The Student Teachers are yet one more of those meagerly documented, long lost also-rans of the original late-70s punk explosion who archivists and collectors have dug up over the last decade-plus. Forgotten gutter-wave of this ilk has, at this point, constituted another genre of underbelly proto-everything that has seeped its way into countless completists compilations, museum exhibits and the hearts of the most intriguing punk rockers of that aforementioned last decade-plus. If you asked the Black Lips, Jay Reatard, Human Eye, King Tuff, or Ty Segall who their favorite punk bands were, chances are you’d hear Crime, Electric Eels, or the Pagans before you’d hear the Sex Pistols. I’ll let the Jon Savagaes of the world school you on that grad school drool.
But the Student Teachers weren’t just another also-ran. Sonically, they’re nowhere near as severe as the excavated hate-heat of the Killed By Death compilations; nor as frenetically deconstructivist as the No Wave scene they were fumbling on the cusp of. They were just six teenagers who wanted to form a band and were fortunate enough to find themselves in a late-70s Lower East Side scene that didn’t check IDs, and had loads of cool, mondo-influential bands to open up for and befriend. Their’s was a learning process pop that aimed to be even catchier than it already was, featuring chintzy (by today’s standards) synth plinking over choppy guitar riffs, with a singer not yet beaten-down by life, though still pretty peeved at zits, and suffused with the sartorial stance of his Bryan Ferry/Bowie pre-teen fixations. Their chiming, moody melodies would soon be all over ‘80s radio, but in 1979 were, in the hands of these green teens, perceived by the scene as funtimes teen-punk perfect for getting the evening going. And now, for the first time, Nacional Records has compiled all their recorded singles and what-nots onto the compilation, Invitation to…The Student Teachers.
The band has given us an exclusive track from the comp to premiere (some 34 years later), the charming, Looks, and somehow cobbled together every member of the band and even their roadie and manager to chime in with excellent remeberances of those “bad old New York” days.
So, when did the band begin, and how?
David Scharff, vocals: We first met at CBGBs at a front table at a Mumps performance. They were opening for John Cale. Philip and I were introduced to Bill (Arning, keyboards) by a friend of ours who didn’t even know his name. She called him Arnie. That’s pretty close to Arning. We met Lori (Reese, bass) and Laura (Davis, drums) through Bill. We all spent a lot of time at CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City and often went together as a kind of posse. We occasionally got mistaken for a band. So that planted the seed. We all wanted to form a group and started to take the steps—picking instruments, finding a place to rehearse, writing songs. We really dedicated our very distractible teenage minds, bodies and souls to it. Then we played live about two months later, in the meeting room at Friends Seminary. The Blessed came to see us and invited us to open for their Easter gig at Max’s. Then we played about 70 gigs over the next two and a half years, sometimes four or five in a month.
Bill Arning, keyboards: I like the fact that before we rehearsed we had a photo session, in the staircase of my parents building. It was painted that wonderful generic green so common in the ‘70s. I look at those photos now and think we look like children, but very cool children.
Laura Davis, drums: I just recall us all hanging out. I was best friends with Bill and he just opened up this whole cool world to me. I don’t remember exactly how we decided “let’s create a band!” But I do remember our first rehearsals were at my drum teacher’s loft, and that we named ourselves the Student Teachers at Bill’s suggestion because he was gaga over a student teacher at our school.
Where did you get your equipment?
David: Bill played an Elka. It had a very unique sound set with some good effects. Laura got her pink drums from Jerry Nolan (of the New York Dolls and Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers). He’d outgrown them.
Bill: The Elka was such a weird choice, this strange string sound, not at all of the period, but very seductive. I also had this little Arp Odyssey that played two notes at a time that could make really wild Eno-esque sounds.
Antone DeSantis (producer/road manager/”Papa Bear”): Bill played his Elka on his trademark ironing board at all of the shows. This added another level of staging when setting up and breaking down the band’s gear. We were probably the only band ever to have that set up.
