By Phil Marcade
Guest Columnist
Bologna, Italy

The way it’s been going, life after Punk is becoming a luxury that not too many Punk Rockers can complain about. After all, we all more or less had plans to die young (and stay pretty). For the few of us that fucked up, stayed alive and got old, there is no Punk Rock retirement plan in sight. Worst of all, we have to bury all our friends one by one. Then, like that wasn’t enough already, we have to miss them. Wild Bill Thompson, the beloved Senders guitar player, died last December, and getting old is going to be way less fun without him. But I’m still here…I mean, what is Roger Daltrey supposed to sing, now “Things they do look awful cold. I hope I die before I get really, really old”?! 

Phil Marcade at home in Bologna, Italy - 2018 (credit: Eva Savini)

Twenty-one years ago, in 1997, our drummer, Moe (Marc Bourset), died of an heroin overdose. And so the hecatomb began. The Senders, or what was left us, did a tribute show for him at the club Coney Island High, on St. Mark’s Place. I had put together a compilation of video footage of Moe which was showing on all the TV monitors in the club during the whole evening. As I walked toward the stage to play, one of these huge TV sets that was hanging from the ceiling fell on me, severing a phalange on my right hand. The bone was sticking out, blood gushing everywhere, it was quite a sight! This was before the days of flat TVs; I’m talking about a huge square TV that weighs, like, a ton. I ran to the men’s room to put my hand under cold water and just stood there in shock. Howie Pyro, from the Blessed, then in D-Generation, came to the rescue. We jumped in a cab with Bill Pitze and Michael Sticca and rushed to Beth Israel Hospital. 

Meanwhile, some kids at the club found the end of my finger in a puddle of blood on the floor, put it on ice, and quickly took it to the hospital so it could be sewn back on. Unfortunately, they went to the wrong hospital (Bellevue) and were told I wasn’t there. They tried another hospital but I wasn’t there either. The end of my finger went all around Manhattan but never found its way back to me. After waiting alone in the emergency room for over two hours, I was finally bandaged up and given a painkiller. I don’t know what it was they gave me but it was quite good! As I came out of the hospital around three in the morning, high as a kite, I found Wild Bill waiting for me. He greeted me with, “The room is still packed. Everybody wants to know if you’re OK.” I looked at him, smiled, and could only answer “Right. Let’s play!” 

We rushed back to the club, where we played one of our best sets ever, in Moe’s honor, to a packed house at 3:30 in the morning. Leee Black Childers was standing right in front, crying hot tears. To help with my hospital bill, Coney Island High threw a great benefit show with all the coolest local bands and fabulous poster artwork by Lynn Von. In the end, I got a skin graft on my finger and a $15,000 insurance settlement from the club for my injury. So I quit my job and went on vacation for a year.

Life after Punk was still pretty Punk. Nothing had changed, really. 

As much as the mid-80s were a drag, life after Punk had been really great in New York in the early ’90s. A whole new, super-cool Rock & Roll scene had emerged, with some of the best groups the city ever had, like the Raunch Hands, with Michael Chandler and Mike Mariconda, who were just fabulous, or The Waldos, with Walter Lure, and Da Willys, The Lunachicks, The Action Swingers, D-Generation, The Devil Dogs, The Vacant Lot, The Supertones, Sea Monster, FUR, Sisters Grim, The Gas Hounds, The Church Keys, The Pristeens, The Hip Nips, and The Rat Bastardsm, The Dragsters and many other new acts that were just brilliant. 

