No Wave: Underground 80

NO WAVE – Underground 80: Berlin – New York
Documentary 2009 (52 min) (German)
Director: Christoph Dreher & Ellen El Malki
Production: Kloos & Co. Medien for ZDF in Cooperation with ARTE TV

The following documentary videos are in German. Despite the lack of available translation, I recommend watching all of the footage to appreciate the connections and energy flow between the various artists populating the 1980s sub-cultures of New York and Berlin. Features Jim Jarmusch, Lydia Lunch, Blixa Bargeld, Alex Hacke, Gudrun Gut, Nick Cave, and others. An important film. Bravo, Mr. Dreher.

More ‘NO WAVE’ documentary clips under the page cut.  HINT: Nick’s segments are in Parts 2 and 3.


BOOK:  NO WAVE. POST PUNK. UNDERGROUND. NEW YORK. 1976 – 1980. Written and complied by Thurston Moore and Byron Coley. Below is Lydia Lunch’s introduction to the book, published in a NY Times excerpt written by author’s Moore and Coley (June 12, 2008):

New York City during the 1970s was a beautiful, ravaged slag — impoverished and neglected after suffering from decades of abuse and battery. She stunk of sewage, sex, rotting fish, and day-old diapers. She leaked from every pore.

[Expletive] was already percolating by the time I hit Manhattan as a teen terror in 1976. Inspired by the manic rantings of Lester Bangs in Creem magazine, the Velvet Underground’s sarcastic wit, the glamour of the New York Dolls’ first album, and the poetic scat of Horses, by Patti Smith, I snuck out my bedroom window, jumped on a Greyhound, and crash-landed in a bigger ghetto than the one I had just escaped from. But with two hundred bucks in my pocket tucked inside a notebook full of misanthropic screed, a baby face that belied a hustler’s instinct, and a killer urge to create in order to destroy everything that had originally inspired me, I didn’t give a flying [expletive] if the Bowery smelled like dog [expletive].

I wasn’t expecting the toilets at CBGB’s to be the bookends to Duchamp’s urinal, but then again, maybe 1977 had more in common with 1917 than anyone at the time could have imagined. The anti-art invasion of Dada in Switzerland and the surrealist pranksters who shadowed them had a blast pissing all over everybody’s expectations. The anti-everything of No Wave was a collective caterwaul that defied categorization, defiled the audience, despised convention, [expletive] in the face of history, and then split. It’s only a movement in retrospect. Post-Suicide, pre­Sonic Youth New York was the devil’s dirty litter box. No Wave was the waste product of Taxi Driver, Times Square, the Son of Sam, the blackout of ’77, widespread political corruption, rampant poverty, the failure of the Summer of Love, the [expletive] of Charles Manson, the hell of the Vietnam War, and a desperate need to violently rebel against the complacency of a zombie nation dumbed down by sitcoms and disco. Yes, we were angry, ugly, snotty, and loud. But better to brutalize the audience with screeching guitars and piercing screams than to beat them over the head with fists and feet … which, okay, sometimes we did, but most nights we’d rather [expletive] than fight. You guessed right if you thought the toilets of CBGB’s sang a song of diseased lust to my raging hormones.

Beneath the scowls of derision, the antagonism and acrimony, and the nearly unbearable shrillness that was our soundtrack, we were howling with delight, laughing like lunatics in the madhouse that was New York City, thrilled to be rubbing up against the freaks and other outcasts, who somehow, for some unknowable reason, had all decided to run to land’s end and all at once scream their bloody heads off.

Lydia Lunch, July 10, 2007

BLOG:  Laura Levine’s ‘Class of NO WAVE reunion’ post features impressive photos of the July 13, 2008 book party organized by Moore and Coley to celebrate the release of their book. Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (Lydia Lunch, Jim Sclavunos) reunited to perform a set for the ‘New York No Wave’ gang.


3 thoughts on “No Wave: Underground 80

  1. Thank you so very much for posting this video. I am a big fan of Nick’s but I am also really obsessed with the Berlin music scene of that era and the video is really really great. My german is ok so I can understand it (finally!)I have watched it several times now. You have probably found Kid Congo’s memoirs online, anyway, some of the characters of berlin are on this film, such as the bartender from Risiko, the famous bar they used to all hang out in, in Kreuzberg.

  2. Wot ? No Comments ?
    Part 2 18:05 – appr 18:56
    Nick The Philosopher
    Truly, it’s worth watching the whole movie just for that bit 🙂 Lol


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