Sonic Youth and John Zorn feature in The South Bank Show’s head long dive into the New York underground.
“In the ’80s, it’s difficult to identify any particular rock avant garde sound likely to develop into a major movement, as the scene is so fragmented it almost defies definition.”
A bastion of culture on the Beeb for over thirty years, this episode 1989 of Melvyn Bragg’s South Bank Show has become a “New York artefact” in its own right – showcasing an experimental, patchwork documentary by NYC film-maker Charles Atlas called “Put Blood In The Music”. A collage of street-scapes and cut-up talking heads that reflect the “frenetic” and “self-conscious” scene at its most disparate, the film now feels like a work of video art in its own right.
Featuring a brilliantly whacky interview with experimental jazz man John Zorn (reclining cheekily in front of his masses of vinyl) and some pretty incredible rehearsal footage with Sonic Youth, it’s a DIY romp the likes of which you’d never see on primetime TV these days. Even Melvyn Bragg doesn’t seem completely sure what to make of it.
Either way, we think it makes for fantastic Friday afternoon viewing. You can watch the full documentary below and read about another legend of the NYC underground, Moondog, here.