despised everything that I came from and had to get away. At Penn, Fields made friends with the wealthiest, coolest, and brightest kids in his class, before long frequenting their summer homes in Switzerland and their winter homes in Italy, all the while planning his next step. He always found a few weird Jewish people, like Billy Meyers, one of the richest Jews in Providence, and those were his friends. You know, crazy, crazy Jews, Fields says. And I saw Jewish society in Providence because of my roommate Billy.
They didnt look like Jews. I mean, coming from New York Jewdom, theres nothing in the world like it. My aunt Jane ran a candy store, counting pennies every night. Fifth in his class at Penn, Fields had no trouble getting into Harvard Law and enrolled there immediately after graduating from college in Of course, he had absolutely no interest in becoming a lawyer or even in attending classes. He just wanted to be in Harvards rareed environment, most particularly the social scene surrounding it in Cambridge. Oh God, those people at Harvard were pathetic, Fields says. They studied when they were on the toilet, asking questions back and forth while they took a crap.
I spent all of my time on the other side of Cambridge, drinking and fucking and shoplifting. It was everything Id ever dreamed Harvard could be. Not surprisingly, within months Fields decided to drop out, even though he was passing most of his classes. His parents were devastated, but Fields was happy with his situation, staying on in Cambridge for another year or so to.
When his parents nally decided that he had to do something, Danny enrolled in NYU, ostensibly to pursue a masters degree in literature, but really so that he could become more involved in the extracurricular activities available in Greenwich Village. Here, he nally made his way into the social circles hed always longed for, becoming rst a member of the gay elite, centered around the San Remo bar, then through the writers and playwrights he met there, part of Andy Warhols art studio cum private club, the Factory. I wasnt really anything more than a B-list player there, but I made lots of friends and introduced the Warhol crowd to the Harvard crowd, Fields says.
Edie [Sedgwick] came down from Cambridge and moved into my loft. While Fields might not have minded being a bit player, when he dropped out of NYU and moved on to work, rst at Liquor Store Magazine very glamorous and then the fledgling rock monthly Datebook whos your favorite Beatle? Suddenly, I was in the media and could write about them, Fields says.
There was always room in a limousine for me now and an invitation to the best parties. They liked getting their press, Ill say that. While Fields had no background in journalism, he threw himself into making Datebook an exciting publication. He printed articles about The Velvet Underground and gleaned the foreign press for news outside the United States. And yet, being a member of the Factory, he perhaps made Datebook a bit too exciting.
At least for the Beatles. In the second issue of Datebook that I worked on, I found the publisher had bought the American rights to two interviews, one with Paul and one with John. They had long since been published in the UK, and were barely commented on. But I found two quotes in the interviews that I thought deserved more attention, so I moved them onto the front cover. One was Paul declaring Its a lousy country where anyone black is a dirty nigger, and the other was John Lennon predicting, I dont knowwhich will go rst, rock and roll or Christianity. That quote was part of a longer John statement, printed in the actual entire interview, and it was a zinger: Were more popular than Jesus now.
The Jesus issue, Datebook September , went on sale in July of that year, and came to the attention of a deejay in Alabama, who pretended to go berserk at this impiety. He encouraged kids who owned Beatles records to. Goebbels would have been proud of the vigor of the offended Christians, says Fields. This chaos was happening as the Beatles were beginning their stadium tour of the United States. At their concert in Memphis, instead of the boys humbly paying homage to the music created there a decade earlier, the Beatles were forced to confront the KKK, who lled the parking lot of the stadium with one of those hate rallies that they do so well, Fields says.
There were death-threats, and during a soundcheck, the noise of a falling garbage pail in the distant stands had Ringo jumping under his drum set, thinking it was a rie shot. You could almost say that the Beatles decision at tours end to stop performing live, and John Lennons murder fourteen years later, both stemmed in part from the Datebook incident. Lennons assassin, Mark David Chapman, was a disturbed product of the fundamentalist Christian prayer groups then spreading like sleeper-cells throughout the South. When John Lennon was quoted as saying, Were more popular than Jesus Christ now, he turned violently against his one-time hero.
Also, his friend Michael McFarland recommended a book to him. That book ended up being the one Chapman sat down to reread immediately after shooting Lennon: The Catcher in the Rye. Blamed for everything from the rise of juvenile delinquency in the s to the spread of freaky alternative lifestyles in the s, The Catcher in the Rye was written by a half-Jewish New Yorker who on some level had chosen to run from his Jewishness. Jerome David Salinger placed not only Holden, but later Holden spin-offs like Seymour, Franny, and Miriam, right in the midst of liberal Upper West Side Jewishness, yet barelyand in the case of Holden, neverindicated whether they might be of the tribe their names aside.
