Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground

by Jim Provenzano
Sunday Jul 20, 2014
Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground

Rock stars die, but the sounds and sights of the 1970s punk and glam stars live on in the hearts and minds of fans, and in captivating photos by Paul Zone, whose new book, "Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground," shares rarely seen images of the rock revolution.

Before and after he became a minor sensation with he and his brothers' band The Fast, then in the electronic duo band Man 2 Man, and as a DJ, Paul Zone took thousands of photographs of bands at such historic clubs as Max's Kansas City, Club 82 and CBGB through the New York glam and punk era of the 1970s.

Working with music editor Jake Austen, this sturdy 208-page hardcover book is perfect for any retro music fan, or person of a certain age who still relishes a bit of glitter or a safety pin as a fashion accessory.

Zone was there when Blondie premiered, and the innocent youthful images of Debbie Harry (who co-wrote the book's foreword) are astonishing in their freshness. The band looks like they're playing a basement party of teenagers. He captures members of The Ramones in casual moments, designers like Steven Sprouse and Anna Sui posing casually or with teeth-glaring smiles.

"In the early seventies no one really cared what you did, and everyone experimented with sexuality and drugs -- at least in Manhattan," Zone writes in his introduction. In one of several memoir chapters, he describes his teenage life of club-going 'til 4 am, then getting to school late and exhausted, only after washing off the previous night's glitter or sweat.

Zone shares a touching summary of his upbringing, and how he came to be one of three gay/bi brothers whose working class father would scream, "No good is going to come from your lifestyle!" But it was because they were musicians, not because they were gay.

Even those definitions -- gay, bisexual, queer -- were more fluid for people in the scene, including Zone and his band mates, whose lyrics did take on gay subtexts, as in "Jack is a Jock" and "Boys Will Be Boys."

The queer elements of this androgynous era are captured with flair and a casual intimate bluntness. Wayne County shocked some with fishnet stockings and bustiers. Photographed at his iconic concert where Rock and Roll Animal was recorded as a live album, Lou Reed is seen at a distance, in dark eye make-up, a black T-shirt and jeans, the iconic butch queer of the era.

Lance Loud, the gay star of the pioneering reality show An American Family, and the pop-punk band The Mumps, is shown in several photos, some with co-composer Kristian Hoffman, and in a haunting landscape with the World Trade Center far in the background. Author Zone became close with Loud, and often accompanied him as a photographer for rock music interviews, although most of his images in this amazing book did not originally make it to print.

There are many people documented in the book who've since died: The Ramones, Loud, Reed, and almost the book's author. Zone was hospitalized for a collapsed lung in 1981 after a show.

Fortunately, he survived, and went on to become an international sensation with his electronic duo Man 2 Man, whose song "Male stripper" became popular in gay clubs through the growing disco-electro early 1980s. Zone tells of his adventures in the '80s as an electro hunk pop sensation with honesty and a sense of awe.

But it is the photos of others that comprise the bulk of the book. In color and black and white, KISS, The New York Dolls, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Alice Cooper, Patti Smith and many others are captured at the early moments of their fame.

Playground shares Zone's intimate celebration of a bygone era in American music, an era to which today's often talent-free "artists" owe everything.

"Playground: Growing Up in the New York Underground"
Glitterati Incorporated

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