Philip Shelley, guitar: I got my Telecaster on permanent loan from our school friend Billy Johnson, who also helped out roadie-ing sometimes.
Lori Reese, bass: I borrowed a bass from that guy I took a couple of lessons from for that Career Day gig at Friends Seminary
David: I got my voice. It came free with the package.
You were all teenagers when the band formed, right? You must’ve had supportive parents to let you go bopping around the L.E.S. in the late ’70s.
David: I was 16 when the band started. I think our parents ranged from indifferent, concerned, begrudging, supportive, concerned, incredulous, petrified, disbelieving, excited—depending on the moment.
Bill: My folks came to see us play often because my lawyer father was a frustrated jazz musician who wrote music criticism at Harvard. My mom loved meeting the famous guys. She still recalled her conversation with Joey Ramone in her final weeks on earth.
Laura: My parents were pretty much into their own thing, but they did come to a number of gigs and brought me flowers backstage at the Palladium, which really shocked me. When Bowie was hanging around—he came to one of our rehearsals—he had dinner with my dad because my dad was the art critic for Newsweek and Bowie was and is a passionate visual artist.
Philip: My parents were oblivious. I don’t think people understand how truly different the world was back then. It’s like the wave of the ‘60s had crashed, and everyone was standing around in the foam and the ripples kind of dazed…but the undertow hadn’t started yet. A really unique moment in time.
Lori Reese: My parents didn’t care.
Where did you live and practice? How was a late night subway ride back then?
David: At first we were all still living at home. Philip and I were in the suburbs so we were stuck in NYC if we missed the 1:30 am last train home. The first train in the morning was 5:40 am. We took that train a lot. Bill was on the East Side, Laura in Soho, Lori in Brooklyn, so it was a little easier for them to get home. We ended up crashing at Bill’s a lot.
Lori: The subway was dark and scary and the wait was always long. But there were always books to read, not matter how drunk we were. Drinking took the edge off as well, I think.
Bill: I got very good at making omelets for 10 people at 5 am.
Lori: Bill made the best hearts of palm omelets. I didn’t even know what a palm heart was till I met Bill.
Laura: I lived at home until my dad threw me out of the house, after I didn’t come home one Saturday night because I went off with the drummer of the Mumps. I was working for the ex- of Joe Butler, the drummer of Lovin’ Spoonful, and he had an apartment in the basement of a townhouse in the West Village. He let me and Lori crash there, and then soon we all were living there.
David: Yeah a few of us moved into Joe Butler’s large basement aptartment with Lori and Laura. High ceilings, low light, convenient location, independence. We were joined at various times there by members of the Blessed, the Plungers, future Cramps, etc. We had eight or nine people living there at one point. We practiced at a rehearsal studio on West 30-something. The owners were also Lori and Laura’s bass and drum teachers.
Bill: There was also the studio on Grand and Bowery. I pass that building all the time and remember fearing the elevator loaded with our stuff would crash us all to our deaths
Antone: I lived in Brooklyn and had a car, so I drove Lori home after gigs. That’s how I became the band’s roadie.
Everyone from that time has some tale about how dangerous, dirty and generally fucked up the L.E.S. was back then. Do you have a story like that?
David: It was definitely a bit beyond the edge of peaceful and safe. Slumlords owned the whole neighborhood. There were muggings and druggies. The manager of a building some of us lived in was shot dead by the parent of a local kid. Yikes. But the energy was electric, the rent was cheap and some very interesting people connected with each other.
Bill: Leaving Max’s one night, Joe and I were jumped and beaten bloody. So there was a risk involved.
Joe Katz, guitar: That was during “The Great Punk-bashing Mania of November, 1978” following Sid Vicious’ alleged murder of Nancy Spungeon.
Philip: There was risk, but also so much positive creative energy. Plus, we saw ourselves as indestructible teenagers and we were often drunk, so we didn’t go about in fear. The East Village was a magical place, and we dove into everything pretty heedlessly.
Laura: I remember walking home a lot late at night from CBGBs or from Max’s. Many times I’ve said to myself how lucky I was. NYC was a much rougher, scarier place in the ‘70’s.
