Listening To And Reading NYC’s Underground Music Scene Of The 1970s

Listening To And Reading NYC’s Underground Music Scene Of The 1970s
Arts & Culture

Will Hermes, author of a history of the city's punk rock, hip-hop, disco, salsa, and loft jazz culture, blends music and story together via Soundcloud.

Liz Walsh
  • 23 november 2011

Will Hermes has resurrected the underground music scene and culture of the 1970s in his new book, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire. The senior critic for Rolling Stone Magazine and contributor to NPR‘s ‘All Things Considered‘ has approached the release in an innovative way: uploading Soundcloud clips to stimulate curiosity by blending music from the era and highlights from the book.

Hermes credits Gil Scott Heron with being one of the first rappers, a musician who brought spoken poetry into loft jazz. Music picks up where curiosity leaves off, and the history of the movement fades away as the listener is drawn in by the sounds of 1974, with Heron speaking over a jazzy, soulful melody, ‘Time is right up on us now brother / Don’t make no sense for us to be arguing now / All of your children and all of my children are gonna have pay for our mistakes someday,’ before his voice delves into song.

Hermes then returns to tell us about Cool DJ Herc, known for having the coolest records and the best sound system in town. When people no longer fit in his rec room, everyone moved to Cedar Park in the Bronx, where they pirated electricity from lampposts to power the sound. Cool Herc played the same record on two different turntables, and after he cued the drum break to play through on one record, he started playing the second, which enabled the percussion segment to play indefinitely – signaling the birth of hip hop.

What song did Cool DJ Herc always play? ‘Apache,’ by the Incredible Bongo Band. And of course, that’s exactly what comes on, just when you want to hear it.

Listen to Hermes’s playlists here.


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