Saturday, December 31, 2005

From L.A. to N.Y., from N.Y. to L.A.

The current issue of L.A. Weekly features an excellent cover story on East Side '50s & '60s Chicano rock & roll. Obviously it's an L.A.-centric article, but it also contains a few NYC-related anecdotes; the surviving members of Cannibal & the Headhunters offer memories on shows they played at the Brooklyn Fox, Small's Paradise in Harlem, and at Shea as openers for the Beatles.

Speaking of L.A.-NYC connections...the new Bob Gruen New York Dolls DVD, All Dolled Up (to which I was initially hipped by an informative streetsyoucrossed reader), includes a healthy dose of L.A. action. There's live footage from the Whisky, both from soundchecks ("Johnny Rivers didn't sound like this," a dissatisfied David Jo quips at one point) and actual shows, plus a lip-synch session for The Real Don Steele Show. Lotsa cool downtime footage as well--backstage scenes (with the fabled Sable Starr and Lori Maddox among others), a relaxed interview on a grassy knoll near the NBC studios (the guys were taking a break from a Midnight Special taping), hanging at the Hyatt, cruising down Hollywood Boulevard and the Strip, purchasing nipple slippers at some sex/novelty shop, and dancing at Rodney Bingenheimer's English Disco. Don't worry, plenty of NYC footage made the cut, including clips from Kenny's Castaways, Max's, Club 82, Little Hippodrome, and the "St. Valentine's Day Mascara" film shown before the big Academy of Music gig--not to mention clueless local newscasts and a hilarious scene at JFK Airport. As one reviewer pointed out, though, if Gruen has forty hours worth of this stuff, releasing only about 95 minutes of it is tantamount to a tease. I'm left grateful, but greedy for mo'.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Read 'em while you can

Enjoy these two semi-pertinent (though not rock & roll-ish) articles in today's New York Times before they get consigned to the paid archive:

Friday, December 02, 2005

You can't keep a good Brooklyn band down

My dear Pops unexpectedly departed a couple of weeks ago, and I've been up to my ears in the emotional and economic fall-out ever since. Ergo, I don't know when I'll have a free moment to write the next entry. In the meantime, allow me to draw your attention to a cool interview with Art Steinman from the Jagged Edge, one of Brooklyn's garage-rock class of '66--a new addition to Mike Dugo's super-fab Also check out Steinman's own must-see Jagged Edge page, featuring mp3 snippets and loads of time-warp J.E. photos and 16 Magazine scans.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thursday, November 17, 2005


UNGANO'S--210 West 70th Street, between Amsterdam and West End Avenues. Haven't been able to find much background info about this late '60s/early '70s club or its proprietors, brothers Arnie and Nicky Ungano. Most of the show dates I've found range from '69-'71, but Genya Ravan recalls playing there as early as '64 in her memoirs, Lollipop Lounge (New York: Billboard Books, 2004). She describes it as "yet another Italian-owned club," and infers that such joints were no strangers to mob-related activity. A article about the Dickens (mock-rock alter egos of NRBQ) describes the place as "a cozy showcase club," while an R. Meltzer tribute on dubs it "a hepster basement rock club." A contributor to this George Harrison condolence page--who met the Quiet Beatle at the club in 1970--remembered it as "a place where 'name' artists could play, and also where A&R reps and agents would go to see talent auditions." As Mike Fornatale explained a while back on the Bomp list:

In 1966 and '67, when out-of-town bands came to NYC, they would do shows at places like Ungano's and the original Peppermint Lounge, that were really holdovers of the Copacabana era and not so very unlike this "vibe" (maaaan) at all. [He's referring to the scene at the Hard Rock Cafe during its launch party for Little Steven's Underground Garage.--Ed.] (Once they turned on the three-dollar color-wheel lights, that is.) The only difference here is that the Hard Rock Cafe has a fifty-foot ceiling and the lights cost three THOUSAND dollars each.

According to, a site devoted to Little Feat (who played there on January 4, 1971), it was a "basement club" with an occupancy of 200; "[it] closed around March 20, 1971, and then reopened on Staten Island as Ungano's Ritz around May 21, 1971." This second venue was in an old 2,000-seat movie house, the Ritz Theater, at 251 Port Richmond Avenue.

Both the club and the theater attracted a surprisingly impressive array of the era's talent, including:

A Staten Island local on remembers seeing "Alice Cooper, Mountain, Black Sabbath, Yes, Capt. Beefheart, MC5, King Crimson, The Kinks, Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple...even Vanilla Fudge" at Ungano's Ritz. He adds, "The Ritz concerts did not last to due 'contract riders' put into place in the early seventies by NYC concert promoters. They insisted that the musicians performing at their place could not book additional shows within a 50 mile radius of the venue nor within a month surrrounding the show. This essentially killed the bookings for national recording acts at the Ritz Theater." Apparently the building went on to become a roller rink, but since 1985 it has been occupied by Pedulla Ceramic Tile. What became of the basement of 210 W. 70th Street is unclear. The building as a whole was, and may still be, the Bradford Hotel, but seems to also house various other businesses.

[UPDATE 5/6/2010: Here are a couple of Ungano's ads unearthed by a long-time Internet pal of mine, the eagle-eyed Rob B. Jeez, this piece seems skimpy--I should really see if more info has come forth. The daughter of one of the proprietors contacted me quite a while ago, offering answers to any questions I might have...unfortunately I was too shy and too preoccupied with non-blog matters at the time to fully take her up on it, and I fear the offer may have expired by now.]

UPDATE 3/15/2012:  Here is a revised and improved post on 1969 Ungano's ads.

Rockin' the Para--uh, mount, toniiiiiite!

I can trace my fondness for old theaters back to two habits of my misspent youth--special-treat Saturday matinees at the RKO Keith's in Flushing (whose building may be finally redeveloped as condos after two decades of vacancy and decay), and frequent pre-teen contemplation of the poignant gatefold cover of Styx's Paradise Theater (sorry, couldn't find a photo showing both the "1928 Gala Premiere" front and the "1958 slated-for-demolition" back). I oughta be ashamed of the sheer cheesiness of the latter, but I'm not--and though I haven't listened to the record in eons, I still find the cover entrancing. Evidently I'm not alone, either. Let's stick together and futurize our attitudes!