Lori: I don’t know, I thought it was kind of cozy then.
What were the venues you played in NYC? What were your favorite and least favorite?
David: We played everywhere they would take us. Our home bases were CBs and Max’s, and then later on Hurrahs. But we played every place from Rockbottom to the Palladium. The best was the Palladium. There was also a gig at Town Hall which has amazing acoustics.
Bill: I remember some yippie headquarters called Studio Zero across from CBGBs that we played at noon on a Sunday, and wore pajamas. That was unusual.
Lori: Playing the Palladium with Iggy Pop and the Cramps was a dream come true, maybe a dream I never even had because it was so impossibly ridiculous it could never happen. We got veggie tacos thrown at us at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, another gig we didn’t really belong on supporting Iggy and Helen Wheels.
Antone: The band played in all of the cooler clubs that were opening during the growth of the scene: Hurrahs, Mudd Club, Tier 3, Irving Plaza, Trax. But most of the gigs were at CBGB and Max’s—that’s where we felt most at home. In those days bands would play three or four nights with two sets a night. What was even wilder about the time period is no one ever got checked for being underage. Eventually younger bands had to play at all-ages shows, but the Student Teachers were often playing way into the wee hours of the morning.
Can you tell me some of the “bigger” bands you played with?
David: Most of the bands we saw seemed big to us. We were seeing them in small places, but they were total rock stars. We ran fan clubs for them, roadied for them, anything we could do. So it was a kind of a privilege for us to open for a lot of the bands. The Mumps fan club was run by Bill. He knew everyone. The Dead Boys fan club was run by Jody Robello (our manager) and Michael Alago (he had me do the “bones” logo for the membership cards), and they were the real punk deal onstage. But our audiences were not similar. I just remember Dead Boys fans yelling at us to get offstage. The Ramones audience just ignored us. We opened for the Cramps on Halloween at the Palladium with Iggy Pop headlining. I think we also opened for the Cramps at Irving Plaza. Lux Interior was one of the nicest guys you could meet offstage. He was funny and present. Then onstage he was crazy and sweaty and intense. The Wayne/Jayne County experience was another basement blur. Bad sound system and rowdy fans. But it was always fun seeing Wayne play! We also opened for the Troggs, Wire and a few other wild cards.
Antone: Magazine, the Heartbreakers, MC5, the Only Ones, Chris Stamey, the Bloodless Pharoahs (with the young Brian Setzer).
Bill: My favorite memory was going on before Allen Ginsburg at a CBGBs benefit for St. Marks on the Bowery. He read Howl, and I thought, wow, we are part of an amazing history.
Lori: I was a major Peter Perrett fan, so when we got to play with the Only Ones at Irving Plaza, for me, that was the pinnacle.
Laura: There were so many. I loved opening for the Mumps. They were, to me, one of the reasons I was there. I remember rehearsing in their rehearsal space which I thought was so cool. My fondest memory though was opening for the Cramps and Igggy—then going to school the next day.
Did you ever run into Lou Reed?
David: Nope. He was around, but never shook his hand or had a conversation with him. But that was also probably because I was completely intimidated by him. He was the total underground rock god. A huge influence on me.
Bill: I only got to know him later, mainly in an art world context, but also at a membership-based dog park in the Village where my dog Hanna played with his Jack Russell, Lola.
Lori: I did, but it was a pre-Student Teachers, pure fan encounter. Alago and I were outside of the Record Plant when Patti Smith was recording Radio Ethiopia and Lou was recording, maybe Street Hassle. We said “Hi Lou” when he came out the door one day. And he growled at us.
Are there any stories of the ladies in the band getting treated condescendingly by other musicians, sound guys or fans? Not to mention that you guys were a bit younger than most of the bands playing in that scene.
David: We were definitely a lot younger than most. There were a few teenage bands, but only a handful. Us, the Blessed, the Ghosts. But I think most people loved the idea that we were holding our own, writing our own songs, playing our hearts out.
