Stories of the evil teens who ruled New York in the late ’70s

It was 1977, and first generation From NYC punk Alternative bands moved to larger venues and circled international flights. The defeat of the militants was still a few years away from the shaft. However, the storied Manhattan music venues were lively and loud with underage enthusiastic patrons.

They spent their days at Stuyvesant High School. They came from the High School of Performing Arts and Morrow. They went to Friends School, Walden and Dalton, and Brooklyn Friends too. Some of them were dropouts and runaways. Some were even from the suburbs. Almost all of them were under the age of 18.

Over the next four years, they spent their nights creating their own rock scene, playing aggressive, witty, sophisticated and intense pop and punk for fellow teens at venues like CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, Hurray and TR3. It wasn’t the shows for all ages that became popular in the city after a few years. This was a unique moment in the city’s musical history that changed the lives of many of the artists and audience members who were there, although their stories are largely untold. Imagine the upbeat “Lord of the Flies”, designed by Manic Panic and Trash and vaudeville.

Their ranks included Eric Hoffert, who did four hours of homework from Bronx Science every weekday, then practiced guitar for four hours. Weekends belong to his band, the Speedies. Arthur Brennan, a 16-year-old of Groton, Connecticut, who regularly traveled 20 miles to the only newsstand where he could buy magazines covering new music; He renamed himself Darvon Stager and fled to New York City to join a squad. And Kate Schellenbach, a ninth-grade student at Stuyvesant, had heard a rumor that at her age they were playing the most famous music clubs in the world, just blocks from where she lives.

In September 1979, Schellenbach was thirteen years old and starting high school in a costume pieced together to express her interest in New Wave music: painter’s pants from Unique Clothing Warehouse, white boots from Reminiscence in West Village, a bowling shirt and a piece of clothing. Elvis Costello pin.

“I remember going to the girls’ bathroom, and this girl, Nancy Hall, who was the coolest, was sitting on the sink,” she said cheerfully, speaking via video chat. Nancy suggested that Kate go see a band playing at CBGB later that week called Student Teachers. The pop art group included a women’s percussion section featuring some kids from Friends School and, somewhat unlikely, the somewhat distant Mamaroneck High School.

said Schellenbach, who helped found the Beastie Boys in 1981 and went on to form jackson babes. She added, “Seeing Laura Davis playing the drums, seeing Laurie Reese playing the bass and how exciting the whole scene was, everything about it made me think, ‘Oh, maybe that’s something I can do.'” These guys were still in high school — it seemed It is possible.”

The timing was perfect: This was the first generation to have grown up with villainy as the status quo, not the extraordinary rebellion. “Part of the appeal of history is that you weren’t supposed to just listen and accept, you were supposed to listen to the conversation and form a band yourself,” Student Teachers keyboardist Bill Arning, now a prominent gallery owner and curator, said via video chat. “Of course they were supposed to form a band; it didn’t even seem like it was an ‘outside’ idea.”

The main groups in the movement were the Brilliant Bubble Gum Speedies, a high-profile group of hit teens (plus two very slightly older members) who “wanted to be the fusion of the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, and the Bay City Rollers,” according to for founding guitarist Gregory Croodson; student teachers, who played pop art with faux pas reminiscent of Roxy and Velvet Underground; blessed, who were the first, dirtiest, and most elegant group on the scene; And the huge poppies, who loved the Speedies, were fascinated by the bubble gum music and Blondie’s drummer Clem Burke directed them. (Other bands on the edges of the movement have included Stimulants and Miller Miller & Sloan.)

If the core bands of the teenage punk scene had anything in common, it was a passion for big choruses, flashy, colorful outfits and an almost smug certainty that the empowerment promised by punk rock was now theirs.

We didn’t know any better, said Nicholas Petty, who started in 1977 when he was thirteen calling himself Nick Berlin and became one of the founders of The Blessed. He spoke to The Times via video chat before attending the funeral of another founding member of the band, Howie Pyro. Last month at the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan, Pyro’s heirs, including D Generation and Theo Kogan of Lunachicks and Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem, paid tribute to the New York mainstay with a commemorative parade.

“We thought that’s the way you live,” Betty said from his home in Fort Bragg, California, where he serves as the head representative of the Culinary Arts Management Program at Mendocino College. “This is your life, this is not how you dress it up, that’s it,” he added. “We wanted it to be a three-ring circus. When we did an early show and a late show at Max’s, we were bringing two full changes of clothes to each set. That’s definitely not how we would have expressed it at the time, but it was living life as a piece of performance art.”

