Photos: NYC’s Early ’80s Music Scene Revisited At New MCNY Exhibit


There have been few extra dynamic durations in New York Metropolis musical historical past than the Nineteen Eighties, when all kinds of artists throughout an excellent wider variety of genres—punk, pop, hip-hop, salsa, jazz and extra—pushed the boundaries of tradition amidst a metropolis teetering on the point of chaos. Whether or not it was Madonna making her debut at Danceteria, Blondie inspiring Grandmaster Flash and the Livid 5, experimental artists akin to Laurie Anderson briefly breaking by to the mainstream, or beloved weirdos such because the Speaking Heads and Cyndi Lauper dominating MTV, NYC-based musicians had been all over the place and making an attempt all the pieces.

This creatively fertile interval of NYC historical past is the topic of New York, New Music: 1980-1986, a brand new exhibit on the Museum Of The Metropolis Of New York opening June eleventh (and working by spring 2022). It was deliberate to coincide with the fortieth anniversary of the launch of MTV, which occurred on August 1st, 1981.

“The concept is to provide an overarching impression of all the assorted music occurring within the metropolis,” Sean Corcoran, curator of prints and images at MCNY, advised Gothamist. “We thought it simply actually provides a way of the form of power and variety in music that was occurring on the time.”

A photo of Debbie Harry, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Fab 5 Freddy with others on the set for the music video of "Rapture"


Debbie Harry, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Fab 5 Freddy with others on the set for the music video of “Rapture”

Courtesy Charlie Ahearn

Whereas the museum has beforehand hosted galleries taking a look at musicians within the Nineteen Seventies, Corcoran mentioned that trying on the musical tradition within the early ’80s was an interesting window with which to discover what the town was like on the time.

“It was specifically a time when musicians had been in a position to afford to be right here within the metropolis, and there was an actual openness to exploring outdoors of 1’s personal conventional genres,” Corcoran mentioned. “There gave the impression to be quite a lot of cross-pollination of concepts and music, and that we discovered notably interesting.”

The exhibit consists of greater than 350 objects, together with video footage, pictures, artifacts, and ephemera highlighting artists who’re nonetheless well-known performers and ones who’ve slipped a bit extra into obscurity. You may see pictures of no wave legends DNA; Funky 4 + 1 making TV historical past as the primary hip-hop group on nationwide TV on Saturday Night time Dwell; footage of Liquid Liquid performing in Tompkins Sq. Park; uncommon clips of the Lounge Lizards and Child Creole and the Coconuts in live performance; experimental Arthur Russell items; uncommon early MTV interviews with David Johansen, Madonna, and Run-DMC; unique flyers for the Beastie Boys and Unhealthy Brains; and much more.

One piece from the exhibit that Corcoran identified was a 1982 Danceteria flyer promoting Madonna’s first ever present on the Hell’s Kitchen venue: “And he or she is mainly the opening act for a British band referred to as A Sure Ratio. We consider her as this highly effective determine on the planet of popular culture, and he or she’s the small kind on the invitation and the secondary act,” he mentioned. “Simply to see that little little bit of ephemera, it says one thing concerning the scene and the way some people who got here out of it from humble beginnings grew to become very well-known and necessary standard cultural figures.”

The music being made on the time wasn’t cloistered off by neighborhoods or geography both. Venues had been experimenting with totally different codecs on a nightly foundation.

“It could be a reggae night time one night time, and it could be hip-hop DJ’s the following night time, or a spot just like the Mudd Membership, it might be a no wave band, after which it might be any individual like Eddie Palmieri or Ray Barretto,” Corcoran mentioned. “The fantastic thing about quite a lot of golf equipment on the time was they had been fairly open to having totally different types of music on totally different nights. And because of this, I feel lots of people had been uncovered to quite a lot of totally different types of music. And that in flip influenced the sorts of music that bands had been making on the time and that they’d be extra open to different types and incorporating it both overtly or extra subconsciously into the music they made.”

A photo of DJ Larry Levan at Paradise Garage


DJ Larry Levan at Paradise Storage

{Photograph} by Invoice Bernstein

It was a interval wherein artists and performers fluidly moved between music, artwork, literature and filmmaking. To that finish, there might be a number of companion applications and options to associate with the exhibit, together with not less than 4 Moonlight & Films showings impressed by the gallery. Martin Scorsese’s underrated masterpiece After Hours might be screened on June seventeenth, Krush Groove on July fifteenth, Muppets Take Manhattan on August twelfth, and Smithereens on September ninth. You may get extra data about these screenings right here.

The Museum of the Metropolis of New York is positioned at 1220 fifth Avenue, at 104th Road. You may get ticketing and particular occasions particulars for the exhibit proper right here.