Philip: People didn’t even blink at that stuff. So many things just went without saying.
Lori: Being a girl in a band was the coolest thing we could possibly be. It only enhanced the experience and no one, ever, had anything but respect for us, as girls, women, females, musicians, people. Sure we were kids, but we were ambitious fans, and it was pretty much a level playing field ruled by equal sensibilities. We were never treated bad, looked down upon or discriminated against in any way. It wasn’t a fight, it was simply cool and correct.
David: There was actually a pretty strong contingent of strong women playing back then, and they were an inspiration for more ladies to play. Kate Schellenbach (Beastie Boys/Luscious Jackson) often mentions that she realized she could follow her dream and be a girl drummer when she was watching us play live.
Jody Robello Katz (Manager/Mama Bear): I don’t remember having a lot of trouble booking the band in NYC. Everyone really liked us and knew us all as kids who were at everyone else’s shows and hung out. I felt we were treated like their kid brothers and sisters. Plus I think the fact that we always showed up and didn’t really do anything too stupid helped. We were reliable, drew pretty well and the bookers liked us.
You were produced by Jimmy Destri, keyboardist for Blondie? How/when did you meet him? Was he nice to work with?
David: He was a mentor. He saw us at an early show and just introduced himself. At least that’s how I remember it. He had very strong opinions and had been absorbing Mike Chapman’s studio style. So he worked us pretty hard to get the tracks we have, and it was well worth it. Everybody changes with success, and Blondie were exploding. We changed just being around them. Despite that they’re all still ridiculously down-to-earth people.
Laura: Jimmy was very interested in the band. He really thought our songs were great and that we were terrific, though he thought we could be even better. Of course, as many people already know, I became involved with Jimmy and ended up co-writing a couple of songs with Blondie, traveling with them all over Europe and moving in with him for a couple of years. He did wonderful things for the Student Teachers, but he also was a barrier. He made a lot of great things happen which was super nice. But Jimmy had his own issues with himself and Blondie.
Where did you record? The last three songs on the comp sound a little less fleshed-out, and the production is a little different. Were those recorded at a different time?
David: We recorded our first single at Electric Ladyland on St. Marks. There was also an acetate from an earlier session with X-Mas Weather and The Quake. But on the ORK single, X-Mas Weather was b/w Channel 13. I can’t remember where we recorded the 2×5 compilation stuff. The Hit Factory maybe?
Laura: It was in Orange, New Jersey, where Meat Loaf recorded Bat Out Of Hell.
David: The last four songs were recorded at a different time. We produced them with our everything guy, Antone DeSantis. And we had a different drummer. I think they sound a little grittier, but also close to our live sound.
Philip: I read a comment somewhere that said we couldn’t decide if we were running with the pop groups or the art groups, and I think that’s kind of true. At the end, as we were falling apart and doing tons of drugs, our sound got less poppy and the weirdness came out. I agree that we could have mixed or mastered that recording and made it sound better. Not sure why we released it like that.
Joe: 2×5 was recorded at the House of Music in West Orange, NJ. The four songs from the Easter 78/Halloween 80 EP songs were recorded at Sundragon Studios, owned by Jody’s friend’s brother. The Ramones recorded Leave Home there. It sounds like it does because we ran out of money to actually record and mix it properly.
How many actual releases did you put out, and in what numbers (if you can remember)? Sorry, I’m a collector. Ha.
David: First there were five acetates pressed of X-Mas Weather b/w The Quake. Two of them ended up in the jukeboxes of CBGBs and Max’s. Unless someone steps up with a treasure, there are none of those left. Our first single on vinyl was for ORK records: X-Mas Weather b/w Channel 13. I’m not sure of the run, but I think it was maybe 500? The 2×5 compilation was out on Red Star. Our tracks were Looks and What I Can’t Feel. 1500 copies I think? I remember thinking that was a lot.
