j'accuse, babies, my beloved wee tots. most of my friends are at least 10 years younger than me if not half my age and while i love you it is your generations that produced the computer geek as career/lifestyle and the 'star wars' role players and the glow stick waving darkly accesorized pixies who think techno is industrial. and you gave us emo. please.stop.please. really, you've done enough.
before my new job shifted me into 18 hour work days, i started photographing all the landmarks of my vaunted trendy wendy gothic disco past because they're all being torn down to provide more lebensraum for mit and harvard. and this really got me thinking about the real roots of goth/alternative in boston. and it is far from focused on man ray, which came at the tail end of it all yet reaps the lions' share of weepy "oh, what we've lost" regrets. i have seen maybe one of the early, original goths over the last 10 years in ceremony or at man ray or in any of their off- shoots. all the older sods toddling about acting like they're all that and a bag of coffin nails came even to man ray late- probably in the S/M Suburban Haus Frau era of the mid 90's which was most certainly NOT the golden age but rather when most people of a certain age were old enough to get in. an accident of fate, of course, for none of us can schedule when we are to be born but goth and industrial are the music of another generation, my generation, and i am telling you it was better, stronger and harder. it was wonderful and doomed and crazy and had the best soundtrack ever .
so man ray came later- much later and pretty much too late. that it lingered so long is only a testament to the appeal of sadomasochism to suburban middle class white heterosexuals who had computer money to burn on gadgets and leather and piercings circa 1994 and has nothing to do with a primarily music oriented scene. man ray was empty for most of the early 90s because none of us would go there. the music played then had no relevance for us and D. and his hoods at the door were always such insane racist piggish bastards with all the business savvy and style of a pile of dried bat dung. and let's not forget the coke fueled rapes- ah the golden age indeed. it was a nasty place to go because of the nasty predatory atmosphere within. it was an equally bad employer-every one of my checks bounced and you had to go in on saturdays or the still busy thursday men's night and hope they made enough at the door to pay you from the register.
no , man ray started not as gothy man ray but as Campus, a gay bar. it's most successful, packed nights remained the gay nights even after the zoning commission in cambridge forced them to operate as one bar as opposed to 2 and it was officially all called man ray.( there was a moveable wall that sealed off campus ie the rodeo ring room from the other rooms). the original dj of man ray was linda lawrence, who was also the dj of their crazy busy Campus lesbian night-sundays. the line to go in would be around the corner every sunday as opposed to just when the dump was closing. linda lawrence remains in my mind the best alternative dj of all. she created the archetype of the goth night in boston and is given absolutely no credit- not even in the end to the bar SHE put on the map.
but i am getting very much ahead of myself. in the beginning there were places like the Rat and the Underground where all your favorite gothistas and their bands would play. the channel too. here's ole fat bob at the underground.( joy division and lydia lunch played there too. BU took it over for a laundry room i believe for one of its dorms.) i wasn't there that night but i'm fairly certain i recognize 2 people in the audience. in 1980 i was a sophomore in high school. since the goths came out of punk that's where you have to go to find the legendary children:
at the time allston beat was actually in allston( in that upstairs mall on harvard ave and then in a closet sized space under great scott before moving to newbury street and harvard square). it was the only place in mass you could get doc martins and they only seemed to stock men's american sizes 10 and 11. the candy bar devouring junky girlfriend of the owner and the really annoying blond salesman( who at one point years later ended up on the door briefly at man ray) were always trying to convince you to just wear 5 pairs of socks so you'd buy them. "Cheezwiz" of sleep chamber fame had a record store also on harvard ave called the inner sleeve which always stank of patchouli. of course the rat still existed and nemo's and my favorite sit for 5 hours and whine with the other goths place- Charlie's Cafeteria( i think it became an ihop but that new hotel may have nixed that as well. it was right on the corner at the end of the strip as you head towards mass ave.). they had vegetarian stew that was actually really good and they wouldn't throw you out even if all you did was buy a cup of tea. i particularly recall the heavily make up laden Mary, as much a fixture of the square as mr. butch. Nuggets was closer to the rat and a god send for used records-none of us ever had tons of money.
newbury comics had only one store and it was quite small and farther down newbury street. aimee mann worked there and i recall she was always skulking around whispering to people to ask them if they wanted help. at first the comics were in front and the records in back but that quickly changed. high society was across the street and a really good second hand shop. the closet was even farther down and several of my friends were convinced the owner was a vampire because she only came out at night to terrorize her employees. awesome used clothing collection for the time and she always had hand made items from locals like hats and jewelry. for the life of me i can't recall her name although, like coffee connection, it was one of those places every single goth you knew worked for at one time or another. and that's another thing- the coffee connection- everyone worked there. i don't think i actually paid for a cup of coffee for a good 5 years. much better than starbucks- the coffee was far superior- and a local legend long before the 80s. uncle george maybe never knew how many of us were kept alive in times of need by his employees. there was actually a vast "trenda" network on both newbury street and in harvard square wherein you could get quite a deep discount on everything from groceries to ice cream to roll up sandwiches.
the past always makes me think of my hair. i used to get mine done by jan bell( jan bell hair was down the street a few blocks from the now ceremony in brookline) who was married in Spit. because if we are really going to talk about the beginning in terms of nightclubs and dancing and not so much places to see bands that's where we must venture. the entire complex had been a very popular gay bar called boston boston. my uncles went to the closing party and came home with yellow plastic construction hats. they had closed their bar to renovate it and turn it into 2 straight bars- metro and axis- although metro came out of it with one of the biggest and longest running men's night on the east coast- sundays- and boy night would later happen there on tuesdays. Spit certainly had bands but also the sort of excuses for goth/punk/ trenda acting out that man ray found it necessary in latter days of hiring outside 'promoters' to put on. this should all look painfully familiar although it happened 20 years before some people figured out how to use a strap on or put those bondage pants on the right way:
because i went out all the time jan would cut my hair for free as long as he could do whatever he wanted to it. it was white. it was half shaved off. it almost qualified as topiary. you'd pretty much be spit AT and called a fag in the street for looking like that because it was not a mass manufactured buyable look- you had to make yourself into something on your own. the things that are so acceptable today like tattoos, s/m influenced clothing, weird hair, wearing all black, having things other than your ears pierced( accept for males- pierced ears meant fag then) was akin to walking down the street screaming " i hate fucking jesus and all the bloody goddamn saints!!!! and i want you all to die!!!!". people didn't just think you were gay or strange or weird- they actually took offense. so the next time you spike up your hair or color it crayola colors please remember if only for a second that some of us got the shit beat out of us for looking like that not admired and asked to pose for photos.
you can briefly see a tad of lou miami in that spit footage. he wrote this song with thalia zedek (white women, dangerous birds, come, live skull) whom i lived across from in allston. one of my college/clubbing friends was one of his drummers. he represents the less rock n' roll butch aspect of the boston rock scene at the time- which was often very off putting if you were a fay new wavy sort because they could be dumb old brutes- and that was just the girlfriends. some people did not realize lou was gay. he covered ' delta dawn'... so could anything be more transparent?
lou was still kicking around boston in the early 90s but he died of a drug overdose in LA in 1995. his guitarist, jack rootoo (also of girl on top) just passed in june . gay. glam. punk- the kind of music we need to be celebrating instead of german remakes of new order songs. music from when boston had a vibrant , interesting music scene on all fronts.