(NEW YORK) PARAMOUNT THEATRE--in the Paramount Building, 1501 Broadway between 43rd and 44th Streets. There's no need for one of my usual redundant recaps on the Paramount Theatre's's Paramount Theatre page contains a surfeit of lore galore, plus further links to photos and movie screening ads. Can't resist poaching a few pertinent quotes, though:

The Paramount was the first great movie palace in New York City that was built in the "Chicago-style" pioneered by the architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp. When first opened in 1926, its extravagant French Renaissance interiors were a radical change from the restrained Adam and Empire styles that New Yorkers had become accustomed to at the Paramount's main rivals, the Strand, Capitol, and Loew's State (all designed by Thomas Lamb). The Paramount became one of the city's top tourist attractions, but not for long due to the 1927 opening of the Roxy, which was almost twice as large and even more spectacular...For a theatre of its size (3,664 seats), the Paramount was one of the narrowest ever built because the auditorium had to be squeezed between two adjacent buildings--the Paramount office tower, which faced Broadway, and the headquarters of The New York Times (229 West 43rd Street). Consequently, the Paramount Theatre's entrance and a short lobby were carved out of the Paramount Building. After you passed through that short lobby, the actual theatre building began with the Grand Lobby, where you found yourself at the rear of the auditorium, which ran parallel to Broadway with the stage wall backing on West 44th Street. The main floor had only four sections of seats. Above that was a separate and recessed mezzanine with boxed seats. And one level above the mezzanine was the steeped balcony, divided into five sections of seats across and four from front to back. Due to the narrowness of the auditorium, the Paramount also had a narrow stage opening that proved a problem throughout the theatre's lifetime. Stage productions had to use the orchestra lift as part of the show or erect small platforms next to the pit. When the wide screen era arrived, some of the procscenium had to be removed to accommodate it...

The lobby was modeled after the Paris Opera House with white marble columns, balustrades and an opening arms grand staircase. Inside, drapes were red velvet, the rugs were a similar red. The theater also had a grand organ, and an orchestra pit that rose up to the stage level. The ceilings were fresco and gilt. The railings were brass, and the seats plush. There were Greek statues and busts in wall niches. The rest rooms and waiting rooms were as grand as any cathedral. In the main lobby there was an enormous crystal chandelier.

[Side note: these pages on early Times Square signage mention the previous structure on this site, the Putnam Building--named in honor of General Israel "whites of their eyes" Putnam. Supposedly he and George Washington met at this spot during the Revolutionary War.]

Famed as much for its stage shows as for its films and sumptuous decor, the Paramount boasted a long list of legendary performers, including Mary Pickford, Bing Crosby, Benny Goodman (with Gene Krupa on skins), Cab Calloway, Woody Herman, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Perry Como, Eddie Fisher, Erskine Hawkins, the Treniers, Martin and Lewis (and apparently Jerry had worked as a Paramount usher in the early '40s), Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Vic Damone, Joey Bishop, Les Paul and Mary Ford, the Mills Brothers, Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Imogene Coca, and Jackie Gleason with his "Honeymooners" cohorts, among many others. Fine as these folks were, none of them caused quite as much of a stir as Frank Sinatra, who played several multi-date engagements to hordes of screaming, swooning, street-blocking bobby-soxers in the early '40s.

Alas, the theater's rock & roll connections concern us most here. Such events were few and far between, but fun.

Elvis never made an appearance, but his 40-foot-tall, guitar-slung likeness was mounted above the marquee for the November 15, 1956 premiere of Love Me Tender.

Although Alan Freed's association with the Brooklyn Paramount is more well-known, he did put on a few of his extravaganzas at the Manhattan location. Some researchers confuse the two venues, which has made ascertaining the correct dates a bit difficult.

  • The earliest appears to have taken place in February 1957, in conjunction with the premiere of Don't Knock the Rock. The bill included the Platters, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, Ruth Brown, Nappy Brown, the Cleftones, the Cadillacs, and the Duponts, which featured a pre-Imperials Little Anthony Gourdine.
  • Not absolutely sure of the dates for this show, but I believe it happened in early July, 1957--Chuck Berry, Clyde McPhatter, the Moonglows, Big Joe Turner, the Everly Brothers, Johnny & Joe, Paul Anka, LaVern Baker, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, his brother Lewis Lymon with the Teen Chords, Jodie Sands, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and Terry Randazzo.
  • From December 26, 1957 through January 6, 1958, the "Christmas Jubliee/Holiday Show of Stars" featured Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, the Rays, Paul Anka, Danny & the Juniors, Lee Andrews & the Hearts, the Teenagers (I guess Frankie L. went solo by then), Jo Ann Campbell, and the Rays. Seems this show broke Frankie Sin's house record!

Here's a pic of the statuary management put in storage before these bookings in an effort to prevent rowdy teens from toppling them. And here's a pic of said delinquents dancing in the aisles and on seats. Be sure to consult the archives section of the "newspaper articles" link, loaded with vintage scans about these events.

[Side note # 2: While Freed booked most frequently at the two Paramounts, he also utilized the Brooklyn Fox (10 Flatbush Avenue), the Academy of Music, Loew's State (1540 Broadway), Loew's Paradise (2413 Grand Concourse in the Bronx--which hopefully won't meet a Stygian fate), the St. Nicholas Arena in Harlem, the Sussex Avenue Armory in Newark, and the New York Coliseum (10 Columbus Circle, demolished; now the site of the Time Warner Center).]

[UPDATE 2/7/2007: The Game Show Network recently aired a '50s episode of To Tell the Truth with Alan Freed as one of the contestants. It must have been originally aired around the time of the 57/58 Holiday Show of Stars, because some references were made to broken house records--not to mention broken house seats and other damage sustained by the Paramount in the wake of those raucous record-breaking delinquents. The panelists, including Polly Bergen, Ralph Bellamy, Kitty Carlisle, and Hy Gardner, clearly had an anti-rock & roll bias--I mean, jeez, the man had been in three movies by then and they didn't recognize him? Still, Bellamy and Carlisle correctly identified him as the real Freed. Polly Bergen chose one of the impostors because he knew the Paramount's manager was named Bob Shapiro.]

A regular posted the following: "For the Easter holiday period in 1964, the Paramount presented what the press reported as the theatre's first stage show in seven years. It was a Rock-N-Roll revue emceed by the radio deejays known as the 'WMCA Good Guys.' The performers included Sam Cooke, Dean & Jean, Rufus Thomas, the Devotions, the Sapphires, the Four Seasons, Terry Stafford, Chris Crosby, Diane Renay, and King Curtis & Band. There were five stage shows per day, punctuated by screenings of Zenith International's "No, My Darling Daughter," a British comedy with Juliet Mills and Michael Craig. The engagement ran from March 27 through April 5." Another cinematreasures guy remembers seeing Lesley Gore and James Brown at one of these shows. "Dandy" Dan Daniel offers some memories of those shows in this obit for his former fellow Good Guy, Dean Anthony.

Just when I thought I couldn't possibly learn anything new about the Beatles, along came another factoid. As if to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Frankie's fervent '44 fanbase, the Fab ones caused further screaming to echo off the Paramount's proscenium on September 20, 1964. Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, of all people, were the opening act. All proceeds went to the United Cerebral Palsy and Retarded Infants Services charities--and this was the sole benefit concert the lads did in the U.S.

[UPDATE 7/20/2006: According to Norton Records' required-reading Mary Weiss interview, the Shangri-Las were also on this bill!!!]

[UPDATE 9/29/2007: Mary offers some further memories of this gig in a NY Sun interview.]