The Blessed Band (pronounced as two syllables) was the band that Arthur Brennan escaped from Groton to join; Two weeks later, the money he saved ran out of his paper trail, and when private investigators came to retrieve him, he was happy to leave his new identity as Darvon Stagger. “After the first night, it wasn’t fun sleeping all night at the Blimpies on 6th Avenue,” Brennan, now a public school teacher in Los Angeles, said via video chat. “But it was a relief to meet people like you. In your hometown, you would be considered an eccentric slasher. We were kids learning how to act in a crazy and artistic adult world.”

Author Jonathan Lethem, who wrote of his love for the Speedies and Miller Miller & Sloan in “Fortress of Solitude” Note that childhood was different in New York at the time. “The city was somehow chaotic, but it was really easy for us to work,” he said in a video chat. “You can’t convince a cab driver to go back to Brooklyn if your life depends on it, but you can always walk over the bridge! I feel like we basically owned the city, that we were the actual people it belonged in at the time.”

Jill Conniff, the scene sponsor who later co-founded Lucious Jackson with Schellenbach and Gabe Glaser, said the town seemed like a non-stop event. She said, ‘The night was freedom, and I felt like we were really safe. If you were a parent, you might think the opposite – these kids go to nightclubs, they’re only 13, which is very dangerous. No, my day at IS 70 was dangerous. Really,” referring to her public middle school. “Lily was safe.”

How did the scene go? Musicians remember which of the well-traveled downtown places – CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, TR3, or Studio 10 – and said the ones in the upper city, such as Hurray and Trax , loosely restricted alcohol only. (The legal drinking age in the city was 18 until late 1982.) In fact, the owner of CBGB Hailey Crystal and Peter Crowley, who directed and booked Max’s shows, seemed to welcome a wave of underage New Yorkers eager to discover music.

“Kids generally love to drink,” Crowley said, laughing over the phone. “But we did our best to make sure people were safe – even though I already wore a badge that said, ‘I’m not your mother. “

But was safety just an illusion? “For a long time, I looked at this period of my life with nostalgia and passion,” author Christopher Sorrentino said in an email. “It’s only recently that I’m starting to get a sense of how vulnerable we all are, and how many risks we’ve taken with absolutely no one to apply the brakes. This doubles for girls, who at 15 or 16 often had ‘relationships’ with men in their late twenties and early thirties.”

Laura Albert, who was on the scene from the age of 13 and later achieved fame (and notoriety) writing under Name De Bloom JT LeRoy, agreed. “Access still comes at a price, especially for gay girls and boys,” she wrote in an as-yet-unpublished memoir. “Having said that, there was a sense of possibility, age wasn’t a barrier, I was a teen in foster care but I could still reach musicians I liked, call them on public phones and interview them for fans.”

By 1980, the evil teen scene was evolving and fading at the same time as its members grew and developed. Some of the participants went on to play prominent roles in the hardcore local punk movement: Hoffert and Croodson of the Speedies produced the first Beastie Boys show, and the Catalysts became a founding band for the hardcore local punk scene. Others went to college or had jobs that required leaving their late nights at Max’s Kansas City and shopping for creepy brothels on St. Marks Place in the rearview mirror.

“As much as I thought the scene was cool, I realized I didn’t want to be here. I wanted to be in college,” Laura Davis-Channin, drummer for Student Teachers, said via video chat. And the shocking and exciting rock ‘n’ roll that I was a part of.”

While the punk scene leading up to this moment has been exceptionally well documented, little has been written about the teens who ran at night by the 1970s. None of the groups were signed by major record labels, and only one band, The Colors, released an LP during the initial period of their career. (The Speedies put out an archive group in 2007, to make great use of the use of one of their songs, “Let me take your picture,” in an advertising campaign for Hewlett-Packard Company).

With independent 45s sporadically scattered to spread the word outside the five boroughs, what had been a powerful local scene never gained national or international stature. But many of its members have prominent careers both inside and outside the arts world. Crewdson, Speedies guitaristAnd the He is a famous tableau photographer. His bandmate, Hoffert, became a data technology pioneer who helped develop the QuickTime media player and is now a senior vice president of Xandr; He also played Allen Hurkin Torres in the movie Speedies, a former New York State Supreme Court justice.

“There was a magical enablement in what we did and carried through life,” Hoffert said via video chat. “The photography done by Gregory, my work in digital media, is directly related to that.”

Schellenbach had a similar view: “It spawned a lot of great things—art, authors, hip-hop. A magical time in New York City!”

Eli Atti, who started going to Max before he hit puberty, became a speechwriter for Al Gore, then a writer and producer on “The West Wing” and “Billions.” “It made me unafraid,” he said of the scene. “It made me realize that your life can be anything you want. If you want to know these people, if you want to try this music, even if it seems out of reach or not allowed, you can do it. You can write your own story.”