In the Late ’70s, Teen Punks Ruled New York. These Are Their Stories.

In the Late ’70s, Teen Punks Ruled New York. These Are Their Stories.

The year was 1977, and The first generation Of New York City punk And alternative bands moved on to bigger venues and the international touring circuit. The beating of the cutter was still a few years away. Yet Manhattan’s storied music venues were alive and loud with enthusiastic, younger patrons.

He spent his days at Stuyvesant High School. He came from the High School of Performing Arts and Murrow. He also attended Friends Seminary, Walden and Dalton, and Brooklyn Friends. Some were dropouts and runaways. Some were also from the suburbs. Almost all of them were under 18 years of age.

Over the next four years, they spent their nights building their own rock scene, playing aggressive, funny, sophisticated and intense pop and punk for their fellow teenagers at places like CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, Hurray and TR3. These were not the all-ages shows that would become common in the city a few years later. It was a unique moment in the city’s music history that changed the lives of many of the performers and audience members there, though their stories have largely been untold. Imagine an upbeat “Lord of the Flies,” styled with manic panic and Trash and Vaudeville.

Among their ranks was Eric Hoffert, who did four hours of homework every weekday from Bronx Science, then practiced his guitar for four hours. Weekend belonged to his band the Speedies. Arthur Brennan, a 16-year-old from Groton, Conn., regularly walked 20 miles to the newsstand where he could buy magazines that covered new music. He changed his name to Darwin Steiger and fled to New York City to join a band. and Kate Schellenbach, a ninth-grader at Stuyvesant who heard a rumor that her age group was playing the most famous music club in the world, just blocks from where she lived.

In September 1979, Schellenbach was 13 and starting high school and gathered to express her interest in new wave music in one outfit: over-dyed painters’ pants from Unique Clothing Warehouse. , white go-go shoes, a bowling shirt and an Elvis Costello pin from Reminiscences in the West Village.

“I remember going into the girls’ bathroom,” she said happily, speaking via video chat, “and this girl, Nancy Hall, who was the best, was sitting at the sink.” Nancy suggests that Kate see a band called the Student Teachers play at CBGB’s this weekend. The arty-pop combo included a female rhythm section featuring some kids from Friends Seminary and the somewhat impossibly distant Mamaroneck High School.

“If I hadn’t seen the student teachers on that terrible night, I probably would never have become a drummer,” said Schellenbach, who helped found and pioneered the Beastie Boys in 1981. . Happy Jackson. “Seeing Laura Davis on drums, seeing Lori Reese on bass and how exciting the whole scene was, everything about it made me think, ‘Oh, maybe this is something I can do. ,'” he added. “These guys were still in high school — it seemed achievable.”

The timing was perfect: this was the first generation to grow up with punk as the status quo, not an extraordinary rebellion. “Part of the call to history was that you weren’t supposed to just listen and take it in, you were supposed to listen to the conversation and form a band yourself,” says Bill Arning, keyboardist for Student Teachers, now a featured gallery. . The owner and curator said through video chat. “Of course you had to form a band; it didn’t even seem like an ‘out there’ idea.

Key groups in this movement were the Glam Bubble Gum Speedys, a high-concept group of teenagers (plus two very old members) who “wanted to be a combination of the Beatles, the Sax Pistols and the Bay City Rollers,” according to founding guitarist Gregory Crewdson. According to; Student Teachers, who played Roxy Music and art pop with an aesthetic reminiscent of the Velvet Underground. The Blades, who were the first, slowest and most fashionable group on the scene; and mega-poppy mood group The Killers, like the Speedys, who were obsessed with bubblegum music and were mentored by Blondie’s drummer, Clem Burke. (Other bands on the fringes of the movement included Stimulus and Miller Miller Miller and Sloan.)

If the seminal bands in the teen punk scene had anything in common, it was a love for big choruses, bright, colorful clothes, and an almost arrogant belief that the empowerment promised by punk rock was now their legacy.

“We didn’t know any better,” said Nicholas Petty, who started calling himself Nick Berlin in 1977 at age 13 and became a co-founder of Blessed. He spoke to The Times via video chat before attending the funeral of Howie Pyro, another founding member of the band. Last month at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom, Pyro’s heirs, including D Generation, Lunachucks’ Theo Coogan and Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon, paid tribute to the New York mainstay with a commemorative show.

“We thought this is how you live. We’d watch John Waters movies and, yeah, of course we’d think he was an actor, but we thought, this is what you’ve got to do,” Petty told Fort Bragg. , said from his home in California, where he works as an actor. Head of the Culinary Arts Management Program at Mendocino College. “It’s your life, you don’t dress like this, that’s all,” he added. “We wanted to be a three-ring circus. When we played early shows and late shows at the Max, we’d bring two full changes of clothes for each set. It’s definitely not what we’re expressing at the moment. How could it, but it was living as a performance art piece.

