Incredibly, San Francisco has given me tremendous opportunities to connect with the music scene we are so devoted to, and on Saturday I was introduced to a punk legend as well as a prolific rock chronicler. Steven Blush, best known for his book American Hardcore: A Tribal History, spoke at Green Apple Books in San Francisco to discuss his newest book New York Rock: From the Rise of The Velvet Underground to the Fall of CBGB. For those unfamiliar with Blush, he is an automatic authority on rock history, of New York and otherwise. His journalistic contributions span from most magazines alternative music fans can think of: Kerrang!, Rap Express, Spin and Paper. Ultimately, he focused his editorial talents on Seconds: a magazine of his own featuring 51 issues from 1986 to 2000 which prepared him to write three books on rock: American Hardcore about the early -80’s hardcore punk scene, which has since been adapted into a documentary film written and directed by Blush; American Hair Metal— no explanation necessary; and finally New York Rock.
Blush’s newest project is a comprehensive guide of 21st century New York’s burgeoning cultures brought together by rock! His presentation began with the secret of New York’s successful scene (attitude, of course!) and a brief description of the book’s two poles. He encouraged the idea that music is regional, it takes on the attitudes of the environment and in this case, the attitude came from particularly derelict neighborhoods. Artists were living in an environment that encouraged what Blush called “a lifestyle hellbent on destruction”: edgy, agitated, criminal and drug involvement. Out of this came the Velvet Underground, “soundtrack to Andy Warhol’s multimedia experiences”. There was an art component to what the band created that paired up with the wacky shenanigans of the Warhol brigade. It was the beginning of rock, in the city where anything can–did!–happen.
The culmination of New York Rock is the fall of CBGB, the “model for everything that came after”. According to Blush, magic lived in that club–any band would confirm this. Patti Smith, The Police, Blondie graced that stage and inspire generations beyond the closing of the club that changed rock forever. Unfortunately, Blush also says that the music scene went downhill with the club. But, if you want the details of the beginning, the end, and the chaotic and enchanting middle–you have to buy the book. New York Rock is a momentous achievement documenting rock and roll in the words of the actual actors with the commentary of resident expert Steven Blush. The discussion and presentation were organized and filmed by Reality Check TV. Host Ace Annese and another very special guest supplemented the evening with incredible anecdotes and seemingly unlimited knowledge on Mr. Blush’s subject. Who was this guest? It was East Bay Ray. I met East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedys: man, icon, apparently rock history aficionado, and legend. As the niece of a die hard fan, I was more than appreciative of the encounter.
Now put aside my exciting evening and take a look at Mr. Steven Blush’s catalogue of accomplishments. Buy New York Rock, watch American Hardcore, read the archives of Seconds! Bone up on your rock knowledge and challenge your perceptions of the “scene”. There are no absolutes.