Antone: Both the single and the 2×5 compilation were released on indie NY punk labels run by legendary scene impresarios, Terry Ork and Marty Thau. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a label to fund the final release so our manager Jody covered it. There was also Glen Tilbrook of Squeeze. We picked him up off the street, dragged him to rehearsal followed by margaritas, and then he wanted to produce us—angering Destri some.
This stuff was recorded around 1979/80. It sounds like you guys were already pretty into the synthesizer sounds that would become bigger as the early-80s came on. Who were your favorite contemporary bands at the time?
David: We saw so many bands back then! We loved our local bands, but we also loved the big alterna-guns and imports like Roxy Music, Wire, Buzzcocks. And the homegrown heroes: Patti Smith, John Cale, Television, Talking Heads, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, the Cramps. We opened for few of them.
Philip: Roxy Music was a big locus point at the beginning, yes, and the original CBs groups we all saw together. Later, Pylon, the B-52’s and the Contortions. I followed those Athens, Georgia, people around like a puppy dog.
Bill: As the synth guy, I always wanted to be Eno. So when he came to see us I was thrilled.
Antone: The Erasers were a big influence since they were a four-piece band with three female members. They were a cool minimalist art punk outfit fronted by Susan Springfield who dated Richard Hell. Lori and Laura were roadies for that band before the Student Teachers formed. It was becoming the norm then for girls to be in bands. These ladies paved the way for many female rockers.
Did you hang around what was to become the “No Wave” scene?
David: Our third gig was opening for Teenage Jesus & the Jerks. When we were just starting, and our tuning was off, we could barely hold it together. So people thought we were part of the noise scene that became known as No Wave. Later when we started to come into our sound there was a mention in the Soho Weekly News saying that we sold out and became a pop band. We always thought we were a pop band!
Bill: I did the cover for the first Teenage Jesus single which was in a show at MoMA a couple years ago. That was a thrill to see!
David: The only real foray into that scene was with a side project Philip and I were in called Annie Anxiety and the Asexuals. Annie was actually on the bill with us on our first gig with the Blessed at Max’s. Her band then was called The Lost Souls, but their cover band sound wasn’t right for her. So we pulled together a line up of two Student Teachers, two from the Blessed (Nick Berlin on guitar and Howie Pyro on bass) one of the Senders (Billy on guitar), Alan Vega and one of Annie’s friends named Chita. We played serious rhythmic noise. Sounded like a caravan of stomping screaming elephants. We only played four gigs. Annie sang, I played screechy clarinet and Alan Vega played harmonica in that band.
Laura: I believe Eno was at the show we played with Teenage Jesus. All I remember was being hesitant about playing [the Roxy Music song] Remake/Remodel that night, hoping we wouldn’t blow it. We were learning to play as we went along, so I think we got categorized a bit into the No Wave scene when we started simply because we didn’t always play the chords, notes and beats as we intended. At times that manifested itself as the deconstructed, discordant music associated with that scene.
Philip: Because of our close friendships with the Mumps and certain romantic attachments, we were around those people a fair amount. We played the No New York compilation endlessly, and a lot of that seeped into our sound at the end.
Can you give me a favorite story of seeing and meeting one of those favorite influential bands that went well; and a story that did not go so well?
David: We met David Bowie and Iggy Pop around the time of our Halloween gig at Palladium. Bowie was in town a week or so before the gig and he showed up with Jimmy at one of our rehearsals. He gave us little arrangement suggestions, and our heads were pretty much exploding. He also came to a gig at CBGB with Eno. Spending time around him was surreal. We all grew up listening to him and seeing him play live, so even being in the same room was exciting.
Laura: Meeting Bowie was just incredible. I remember going to see him with Bill at Madison Square Garden when I was 14 and just sitting way far back with my eyes burning on him. He was amazing, and being able to meet him (he actually crashed at Jimmy’s and my place once) was just incredible. I ended up spending more time with Bowie because of Blondie and he gave me some great advice: go to college. Meeting Chris Franz of Talking Heads was awesome. Really having the chance to meet so many cool people was amazing.