[UPDATE 6/9/2010: Oh my, am I late to the party on this one. Over a year ago, an NYC photo-blogger ("what about the plastic animals?") located the remnants of an old poster on the side of a Harlem building that was undergoing renovations at the time. It advertised a Dave Clark Five show at the Paramount, emceed by Murray the K. The blogger couldn't ascertain a concert date, but according to this DC5 chronology, it must have been on October 31, 1964.]

In May, 1965, coinciding with the engagement for Harlow (one of two Jean Harlow biopics released that year, this one starring Carol Lynley), local dance-party TV show host Clay Cole put on a revue featuring several soulful acts--Mary Wells, the Marvelettes, Ronnie Dove, Tony Clark, Charlie & Inez Foxx, and the Gypsies.

[UPDATE 2/14/2007: While researching an entry on the Brooklyn Fox, I came upon this auction site page featuring a number of '60s concert programs for sale, including three for shows held at the Paramount:

  • The aforementioned WMCA Good Guys "Easter Parade of Stars" in 1964, with James Brown, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Bobby Rydell, Lesley Gore, the 4 Seasons, King Curtis, Chris Crosby, Dean & Jean, American Beetles, Rufus Thomas, the Sapphies, Diane Renay, Ruby & The Romantics, and Terry Stafford.
  • Another WMCA Good Guys event called the "Show of Shows," with the Animals, Bobby Rydell, Del Shannon, Jan & Dean, Elkie Brooks, the Dixie Cups, Sam "The Man" Taylor, Ronnie Dove, Dee Dee Sharp, The Chartbusters, and Ronnie Dayton. The dates aren't given, but this site suggests that it occurred during Labor Day week in 1964.
  • A "10-Day Easter Show" hosted by Soupy Sales in 1965, with the Hullabaloos, the Detergents, Shirley Ellis, Little Richard, the Vibrators {sic.--should probably be the Vibrations}, the Exciters, the Hollies, the Uniques, Dee Dee Warwick, Roddy Joy, Sandie Shaw, and King Curtis.] [UPDATE 3/22/2009: Found these images from the program.]

[UPDATE 5/27/2010: In a BBC Radio 2 documentary originally broadcast on 5/26/2010, Allan Clarke and Bobby Elliott recalled that Jimi Hendrix was playing for Little Richard's band at the time...but that Penniman was let go and forcibly removed from the premises at a certain point, for refusing to cut his set down to two songs.]

The Paramount closed later that year; Thunderball was the final flick shown. The auditorium and lobby sections were gutted and remodeled as office space, most of it serving as an annex to the adjacent New York Times headquarters. (The theater's renowned Wurlitzer organ survived and eventually found its way to Wichita, Kansas.) In the early aughts, the World Wrestling Federation operated a theme restaurant on the lower level of the building, where the theater's lounges and restrooms had previously been located. To spruce up the entrance, the WWF funded the construction of a replica of the Paramount's original marquee design. Though fans were presumably pleased that they now could actually smell-ell-ell-ell-ell what the Rock was cookin', the wrasslin' restaurant didn't last very long. As of August, 2005, the space became the new home of the Hard Rock Cafe. In a related-in-name-only twist, plans are afoot to convert the nearby Paramount Hotel (235 W. 46th Street) into the city's first Hard Rock Hotel by Spring 2006.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Anachronistic minds think alike

Every once in a while a rock journalist shares my sentiments exactly--as in this excerpt from last week's (November 11-17) "Rock & Roll Love Letter" column by Kate Sullivan in the L.A. Weekly:

Most of the time, I walk around in a meta-historical haze, my spirit tossed between musical decades — haunting some imaginary Brill Building of the soul, then reclining in the hair of Marc Bolan and then — occasionally — being drawn back to the future by a contemporary artist of real imagination and talent. So there’s nothing like a great band pulling a stunt like this to remind me, You’re actually alive, now, at this precise moment in history.

Not that I'd necessarily ascribe this occurrence to the White Stripes' Tegan and Sara cover record that she's reviewing in the article, even if I knew what it sounded like. In fact, such a phenomenon--getting completely bowled over by a new, non-revivalist band/record, and thus feeling somewhat in step with the times--hasn't happened to me in many a year. Yet Sullivan's enthusiasm gives me hope that this could conceivably come to pass at some point. And 'til then, there's no shame in frettin' to the oldies.

"Brill Building of the soul." Why couldn't I have come up with that line?

[Currently reading Ken Emerson's Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era (New York: Viking, 2005).]

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Bow-Ties that Bond

BOND INTERNATIONAL CASINO--1530 Broadway, on the east side of Broadway between 44th and 45th Streets. (Often referred to as Bond's.) A short-lived discotheque most famous for hosting the "Clash on Broadway" residency in 1981, Bond's sat on one of the Times Square-iest spots of land in Times Square. This New York Times article summarizes its phases well, but I'll add some elaboration here, as is my wont.

Before the Times set up shop in the area, Longacre Square was the horse dung-scented center of New York's carriage trade. An unseemly spot indeed for the future Crossroads of the World, but as the city's entertainment districts had been inexorably migrating ever further uptown along Broadway throughout the 19th century, the Square's eventual colonization by the theater crowd was inevitable. Oscar Hammerstein I was the earliest impresario to venture there. In 1895, on the site of the former 71st Regiment Armory (destroyed in a fire), he opened the Olympia Theatre, a massive Beaux Arts complex comprising a 2,800-seat Music Hall, a 1,850-seat playhouse called the Lyric Theatre, a smaller Concert Hall, and a roof garden theater. According to Anthony Bianco's Ghosts of 42nd Street (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), admission was fifty cents, and patrons could wander between the theaters at will. "[T]he Olympia did not style itself as a family entertainment venue," writes Bianco. "Content to leave the middle of the road to others, Hammerstein experimented with provocative new acts and formats that expanded vaudeville's boundaries." Hammerstein's adventurous fare included operas (some of which were his own compositions), "Living Pictures" (tableaus presented partially in the nude), Isham's Octaroons (an African-American song-and-dance troupe), and a notoriously so-bad-they're-good act called the Cherry Sisters. Unfortunately, not every production he put on was a financial success, which led to a foreclosure on the property after only three years of operation. The building was auctioned off, and the theaters became separate entities under the auspices of different producers. Hammerstein's next local enterprises, the smaller-in-scale Victoria and Republic Theatres, were more lucrative. Meanwhile, the Music Hall was renamed the New York Theater, and was converted into a movie/vaudeville house when Loew's took it over in 1915. The Lyric was first renamed the Criterion, then became a movie house called the Vitagraph in 1914, only to revert to the Criterion moniker a couple of years later. In 1907, Flo Ziegfeld staged his first production of Follies at the rooftop garden theater, renamed Le Jardin de Paris. When he decamped for the New Amsterdam in 1913, the roof garden was converted into a dancehall called Jardin des Danses. Despite its many virtues, the magnificent Olympia building did not outlast the Depression; it was demolished in 1935.

