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Studio 54 Photos: Contrasting Punk and Disco Music Scenes in 1970s New York.

Studio 54 Photos: Contrasting Punk and Disco Music Scenes in 1970s New York.

Above Photo: CBGBs and Studio 54 in late 1970s New York.

All Studio 54 photos below are gratefully used and © Tod Papageorge.

In the 1977 chapter of Bombed Out!, my Punk and New Wave Memoir, I dismissively deal with New York’s Mecca to Disco music, cocaine and late-1970s excesses, more commonly known as Studio 54, in a sentence.

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The chapter heading references an Punk song by Eater.

However, to give the place (and the Disco music industry it engorged) its due, it had a significant impact as it turned my attention towards Punk music and away from the over-commercialised shite in the British (and, worse, US) charts at that impressionable time of my life.

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I love this photo of Studio 54 revellers relaxing. I think it’s because of the confident stare of the woman on the sofa.

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Meanwhile, another confident woman, Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, sings onstage at CBGBs, across town from Studio 54.

Of course with the passage of time I can now look back on some outstanding disco music from that period (and I even acknowledge the subsequent brilliance of Chic and Sister Sledge in my book), but as a Punked-up 15 year old there was only one view to take of Disco and Studio 54; and believe me, it wasn’t flattering.

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Revellers in Studio 54.

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“Revellers” in the audience at CBGBs at a Motels gig.

Studio 54 was a world-famous New York nightclub that operated under that name from 1977 to 1986.

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New York’s Elite relax in Studio 54….

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While Punk’s Elite – Sid Vicious, Mick Jones, and two New York Dolls (Jerry Nolan and Arthur Kane on bass) perform at Max’s Kansas City, just blocks away from Studio 54 in 1978.

Located at 254 West 54th Street in Manhattan, the building was originally built in 1927 as an Opera House, but it had many different owners and uses, including, for a time, as a successful CBS studio (called Studio 52).

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More Studio 54 revellers.

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And more Punk revellers: Dee Dee Ramone plays bass with the Ramones at CBGB’s in 1977.

In 1977 the theater was transformed into a nightclub called Studio 54 by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.

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An exterior shot of Studio 54.

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An interior shot of CBGBs at 4am (David Godlis)

Apparently, considerable work went into its design to promote a constantly changing dynamic in a brightly-lit club.

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Partygoers crash out in Studio 54 after a New Year’s Eve party in 1977.

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Patti Smith Group onstage at late-night CBGBs in 1977.

From 1977 – 1979, Studio 54 was THE place to go to be seen in New York – unless you were a Punk, in which case CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City would have been your better options, obviously.

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Bianca Jagger on a white horse in Studio 54 on her birthday in May 1977. (A controversy that still bizarrely rages today – did she ride it or sit on it? – the latter, apparently.)

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No controverisies here, but the band still play today: Blondie at a 1977 CBGB’s gig.

The list of Studio 54 regulars reads like a Who’s Who, and included Andy Warhol, Elton John, Elizabeth Taylor, Sylvester Stalone, Freddie Mercury, Truman Capote, Diana Ross, Cher, John Travolta and Olivia Newton John (obviously), Woody Allen and Salvador Dali.

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Cher at Studio 54.

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While across town, Elvis Costello gigs with Richard Hell at CBGBs

World class fashion designers, Hollywood actors, politicians, actors and actresses, sportsmen, musicians, Wall Street Wolves and New York’s Social Elite were all regular attenders and keen to be photographed in the club.

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New York’s High Society let it all hang out at Studio 54.

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While Punk’s High Society, in the form of the Dead Boys, play a CBGBs gig in 1977.

One commentator said of Studio 54’s highly restrictive door policy: “To be allowed to grace the premises, one had to be exceedingly famous, wealthy or stunningly gorgeous. Most of the mere mortals who tried to enter its hallowed halls were icily rebuffed by door hosts, whose lofty position was comprised of keeping the select few in and the rest of the world out, making those unable to enter all the more eager for a taste.”

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Friendships being made at Studio 54

And friendships being made across town in CBGBs: The Dead Boys pose with Betti Ringma.

And friendships being made in CBGBs: The Dead Boys pose with Bettie Ringma. (Bettie Ringma)

In December 1978 Rubell was quoted in the New York newspapers as saying that Studio 54 had made $7 million in its first year and that “only the Mafia made more money”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, shortly thereafter the nightclub was raided and Rubell and Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million.

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A late night dancer at Studio 54 keep going as people crash out nearby.

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While the band played on: The Damned at CGBGs in 1977.

From 1981 to April 1986, Studio 54 continued under new ownership, although from 1988 until early 1993 the club changed its name from Studio 54 to The Ritz.

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More wealthy New York Studio 54-goers, including Bianca Jagger (and Andy Warhol third from right at the back?).

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They were missing the Ramones at CBGBs in 1977.

Then the irony: the club became strictly a concert venue for New Wave, Punk, and Eurodisco artists (although using the US definition of Punk, not the UK’s by then).

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John Travolta and Olivia Newton john kiss at Studio 54.

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British Punk band X-Ray Spex pose outside CBGB’s before their 1977 gig there.

Interestingly, the building housing Studio 54 had another, solid, Punk and New Wave link:  in 1965, the building had housed Scepter Records’ offices, warehouse space and a recording studio, where The Velvet Underground & Nico album was recorded in April 1966. (See You Tube track below).

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Another great photo from inside Studio 54.

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And a great one from inside the dressing room of CBGBs: British New Wave band The Jam before their 1977 gig.

I read one quote that the music of Studio 54 was the “Soundtrack of hedonistic self-indulgence”. Ironically, with the benefit of distance, the same could be said of my own experience of the Punk Period – but with a lot less money.

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New York’s ‘Glitterati’ crash out after an exhausting night partying. (Nice ice sculpture too).

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Meanwhile, over at CBGBs, Talking Heads are onstage…

And to finish – a little-known fact: The disco track below, Le Freak, was written after Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic were refused entry to Studio 54 when they were supposed to be on Grace Jones’s guest list for New Year’s Eve in 1977. They went home, pretty pissed off and wrote the song.

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Cocksure: A couple of dancers at Studio 54…

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While across town, Sting, of The Police, gets his out at CBGBs at their 1977 gig.

The lyrics reference the long customer queues, snooty clientele, and rude doormen. The original lyrics of the refrain were “Fuck off!” rather than “Freak out” and were later changed.

Ironically it went on to become a Studio 54 favourite track.

Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php

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Wait! Isn’t that the New York Dolls in Studio 54?! Well, it could almost be…

This is one of my favourite tracks off The Velvet underground & Nico album:

And one of my all-time favourite Disco tracks (with a phenomenal bass line):

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 www.bombedoutpunk.com © Peter Alan Lloyd

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