Philip: We loved Squeeze, and around the time of Argybargy they were in NYC a lot and we just kind of imposed ourselves on them. They were very obliging to this group of drunken teenagers that had become so attached to them. At some point we had even convinced Glenn Tillbrook to produce us, though that never came to pass. I remember a long drunken conversation with Chris Difford about Raymond Chandler backstage at some college on Long Island. Mostly, people were always very encouraging.
You mentioned Alan Vega, and I assume you liked Suicide, and I believe you played with them. You always hear how scary they were live.
David: Suicide were incredible. And yes, they were scary. You had to be hardcore to sit at the front. It was like witnessing a shamanic ritual. Martin’s sound droned and squeaked and then Alan’s voice would explode, and then tremble and then go down to a whisper only to shriek out again. Suicide were like a litmus test. Bring someone to a Suicide show and they would either be blown away or they would clear out in the first few minutes. Backstage, Alan was a super sweet and supportive guy. He was a definite eccentric and could break out “the weird” on a moment’s notice, but he was always an interesting and charismatic person.
Bill: When Suicide played Deitch Projects in NYC in 2007, I remember being shocked that there was huge mob at overflow, because they used to clear CBs in ten minutes. I thought, wow, times have changed.
Your press release has a funny quote from Richard Hell saying you guys had the best band name. Did you have many dealings with him?
David: We went to see him play a lot. We also played on the same bill with him a few times. Also one of our close crew, Jahn (known then as “X”) ended up playing with the Voidoids, so we were peripherally entwined. Richard was part of the “mature” punk/poet set. Their performances were always much more than just a band playing songs.
Bill: He recently wrote to a friend who asked if he remembered us. “I definitely remember the sexy Student Teachers, but I just remember the overall impression (sexy).”
Philip: We opened for Richard a lot. For a while we were his designated opening act because we drew pretty well and we were cheap. I know they liked the girls too. That’s something Ivan Julian said recently as well.
Lori: Both Lou Reed and Richard Hell scared me. Laura and I worked as roadies for the Erasers when Susan Springfield was going out with Hell, so that’s the connection I have. But he totally intimidated me.
How about Danny Fields? Did you have any dealings with him? I still see him around NYC at various events.
David: At the time we had little contact with Danny professionally. We ended up in the same places as him often since we were Ramones regulars, but we weren’t in the same orbit. We kind of wished we were. He’s a very nice person. He was back then and he is today.
Philip: Through my friend Mara Hennessey (Mrs. David Johansen) I had the very interesting experience of working with Danny in the ’90s on his Linda McCartney book and an abandoned Joey Ramone book. I lived around the corner from him in the West Village, and I would go over there and try to help get him organized. I still talk to him occasionally. He doesn’t just know everyone, he knows every thing. He is a genius, if anyone I ever met is.
Lori: He was a legend to me back then. He knew Nico and Jackson Browne. I didn’t know he even knew who we were.
Did you ever play outside of NYC?
David: Hot Club in Philly a couple of times; the Rat in Boston. But the farthest away we played was at Maxwell’s in Hoboken. Hoboken is very very far away from NYC (JOKE!)
Philip: We rarely played a transcendent set when we went out of town, but we loved Maxwell’s. I believe the Student Teachers actually held some kind attendance record there for a while. A nice way to get out of the city without having to travel too far. Just a different vibe, the dawn of the ’80s really.
What became of each band member? Did any go on to other bands?
Bill: Director of Contemporary Art Museum Houston.
Philip: I was in several other bands including Pianosaurus and the Nightmares, whose single “Baseball Altamont” (on Coyote/TwinTone) has enjoyed some culty afterlife, including a Yo Lo Tengo cover. The Nightmares also featured Ned Hayden, who would go on to become the infamous leader of the Action Swingers. I continued to work with Joe in a band called the Lockhorns, and at the popular Losers Lounge series of tribute shows (still going on) run by Joe McGinty. I spent most of the ‘90s in a band called Philip Shelley and his Amazing All-Girl Band, in which I was reunited with Lori. Our drummer Clementine is currently the drummer of Zeperella! I continue to write songs for and with longtime collaborator, the English chanteuse Amanda Thorpe, whose CDs are on the Canadian label Bongo Beat.
