Johnny Thunders 1978
From interviews with William Burroughs and Richard Hell, to in-depth revelations and photographs of the people who helped shape popular culture and music, a new book from photographer Marcia Resnick, Punks, Poets and Provocateurs: New York City BAD BOYS * 1977 - 1982 transports you back to a time when there were no rules. A time before many of Resnick’s subjects too quickly burned out like the bright lights they were.
For example, here’s an evocative excerpt (and an image) of David Byrne from Punks, Poets and Provocateurs in which Byrne “predicts the future” back in 1977. It was taken from an interview Byrne did with Traveler’s Digest in which he made a total of 46 predictions about the future. The following ten turned out to be rather unfortunately, spot-on.
David Byrne, late 70s, early 80s
In the future, half of us will be “mentally ill”
In the future, water will be expensive
In the future, everyone’s house will be like a little fortress
In the future, there will be mini-wars going on everywhere
In the future, people will constantly be having plastic surgery
altering their features many times during their lifetime
In the future there will be many mass suicides
In the future there will be starving people everywhere
In the future, the crippled, retarded and helpless will be killed
In the future, there will be so much going on nobody will be able to keep track of it
William Burroughs and photographer, Marcia Resnick
Resnick (who very much reminds me of a real-life punk rock version of ass-kicking journalist Lois Lane) and her lucky lens were able to capture powerful and often poignant images of the most legendary bad boy rule breakers (as well as a few girls) from the past. I spoke to Victor Bockris, the author of Punks, Poets and Provocateurs and asked him to share his thoughts on Resnick when it came her uncanny ability to capture this hedonistic period in time on film. A time that would drastically change with the arrival of the AIDS epidemic.
DM: Can you give DM’s readers any first-hand insight into Marcia’s expertise when it came to capturing the compelling and emotionally charged images that are featured in Punks, Poets and Provocateurs?
Victor Bockris: Marcia worked on this project over a period of five years so there were many sessions. What they shared in common was the way Marcia turned every session into a game of fantasy seduction. As she writes, she dressed provocatively with a girlish flair, which included a splash of Lolita. Despite the fact that punk was the first rock movement in which the girls were equal to the boys, punk rockers were particularly drawn to the Lolita Syndrome. This is not to suggest that Marcia was anything but a fine artist. It was her ability to keep her sessions on edge with displays of coy sexuality that drew from her subjects such light in the case of Josef Beuys, or dark in the case Belushi responses. I once noticed that in all the pictures the moments she intuitively captured are moments of tenderness she evoked. There’s a lot of trembling in her work. She was one of the most remarkable girls in that truly remarkable scene. And she played it to the hilt.
John Belushi, 1981. This was Belushi’s last photo session before his death on March 5th, 1982
Despite the notoriety of many of Resnick’s subjects, it was her ability to draw tenderness from her “bad boys” that allowed for such familiar faces such as Mick Jagger and Johnny Thunders, to be viewed freshly. Bockris’ (as well as Resnick’s) encyclopedic details of the past make for an addictive page-turning read. While reading it (something I’ve done several times already), you may also feel like the world that existed during that all too brief six-year period might disappear before your eyes if you close its pages.
The 272 pages of hedonistic gratification that is Punks, Poets and Provocateurs will be available in November. Pre-orders are happening now. Many images that were graciously provided for your perusal by Marcia Resnick (as well as a old-school interview I dug up with glam metal pioneer and NYC club promoter, Tommy Gunn) follow.
Arthur “Killer” Kane of the New York Dolls
Brian Eno, 1978
Glam metal pioneer and fixture of the New York club scene,Tommy Gunn.
Tommy Gunn interview circa 1980s on The Underground Cafe, a television show that aired on the Cable Television Network (CTN) in New Jersey.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
David Johansen and Johnny Thunders talk Sex Pistols and Tom Petty in front of CBGB’s, 1976