The Maps, “Gurl Seven” Judy Grunwald, and the Secret Stairs of Thayer Street

The Maps had "Gurl Seven" Judy Grunwald, a fierce eclectic singer, who showed with punk swagger what a sweaty stage and a secret rooftop on Thayer Street had in common.

The Maps - Album Cover art - promotional

BOSTON, 1978 – In the Summer it would get so hot and humid in Boston that it could be painful to be in a closed-up space with 100’s of people.

Heat generated from glowing amplifiers, sweating dancers and close proximity to borderline dangerous denizens of the demimonde would join with that of Mother Nature’s steaming groin in creating a swamp-like morass of sound, humidity, and temperatures approaching fried-like-an-egg levels of discomfort.

Most visitors to Thayer St. wouldn’t know about the secret stairs that led to the roof. A brisk clamber up a rickety half wood, half rusting pipe set of steps led up and out onto the roof.

Read: Gurl 52; Chapters one – five

It would be an almost emotional response when you lifted the hatch and scampered onto a broad expanse of tar paper, brick formations in various states of decay and the panoramic sweep of Boston wrapped around you.

The escape from the heat into only slightly less heat was transmogrified with only the slightest breeze into a cooling feel like that of a Fall day.

It was during a show with one of Boston’s most amazing collisions of art attitude, punk frenzy and ocd-like precision known as The Maps when Gurl Seven was first met on the roof of Thayer St.

She was nearly doubled over.

Facing the far corner made of brick it seemed like she was either looking for a contact lens or studying something of interest in the empty tar bucket that was probably left over from some roof repair probably done around the time of the Brinks robbery.

Her long, shiny hair seemed to be alive with a mind of it’s own and danced in the light from the stars, the reflections of street lamps below and the lights from the Boston Herald printing plant across the way.

Even the blast of music and noise that seeped into the night failed to register on her intense frame as the trap door was raised and a new visitor scampered onto the roof joining her and your narrator.

He anxiously scanned the football field-shaped area and at first seemed to miss Judy with his frantic gaze. With another rotation of his swiveling head he zeroed-in on her and moved quickly across the sea of black.

As he touched her, she moaned drunkenly and seemed to collapse into herself. From far away the discordance of their two voices seemed an equal mix of shame, disgust, capitulation and pleading cut with the underlying bass notes of a failing relationship.

After almost a half-hour Judy was led, stumbling across the roof, through the trap door and disappeared down the stairs where she then went onstage and gave an incredible performance.

Judy was an enigma. Scary smart, fashion forward, otherworldly looks and a vocal style all her own. The rumors surrounding her were almost as numerous as men and women who crushed on her. She had been adopted by wealthy parents and was a teenage runaway. She was from Austria and had come to the U.S. On a full ride to Harvard. She was a junkie on the run from a pimp and many others.

She was mysterious and luminescent. She was Boston.

The Maps would sadly be as short-lived as the most incandescent combos often are. While they were together the sounds they made were foundational.

The fella who led Judy off the roof was her boyfriend/guitarist/songwriter for the band Bob. Along with the sepulchral bassist Dan and powerhouse drummer Jim, the Maps played angular and graceful pop fueled by the freedom of punk.

With Judy’s brooding voice floating thru and in-between the oddly orchestral music they were captivatingly easy to watch onstage. Judy was the fixed object of hidden desires and longing looks by most who watched them perform.

When other bands write songs about you, it must be hard to not to be simultaneously creeped-out and embarrassed.

After the Maps broke-up Judy floated around the scene for a while until she formed a trio of her own called Salem 66. They were an improbable mix of Mimi Farina, Wire and front-row seat to the witch trials.

The bass player of Salem 66 was the sister of the Gurl your humble narrator would plumb those first depths of co-habitation with to somewhat disastrous effect. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

Judy eventually married David, the beloved leader of one of Boston’s most beloved punk bands, The Neighborhoods. They have two immaculately beautiful children and have been happy for a long time or, that may be just another Judy rumor.

No secrets were spilled in the writing of this piece.

David Bailey is the main character of “The Devil’s Drool” and known mostly for his photography, awareness and an uncanny ability to catch things he should not see.

Punk rock music can be heard regularly on John Carlucci’s SpeedieJohn program on
Channel 21 of Little Stevens Underground Garage on Sirius XM Satellite radio.

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