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    New York in the 70s/80s

    Bankrupt city government, Reaganomics, murder rife on the streets.

    It looks OK in New Order's video for Confusion though.

    Any memories? Recommended reading or watching?

    #2
    New York in the 70s/80s

    There's a great BBC documentary about this on You Tube - how New York's squalid streets of the era gave birth to punk, disco and hip-hop. I watched it a couple of months ago and it's very insightful.

    The city was a dump during the mid-'70s, but as is often the case in this scenario, the music of the street flourished.

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      #3
      New York in the 70s/80s

      Yes, it also gave birth to the graffiti revival which, albeit at a slower rate, has been as important to the visual arts as hip-hop has been in music.

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        #4
        New York in the 70s/80s

        I've seen rather a lot of "it was shit, but the music, man, it was better than in Henley on Thames" documentaries. I'm sure one day a piece of film will be dug up in Rome, showing a guy in a scruffy toga saying "yeah, but you couldn't have had Juvenal if you hadn't had the buildings falling down every two seconds, and Greeks stealing our jobs".

        But always room for one more good one, and I'll watch this. Thanks.

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          #5
          New York in the 70s/80s

          Read the introduction to Peter Shapiro's disco book Turn The Beat Around. It's exhaustively footnoted and it gives an incredible amount of info on exactly how fcked NYC was. It's a great piece of writing. It will tell you almost all you need to know.

          Copy and paste this into your browser, it has the intro you can read.

          http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=GG1jtWGU0S8C&printsec=frontcover&source=g bs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false

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            #6
            New York in the 70s/80s

            I have two recommendations:

            Luc Sante, "My Lost City"

            And I'll be self-serving and recommend my book about Times Square (esp. "Looking for Ghosts", which is the least literary chapter but lays out the ways in which the history of Times Square--but can be extended to New York City more generally--is narrated through a range of competing fantasies about the past, present, and future). Sante was nice enough to provide a blurb for the back cover of the paperback version.

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              #7
              New York in the 70s/80s

              Before we start eulogising NYC's mid '70s grittiness and its effects on popular culture, it may be helpful to keep in mind that it also spawned a popular ditty by a certain Gerard Kenny...



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                #8
                New York in the 70s/80s

                This book was really readable; no idea how accurately it captures things, but it's very pacey and informative on the power cut and rioting, and the long-lasting impact the failure to pay out insurance to black shopkeepers had on the outer boroughs.

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                  #9
                  New York in the 70s/80s

                  It's quite accurate, especially given the literary style.

                  So are the other recommendations on this thread, though I haven't yet read danielmak's book, which is something I have to remedy.

                  The iconic image of that era, is of course, this Daily News front page:



                  For those of us who were living here then, it didn't seem as bad as it did in retrospect. I think there are two primary reasons for that. First, even at its worst, New York was an amazingly dynamic and exciting place (as the book that derek recommends illustrates) and b) the fact that the decline was gradual rather than the result of a single catastrophic event (like Katrina, or the Detroit riots) meant that one somehow considered it to be more of a "natural" development.

                  Allen Tannenbaum was one of the primary photographic chroniclers of the time. You can peruse selections of his work here and here (including an interview).

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                    #10
                    New York in the 70s/80s

                    I don't think it was unique to NY anywhere in Britain would probably have looked like a dump in the same era but would also have been much more culturally productive than it is today. But what came out of NY back then was marvellous, and Derek's picked out an excellent piece by Shapiro there: I remember it giving me a wonderfully succinct insight into what was happening behind the scenes of so much culture I'd soaked up over the years.

                    The weird thing about disco and club culture is that it seemed to drift into American Psycho territory sometime in the mid-80s. Same thing happened to hip hop a decade later when Puff Diddley took over. And I guess rave culture over here once the superstar DJ thing kicked in. When the real money arrives people do seem to stop making the effort.

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                      #11
                      New York in the 70s/80s

                      The most incongruous thing about that Post cover is the fact that "Dow Drops 12" was front page news.

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                        #12
                        New York in the 70s/80s

                        You could watch Wild Style.

                        Or read the first 30 pages of Angela Carter's The Passion of New Eve, which I remember delivering a pungent, fantastical vision of NY in 1976 or so.

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                          #13
                          New York in the 70s/80s

                          My Dad's cousin did a greyhound bus tour of the North Eastern seaboard back in the early '80s. Flying into New York from the UK (not sure which airport) he said that as soon he stepped off of the plane you could smell fear.

                          Nothing happened to him although he observed a lot of the things mentioned so far (the city shutting down at nightfall) and because of this - along with the general vibe of the place - he was reluctant to return with his partner just a few years back.

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                            #14
                            New York in the 70s/80s

                            At that time, one was virtually certain to fly into JFK, and to arrive at the old International Arrivals building, which was one of the most unpleasant and confusing places in the city.

                            It always surprised me that more people didn't just turn around and go home after facing the nonsense of customs and the hustlers and baggage claim and in the taxi queue.

                            Lucia, I'd say that the equivalent period for the UK (or at least London) was the mid 80s. In the late 70s, petrodollar wealth was having a noticeable effect on certain areas of London. Everything was much grimmer around the time of the miner's strike.

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                              #15
                              New York in the 70s/80s

                              I'm sure you're right in terms of actual reality (I wouldn't have a clue what London looked like back then). Musically though, London, Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Glasgow and Liverpool managed to sound as good as New York; better at rock and pop, not as good at disco, funk or hip hop perhaps.