Joe: I played with Mumps and Klaus Nomi prior to joining the Student Teachers in October, 1979. I was brought in as sort of the adult, since I was 21 to their 19 or whatever. Following the Student Teachers, I played bass in the Swinging Madisons for six years with Kristian Hoffman (Mumps genius), then with Philip in the Lockhorns, then with Ward Dotson in the Liquor Giants, then with the Kustard Kings who became and still are the house band at the thriving Losers Lounge, where Philip has performed as well. I now do something in finance and am a hockey coach and strum a guitar and pluck a bass weekly (weakly?) in my living room.
Lori: I’ve been in the photo industry for 20+ years, Director of Archive Sales at Redux Pictures, and spent 11 years volunteering in the animal department at the New York Aquarium. I left in May this year after we finally reopened to the public after the devastation from Superstorm Sandy.
David: Me? I’m the Art Director at the Annenberg Foundation. The title is Manager of Creative Services, but when I say that, people scratch their heads and think that I’m a caterer.
Antone: After the Student Teachers broke up, I worked in the early ’80s with various bands as a booking agent/roadie/manager including the Swinging Madisons, the Nightmares, the Go-Betweens, Crazy Sunday (w/ Gregory Crewdson), Hugo Largo, Robyn Hitchcock and others. I was also a club DJ spinning records at the Ritz, Peppermint Lounge, Red Parrot, Rub-a-dub (in Williamsburg). That eventually led to national sales and marketing gigs with various major record companies including Rhino, Universal, Verve and Sanctuary. I’m now the general manager of NYC’s only biscotti cafe/bakery Bis.Co.Latte
Laura: After the band ended, I went to college and got my degree in writing. I’m now a lawyer and a writer and a mother of two gorgeous young women and planning to get my master’s in philosophy. All my life I wanted to study, read, learn. I actually forced myself to go out and meet Bill at Max’s back in 1978, and what ended up happening to me was, oddly, quite the opposite of who I am. But I am so thrilled it did happen.
That whole era—NYC, L.E.S., late 1970s—has become so mythologized. Is there anything about the way people now talk about that era, or playing CBGB, etc. that you would want to correct or set straight?
David: A lot of the myth stuff was actually true. We all felt that it was a very exciting time. The fact that you could see Patti Smith and Television both play two sets a night for four nights in a row at CBGBs—with other great bands opening—was amazing. I guess the only thing that was different in my mind from how people talk about it is that it was very chaotic, not as harmonious and neatly wrapped as people might imagine. Sometimes things got very clique-y and high school. Warring camps, sort of.
Laura: I agree, a lot of the myth was true. And it definitely was chaotic and amazing. I didn’t realize how incredible the experience was at the time of course, but I am so thankful for that entire experience. The bad, the good, the ugly, the beautiful.
Bill: I just remember it was hyper-intellectual. We were all reading and watching foreign films and going to museums constantly, and then we would go act silly and goofy at night. All in all, a great way to live.
David: A lot of the time people want to hear the big-name stories, but the heart of our story was that a group of teenage friends discovered that we could write catchy songs, and we played our parts well enough to attract a lot of attention and some very loyal fans. And we loved doing it.
Antone: It was a moment in time that can never be recreated. We were the second generation of punk that became new wave. We were fans of bands that we were meeting and hanging out with. We were making new friends and having life changing experiences every night. Everyone knew each other. Once I started working for the Student Teachers I could get into CBs or Max’s anytime for free. Because I had a car and was becoming a roadie, I ended up working for the Mumps, the Cramps, the Blessed, Gary Valentine & the Know, the Speedies, the Nitecaps, the Colors and many others. I was getting paid to hang out with my friends and move band’s gear around. I didn’t go to college, but I felt like I was getting a music education and lifelong lesson by working the NYC stages and clubs and meeting all these fascinating people. It was the time of my life.