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It Happened Here: Album Covers

Bob Dylan & Suze Rotolo on Jones Street

The Village and East Village have long been the home of music-makers and music venues; their streets and sites on more than one occasion the inspiration for song-writers and the subject of many a song line.

But perhaps nothing has imprinted an image of these neighborhoods in the popular music-consuming consciousness in the same way as their depiction on the cover of record albums.  And some of the most iconic album covers of the last few generations were shot in the Village and East Village.

As mentioned in a prior post marking the death of Suze Rotolo, the cover of the epoch-making album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was shot at the head of one-block long Jones Street in the South (some might say West) Village.  Recently landmarked after several years of agitation by GVSHP and a broad coalition of community groups, Jones Street today looks not much different than it did in 1963, the main difference being the addition of street trees some time in the last forty-eight years.

Jones Street today

The Ramones third album cover, 1977

Heading east, Extra Place, a tiny alley coming off 1st Street between the Bowery and Second Avenue, is probably one of the least known streets anywhere in Manhattan.  But it was well-known to performers at CBGB’s, located at 313 Bowery, which had a rear exit that led out onto it. It was there that the Ramones made Extra Place an emblem of the nascent punk movement when they shot the cover for their third album, ‘Rocket to Russia,’ there in 1977.

There’s little sign of those days on Extra Place now, as condo and dorm construction on almost all sides have erased most of the gritty, bare-brick walls.  In fact, the Extra Place of 1977 looked to have much more in common, visually at least, with the Extra Place of 1934 as captured in the photo below from the archives of the New York Public Library than it does with the Extra Place of today.

Extra Place today
Extra Place today
Extra Place, 1934, courtesy New York Public Library
Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti

Several blocks east but a year (and arguably an entire musical generation) earlier, Led Zeppelin immortalized the twin tenements at 96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place between First Avenue and Avenue A for the cover of their album Physical Graffiti.  The cover featured the two buildings (with the fourth floors removed to make them fit the square shape of the album cover) with the windows cut out to reveal the letters of the album title printed on the inner sleeve, or, if the sleeve was reversed, a series of images of different characters seeming to occupy the building, including lead-singer Robert Plant in drag.

The buildings earn double notoriety in rock and roll history as the place where Keith Richards meets Mick Jagger in the video for ‘Waiting on a Friend’ (the two end up meeting the rest of the band and playing in the bar just a few doors down at 132 First Avenue and St. Mark’s, now known as V Bar).  96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place’s place in popular cultural history is now noted by the presence of a used clothing store in the basement called Physical Graffiti.  According to GVSHP’s East Village research, these old-law or ‘dumbbell’ tenements were constructed in 1890.

96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place today

Do you know of any other album covers depicting slices of the Village or East Village?

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