                              There's a lovely line in that Luc Sante piece:

                              "Instead of disappearing, local history has been preserved as a seasoning"

                              which I think captures the unexpectedly non-apocalyptic takeover of gentrification. The tyranny of nicely decorated pubs that sell tastier beer, and characterful cafes that make you like coffee. Which you can't afford because rent and travel have gone through the roof.

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                                #16
                                New York in the 70s/80s

                                I think East London would have pretty bad in the 70s. After the closure of the docks and before "regeneration", Shoreditch loft pioneers and the DLR. It was also something of a special case because of Bangladeshi immigration (though only in a few areas, like Spitalfields and Whitechapel). Before they got housed by the council, many lived in incredibly bad conditions in "Brick Lane tenements". A Eurodollar turned up once, but got beaten up and went back west.

                                Ursus may well be right that it was even worse by the mid 80s.

                                Am I right in saying that New York must have been a massive contributor to the federal budget while having no money for itself?

                                Thanks to everyone who's replied. Loads of good stuff.

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                                  #17
                                  New York in the 70s/80s

                                  Amor de Cosmos and others might be familiar with Don McCullin, who photographed the East End in the late 70s. Even allowing for artistic licence and all, there are some shocking images:

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                                    #18
                                    New York in the 70s/80s

                                    Mid-70's West London fared little better judging by the areas used for filming in The Sweeney.

                                    There is a wonderful photo of Sheffield City Centre taken from the embankment at the foot of the Park Hill Estate in around 87/88. The old Pond Street Bus Station and Sheaf Valley Swimming Baths dominate the foreground (both would soon go for the World Student Games), whilst the big Sheffield Poly building, Roxy and Fiesta sit just behind. It was probably the closest Western Civilization ever came to matching the grimness of Soviet Russia. We shall never see it's like again.

                                    It's difficult to say which city in the North of England took the biggest kicking during this period. Probably Liverpool or somewhere in the North East. On a smaller scale the old pit villages around Barnsley and going up towards Wakefield remain heartbreaking.

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                                      #19
                                      New York in the 70s/80s

                                      It was probably the closest Western Civilization ever came to matching the grimness of Soviet Russia. We shall never see it's like again.
                                      Worse than Elephant and Castle?

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                                        #20
                                        New York in the 70s/80s

                                        Damn, Lucia stole Wild Style from me.

                                        To me, that movie is just about the most thrilling movie ever made in so many ways. It's rare to get an entire music, art, and dance form that is created in a very small time period, and even more rare to slap together a bunch of those people who were at the forefront of creating it, write a script with them, and film a pretty decent low-budget feature out of it.

                                        Charlie Ahearn, the director of it, also came out with a beautiful book (co-authored by Jamel Shabazz) called A Time Before Crack.

                                        I still have yet to find a definitive history of the crack years, but that was as close to an apocalypse/zombie holocaust that I've ever seen. There was nothing like walking Times Square in 1988, with those eyes peering out from between the alleys of the porno theatres. (That said, Las Vegas methheads are still even more terrifying.)

                                        Not sure I talked about the time I lost $35 - of which were rare dollar coins from my father's coin collection - when I tried to get a fake ID in Times Square when I was 15. ("Ah shit, you only have twenny five. You need $10 for the lamination. I'll go get that.")

                                        Then I went to visit a girl from summer camp who wanted me to come over all day, but when I finally got there at night her mother was home to walk me to the house from the subway. The machete I was carrying in my trenchcoat (I was 15) cut through the bottom of my trenchcoat, causing her eyeballs to pop out of her skull and immediately walk me back to the train station. No fake id, no losing my virginity. That was NYC in the 80s.

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                                          #21
                                          New York in the 70s/80s

                                          Mike D of the Beastie Boys, upon being asked what his favorite video game system was, said TV Pix.

                                          It was for many of us.

                                          But shit, you got disco, the Son of Sam, the Cosmos, the Blackout, The Cosmos and the Blackout, Reggie Jackson, CBGBs, New Jack City, Spike Lee, David Dinkins, Ed Koch, crack, Serpico...close your eyes and throw a dart and you'll hit a juicy target.

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                                            #22
                                            New York in the 70s/80s

                                            Lucia Lanigan wrote:

                                            I don't think it was unique to NY anywhere in Britain would probably have looked like a dump in the same era but would also have been much more culturally productive than it is today.
                                            I see this but then raise the stakes by playing my Belfast Royal Flush: I hope Calvert doesn't mind me posting this photo of him.



                                            And this was one of the posher parts...

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                                              #23
                                              New York in the 70s/80s

                                              Going back to NYC. I know it might seem like an odd choice but I've always loved the first half of 'Live And Let Die', the first of Roger Moore's Bond films, which was made in 1973.

                                              He pitches up in NYC and although it might have seemed glamourous to British cinema goers at the time, watching it now you can almost feel the sense of decay in some of the City scenes.

                                              And it's inadvertently hilarious in places, as Moore ends up in Harlem looking for leads, dressed of course in full suit and long, dark overcoat. The only white face for miles.

                                              "It's like following a cue ball", as an exasperated CIA agent put it.

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                                                #24
                                                New York in the 70s/80s

                                                Doh! How could I forget The Warriors? It's been years since I saw it, but if any film is going to convey the grittiness of NYC in the late '70s then it's this one.

                                                Superb film, I must watch it again. I hope it's as good as I remember it.

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                                                  #25
                                                  New York in the 70s/80s

                                                  Ask WSC...

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