A year later, the Criterion Building rose in its stead. It occupied the same block-long frontage, but was not nearly as tall as its predecessor--unless you include the height of its huge rooftop neon sign, a fish-festooned spectacular advertising Wrigley's Spearmint Gum.

The building featured a new Criterion movie house (designed by Thomas Lamb and Eugene de Rosa), ground-level retail space, and a fabulous Art Deco nightclub/restaurant called the International Casino. According to Susan Waggoner's Nightclub Nights: Art, Legend, and Style, 1920-1960 (New York: Rizzoli, 2001), this Casino had nothing to do with gambling:

Once one passed through the solid brass doors and into the red and gold mosaic lobby, there was no shortage of amusements. The Cosmopolitan Salon was fitted with a small stage and littered with settees that could accommodate nearly eight hundred. Another one hundred and sixty could quench their thirst at the Spiral Bar, a curved slide of polished mahogany that swept from the ground floor up to the mezzanine. All this was a mere warm-up for the main room, where tiered platforms assured all fifteen hundred diners an unobstructed view of the show.

The show, mounted on an elaborately high-tech motorized stage, featured such delights as "novelties from five continents and the beauties of ten countries," an orchestra "whose reed section might suddenly plunge from sight, like riders on a parachute drop," a fanciful "Ice Frolics" revue, comedians like Milton Berle, and gorgeous chorines with gams for days. The swank Streamline Moderne surroundings were "designed by Donald Deckie, who later designed the Radio City Music Hall," according to Anthony Haden-Guest's The Last Party (New York: William Morrow, 1997). However, the Casino may have been too gloriously grandiose for its own good; much like the Olympia, it closed after a mere three years in business.

Bond Clothes took over the Casino's space in 1940, moving from its previous location adjacent to the Palace Theater a couple of blocks north. In its new digs Bond styled itself as the world's largest men's haberdashery, and offered some women's wear as well. As if the store's famous "TWO TROUSER SUITS" neon sign weren't enough, beginning in 1948 it also boasted the most splendid spectacular ever to grace the Great White Way, designed by Douglas Leigh for Artkraft-Strauss. As described in Leigh's 1999 Times obituary:

At the base of the Bond sign was an electric news zipper, about five feet high, running along the entire facade. In Mr. Leigh's design, twin 50-foot-high figures, one male and one female, flanked a waterfall 27 feet high and 120 feet long. Strands of electric lights seemed to clothe the chunky classical figures at night, but by day they appeared naked.

Those loincloth-lights were added only after guests at the Hotel Astor across the street complained about the statues' scandalously starkers state. A clock poised above the waterfall perpetually reminded the public, "EVERY HOUR 3,490 PEOPLE BUY AT BOND." (I suppose an even 3,500 customers per hour would have been too much to handle...)

After six good-looking years, the sign was replaced with a Pepsi ad; the waterfall remained (and kept gushing until the early '60s), but was now flanked with giant Pepsi bottles. Apparently a Chevy ad was once meant to take Pepsi's place, but a garagantuan Gordon's Gin bottle and a smoking Winston man (a total Camel sign rip-off) eventually appeared there instead. The ground-level storefronts evolved over time as well--among the successive occupants were Woolworth's, Whelan Drugs, King of Slim's Ties, Loft's Candy, Regal Shoes, Disc-O-Mat Records, tourist tchotchke outlets, and those ubiquitous bad-deal '70s/'80s electronics stores.

Bond Clothes sold its last two-trouser suit in 1977, and after a couple of vacant years, the space was respectfully rechristened as Bond International Casino, supposedly the largest disco the world had yet seen. As described in The Last Party, the club was co-owned by John Addison and Maurice Brahms. It opened in July 1980, and featured such accoutrements as a "musical staircase," fountains retrieved from the set of The Liberace Show (which often ended up filled with near-naked patrons), and a wide-ranging music policy (usually spun by resident DJ Kenny Carpenter). However, according to these opinionated folks on, the joint never quite caught on, for various reasons--bad location (Times Square at the height of its sleazy-seedy era), poor acoustics, lack of an atmospheric theme, inconsisent musical choices, and above all, too much space to fill on a nightly basis.

There were no such space-filling difficulties during the Clash's booking in May-June, 1981. The buzz surrounding their initial eight-night stand was so high that the shows were dangerously oversold--3,500 tickets for each night, at a venue with a legal capacity of about 1,800. The FDNY threatened to shut the place down following the first two overcrowded nights. After much negotiation with city authorities, the band worked out a deal wherein they would play as many shows as it would take to honor all ticket holders--an unprecedented seventeen concerts. Times Square hadn't seen that much commotion since Frankie at the Paramount, or V-J Day. An incredibly and obsessively detailed day-by-day account of the residency is provided at (click on the link for 1981, then click on each Bond's date). Also check out the Westway to the World DVD, which includes Don Letts' documentary footage of Bond's. And dig these articles by Ira Robbins and Jonathan Lethem.

I've found references to only a few other rock shows, including Wendy O. Williams (yes, a car was blown up), the Blues Project (I don't recall Al Kooper mentioning this one in Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards), Blue Oyster Cult, and a one-off night featuring members of Blondie and Chic. It's unclear just when Bond's closed, or what, if anything, occupied its space from the mid-'80s to the mid-'90s--but the neon BOND sign remained in place for quite some time.

The Criterion Building still exists, but it looks nothing like it did in the old postcards. Now called the Bow-Tie Building (a reference to the shape of the Times Square intersection when viewed from above), it's owned by members of the same Moss family who have had interests in the structure since its 1936 inception. The Roundabout Theater Company rented space in the building through much of the '90s, but I'm not sure which part they used. The Criterion Theater, which spent its last few years as a much-maligned multiplex, closed in 2000. Most of the building is now occupied by the flagship Toys R Us, a Foot Locker, and a Swatch emporium. There's no BOND sign facing Broadway anymore, but if you go around the corner on 45th, you'll find a smaller facsimile on the side of the building, attached to an old school-inspired Italian restaurant called Bond 45.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mind-melding Magoo Madness

Dig this Blues Magoos article from the Lama Workshop website. It features a couple of super-cool vintage interview scans--one from the April, 1967 issue of Beat, and another from an issue of Greg Shaw's Mojo Navigator--in which the Magoos offer their unique insights on the Night Owl, the Albert Hotel, Cafe au Go Go, and the Greenwich Village scene in general.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

From the Hip

LITTLE HIPPODROME--227 E. 56th Street, between 2nd & 3rd Avenues. This dinner theater/cabaret type of place is most notable as the site of the New York Dolls' final NYC shows, during their ill-advised (by Malcolm McLaren), Commie-inspired Red Patent Leather period in 1975. Nina Antonia explains it all in Too Much, Too Soon (London: Omnibus, 1998):

Malcolm...secured the band four dates between February 28 and March 2 at the Little Hippodrome. Situated on E. 56th Street, the theatre had a capacity of 2,000 and was more familiar with drag shows and stand-up comedy than rock groups, although the New York Dolls combined all three elements. The Little Hippodrome was out of the Dolls' usual venue circuit but that suited McLaren just fine, even if it proved a little disconcerting for their old fans...[Part of Malcolm's press release read], "The New York Dolls...have, in fact, assumed the role of the 'People's Information Collective' in direct association with the Red Guard. This incarnation entitled 'Red Patent Leather' will commence on Friday, February 28 at 10 p.m. continuing on Saturday at 9 and 11 p.m. followed by a Sunday matinee at 5 p.m. for our high school friends at the Little Hippodrome. This show is in co-ordination with the Dolls' very special 'entente cordiale' with the People's Republic of China."....Malcolm took the Communist Party image further by insisting that all tables in the Little Hippodrome should be draped in red fabric and even suggested that every drink sold while the Dolls were appearing should have an injection of red dye. The major theatrical gesture, aside from the band [attired in red outfits], was a huge red flag bearing the hammer and sickle which would be hung as a backdrop behind the group.