In 1989, the Continental Divide, located on 3rd Avenue by St. Mark’s Place, started to have a “jazz night” on Tuesdays. Because of its great location, I thought it would be a good place to do a residency with The Senders. I walked in there one afternoon and talked to the owner, Alan Roy. “We could do a Blues night once a week. We would bring some friends,” I told him. Alan seemed to like my idea and decided to give it a shot. He gave The Senders every Monday night for a month. This residency turned out to be so successful, that we did every Monday night for over two years. We called it “The Sender Thing”, inspired by the classic B movies The Swamp Thing and The Thing. It was to be way more than just a Senders gig: we booked the opening groups ourselves, making sure they were new and fabulous, and by doing that, we started a whole new scene which was going to become pretty huge. Moe and I started to spend a lot of time going to clubs to check out new bands and invite them to play with us at The Sender Thing. We also took care of the records that were played between the bands. The Sender Thing was a whole trip, not just the usual gig. We put all of our energy into it; I designed a new poster for each show, every week. It was an event! The best Rock & Roll event in town. Some nights, we played in total darkness in front of a large white sheet while old, weird movies and commercials were projected. 

One day, I saw a very old black guy belting out Blues in the subway. Just him and his electric guitar. His name was Carolina Slim. I was so moved by what he was doing that I hired him on the spot to play at The Sender Thing. The audience at the gig really loved him too. He had tears in his eyes. He became a regular at The Sender Thing nights. The Continental was so packed every Monday night that half of the crowd had to stand on the sidewalk in front of the club. Alan Roy was thrilled. He raised our pay three times without us asking for anything. He started to have bands every night, built a bigger stage and progressively turned his restaurant into a Rock club. It became the best club in New York for a while, until Alan sold it, very sadly, having become ill with AIDS. It was taken over by a guy named Trigger. It all became different, then. It became lame and slowly went down the drain, eventually becoming a fucking sports bar for jocks. But from 1989 to 1991, the years of The Sender Thing, it had been extraordinary. 

Another great gig to play, back then, was Wild Girl Go-Go-Rama at The Freak House in Coney Island. The bands played with about thirty go-go girls dancing on the stage. Of course, we really loved playing there too. These were fabulous times. I think this whole scene could have become as legendary as the Punk Rock scene ten years before, except that it didn’t really have a name, like “Punk”, and so, amazingly, it was forgotten and was left out of the rock history books.


The Senders stopped playing in 2001. We had been at it since 1976 and, finally, after twenty-five years of constant gigging, my ears were getting really bad. The last show we had played, I thought the speaker in Bill’s amp had blown. All I could hear was a distorted shriek, an unbearably loud cacophony of white noise. It sounded like hard-core industrial stuff, or fingernails on a blackboard, but nothing like a guitar. In between two songs, I asked Bill if he was aware that his amp didn’t work. He looked at me, surprised, and said, “What do you mean? It works great!” Though I thought he was insane, we finished the show. A friend had recorded our set from the bar, and he played me the tape afterwards. Indeed, Bill’s amp sounded just fine. Just his beautiful “Gibson thru a Twin-Reverb” tone. It was my ears that were blown, not his speaker. From then on, any sound louder than a certain level would make my ears go bunker and would leave me half-deaf for a few days. The ringing never stopped. 

Life after Punk indeed. 

I went back to my first love: drawing and painting, with Link Wray and Howlin’ Wolf records playing in the background, at low volume. This was also when I started cooking up the idea of writing a book. I felt a bit like I had been running down Avenue B without looking back for thirty odd years. I thought I’d sit down and take my shoes off. 

I wrote Punk Avenue during the winter of 2006. At the time, I worked as a French/English translator for a French company, and that gave me the freedom of working from home on my computer. There would be periods of time with nothing to translate and I’d be spending every minute of it working on my book. I had no girlfriend, no band, not even a cat, or a goldfish, or anything, so I had no distraction at all. I got totally into it. My little apartment in Astoria, Queens, became a pigsty. I didn’t even go to the supermarket anymore, I’d just order Chinese and kept typing all night. Also, I was now missing three top teeth right in front. They had rotted and broke. Life after Punk had me looking more Punk than during it! That was my other motivation for staying home, during that winter. I was waiting for a frontal bridge from the NYU Dental Clinic. Although they had told me it would be ready in two months, it took five! But when I finally got my new teeth, I had a book finished. 

Now, I could go out!  

Revisiting my younger days, before and during Punk, from age seventeen to twenty seven (1972-1982), had been even more fun than I had expected. I had forgotten how great it was to be so free. It was a good reminder. 

