Boston, MA, 1978 – The train into Boston was half-full of louche college students coming down from a Friday night of eight balls, Proust and the boring music that seemed to have sprouted from the detritus of hippie dreams and cosmic cowboys.
Riding from Worcester you got the notion, as you got closer to the city, that there were big thoughts brewing that were distinctly revolution bound.
The graffiti in the stations along the way went from “for a good time call your mama” to scrawled lyrics from the Rolling Stones darkest period and in Concord, there was a quote from “Walden” scrawled in what appeared to be blood.
Disembarking in South Station in 1978 was like walking into a roly-poly version of Times Square. Friends, no doubt, of Eddie Coyle hung in the shadows and the aroma of burnt coffee and unwashed genitals hung like the funk in New Orleans.
The journey was made by your humble narrator and a co-worker for a nice, little Boston punk rock excursion. The ticket for the Blondie/David Johansen show at the Paradise had been purchased weeks beforehand and burned like a flaming bush in a cheap wallet thugging a faded denim hip.
There was time to kill before the show and of course the obligatory trip to Harvard Square to score loose joints was made soon after checking into the Sheraton.
The “T” in Boston, more specifically the “Red Line” to Cambridge was using cars that first saw service in the 50’s providing a clanging, lurching, sparks flashing journey to the station. Up three flights of stairs was the only way out of that subterranean maw and on the second flight Susanna Peyton flashed into sight.
Susanna had attended a conference of mental health providers where she made her presence known at the first lunch by talking with passion about Public Image.
She looked amazing in that post-hippie, quasi Annie Hall way that so many foxy young women in their twenties affected then.
Eyes, locked. “Why hello theres” were tossed with pheromonal abandon. Immediate decisions were made to meet in the North End for espresso.
So, there you are. Eighteen-years-old. The sum total of your sexual experience was some full-throated snogging, a couple sessions of finger banging drunk chicks on the verge of passing out (“you like me, right?”) and a heap of tosses to everything from the Sears catalog “Ladies Undergarments” section and porn found in the woods.
Then a stone fox you met on the subway like a scene from an Al Pacino 70’s love story is making plans for your hook-up. The minutes from then until the 3:00 P.M. meeting crawled like ants on eyeballs in a Bunel film.
The Modern was the scene. Espresso, old, bearded Italian grannys staring at you over plates of tiny cookies, full-on guidos with horn necklaces nestled in impossibly forrested chests of hair and us.
To say it was magical makes magic seem pedestrian. The words flowed like wine. Our love of the burgeoning musical movement known variously as “punk,” “new wave” and “that god damned noise” wrapped itself in our cooing patter delivered in a roughly-burnished sheen of tough city sense and visions of our own revolutions to come.
The walk from the North End to downtown was full of those casual glances and “accidental” electrifying touches of skin-to-skin that have informed the beast with two backs since time began.
The Sheraton loomed up and rolled out to sweep us in and up to the room. Susanna was an experienced veteran of free love and that weird 60’s notion of fucking for the revolution. Before the hump she seriously said “oh, you are good” in a husky rasp that was like music to virginal ears.
Like Diane Keaton in “Mr. Goodbar” when Susanna was finished she exchanged pleasantries, showered and then left with a cheery “that was fun.”
When my co-worker came back from shopping for souvenirs I couldn’t wait to tell him. He sniffed “oh, I thought you were gay, that’s why I asked you to come with me.” That’s another story though.
David Johansen was opening for Blondie. Syl Sylvain was in his band. I had first heard New York Dolls in 72 when I got their first album from the Cassette Club of America. I loved it!
I loved David’s stuff too. Not as much as I had been crushing on Blondie. Chris Stein had crafted the hard stuff out of the pure pop of my youth filtered through the Dolls Mercer Street scene and given it a wickedly bitter edge.
Having arrived early a table in front of the stage was secured. In those days the drinking age was 18 and drugs were easy to come by. When Johansen came on doing “Funky But Chic” it was like a dream come true.
Now Boston, for all its landmass is still a kind of small town. It came to be known that Gurl 6 and her sister were at the next table and Gurl 37 was waitressing that night. Wheee-ls within squeals within six, six, six degrees of separation.
The 666 mention will become an “a-ha” moment in a later screed.
It should be noted that after this show a midnight visit to the Brattle theater was made for the showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” with the co-worker from Worcester. After futilely trying to hold hands for a while he gave-up and true to his Bowie bisexual streak ended-up marrying Gurl 3.
Don’t dream it, be it.
No one was harmed during the writing of this article.
This is the first of a 52 part series of Arturo Bienewski’s exclusive serialization of his upcoming history of punk rock “52 Gurls.”
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