The Grammy Awards are returning to New York this weekend, which got us thinking about all the places here that are important to the history of music. From the days when jazz musicians dubbed New York “the Big Apple,” the City has been the place to make it big. A lot of the most famous music venues have been lost over the years to development and changing tastes, but many more always pop up, seemingly weekly in Brooklyn and Queens.
315 Bowery, CBGB’s (1973-2006)
Opened in 1973 by Hilly Kristal to showcase Country, BlueGrass & Blues, CBGB’s quickly became the in-place for new music. The East Village dive was a must play for the early punk and new wave bands. The Ramones, the Misfits, Television, Blondie, the B-52’s, Joan Jett, The Talking Heads, and Patti Smith all got their start there.
126-38 East 14th Street, Academy of Music (1927-1976)/Palladium (1976-1997)
On their first US tour in 1965, the Rolling Stones played at the Academy of Music, a movie palace and music venue. In 1976, The Band played the first show under the newly named Palladium. It saw a wide range of music acts, including the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, U2, Def Leppard, P. Diddy, and Lil’ Kim. From 1985 to 1997 it was a nightclub with the same name, it’s now a dormitory for NYU students.
289 Hudson Street, the Half Note Club (1957-1972)
The Half Note Club was one of the premier places to hear jazz in the 1960s, and at least a half-dozen records were “live from the Half Note.” John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderly, Billie Holiday, and Judy Garland all performed here before it became a topless bar in 1974. It’s now a deli.
511-27 West 18th Street, Roxy Nightclub (1978-2006)
This former garage was transformed into a roller disco at the height of that craze in 1978. Its wooden floors proved excellent for dancing as well and the Roxy became the place where the downtown art world, the punks and the Bronx b-boys all mingled. The Friday night parties in the early 80s were an important showcase for early hip-hop and breakdancing, and Saturday nights hosted the largest weekly gay dance party. Madonna, Blondie, Talking Heads, Run-DMC, Kraftwerk, The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Whitney Houston, Bette Midler, Cher, and Mariah Carey all performed there as well as legions of dance music DJs.
30-32 West 21st Street, Danceteria (1979-1986)
The second location of Danceteria had four floors of dancers hidden behind this dour façade. In its short-lived location it was known for new wave and post-punk music as well as early hip hop. Madonna, New Order, Duran Duran, Billy Idol, The Smiths, Cyndi Lauper, Depeche Mode, Sonic Youth, the Violent Femmes, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the Beastie Boys, and LL Cool J all played here. If you missed hanging out with Madonna here, watch Desperately Seeking Susan. Danceteria reopened in the Martha Washington Hotel ballroom from 1989 to 1992 and a Hamptons’ outpost ran from 1984 to 1995.
286-88 Lenox Avenue, Lenox Lounge (1939-2012)
This legendary art deco lounge survived for decades before submitting to changing tastes and development. Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and a host of jazz greats all played here.
119/125 East 11th Street, Webster Hall/The Ritz (1980-1992)
A theater and event space since 1886, Webster Hall was an important stop for union organizers and radicals like Emma Goldman. In the 1950s it was known as a folk music venue, with performers such as Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, as well as Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and Frank Sinatra. In 1980, a club called The Ritz (1980-1992) took over the space, and performers such as U2, Guns & Roses, Depeche Mode, Ozzy Osbourne, Run-DMC, and Duran Duran played gigs there. In the 1980s a new cable music channel called MTV broadcast its first live show from here and “Live from the Ritz” was a regular feature.
1546 62nd Street, L’Amour (1978-2004)
Located in a former industrial laundry building in New Utrecht, Brooklyn, L’Amour became known as the place to see hard rock in Brooklyn. On the night this photo was taken Quiet Riot was on the bill, and L’Amour was host to Metallica, Kiss, Blue Oyster Cult, Guns N’ Roses, The Ramones, Slayer, Anthrax, Cheap Trick, Jane’s Addiction, Sound Garden, Iron Maiden and a lot of hairspray.
34-56 107th Street, Queens, Louis Armstrong’s House (1943-1971)
This unassuming little house in Corona, Queens was home to jazz great Louis Armstrong and his wife Lucille. But more than just their home, it housed a recording studio and was where Armstrong worked on new music and entertained visiting musicians. The house is now run as a museum and archive of his work.
1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Bronx
An unremarkable apartment building in the South Bronx, like many others, but in 1973 something magical happened here. Cindy Campbell rented out the building’s small rec room for a party on August 11, 1973. Her brother Clive, DJ Kool Herc, showed his new technique of mixing the beats from two copies of the same record to extend the break for the dancers. His friend Coke La Rock rapped over the beats. It was the birth of a new type of music that would become known as hip hop, and inspired Grandmaster Flash, KRS-One, Afrika Bambaataa and many other kids in attendance to run home and imitate the new sound. When a friend and I snuck into the building ten years ago, the rec room was sadly filled with snow blowers and maintenance equipment, but in 2017 Mayor de Blasio renamed the street Hip Hop Boulevard.
253-59 West 125th Street, Apollo Theater
The most famous music venue in Harlem was opened as a “Whites Only” burlesque theater in 1914. It reopened as the Apollo Theater in 1934. From the swing bands of the 1930s to soul and gospel, rock, and blues, the Apollo has been host to Duke Ellington, Count Basie, the Staple Sisters, Mahalia Jackson, Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, Buddy Holly, Billie Holiday, Diana Ross & the Supremes, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, James Brown, George Clinton and the Parliament-Funkadelic, Al Green, and in 2012 President Barack Obama singing Let’s Stay Together to Al Green.
215-28 West 23rd Street, the Chelsea Hotel
Opened in 1884, as a grand Co-Op Apartment building, the Hotel Chelsea became a long-term hotel for generations of bohemians, including artists, writers, and musicians. Famous musical residents included the Grateful Dead, Nico, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd, Madonna, and Jimi Hendrix. Bob Dylan composed Blonde On Blonde in room 211, and later wrote about the experience. Leonard Cohen wrote Chelsea Hotel #2, a song about hooking up with Janis Joplin in room 222. Most infamously, Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen rented room 100 in 1978 and after several months of epic drug abuse, Spungen was found stabbed to death in their bathroom. Sid Vicious was charged with the crime but died of a heroin overdose before the trial.
105 Second Avenue, the Fillmore East (1968-1971)
In 1968 the rock promoter Bill Graham bought a run-down movie theater built in the 1920s as a Yiddish theater, and renamed it the Fillmore East, after his Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. In its short-lived existence, Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, Joe Cocker, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young, Derek & the Dominos, King Crimson, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin, and Frank Zappa all played the venue, and dozens of live albums were recorded there. After a few other incarnations, the theater was gutted and it became apartments. The lobby is now an Apple Bank.
All photographs featured in this post come from the Department of Finance Tax Photograph collections and can be ordered from the New York City Municipal Archives.