10 NEW YORK MOMENTS FROM THE 80s by Kris Needs
1. The magnificent Danceteria on 21st Street was, literally, my first stop on my first visit to New York; straight from the airport! I was there with the Specimen and Bat Cave, which we were preparing to take around the US. The tour, and Danceteria itself, were booked by a lady called Ruth Polsky, who opened up the city and US for British new wave bands. Ruth, who was tragically killed by a runaway cab in 1986, was lovely, showing us around this amazing, multi-floored club where Madonna worked in the cloak-room and they had different floors for rock, disco, hiphop and the world’s first video-adorned chill out bar. I remember thinking, ‘One day all clubs will be like this’…
2. Walking into CBGBs for the first time, thinking, ‘Is this where it all happened?’, then watching amazing sets by Certain General and the Band Of Outsiders [two criminally overlooked downtown bands]. A few weeks later the two bands joined forces to form the Dead Rabbit Gang and I ended up singing with them on that hallowed stage. Both groups became friends, helping me immeasurably while I was there, so I returned the favour by bringing them to the UK [and will be featuring them on future WTCD sets]. Seeing Suicide there a few years later remains one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever witnessed; the perfect soundtrack to the city, which had not yet been sand-blasted by gentrification.
4. My first foray down the subway, at Union Square station. There was a distant rumble in the tunnel before the number six train came roaring in, screeching and sparking, covered top to bottom in full car graffiti. From then on, I rode the subway just to look at this mobile art gallery, met some writers and started doing it myself [hence the sleeve art on my compilation!].
6. It was always good to catch up with friends in visiting UK bands, seeing how they went down in NYC and often writing about them for Creem. These included Big Audio Dynamite, the Cult, Billy Idol, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction. When I first lived in the city I was hanging out with Rick Rubin a lot and he nearly signed the last bunch to Def Jam!
7. Hearing New York radio for the first time. To me, the city wasn’t just about great bands and venues, it was the whole experience, sound-tracked by the incredible 24 hour black music radio stations; KISS FM, WBLS and KTU and their astonishing master-mixes. Tapes of these stations were like gold dust back in London, so Ruth found it highly amusing when I made straight for the radio, plonked a cassette in her sound system and recorded relentlessly. First thing I caught was a master-mix of Grandmaster Flash’s ‘White Lines’ and Liquid liquid’s ‘Cavern’. I was just sitting there with my mouth hanging open, listening to the future. Then I decorated the cassettes with paint markers to look like subway cars. I was in rather deep!