As New York Jewish intellectual Maxwell Geismar famously observed, The locale of the New York sections [in The Catcher in the Rye] is obviously that of a comfortable middle-class urban Jewish society where, however, all the leading figures have become beautifully Anglicized. Holden and Phoebe Cauleld: what perfect American social register names which are presented to us in both a social and a psychological void!
Or as Paul McCartney later said to Fields upon learning of his role in the Jesus articles release, So you were the one. Yes, this gay Jewish outsider. Not that being red bothered Fields. As he says, he was an avowed Rolling Stones fan, and hed recently been offered a much more exciting job elsewhere. Elektra hired me to create a publicity department, but that didnt mean I couldnt also recommend new bands that I thought might be worth signing. The company had just hit big with the Doors Light My Fire, and they wanted to expand into the rock gold mine in a big way. Of course, most of the execs were straighter guys and Elektra had previously been a folkie label As I had been a Folkie in college!
Thats why later people like me became known as the record companies house freaks. In those rapidly changing times in the late s when identity politics rst reared its head and anti-war protesters like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Paul Krassner all Jews pushed increasingly for cultural revolution, it isnt too surprising to hear that executives in suits were adding corporate-sponsored freaks to their staffs.
I dont know if my Jewishness had anything to do with it, says Fields. After all, most of the executives in the companies I worked for were Jewish. Entertainment in America has been highly populated by Jews almost from its inception. Still, I will admit that I might have had different likes than someone from the South or the Midwest. I dont know. As a gay, Jewish, Bach-loving intellectual in a Chopin-based family, Ive always been an outsider many times over. I guess it isnt too much to say that in traditional American terms Im not just an outsider, Im an alternative being.
As if to illustrate this, Fields immediately began championing some of the darkest and most threatening bands on the scene: the Doors, followed by the MC5, followed by the Stooges, and Nico. All of these musicians would one day be seen as pivotal links leading to punkand all were reviled by certain executives at Elektra although never by the companys founder, Jac Holzman, himself the son of a New York Jewish doctor who kept them on at Fields insistence that they would one day turn a prot.
Aside from the Doors, not at all. But I liked what they were doing. I liked it extremely. It was wild and threatening and entertaining. It was great theater. And so American. Fields points rst to the volatile, unpredictable nature of Jim Morrisons performances with the Doors, saying that they were the most central feature of the bands appeal. There was this sense that anything could happen at any moment, he says. You never knew what to expect. But it was really with Detroit bands like the MC5 and the Stooges that Fields discovered a truly revolutionary musica music that he believes he understood in large part because of his odd perspective as a New York Jew.
Detroit is the most goyishe hub of civilization. These echt Americans were alien to Woody Allenesque New Yorkers like Fields, but they were far less so to the country as a whole. If the fans were not ready to embrace them at that point, it was perhaps because the MC5 and the Stooges were still too clear a reection of their inner lives.
As Neil Gabler theorizes in his critically acclaimed study of Jewish Hollywood in films Golden Age, An Empire of their Own, its as if the American dream began as a projection of what these immigrant Jewish producers thought America was. When the audiences, seeing these images, adopted them as their own, it became difcult to tell which came rstthe chicken Jew or the egg dream. America perhaps wasnt ready to see its white, angry, class-divided, echt self just yet.
The Heebie Jeebies at CBGB's: A Secret History of Jewish Punk
But considering the limited success of these scary Detroit bands as opposed to their safer cousins, Bob Seger and Grand Funk Railroad , and the fact that their audiences continued to grow in the coming years, it seems the country was at least open to it. Fields had set in motion a new movement in rock that seemed to take off from where Lou Reeds VU stopped, and that brought an infusion of Americas street-vibe into the artistic, Jewish milieu of New York.
In his embrace of the echt American vibe he helped create a template for the punk bands to come, whether they were the Iggy-inspired Jewish duo that made up the prepunk band Suicide, the Jewish-infused garage rockloving half-Jewish duo of Lenny Kaye and Patti Smith, or that ultimate punk band, the rst and in.