On the first weekend the opening act was Pure Hell, an all-black band. By the second show in the run, Jerry Nolan proved too drug-addled to perform, and Pure Hell's drummer Spider was asked to fill in. Arthur Kane was also undergoing some heavy drug problems at the time, managing to make it only to the final show; a bass player named Peter Jordan played the other shows in his stead. The following weekend, March 7-9, featured Television as the openers--their final shows with Richard Hell in the line-up. Wayne County DJed between the sets; David Jo had him intersperse his usual garage rock classics with tracks from a Communist Worker's Party album, much to Wayne's and the audience's chagrin.

Accounts vary widely as to how well, or how terribly, the Dolls went over on these dates.

From Too Much Too Soon: David Johansen clutched a copy of the Maoist handbook like a Bible and wondered who was going to be the next in line to fall. In the fact of adversity--in reality the only face they'd ever known--the Dolls performed as pluckily as ever. Unfortunately, the band didn't sound totally at ease with the new numbers and neither did the audience who lit up only when the Dolls broke into established favourites....Paul Nelson: "It was a disaster...It was very strange, you didn't know if it was supposed to be funny or not."...If McLaren had staged the Dolls' red uprising in Europe, the audience's sensibilities might not have been so ruffled, but 56,555 American soldiers had died in Vietnam attempting to stem a Communist take-over. It was too much of a sore point for most to understand the intended irony of the Dolls' attire.

In McNeil & McCain's Please Kill Me (New York: Grove, 1996) Jerry Nolan complains about the artsy-fartsy stupidity of the Red posturing. But in contrast, Clinton Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids (New York: Penguin, 1993) has quotes from Nolan and Chris Stein attesting that these were among the greatest, tightest, and least erratic shows the band ever put on. Regardless of what actually went down at the Hippodrome, it wasn't long before a combination of less-than-stellar Florida gigs and over-the-top drug abuse led to the final dissolution of the Dolls. One of the Hippodrome shows was documented on a live album, Red Patent Leather--currently available as part of a two-disc set entitled Great Big Kiss.

Seems as if few other bands played at the Little Hippodrome--I've found references only for Orchestra Luna and the Steve Lyons Eyeshow. Not sure when the theater closed, but the site is currently occupied by a fancy old-school (but not Red) Chinese restaurant called Bill Hong's.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Midnight ravers

MIDNIGHT RECORDS--263 W. 23rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues (also occupied the adjacent storefront at 255). Though many in the record collecting and garage rock "communities" have mixed feelings about Midnight Records and its proprietor, most cannot deny the contributions J.D. Martignon's store/record label/mail-and-Internet-order business have made to the scene. Timothy Gassen's garage-revival reference book The Knights of Fuzz (Telford, U.K.: Borderline, 1996) sums up Midnight's influence succinctly:

J.D. Martignon's New York Midnight Records label and store became an important counterpoint to the California scene as well. Martignon released early efforts by the Fuzztones, Plasticland, the Outta Place, Plan 9 and a slew of others--continuing its mission into the 1990s. (The Midnight retail store and mail-order became a mecca for rare new garage/psych discs, and it has continued in its role as a candy store of goodies for this writer on numerous occasions.) Martignon points out that his widely circulated mail-order catalog, The Midnight Thymes, "had articles, a news section, and loads of hype on the garage/psych scene. It helped to propagate the music and the distribution of it worldwide." Midnight published one of the first books detailing the contents of 1960s compilation albums, which Martignon notes "was very influential on bands and collectors." Martignon also says rightfully, "Midnight became the inspiration for many of the (garage/psych) labels, mail-order companies, and distributors both in the U.S. and overseas--whether they will admit to it or not!"

Midnight deals in domestic and imported rock & roll, R&B, and blues, and particularly specializes in '50s and '60s sounds and revivalists thereof--on vinyl and CD. "Limited edition" live recordings and "rarities"--otherwise known as boots--are staples. The Midnight International label had a number of '80s garage bands and comps on its roster. The mail-order business, founded in 1978, has long been an essential resource for hinterlands garageniks (including my husband, who used to have $100+ orders shipped to his native Thunder Bay, Ontario home on a near-monthly basis). But the darkly atmospheric, intermittently open shop was shut down in early 2004, as reported in this Village Voice article by Hillary Chute from the March 17-24 issue:

On its last day, March 6, Chelsea's vaunted garage-rock record store Midnight Records was packed for the first time in recent memory. Owner J.D. Martignon—ever the enigmatic Frenchman, with cigarette, rattail, and paisley shirt—chatted with lightly eyelinered Rudolph Grey, who reminisced about using chainsaws in his late '70s band Red Transistor. Martignon's son, 10-year old Clovis—ever the '60s rocker, in a gorgeous mop-top and bemused expression—wandered crammed aisles. Shaggy-haired collectors, some spending upwards of $700, scoured rows of hard-to-find vinyl, grumbling "sad reflection" and "damn shame."

Part of the cult band Dagon in France, Martignon followed a woman to New York in 1973 and never left. A journalist for the underground magazine Parapluie, he covered the Stooges and the Dolls, interviewed the Cramps and Real Kids before they put out albums, and blew his mind on DMZ at CBGB. Punk bands were playing '60s garage, he noticed. Martignon began collecting records, but quickly amassed so many that he "had to sneak them into the house when my girlfriend wasn't around"—so he decided to start selling them. He kick-started a mail order business in 1978, and the store—which became the center of New York's garage revival in the mid '80s—opened six years later. Martignon even ran his own label from 1984 to 1993, putting out cult bands and Screamin' Jay Hawkins live tracks.

Now Martignon is fighting eviction and a lawsuit. The landlord wants to double the rent, and business has not been booming. (The current garage revival "generates zero sales" of his obscure inventory, Martignon says.) Meanwhile, Martignon is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's office in conjunction with the RIAA for the sale of, to quote one of his lawyers, "what they're alleging are unauthorized recordings of concerts." Midnight is the only store of its kind facing prosecution. "A collector's store that cannot sell some bootlegs is kaput," the owner sighs. According to store employees, when Midnight was busted in September, Martignon was led off in handcuffs, protesting, "We're not harmful people! We're music people!" For now, he's mired in his court case (famed Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig is working pro bono) and wants volunteers to revamp, where the store will now solely exist.

