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  • No Wave Now
  • Lydia Lunch (bio)

NO WAVE was the bastard offspring of taxi driver, Times Square, the son of sam, the blackout of ’77, the dud of the summer of love, the hate-fuck of charles manson, the hell of the vietnam war, kent state . . . the kennedy assassinations. It was a mad collective of death-defiant miscreants desperate to rebel against the apathetic complacency of a zombie nation dumbed down by sitcoms, disco, fast food, and professional wrestling.

Yes, we were angry, ugly, snotty, and loud. We used music and art as a battering ram and a form of psychic self-defense against our own naturally violent tendencies, an extreme reaction against everything the 1960s had promised, but failed to deliver. A collective mania that shot through the night skies of a decade riddled with the aftermath of all the failures and frustrations that had come before it.

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Figure 1.

Lydia Lunch at age 14. Image courtesy of the author.

[End Page 243]

But beneath the scowls of derision, the antagonism and acrimony, the beautifully hideous harangues and the nearly unbearable shrill of that grotesque soundtrack, which our lives defined, we were howling with delight, laughing like lunatics at the brink of the apocalypse in a madhouse the size of all New York City, thrilled to be rubbing up against the freaks and outcasts who somehow for some reason had all decided to run to land’s end and all at once scream their bloody heads off.

New York City during the late 1970s and early ’80s was a beautifully ravaged slag, impoverished and neglected after suffering from decades of abuse and battery. She stunk of sex, drugs, and aerosol paint.

I didn’t give a flying fuck if the Bowery smelled like dogshit. I wasn’t expecting the toilets at CBGB’s to be the bookend to Duchamp’s urinals, but then maybe 1977 had more in common with 1917 than anyone would have imagined.

Long before family-friendly gentrification and capital-gain criminality whitewashed New York City of all its kaleidoscopic perversions in order to make it safe for anyone who could afford the ridiculous rents charged for shoe-box sized apartments, the Lower East Side played crash pad, shooting gallery, and bordello to dozens of art school dropouts, avant-noise musicians, radical poets, no-budget filmmakers, and fly-on-the-wall photographers who all lived in glorious squalor in cheap tenement flats at spitting distance from each other’s front window. [End Page 244]

A drug-fueled, no-holds-barred, blood-soaked pornucopia of art terrorists documenting their personal descent into the bowels of an inferno in a city that felt like the lunatics had taken over the asylum. It was the perfect setting to inspire radical experimentation, in the most extreme ways possible. Art, music, films, poetry—all stripped down to their bare essence. A veritable Theater of Cruelty that mirrored back at society the brutality from which it had failed to protect its godless children.

Creativity acts as a rogue virus spontaneously combusting, splattering the brain matter of its host carriers across a finite terrain for a fleeting amount of time, forever staining the landscape.

Hippie radicals flocked to Haight-Ashbury during The Summer of Love, seeking revolution before the acid wore off. Heavyweight Southern African Americans migrated north looking for paid work and ended up singing the Blues in Chicago in the 1940s. The Devil hollered when he caught his Great Balls of Fire in Memphis throughout the 1950s. The scandalous theatrics and outrageous decadence of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s fostered an uprise in both prostitution and performance art, making the Golden Age of Hollywood in the “Dirty 30s” seem quaint by comparison.

The boisterous orgy that had begun in Andy Warhol’s Factory in the swinging ‘60s had become a bloated Technicolor corpse kicked to the curb by the gutter punks and No Wave nihilists of the late 1970s whose idea of a good time was [End Page 245] defined by how much noise they could make, how much art they could create, and how much trouble they could cause before the cops...


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pp. 243-246
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