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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mudd Club / TriBeCa

This ain't no party, this ain't no disco,
This ain't no fooling around
This ain't no Mudd Club, or C. B. G. B.,
I ain't got time for that now
-"Life During Wartime," Talking Heads 

As a self-proclaimed Talking Heads head, I'll admit that this week's venture turned into quite the sentimental journey. But I'll hold back the tears and leave you all with the good parts. 

Long, long ago in the early 1980's, the Mudd Club closed its doors almost as soon as it opened them. But the 5 years it spent at the corner of White Street and Cortlandt Alley brought more music to TriBeCa's nightlife than any venue ever did before.

Between the years 1978 and 1983, many punk and new wave bands emerged at the turn of the decade and performed onstage at the Mudd Club. Sonic Youth and R.E.M. were among the venue's top-billed acts, while members of Talking Heads--David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, and Jerry Harrison--were well-known regulars, both onstage and in the audience. 

Performing there in 1979, Talking Heads mention the famed nightclub in their song "Life During Wartime," which also alludes to the famous East Village venue C.B.G.B.'s (recently converted into a high-end men's boutique, John Varvatos.) Because C.B.G.B.'s had a much longer and loudly celebrated life (and still operates as an annual music & film festival) I'd prefer to draw attention to the short-lived space Mudd Club and the fascinating area surrounding it.

The space at 77 White Street occupies the corner of a very significant and rare feature of New York City--a back alley. Cortlandt Alley is one of few existing back alleys that have remained untouched by years of New York's extensive urban renewal. It is everything I'd look for in a back alley--secluded, dank, graffiti-clad. The only thing missing is a street gang making their way through while snapping their fingers in unison. (Be sure to read up on this historic alley and check out some awesome photodocumentation over at ScoutingNY.)

FUN FACT: Throwing it back to one of my first posts ever, where I profiled a falafel shop mentioned in a song by New York band Vampire Weekend. The same fellows shot an incredibly awesome music video for their hit song "Cousins" in this very alley! So cool!

I love this song, because it has that classic manic quality that Talking Heads exudes in song (and dance.) The song is a musical jet engine, held together by Frantz on the drums, Weymouth on bass, and Harrison on the guitar, and Byrne on vocals while doing aerobic jogging motions.The lyrics, while maybe slightly hyperbolic in their comparison of rock & roll to fighting a war, convey some fantastic imagery of tour life on the road. Though I'm a far cry from a punk rocker, I can't help but feel their description of the sheer madness and foreignness that comes with being away from home, away from the usual stomping grounds like the Mudd Club.

I geek out so hard when I see old doorways like the one above, where I can imagine so many awesome bands made their way in and out, loading and unloading the instruments they'd use to put on legendary performances.

And now, darling readers, what is your favorite NYC music venue--past or present?

1 comment:

  1. For the large majestic experience: Kings Theater in Brooklyn. For little-known jams: Arlene's Grocery on the Lower East Side.

    PS, I didn't know that about "Cousins" - super cool!