Seems like Ms. Chute had a soft spot for Monsieur Martignon. In the Voice's 2001 "Best of NYC" issue, she voted the shop as "Best Store for Rare Garage and Psychedelic Records," and praised its "supernice staff" and "long, easy-to-decipher catalog." In the 2004 "Best of" issue, she dubbed Martignon "Best garage-rock cran" (?), though she carefully notes that he "does not hesitate to get all Frenchman-bitchy on your ass." That may be something of an understatement. I never personally experienced his near-legendary surliness, but perhaps I'd been so intimidated by other customers' stories that I just knew to steer clear. He had a rep for unsavory business practices as well, but again, I always got decent service from the store. Read some of these accounts and decide for yourself.

In late September, 2004, Martignon made headlines when his federal indictment was dismissed on the grounds that the 1994 bootleg law was deemed unconsitutional. Google Jean Martignon for further details.

No longer a licorice pizza parlor, the storefront now serves up Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

Hey Johnny, hey Dee Dee, Little Tom and Joey

PERFORMANCE STUDIOS--23 E. 20th Street, between Broadway and Park Avenue South. At this rehearsal/recording studio-cum-punk rock laboratory, the Ramones were invented and unleashed on the world. The facilities were designed and built by Tommy Erdelyi and Monte Melnick, as explained in Monte's On the Road With the Ramones (London: Sanctuary, 2003):

[M]y cousin Ivan...was a locksmith and had installed a lock in a loft for this lesbian couple on E. 20th Street. One girl was a musician and the other had lots of money. They wanted to make some money by turning it into a hip studio and asked him if he knew anyone who could do it. My cousin asked me about it since I was in the music industry, and I called Tommy since he had the studio experience [He had worked at the Record Plant and other studios in the late '60s.--Ed.]. We built that place by hand; designed it and everything. We had a main stage, a separate booth with a glass wall for a four-track recorder, a rehearsal studio, offices and a lobby. We provided much of the gear ourselves, so we got all the free studio time we wanted in return. Unfortunately, we were in a residential neighborhood and kept on getting dragged into court due to noise complaints...Eventually they shut us down, but we managed to make a name for ourselves in the meantime.

The book includes reprints of the floor plan and business card, which extols the studio's many virtues: "Quality sounds, creative environment, baby grand, Hammond, Marshall, Sunn, Ludwig, Shure P.A, Wurlitzer, Peavey, 4-2 track TEAC, air conditioning."

People like Blondie and the Dolls were rehearsing there. I was working with a group called Smiley. We'd make flyers, charge a coupla bucks at the door, get a crowd, talk some label people into coming down and made our own little scene. I was doing the sound and lights at the time, which Tommy taught me how to do. On the side, Tommy was working on this unknown group, the Ramones. They were terrible...I thought it was a joke. I was a musician. I had two albums out. I was into four-part harmonies. I played with a symphony orchestra for chrissakes! I came from a different world. I thought, "What is this? What the hell is going on? Forget about it!"

Famous last words--he'd go on to spend the next two-decades-plus as their long-suffering tour manager. Tommy, who had initially served as the band's advisor/musical director, was also recruited into the fold--but not until after their first gig. The original line-up, which began practicing at Performance in January '74, consisted of Johnny on guitar, Dee Dee on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Joey on drums, and a fellow named Ritchie Stern on bass, who quit after just a couple of sessions. Dee Dee took over bass duties, but had some trouble singing and playing simultaneously. He also a tendency to get hoarse after just a couple of numbers, so Joey would sing a few from behind his kit. Their first public appearance, and their only one as a trio, took place at a Performance Studio showcase on March 30, 1974.

Johnny, quoted in On the Road With the Ramones: We took ads in the Village Voice and we played one show for our friends around March 30, 1974. We were awful. We didn't have the image down yet. Our friends didn't even want to talk to us anymore after that.

Tommy got the bright idea that Joey should be the frontman--which necessitated a search for a new drummer. The cats who came to audition tended to play in a busy Bonham or Appice-like manner, as was the style at the time. Though not a drummer himself, Tommy would try to demonstrate a simpler, Slade-like way of playing to these prospects. They just couldn't seem to grasp proper Ramone technique, though--and so Tommy eventually realized he was the only logical choice to join the brudderhood. The first show with the new complete line-up was at CBGB on August 16, 1974--but they continued to do showcase gigs at Performance throughout '74 and '75, sometimes sharing the stage with Blondie.

It's unclear exactly when Performance closed down or what replaced it. Monte Melnick of course went on to be the Fifth Ramone, and in mid-1978 Tommy conceded his Fourth Ramone status to Marc Bell when he decided to re-devote his energies to sound engineering. The address is currently occupied by the Trixie + Peanut Pet Emporium, a purveyor of pricey pet paraphernalia.

All the news that's fit to use as T.P.

You know the world's gone wacko when a nostalgic tribute to the bathrooms at CBGB gets printed in the paper of record! Here's an excerpt from the article, written by Steven Kurutz and published in the City section on October 2, 2005.

[T]he bathrooms reach sublime levels of neglect and deconstruction. They are in the basement, down a steep set of steps. Strictly speaking, neither is designated as male or female, but one room contains three urinals and has the stripped, utilitarian feel of, say, a tool shed. The toilet is situated by itself on an elevated cement platform. A bare bulb casts a pale yellow glow.

The bathroom next door is, presumably, the ladies room. If so, it shatters the notion that women's bathrooms are cleaner than men's - although, above each toilet in a feminine touch, are hung rolls of paper like ornaments on a Christmas tree...

You often hear about the graffiti that has accumulated on the bathroom walls at CBGB, which implies a kind of artistry, or at minimum decipherability. This is misleading. Occasionally, you can make out a line or two, but, in general, there are so many layers of scrawl that the writings have bled together to become a kind of punk rock hieroglyphic.

Perhaps somewhere among the dark scribbles and the band stickers - Crushpile, Sons of Mothers, Country Club and the Porn Horns - is a clue to whether the club will be able to remain on the Bowery. But the only thing a visitor could decipher was a line written in ink on the ceiling that said that a band called Mindlessanity had urinated there.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Mother's ilk

MOTHER'S--267 W. 23rd Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. A gay bar that briefly served as an early punk club in the mid-'70s. Clinton Heylin writes in From the Velvets to the Voidoids (New York: Penguin, 1993), "In the spring of 1975 Mother's, a gay bar on 23rd Street, began competing for the best new bands...[it soon became] the main alternative to the CBGBs/Max's duopoly." Peter Crowley, who was then Wayne County's manager, handled the bar's booking duties. Among the bands he booked were:

Blondie, October 3-5 and November 13, 1975, and an unspecified date in January, 1977. In Making Tracks (New York: Da Capo, 1998), Debbie Harry remembers, "The first gig we played together [with Jimmy Destri] was at Mother's, which was a bar made into a small club on W. 23rd Street across from the Chelsea Hotel, where everyone played at least once."

