Though he is unlikely to be in my documentary, I knew someone well before the punk era who was truly “punk before punk.” I’ll call him Bud C and this is my tribute to him. As a teenager I worked as a messenger at a high-end photography studio in the summer of 1971 and sat next to Bud’s desk. He was effectively my boss, but wow what a boss – he was a riot. It was the summer before I went away to college, I was 17 and he had to be at least 5 years older.
We worked in the basement which was primarily devoted to the darkroom. Bud probably rode herd on all photo prints, negatives, etc being trafficked around. To get Bud’s pre-punk bonafides out of the way… he wore black everyday, spoke like Mae West most of the time, and most importantly – gave me the Stooges first LP as my going away gift at the end of the summer. (The Stooges were not very popular in those days.) He mentioned spending time in the back room at Max’s but seemed fed up with it by the time I met him. He was obsessed with James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. There were others in his pantheon I can’t remember, but they all were dead.
I was the only young messenger, the other two were much older and I guess you could say they were a little ‘slow.’ I was really the only person down there Bud could talk to. Rock music first established a bond between us. I was that I was always reading a rock magazine, Rolling Stone of course but there were other pulp ones too. We would talk about rock.
When we worked together he was clean shaven (unlike these photos) and had an a campy, almost Hendrix way of moving. He also had a filthy mouth that had me in stitches. The voluptuous older Swedish woman who ran the darkroom was also amused by Bud even though she was the subject of his sexual commentaries (that were made up) which also involved the older messengers. Speaking like Mae West, he went well beyond innuendo. It would make us all blush and laugh.
As a postscript I’ll say as a result of going to college in upstate NY and only back home for the summer, the trash-chic direction the NY rock scene took on was pretty alien to me. (Until 1974 when I “got punk.”) The vibe of the New York Dolls in 1972/73 was a big challenge to the good-vibe hippie consensus and caused a schism among rock fans. There was a lot of polarization. I was not ‘ready’ for the Dolls until the end of ’73. Later I would remember thinking back about Bud and his deviance from the standard hippie model, there was no rift then. Lines were not drawn between opposing camps, that would come later. There wasn’t a label for Bud then, NY Rocker? I sort of feel like that rift has never fully mended*. I guess today it might be manifest as those who like punk and those who don’t.
I lost track of Bud during my college years, but he gave me a lot of great memories especially given my later punk preoccupations *and* he turned me into a Stooges cult member:)
All these photos came from his DIY greeting cards he sent to me while I was in college. He was moving in a butch direction. He was big fan of (dead) boozy era Jim Morrison’s a la “Morrison Hotel” – the tough Stooges Detroit look is in evidence too. He was ‘street’ and ‘noir’ before it was cool.
*This might sound bitchy but even though I can like it doses, a radio station like Martha’s Vineyard Radio is a planet that punk never reached. There’s the gap. It well evokes college tastes of the early 70’s before and apart from Glam, Dolls and Punk. That’s the other side of this life.