“The Mudd Club,” by Richard Boch. ($24.95. Feral House. 445 pages).
For 21 months Richard Boch served as the gatekeeper at the Mudd Club, a legendary club located at 77 White St. in downtown Manhattan in the late 1970s and early ‘80s which staged performances by everyone from Marianne Faithful and The Cramps to John Cale and Nico, the B-52’s and William S. Burroughs – the latter reading behind a steel desk from his classic works, as Allen Ginsberg sat stage left, looking on.
“By early spring of 1979, I felt the whole world was headed for White Street – and that working the door was a big deal,” writes Boch, whose job manning the door made him akin to a modern-day St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, deciding who would gain entry and who would be denied to the never-ending mayhem that awaited inside. The door policy: no beards, no fat people, no pre-packaged punk outfits bought by suburbanites at boutiques and no tourists queuing up to gaze at the freaks. More than a concert space – the building’s first floor had a legal capacity of 300, the exclusive second floor offered 2,500 square feet of space, with beer on ice served from a claw-foot tub, and a black steel cage – the club served as a link between the generations where music, art and fashion collided.
Fortified by hot dogs and vanilla egg creams at Dave’s Luncheonette – “a twenty-four-hour dive that specialized in extra grease and lousy coffee,” Boch, a Long Island kid who grew up listening to the Jefferson Airplane, scribes a downtown world of night-stalkers that included David Bowie and Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Frank Zappa, and members of the Sex Pistols and The Clash.
“I met everyone and the job quickly defined me,” he writes in this memoir of the cobbled streets of Lower Manhattan, as the seventies spilled into the eighties during a fiery time of creativity long before the realtors and hipsters would invade and conquer, their hyper-gentrified sensibilities resulting in the blandness that exists today.
“Cover Me: the stories behind the greatest cover songs of all time,” by Rod Padgett. ($22.95, Sterling Publishing Co., 232 pages).
Rod Padgett, who a decade ago founded the popular blog Cover Me, details the stories behind nearly two-dozen original songs popularized by later day “cover” versions. In each of the tunes - which includes Elvis Presley’s rendition of “Hound Dog,” Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout,” and Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Padgett describes how these artists have a way of making the songs all their own, how those revised versions came to be, and offers a significant historical nod to their original creators, while displaying the artwork of record jackets and context from previously published interviews.
“Stranded in the Jungle: Jerry Nolan’s Wild Ride,” by Curt Weiss. ($24.99, Backbeat Books, 310 pages).
Jerry Nolan, one of the 20th century’s most overlooked drummers, finally gets his story told – and who better to tell it than fellow drummer Curt Weiss. Nolan most famously played drums in the 1970s and ‘80s with the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers, two bands that inspired music and fashion on both sides of the Atlantic.
“They sounded close to what punk rock would sound like a few years later: a steamroller of exuberant, take-no-prisoners rock ‘n’ roll, teetering on the edge of collapse…bum notes be damned,” Weiss writes. “And Jerry…he drove the band like a locomotive.”
Weiss’ biography traces a timeline from Nolan’s Brooklyn upbringing – where he was childhood friends with Peter Criss, later the drummer of Kiss – his earliest inspirations from 1950s rock and roll, and his study of legendary jazz drummer Gene Krupa: “blasting out a snare drum roll, bobbing his head, chin extended, deeply entranced by the music.”
The Jerry Nolan story has been a long time coming, and Weiss has done a great service to music fans by sharing that story.