The Ramones shared those October dates with Blondie, and also played December 5-7, 1975 according to this ad (accessible from the Blondie gig list above if this link doesn't work). An A&R-hunting Linda Stein checked out the band on one of these nights, and later gave a full report and thumbs-up to her flu-stricken hubby, Sire Records owner Seymour Stein. As she recalls in Jim Bessman's Ramones: An American Band (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993), "It was a gay bar for elderly gays. It was really a cold, winter, snowy night. Of course, they did 'Blitzkrieg Bop' and all the standards. I was fascinated by the simplicity of the lyrics and the beat, and by Dee Dee, who was always so sexy and cute! I came home and told Seymour, 'You gotta sign them!'" He auditioned them soon thereafter, and the rest is gabba gabba history.

Dig some of the other bands listed in the ad, including Mink DeVille, Sniper (so they did continue after Joey's departure after all), the Fast, Tuff Darts, Knickers (Jimmy Destri's pre-Blondie band, also featuring future Trouser Press scribe Ira Robbins), Rosie Ross (formerly with the Stillettoes), the Heartbreakers, Talking Heads, and Wayne County. The ad's heading reads, "County Line presents New York's hottest rock & roll bands"--I guess Crowley named his company after Wayne.

Speaking of the Heartbreakers, their 1976 Live at Mother's is available from New Rose/Fan Club Records.

Television, with Bananas, October 17-18, 1975. Richard Lloyd describes the place as a "little teeny crappy club" in this article.

I kinda figured Nancy Spungen would have been a regular there, since she lived about a block west on 23rd Street during this time. Her mother Deborah makes no mention of it in the essential And I Don't Want To Live This Life (New York: Ballantine, 1983; reprint, 1996), but McNeil & McCain's Please Kill Me (New York: Grove, 1996) does have an anecdote from the Senders' Philippe Marcade about the night she introduced herself and asked him to teach her how to shoot up properly.

That's all I've been able to find thus far. Peter Crowley went on to book shows at the second incarnation of Max's. Reports in Yvonne Sewell-Ruskin's High On Rebellion: Inside the Underground at Max's Kansas City (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1998) state that new owner Tommy Dean was attempting to give the place a misguided T.G.I.F.'s-style makeover, replete with stained glass decor and bow-tied waitresses, when Crowley stepped in to bring rock & roll back. "He basically came on board as Wayne County's manager, and since Wayne was the DJ and was an attraction at Max's, Crowley became insinuated and sold himself to the Deans, who I think really didn't know the music at that point," says musician/writer Jim Lalumia. Under Crowley's direction, Max's shared--or rivaled for, depending on your P.O.V.--punk prominence with CBs, until its 1981 closure.

Not sure when Mother's closed, but the space is currently a branch of Ricky's, the beauty-supply chain.

[UPDATE 2/7/2007: Here's some further info, generously provided by Peter Crowley!]

Friday, September 30, 2005

Fame, set and match

Our next site got a prominent mention in No Direction Home on PBS earlier this week. How timely--since I've been in Queens mode over the last couple of posts, I was already planning on covering it...

FOREST HILLS TENNIS STADIUM--1 Tennis Place (off Burns Street, north of 71st Avenue), Forest Hills, Queens. Founded in 1892, the West Side Tennis Club operated at several inadequate Manhattan locations over a twenty-year period before planting permanent roots in then-pastoral Forest Hills. The well-appointed new club, opened in 1913, became so highly regarded that the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association decided to hold its National Championship there two years later. These games--later renamed the U.S. Open--continued to be held annually at West Side until 1978 (whereupon they were moved to Louis Armstrong Stadium in Flushing). To accomodate spectators, a 14,000-seat stadium (some reports say 15,000) was built on the grounds in 1923. For highlights of the site's role in tennis history, check out these links.

Ron Delsener is given credit for establishing the stadium as a music venue. According to an article in the Wharton Journal, he came up with the idea one summer while employed there (presumably in a non-musical capacity) in the early '60s: "You didn't have to pay for heat or air-conditioning. Kids were out of school. And with the exception of the Hollywood Bowl and maybe one or two other places, no one else was doing this [outdoor pop-music concerts]." The earliest concert dates I've found are the Kingston Trio on August 5, 1960, Judy Garland on July 1, 1961, and Joan Baez on August 17, 1963 (at which Bob Dylan joined her for a couple of numbers). There must have been other early '60s shows, but it seems like the ball really got rolling over the summer of '64.

Put aside whatever personal vendetta you may have against Barbra Streisand for a sec (I dig her, OK?) and check out this page documenting her FHTS appearances on July 12, 1964 and August 8, 1965. You'll see a couple of ads for the Forest Hills Music Festival, as the summer concert series was then dubbed. In addition to Barbra, the '64 ad lists the following shows (most dates are difficult to read): Trini Lopez, Count Basie and Woody Allen (stand-up, not clarinet); Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba; Joan Baez (August 8; Dylan again sang with her for part of the set); Johnny Mathis; and, in the ultimate '64 booking coup, the Beatles on August 28-29. The '65 ad is much harder to decipher, but I can make out the likenesses of Peter, Paul & Mary, Judy Garland, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, and Barbra and Woody again, among others. One Forest Hills resident on remembers the era fondly: "Besides the US Open playing 3 blocks from my house, the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium once played incredible concerts. The summer of '64 must have had the most star studded lineup ever. Sinatra played with Count Basie. There was Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee and Chet Baker to name a few. And lets not forget the Beatles who caused so much mania they landed in a helicopter on the courts of the West Side Tennis club. My folks took home movies of the mobs packing Burns Street all the way to Continental Avenue. The other great thing was you could hear the shows from the Street if you could not get tickets."

The Beatles' dates were their first New York appearances since Ed Sullivan and Carnegie Hall in February '64. Leslie West offers some memories of the show, and of growing up in Forest Hills, here. During the afterparty at the Hotel Delmonico on that first night, Al Aronowitz introduced the lads to Bob Dylan--who in turn introduced them to the demon weed, according to legend (though I've always found it hard to believe they hadn't already encountered pot in tough Liverpool or the wild Reeperbahn).

[UPDATE 8/25/2010: Read Binky Philips' fab memories of this show here.]

Speaking of Dylan, his August 28, 1965 FHTS date is almost as notorious as the Newport "goes electric" appearance a month previous--and probably received an even more hostile crowd reaction. Al Kooper gives a great account in his Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards (New York: Billboard, 1998). It's too lengthy for me to quote here, but he summed it up well in No Direction Home--to wit, the crowd basically booed, heckled, and cussed all through the electric portion of the show, stopped to sing along with "Like a Rolling Stone" (#1 on the charts that very week), then continued to boo afterwards. Eyewitness reports and photos are available at these links. I'm assuming this pic was taken at the soundcheck.

