New York City's music scene was perhaps never more vibrant than it was in the early '80s when new wave, no wave, punk, hip hop, jazz, electro, salsa, disco and pop were all thriving and intermingling. That fertile period, when the city was home to Talking Heads, Madonna, LL Cool J, Cyndi Lauper, The Lounge Lizards, Blondie, Run DMC, The Ramones, John Zorn, Sonic Youth, Suzanne Vega, Beastie Boys, Laurie Anderson, DNA, Arthur Russell, Kurtis Blow, The Feelies, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and more, is the subject of a new exhibit titled "New York, New Music 1980–1986" that opened today at Museum of the City of New York:

During the early 1980s, New York experienced a community-driven musical renaissance. The result was an era of creativity and genre-defying performance that stands as one of the most influential in musical and cultural history. A wide range of music, from punk to pop to hip-hop to salsa to jazz, mixed in a dynamic arts scene that stretched across clubs and bars, theaters, parks, and art spaces. Together, they provided fertile ground for a musical revolution—one that continues to influence pop culture to this day. Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of MTV, New York, New Music: 1980–1986 will highlight diverse musical artists—from Run DMC to the Talking Heads, from Madonna to John Zorn—as a lens to explore the broader music and cultural scene, including the innovative media outlets, venues, record labels, fashion and visual arts centered in New York City in these years.

"New York, New Music 1980–1986" features over 350 objects, including photos, video, artifact and other items from the era, including video footage, photography, show flyers, artifacts, and more, including:

  • Photographs by Janette Beckman, Martha Cooper, Joe Conzo, William Coupon, Bob Gruen, Laura Levine, Ebet Roberts, Chris Stein and others
  • Flyers for Beastie Boys; Bad Brains; Sonic Youth; Teenage Jesus; The Feelies; and Gray and DNA at CBGB
  • An MTV Music Awards Moon Person Award Statue
  • Vinyl Records from Madonna, Funky 4+1, Liquid Liquid, and Konk
  • A Zoot Suit and hat worn by Kid Creole
  • A t-shirt and other ephemera from Keith Haring and DJ Larry Levan’s “Party of Life” event at Paradise Garage
  • Guitars from Tim Wright, Arto Lindsay, and Richard McGuire
  • “Merman” costume worn by Joey Arias in “Mermaids on Parade” at Danceteria

The exhibit was timed with the upcoming 40th anniversary of MTV and features a wealth of live video shot in clubs all over the city, including rare footage of Arthur Russell, Grandmaster Flash, Fort Apache Band, Lounge Lizards, Talking Heads, Cyndi Lauper, Kid Creole & The Coconuts, Konk Vs Liquid Liquid, Keith Haring's Party of Life, Sonic Youth, Madonna's 1982 live debut (opening for A Certain Ratio at Danceteria) and lots more.


The"New York, New Music 1980–1986"  exhibition runs through Spring 2022 and will feature a number of special events, including movie screenings and more, including: a screening of Martin Scorsese's classic 1985 film After Hours on (June 17 at 7:30 PM), a screening of Def Jam musical Krush Groove (July 15 at 7:30 PM), and a virtual conversation with Suzanne Vega (June 22 at 7 PM, free), a screening of Susan Seidelman's Feelies-soundtracked punk film Smithereens (September 9 at 6:30 PM)and more TBA.

Timed tickets for the exhibit are on sale now.

Speaking of rare punk and post-punk photos, photographer and director Michael Grecco has a new book Punk, Post Punk, New Wave: Onstage, Backstage, In Your Face 1978-1991-- featuring photos of Dead Kennedys, The Cramps, Human League, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Slits, The Clash, Ministry, Billy Idol, Wendy O. Williams and The Plasmatics, Adam Ant, Lene Lovich, and more -- that you can pick up in the BrooklynVegan shop.


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