The Blessed (pronounced as two syllables) was the band that Arthur Brennan ran away from Groton to join. After two weeks the money he had saved from his paper route is gone, and when private detectives come to retrieve him, he is happy to give up his new identity as Darwin Stagger. “After the first night, it’s not really that fun to sleep in all-night blimps on 6th Avenue,” Brennan, now a public school teacher in Los Angeles, said via video chat. “But it was a relief to meet people like you. In your own hometown, you’d be considered a loser-slash-weirdo. We were kids learning how to function in a crazy, artistic adult world.

Author Jonathan Latham, who wrote about his love for the Speedys and Miller Miller Miller and Sloan “Fortress of Solitude” Noted that childhood was different in New York then. “The city was kind of chaotic, but it was really easy for us to work,” he said in a video chat. “You can’t convince a cab driver to go back to Brooklyn if your life depended on it, but you can always walk over the bridge! I think we basically owned the city, that time. It belonged to us.

Jill Cunniff, a scene mentor who later founded Lucious Jackson with Schellenbach and Gabe Glazer, said the city seemed like a non-stop event. “The night was liberating,” she said, “and it felt like we were really safe. If you were a parent, you might think the opposite – those kids going to nightclubs, they’re only 13 years old.” , it’s too dangerous. No, my day at IS 70 was really dangerous,” he added, referring to his public middle school. “My night time was safe.”

How did the scene go? None of the city’s well-traveled venues — CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, TR3 or Studio 10 — regularly checked IDs, the musicians recalled, and they said uptown, like Hurray and Trax, only loosely enforced alcohol restrictions based on age. (The legal drinking age in the city was 18 until late 1982.) Indeed, CBGB’s owner Hilly Crystal And Peter Crowley, who managed and booked Max, seemed to welcome the wave of younger New Yorkers eager to discover music.

“Kids, in general, like to drink,” Crowley said with a laugh over the phone. “But we did our best to make sure people were safe – even though I was wearing a badge that said, ‘I’m not your mother.’

But was safety an illusion? “For a long time, I looked at this period of my life nostalgically and sentimentally,” author Christopher Sorrentino said in an email. “I only recently started to recognize how vulnerable we all were, how many dangers we faced with no one putting the brakes on. It goes double for girls, who are 15 or 16. , often had ‘relationships’ with men in their late 20s and early 30s.

Laura Albert, who was on the scene from the age of 13 and later gained fame (and notoriety) by writing under Name of Plume JT LeRoyAgreed. “Access still came with a price, especially for girls and queer guys,” she wrote in a still-unpublished memoir. “That said, there was a sense of possibility, age wasn’t a barrier, I was a teenager in foster care but I still had access to musicians I admired, calling them on pay phones and fans. Interviewing them.”

By the 1980s, the teen punk scene was simultaneously developing and dissolving as its members grew up and moved on. Some of its members played prominent roles in the local hardcore punk movement: Hoffert and Crewdson of the Speedys produced the Beastie Boys’ first demos, and Stimulus became a seminal band in the local hardcore punk scene. Others went to college or took jobs that required Max to leave his association with late nights in Kansas City and shopping for closet creepers on St. Mark’s Place in the rearview mirror.

“As good as I thought the scene was, I realized I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to be in college,” Laura Davis-Chainen, a student-teacher drummer, said via video chat. “It was a big thing for me, given the incredible, shocking, sensational world of rock ‘n’ roll that I was a part of.”

Although the punk scene prior to this moment has been exceptionally well documented, little has been written about the youth who ran the night as the 70s gave way to the 80s. . Neither group was signed by major record labels and only one band, the Killers, released an LP early in their career. (The Speedys published an archive collection in 2007, largely to capitalize on their song usage, “Let me take your picture” in a Hewlett Packard ad campaign).

With only a patchily distributed independent 45 to spread the word outside the five boroughs, what was a powerful local scene never gained a national or international profile. But many of its members have gone on to have remarkable careers in and out of the art world. Crewdson, Speedy’s guitarist, is a famous tableau photographer. Hoffert, his bandmate, became a data technology pioneer who helped develop the Quicktime media player and is now senior vice president of Xandr. Alan Harkin also played in Torres Speedy’s, and is a former New York State Supreme Court Justice.

“There was a magical empowerment to what we did that brought us to life,” Hoffert said via video chat. “My work in digital media is directly related to the photography Gregory does. “

Schellenbach had a similar view: “It created so many great things — art, writers, hip-hop. A magical time in New York City!”

Eli Atty, who started attending Max before reaching puberty, became a speechwriter for Al Gore, then a writer and producer for “The West Wing” and “Billions.” “It freaked me out,” she said of the scene. “It made me realize that your life can be anything you want it to be. If you want to know these people, if you want to experience the music, even if it seems out of reach for you or her. Not allowed, you just can. You can write your own story.”

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