Essential New Music: Various Artists’ “Ork Records: New York, New York”


Terry Ork arguably ignited rock’s first label when he put Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel” on seven-inch vinyl in 1975. And he kept on doing as much with like-minded art-school dropouts, literary drug drones and real-time snot-nosed “punks” before that word came to signify a thing, a movement. All this alone earns Ork—a Jewish San Diego-to-Lower East Side transplant who hoped to make Andy Warhol-like movies—eight stars as far as ratings for historical import go. Instead of a cinema, Ork wound up managing Television, building friendships with art-hang elders (ire-fi lled critic Lester Bangs, burgeoning poet Patti Smith, Velvet burnout Lou Reed) and a host of new-to-the-Bowery band guys whose often sordid, always scintillating messy stories and messier music collectively and individually form the nearly 50 songs and 120 glossy pages of photos of Ork Box.

Collectively, this is the raw-powered, usually (surprisingly so) melodic start point of punk’s fist-to-face reign. It’s toweringly tuneful stuff when you consider the potency and contagion of Chris Stamey’s power-popping “The Summer Sun” and “Where The Fun Is,” the latter-day drooginess of Alex Chilton, and the (still) starkly anthemic “(I Belong To The) Blank Generation” from off -kilter vocalist Richard Hell and revolutionarily angular guitarist Richard Quine. Cheetah Chrome, the Feelies, Link Cromwell (a.k.a. Lenny Kaye, author and Patti Smith guitarist) and Television are still with us, and their early tracks have the gusto, dippiness and crackle of youthful effusion. The rest of Ork Box’s stars—Marbles, Erasers, Prix—are gone, like its namesake. What’s left is the warts-and-all aesthetic they created, a noise that defined their minds and their time.

—A.D. Amorosi