New York 1973-1977 and a "mind-boggling moment"

Like the hype swirling around Bruce Springsteen in 1974, the buzz about Will Hermes's Love Goes to Buildings on Fire:  Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever was huge.  Three or four people urged me to read it.  It is a great read, but like a catchy Top-40 single there is not much depth.  This is not the definitive study of this music, this locale or this era, nor does it try to be.  There is nothing wrong with being a fun summer single.

Hermes's book is strong on hooks that hold it together, namely the closely followed stories of Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, The Ramones, Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine, Anthony Braxton, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Grandmaster Flash, Arthur Russell, Nick Siano, Hector Lavoe, the Fania All-Stars, and Bob Dylan to name a few 70s icons.

This book really needs a sound track and YouTube provides it.  The best way to read this book is to search YouTube for the hundreds of performances described in Hermes book.  Hermes give a spirited account of The New York City Dolls Halloween show at the Waldorf Astoria in 1973.  Hermes makes you want to be there (a riff throughout the book is Hermes wishing he could be there, lamenting shows he just missed or was too young to attend) and he does a pretty good job in this case, but a search on YouTube provides some shaky footage of the show including the closing number Frankenstein.  See

How about the Fania All-Stars in Zaire?  Hermes tries to capture the event, an event he could not possibly see in person.  Why not see it how Hermes saw it?  Hermes describes Hector Lavoe's red pants and green shirt in Mi Gente.  Here they are:  How about Celia Cruz "in a backless, brightly colored sequined gown, hair swept up into a towering Africa do?"  Hermes mentions she sang Guantanamera and Quimbara.  Have a listen: and

This is not a criticism of Hermes at all.  Instead it is a testament to the importance of online resources outside of the traditional academic institutions and public libraries for gathering archival research.  Hermes states, "We are near a mind-boggling moment when something approaching the entire history of recorded sound will be available with a few clicks."  There is a shout out to the SUNY libraries and the New York Public Library, but it is inescapable that this is a book made possible by YouTube, sites like Wolfgang's Vault, Facebook, and Twitter.

YouTube can also provide more than just recorded sound.  Here is a recording of DJ Stevie Steve, Lil Rodney Cee and Lil Shotgun from 1977. See  A real time capsule recording, but how about the accompanying video with all the house party flyers?  YouTube is a great place to comment on and preserve print as well, particularly single sided ephemera like posters, flyers, and handbills.

Hermes's footnotes includes many URLs to the footage he describes but it is not complete.  For example the URLs of the New York Dolls at the Waldorf and the Fania All-Stars in Zaire is not in the footnotes that I can see.  I am not sure this is a criticism since a big part of the fun of Hermes's book is flipping through the pages and then seeing what footage or recordings you can find on YouTube or elsewhere.  Searching for The New York Dolls eventually brought me to Johnny Thunders's banned performance in Sweden:  Quite possibly the inevitable coda to a five year period that is just remarkable for its unbridled creativity, its boundless decadence, and its breakneck pace of development.



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