As if seeking to complete some kind of Ultimate Sixties Band trifecta, the Rolling Stones played FHTS on July 2, 1966. Enjoy these fan reminiscences--one notes that Martha and the Vandellas and the Standells opened.  [UPDATE 4/6/2012: Apparently that fan's memories were a bit faulty, and it was actually the Ronettes who were among the openers.]

[UPDATE 5/25/2010: The Life archives have about three pages of fab fotos from the show!]
[UPDATE 4/2/2012:  Why yes, I was indeed thrilled to have this show play a major part in Mad Men episode 503, "Tea Leaves"!!! The Trade Winds connection was a completely new factoid to me...and the reference to a sack of 20 from the White Castle on Queens Boulevard was a killer touch.  A color poster for the '66 summer show lineup appears here, and here's a setlist.]
[UPDATE 4/6/2012: Mad Men fansite Basket of Kisses did a post about the '66 Stones tour, and Gothamist also did a post on the FHTS Stones show.  I just started reading Johnny Ramone's memoirs, and his ticket to this show is reproduced in the book.]

This terrific ad lists the rest of that summer's line-up:

  • Sammy Davis Jr. and the Count Basie Orchestra, with Jay and the Americans opening, July 8 and 9
  • Andy Williams and Henry Mancini, July 30

  • The Mamas and the Papas and local boys Simon and Garfunkel, August 6

  • Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, August 13

  • Three of Motown's finest--the Supremes, the Temptations, and Steve Wonder--on August 20

  • Ray Charles, August 27.

[UPDATE 5/21/2009: I was just perusing some '66 issues of Billboard that Google has recently added to their Book Search archive. There's a short article in the 8/20/66 ish about the Mamas and Papas/Simon and Garfunkel show which reports that the M and Ps' set was cut short when a gang of 20 or so unruly teens attempted to rush the stage. The group split the scene after their last song and wouldn't come back for an encore despite Good Guy Dandy Dan Daniels' pleas for more.]

The Lovin' Spoonful played with Judy Collins on June 24, 1967--possibly the last show with the original lineup.

The infamous Monkees tour with the Jimi Hendrix Experience as openers rolled in from July 14-16, 1967. Contrary to a crafty Lillian Roxon press release, Hendrix was not kicked off the tour due to pressure from the DAR--rather, he split simply out of frustration with the teeny-boppers' constant Monkee-chants during his sets. The Forest Hills crowd may have been particularly annoying, for legend has it he gave them the finger before storming offstage.

I wish all complete line-ups of the Forest Hills Music Festival were as easy to find as that of 1968--though admittedly that season wasn't quite as rockin' as previous ones. According to, that summer's roster featured:
  • Nancy Wilson and the Fifth Dimension, June 22

  • Judy Collins and Arlo Gutrie, June 29

  • Peter, Paul and Mary, July 13

  • Trini Lopez and Lainie Kazan, July 20

  • The Four Seasons and Bobbie Gentry, July 27

  • The Supremes and Stevie Wonder, August 3

  • The Bee Gees, Spanky and Our Gang, and the First Edition, August 10

  • Simon and Garfunkel, August 17 (other S and G dates include 8/12/67 and 7/18/70)
  • And the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, and King Curtis on August 24

Janis Joplin played the FHTS twice--July 19, 1969 with the Kozmic Blues Band, and August 2, 1970 with the Full Tilt Boogie Band.

The Who's two-night stand on July 29 and 31, 1971 included a few aberrations. For one, Keith Moon's headphones--which he used to hear the pre-taped synth tracks on "Baba O'Reilly" and "Won't Get Fooled Again"--caught fire and had to be doused by a water bucket from a quick-thinking roadie. At another point Keith accidentally broke the head off John Entwistle's bass (it had been leaning against an amp when he tripped over it), which inspired a rare fit of bass-smashing from John. Furthermore, a security guard was stabbed to death by an ex-con who had been denied entry to the second show.

Few other '70s shows were quite as, ahem, eventful as those. So far I've found references only for the likes of Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow, Linda Ronstadt, and Joni Mitchell. The Neil article states that his show was the first concert at the stadium in five years; perhaps the stabbing incident had led to the hiatus, and to the subsequent booking of more M.O.R.-type acts. Things were marginally better in the '80s--but for every Elvis Costello (8/27/82 and 8/18/84) or Talking Heads (8/21/82), you also had acts like Genesis and ASIA. Full geek disclosure--in my sole Forest Hills concert experience, I got physical with Olivia Newton-John on August 13, 1982, accompanied by my older sister. I was 11--no accounting for taste at that age.

The stadium has seen only very sporadic concert use since then--including K-ROCK's first Dysfunctional Family Picnic on July 1, 1997 (with Blur, Bush, Luscious Jackson, the Foo Fighters, Soul Coughing, and Echo & the Bunnymen), the Furthur Festival on July 3 (with various Grateful Dead offshoots, Jorma Kaukonen, Arlo Guthrie, the Black Crowes, and Moe) and the first two Reggae Carifest shows in '98 and '99. Since the place is plopped down right in the midst of a residential area, I would imagine that many locals frown upon potentially loud and rowdy events like these. This 2003 article reported that the stadium was in dire need of repair, but tennis tournaments are still regularly held on the premises.

UPDATE 5/25/2010: I found a few more lineup posters, for 1964 (from, 1967 (Wolfgang's Vault), and 1970 (from a Simon and Garfunkel fanblog). I can't believe I failed to find any Doors show references (8/12/67, with Simon and Garfunkel) back when I first researched this entry! And lookee here at some fantastic Life photos from the Stones show!!!]

Forest Hills Tennis Stadium Youtube videos.

Article from Feb. 2011: "Will Forest Hills Stadium Rock Again in the 21st Century?"

UPDATE 3/14/2013:  According to an article in the Forest Hills-Rego Park Times, concerts may return to the stadium this summer.

UPDATE 6/24/2013:  Big news in the 6/23/2013 New York Times, in an article written by Corey Kilgannon.  "After decades of languishing in obscurity and disrepair, one of the most famous sports and concert sites in New York will again reverberate with the sound of live music. The Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, which opened in 1923 and has played host to Jimmy Connors and John Lennon, sits next to an expanse of grass and clay tennis courts at the West Side Tennis Club, the stadium’s owner. Club officials and a promoter have an agreement to hold 19 concerts over the next three years. The stadium is still in shoddy condition, and after an accelerated renovation to make it ready, one concert is planned there this summer — an Aug. 28 show by Mumford and Sons  — followed by six in each of the next three summers. This summer’s concert will serve as something of a pilot, to convince residents of Forest Hills Gardens, the exclusive neighborhood of elegant Tudor homes around the stadium, that the concerts will not be a nuisance, said the club’s president, Roland Meier. Concerts have not been welcomed in the neighborhood in the past. Mr. Meier said he hoped the concerts — which will begin as the club celebrates its 100th anniversary in Queens, and the stadium turns 90 — would finance the refurbishing of the stadium and lead to the return of tennis and other top events."