Fields rst encountered the Ramones not long after he returned to New York from Detroit. It was a kind of limbo time for him, between his period managing the Stooges and the MC5whod been cut loose from Elektra along with him for making trouble using the word motherfucker in an open letter against their record company, for instance and his return to New York, where he found a number of things had changed in the interim. While he was away, Maxs Kansas City had gone from the center of the scene to a fading memory. It even opened an upstairs venue for live disco, a sign of the apocalypse to many.
The Mercer Arts Center and its main house act, the New York Dolls, were literally falling apart the rst when the roof collapsed, the second as a result of drugs. Glam rock seemed to be falling by the wayside, whatever scene there had been rapidly changing as clubs opened and failed, leaving almost no room for live bands and upcoming performances. Around that time, a little club in the Bowery began booking local bands few had heard of before, including one that Fields, now working at the Soho Weekly News, and fellow rock writer Lisa Robinson were repeatedly approached to review.
They tossed a coin to see who would go, and Robinson won. She came back raving to Fields about its wondrous power. The Ramones, as they were called, were going to be huge, Robinson said. The next night Fields went to check them out himself. It was like he was back in that goyishe hub of civilization, Detroit, that place where his short, funny, little Jewish self had been adopted by the echt Americans. Yet this time, the band he was watching was playing in that once most Jewish section of that most Jewish of cities.
And it was featuring at least one Jew on vocals and perhaps another in the background, though at the time Fields wasnt sure. When the Ramones appeared on the stage, they were like something Id unconsciously been waiting for, Fields says. They were perfect. I didnt want to change anything about them. They were like the MC5 and the Stooges except that they were funny and ironic. And, like Jews, they were steeped in the showbiz tradition. These Jewish American traits were especially noticeable against the backdrop of the former Yiddish theater district where CBGB was located.
They were revealed in the Ramones funny, biting lyrics, in their matching costumes, and in their over-the-top performances. You want to compare the Ramones to vaudeville? Fields asks. I guess you could do that. For all their inherent Jewishness, the Ramones werent completely separated from their echt American forefathers in Detroit. Like the MC5 and the Stooges, the Ramones ran on anger as much as on music.
Like those ever-somacho, uncompromising rebels, they thrived on being seen as hard, right down to their permanent scowls and matching leather jackets. They dressed like a street gang, a Puerto Rican one perhaps, as their name suggested. When they mentioned storm troopers in their songs, they made it clear they were angry, dark, and pissed off.
And yet, there was irony about everything. That name, for instance, so much like a street gangs, was actually taken from Paul McCartneys Beatlemania-era pseudonym, Paul Ramon. And then too, there was the look of the band, a kind of leather-jacketed conformity that seemed not only to speak of street gangs, but of early s girl groups, too.
Girl groups? What could be less macho than that? Well, perhaps song titles like I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend or the appearance of the lead singer, a tall, gawky, painfully thin mantis-like gure who hunched over the microphone as if without it he might collapse. They were like a funhouse mirror of a group, says Fields. That was part of their appeal. The Ramones enhanced the macho, big-guy theatrics of the Detroit boys into a concept that a nice Jewish boy like Fields could embrace all the more.
They altered the whole idea of machismo, turning it into comedy, or at least irony, creating distance so that the viewer could project himself onto the performers, just as gay, New York Jewish outsider Danny Fields had projected himself onto the echt Americans in the swastika-sporting band playing behind Iggy Osterberg Pop. It was much the same irony adopted by other CBGBs. It was New York irony. For New York punks. He invited his friend Linda Stein, by then married to Sire cofounder Seymour Stein, to come see the band. When she paved the way for the company to sign them, he invited her to become comanager.
Together, the two were able to get relatively low budget Sire to support their efforts. Seymour Stein gave them the funds to go to England, where the Ramones played a historic show at The Roundhouse that inuenced almost every major U. When the group returned to the states only to nd that they were still nobodies, Fields continued to do what he could. He attempted to interest journalists hed become friendly with during his years as an editor, and he committed the band to a punishing tour schedule that took them on a blitz across America, one that he believed would ultimately spread the word.
It was more than I had ever been able to do for the bands in Detroit, because now I was the manager and I had a real commitment from the record company, Fields says. That was a ction, we never went to Idaho, but we went just about everywhere else.
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We couldnt get on the radio, so we needed to take the music to the audience. The Ramones caught on to a certain degree and garnered a cult following almost from the start, but Fields quickly realized something wasnt right. When they played their first major gig outside of New York, opening for Johnny Winter in Westbury, Connecticut, the audience booed them so consistently they had to cut their set short.
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