1. Bob Gruen began seriously shooting recording artists in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival. An uncanny knack for being in the right place at a crucial moment (“I’ve always been lucky that way,” he says) led to all kinds of opportunities, and one photo session usually led to another, bigger opportunity. By 1973 Gruen was John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s personal photographer. He was shooting bands on a regular basis at the now legendary venues in New York, capturing the scenes at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s, and even earlier at “The Kitchen” at the Mercer Arts Center, where Gruen took an interest in a flamboyant outfit called The New York Dolls.

    That period is part of a well-known music history now, but in 1976 it was a brand new idea to haunt the smoky clubs until the wee hours for shots of The Ramones, Blondie, The Talking Heads, Television, and The Dead Boys—often but not always in the service of scene ‘zines CREEM and Rock Scene. At the same time, Gruen was making real money at the stadium shows, getting shots of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Mick Jagger, or a band that turned out to be Gruen’s cash cow, The Bay City Rollers.

    It was no small thing to be shooting covers for CREEM magazine when KISS, Iggy Pop, The Sex Pistols, and The Clash were just becoming the talk of the towns. It was also no small amount of luck to have huckster Malcolm McLaren doing advance work in England by telling Billy Idol, Joe Strummer, or any punk rocker who would listen that the photographer “was friends with John Lennon,” and could get them on the cover of CREEM or Rock Scene. By the time Gruen was in London, a kind of red carpet had been laid out for him in a rebellious realm where red carpets were held in low regard.

    That kind of rock-and-roll history inevitably led to iconic images: Led Zeppelin posing before their private jumbo jet; Tina Turner swirling in a blur of strobe lights; Sid Vicious shirtless and covered in blood while lamely attempting to play that low-slung bass guitar; John Lennon wearing that sleeveless New York City T-shirt.

    photos: Bob Gruen

  2. The 1954 Chrysler Windsor Deluxe Town & Country was available in blue.
    Jesus, was it ever available in blue.
    The chrome in the bumpers and hubcaps, on today’s market, would fetch a sum equal to the GDP of Mauritania (U.S. dollars).

    image: Plan 59

  3. Have you seen the stars tonight?
    Would you like to go up for a stroll and keep me company?

    Did you know
    We could go?
    We are free.
    Any place
    You can think of
    We can be.
    Have you seen the stars tonight?

    from “Have You Seen the Stars Tonite?” Paul Kantner and David Crosby

  4. Here’s Peggy Lee laying down a track for Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. Now and then the Disney machine was cool in spite of itself, although, after the early 1960s, such a thing was almost unheard of. But all that aside, who doesn’t dig those Siamese cats?

  5. RIP Tommy Ramone

    They were losers enjoying, suffering, and capitalizing on a sustained adolescence, crafting a crude but marvelous music embraced by several thousand other losers who knew good rock chords when they heard three of them.

    Remove The Talking Heads from the recording studio, and you get a quartet of art school intellectuals. Give the New York Dolls’ frontman David Johansen a makeover, and you create Buster Poindexter. But take away The Ramones’ guitars and amplifiers, and you have four bona-fide punks. Forget about being there first, The Ramones might be the only true punk band, period.

    Most bands are good for two or three excellent albums; the Ramones made three fine ones, in particular that first gem from 1976. There are 14 songs on The Ramones—a bounty of rock music, one assumes, before learning that few of the songs exceed two minutes; “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement,” at 2:35, is the epic. Each song’s verse-chorus, three-chord structure makes one tune sound much like the others.

    That’s a good thing. Indeed, although there are only three chords, with an occasional fourth, they invariably are the right chords. After all, we don’t continue to chew bubblegum because we think it might taste different the next time.

    Along with providing infectious riffs, their music succinctly conveys the Ramones’ grimly comic adolescent realm, lending alert listeners a punk’s eye view of the world. Side one of The Ramones opens with “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and although the confused imagery of the lyrics (much of which Tommy wrote) makes little sense, whatever is going on certainly sounds like the sort of thing any right-minded teen would want to be involved in.

    That may be the essence of our adolescent years; nothing is required to make sense as long as something is happening.

    A downside of that innate craving appears in “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” which articulates a simple fact that proponents of the war on drugs apparently still fail to grasp: “All the kids wanna sniff some glue. All the kids want something to do.”

    "I wanna …" by the way, was The Ramones’ most frequently occurring lyric trope, employed for it’s goofy charm in most cases, although Tommy Ramone’s best effort, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," is a sterling pop number that ought to have been a hit.

    The preoccupations of the glue-sniffing, outcast male adolescent were always the Ramones’ special province: underground comics, street life, mental institutions, violence, freaks, teen romance gone wrong, lobotomies, and Nazis. By intensely focusing—if sometimes only for a minute and 40 seconds—on loneliness, betrayal, boredom, and the troubled psyche, the Ramones more than hinted that the young rebel has a cause. Still, it is often difficult to discern whether the “boys” in this band were bragging or complaining. That each member was pushing thirty-something at the peak of their popularity has nothing to do with it. Their first three albums induced teenagers to revel, not to mention rebel, in their youth.

    The Ramones (at least during the 1970s) also had older listeners wishing they were young again, and legions of pop stars hoping they could rock again. It’s fun to be an angry teenager, but it might be more fun to be a perpetual teenager with a roaring guitar, aka a punk. That may explain why their music sounded so upbeat and thrilling, in spite of the dark preoccupations and sick humor behind it.

    Punk rockers are just teenage outcasts who are going to have their fun or be damned, and if the music sufficiently moves them, the motivations tend to be forgotten. Consider the essential line from the Ramones’ signature track “Blitzkreig Bop” :

    "What they want, I don’t know. They’re all revved up and ready to go”

  6. "Fellas, I’m ready to get up and do my plane. I want to get into it, man, you know?”

  7. "…she’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl…"

  8. Apparently this excellent pharmacy stocks “unusual drugs.” “Most unusual drugs,” as a matter of fact. After that, the free mermaid show is just gravy.

  9. Always keep one of these charts poking out from the open pocket of your over-the-shoulder bag while making your way through airport security. The looks on their faces, should your bag be selected for additional scrutiny, is worth whatever you paid for that window seat.

  10. Thanks to Ralph Nader, the Chevrolet Corvair had a reputation for being unsafe at any speed; something to do with that rear air-cooled engine and an allegedly unreliable suspension system. But for some reason no one mentioned the Corvair’s most charming feature: it handled Abstract terrain like no other vehicle before or since. Take it across a Pollock, a Delaunay, an Albers, a Mondrian—it was like driving on air.