I recently attended “Sunday at the Met: Origins of Punk” – one of several panels meant to coincide with the exhibit “PUNK: Chaos to Couture.” The panel or “conversation” featured Jon Savage and Roberta Bayley, and was moderated by Glenn O’Brien.
Because of my history and my on-going efforts with my punk origins documentary, I have been to many such panels and seen many more “punk” documentaries. This ‘conversation’ at the Met might have been my favorite. It was relaxed, sophisticated and bombast free. Congratulations to the participants and members of the team behind it. (Two of whom I met in the months of their research leading to the exhibit, Andrew Bolton and Amanda Garfinkel.
The public associates punk with gutter snipes and there is something to that, but many of my associations with early punk involve witty, urbane characters. Think Danny Fields and Terry Ork. (Those two along with Jane Friedman were practically mid-wives of the scene.) This panel reflected that side of “punk.” None of the tensions over London-New York “punk ownership” were on display either. All concerned treated it as two sides of the same coin.
Grand Dames of the Scene from May 2013 “Just Chaos!” opening.
There is more to her than… doing the door at CB’s in 1974, being the original photographer at Punk Magazine and snapping some of the scenes most iconic photos.. but I’ll let you look that up on her site and elsewhere. I’ll now let the elegant Roberta speak for herself here.
Roberta Bayley on early Television and CBGB’s
Arturo Vega was one on my favorite interviews. He’s a great story teller and has a youthful sparkle about him. There is nothing “Punk from Central Casting” about him*. Before coming to NYC he had a very rich colorful life. I’ll cite a bio blurb from a panel he did at the New Museum recently as evidence of that.
“Arturo Vega: Arturo Vega began his creative affair with rock ‘n’ roll in 1967, having spent the Summer of Love in San Francisco and performing musical theater in Mexico City. Vega relocated to New York in 1971, where he began painting and silkscreening. For twenty-two years, he acted as artistic director, guardian, and close friend to the Ramones, creating their logo, t-shirt, and stage designs. In November of 2012, a mid-career retrospective of Vega’s work will open in La Casa Redonda, the largest art museum in his hometown of Chihuahua, Mexico.”
Parallel Lines: Visual Art, CBGB, and Downtown Nightlife
At that panel I came to better appreciate his theatrical roots. There is a hidden theatrical aspect to punk origins I pursue in my documentary.
The thread in the interview that probably interested me the most was that Arturo was among a surprisingly large group of NY scene originals who witnessed the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco. He spoke about it in some detail (in another part of the interview). In talking about it he had none of the anti-hippie derision common to younger punks. He spoke very fondly of seeing the Byrds, Janice Joplin, et al and how much rock music and culture meant to him.
Arturo does a nice job here describing the first Ramones gig and (for me) all important context atmosphere.
*Come to think of it and can’t think of anyone I interviewed being “Punk from Central Casting” That may reflect on my interview choices, but more to the point, the punk clone evolved after London 1977, and everyone I interview predates that.