A Teenager’s Photo Memoir Of Growing Up In New York’s Famous Punk Underground

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Lou Reed, the late iconic rock n’roll outsider once said, ‘I wouldn’t want to hear Beethoven without beautiful bass, the cellos, the tuba.  It’s very important.  Hip-hop has thunderous bass.  If you don’t want bass it’s like being amputated.  It’s like you have no legs,’ which is how one could best describe New York’s Punk Underground in the mid-1970s.  This was a time when the death of glam + the birth of punk rock collided in a celebration of glitter + grunge.  Now imagine being Paul Zone + experiencing all that at fourteen?  But don’t think for a minute Zone felt out of place.  Instead, he danced away his youth in underground clubs with those very same rock stars, exploring the concrete playground with actors, drag queens, + drug addicts.  Having a front-row seat to it all with a reverential regard to his subjects, not only made Zone a regular fixture in the lives of these greats but it guaranteed him exclusive access to them, giving birth to the images of this amazing photo memoir.  In ‘Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground’ by Paul Zone, published by Glitterati Incorporated, Zone shares personal images, from the vantage point of a teenage fan, that have never been released to the public alongside memories of the era.

-Lou Reed / Academy of Music, December 21, 1973

After the success of his solo Transformer and Berlin LPs, the former Velvet Underground frontman recorded this concert, to be released in 1974 as the live LP Rock n Roll Animal. The cover photos on that album suggest Lou wore black leather bondage gear with studded cuffs, a dog collar, black lipstick and eye makeup. In reality, that night Lou pioneered the future style of all rockers who couldn’t think of what else to wear: a tight black t-shirt, blue jeans and black biker boots.

You can almost smell Reed’s sweat in this picture.  There’s definitely something different about a fan, when taking a photo of someone they worship that can’t be replicated by anyone else, which is seen throughout the images in the book.  The images are not so much ‘head on’ captured moments but rather, the humanity + humility of the subject.  In this pic of Reed, I see a figure ‘larger than life’ that looks like a small speck in a vast negative space, but it’s really depicting how the artist is able to command such a mass of people shrouded in darkness.

-Debbie Harry (Blondie) / Max’s Kansas City, 1975

By 1975 I was pretty close with Debbie and Chris and would regularly spend time at their loft with band members Gary and Clem and whoever might be stopping in before and after hanging around CBGB and Max’s. Jimmy Destri was older brother to Donna Destri, who I had known since 6th grade Catholic school. I gravitated to her naturally after witnessing her being sent home daily for wearing black eyeliner, mini skirts, and unruly, corkscrew hairdos. It wasn’t long before she became part of our Brooklyn entourage venturing into Manhattan nightly throughout the early glam 70s. She actually was the organ player for the Fast in 1972 for a while but never did a live show with the band. Donna and I were instrumental in Jimmy’s introduction to Blondie at Mother’s one night when they were opening act for the Fast. Jimmy’s only other involvement in the scene up until then was auditioning for Milk ‘n’ Cookies before they left for the UK to record their LP for Island Records.  My interest in styling and clothing was just as satisfying as my interest in photography. I would constantly be scouting out hidden thrift shops and flea markets. I remember bringing Debbie out to a shop I found in Hoboken, N.J. and to Coney Island that had a strip of 2nd hand shops in a row of garages. On one of my trips I spotted a brand new pair of brown stiletto boots with golden fox fur around the ankles stamped “Made In Spain” on the bottom and couldn’t resist buying them for Deb.

Obviously, styling was yet another way of Zone communicating his adulation for his famous friends – he art directed his images by choosing a great look for his subject, like these brown stiletto fox fur boots for Debbie Harry above.

Linda (Danielle) Ramone, Anna Sui, Nick Berlin & Howie Pyro / Coney Island 1978

Linda was a teenage girl that hung out with our friends from Milk ‘n’ Cookies and established herself as an it girl on the scene along with our friend Anna Sui who went on to be a World Wide know designer. Miki helped rehearse and write songs for New York’s first teen punk band The Blessed featuring Howie Pyro & Nick Berlin, and we’d often have them on the bill opening for the Fast at Max’s. Pyro went on to play bass in D. Generation and Danzig.

Now don’t think that you need to be into New York’s punk underground scene to appreciate this book.  Sure, if you’re a Blondie fan you’ll love it that much more, but if you’re into portraiture as a photographer, this would be great learning tool featuring some of New York’s finest underground punk bands + performers of the mid-Seventies.

‘Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground’ by Paul Zone, published by Glitterati Incorporated is available for purchase at http://glitteratiincorporated.com.

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