My book was published in France first, then Italy, then, finally, in the States last May. I went on a promotional tour when it came out in Italy. That’s when I met Eva, a girl from Bologna, who is now my girlfriend.

Life after Punk in New York had changed a lot, by then. It wasn’t me or the other punks from Max’s that had changed, really, it was the price of our rent. Punk rockers in Manhattan and Brooklyn were now paying over $2,000 a month for a studio. They moved further away, to smaller places, with more roommates in tow. Young hipsters with rich parents took over the Lower East Side. 

Paying $260 a month for rent had allowed us all to be right there for years, surviving on little jobs or money from gigs. It was just creative, young, crazy kids living in cheap pads on the run-down streets of Manhattan, and it was a perfect breeding ground for timeless and true Rock & Roll. The Ramones lived at Arturo Vega’s loft, around the corner from CBGB. All the members of Blondie shared a loft two blocks down on the Bowery. Nan Goldin lived across the street. None of us had money but we could afford to live there, in Alphabet City, in Stuyvesant Town, even in Chelsea or Tribeca or anywhere below Canal Street. 

So that crowd would mingle on the streets, on their way to the deli, and they’d put together bands that were going to be legendary. They were in the same clubs every night, influencing each other, throwing ideas, challenging everything that was boring, inventing Punk Rock in the process, by accident, by necessity, for the lack of anything else going on. We lived on the street, in the vestiges of the ’60s and the hippies’ failed utopia. There was no internet, there were no cell-phones. You called your friends who had home phones from pay phones on the street. No texting! 

There wasn’t much at all, really, just electric guitars, so it was easy for Punk Rock to flourish. Urban decay makes the best fertilizer for great Pop Art to grow. Then, it just got too expensive, to a point where it was ridiculous, and to make matters worst, the clubs started paying the bands less and less. Soon, it was next to nothing, then nothing at all. The Lake Side Lounge on Avenue B was such a great bar to play in the late ’90s, but they paid us in free beer! I couldn’t give beer to my landlord. 

The last straw was at the club Manitoba’s, also on Avenue B. We only played there once, with Wayne Kramer joining us for a few numbers. When we arrived at the club, that night, we were told that, not only we would not be paid for playing, but we had to pay the club $50 for the use of their PA system!! Haha! By then, life after Punk stunk, in New York! By 2001, my ears were shot, we made no money, and it was time to finally wrap it up. We all progressively got the fuck out of there. I moved with my girlfriend Italy in 2012 and continued painting. 

I guess some rich yuppie lives in my flat in Queens, now.

I came back to New York last May for the launching of the English version of my book. I took a stroll through the Lower East Side and was stunned by what it had become: Trendy “boutiques,” glass tower hotels filed with Japanese tourists, and lots of hipsters and “fake” punks walking around in their $400 punk outfits. It was worse than SoHo. Of course, it was such a joy to see the few great “survivor” pals I adore at the book launch gig that my publisher, Three Rooms Press, threw at (le) poisson rouge, (which used to be The Village Gate), on May 2. Tony Machine was there, Ronnie Bird, Legs McNeil, Bob Gruen, and everybody. And I shared the stage with Steve Shevlin, Walter Lure, Lenny Kaye, The Rousers, Andy Shernoff, Danny Ray, Barry Ryan, J.F. Vergel, and Lynn Von. Folks in the audience threw streamers at the stage. 

Phil Marcade at (le) poisson rouge - 2017 (credit: Blair Buscareno)

For a moment there, Life after Punk was really fun again. But, in a way, what thrilled me the most that night, was sharing the stage with Brian Hurd from Daddy Long Legs, the fabulous young New York Punk Blues group I had invited to play. Because Life after Punk is still as exciting as it was before when something new and great reaches you. I love the idea that, right now, there is probably a bunch of young kids in some basement somewhere, cooking up some real dirty Rock & Roll that sounds like nothing else before. They’re probably influenced by very old sounds, like New York Punk Rock and American Blues, Garage, Rockabilly, Surf, and what not, but they’re making it their own thing. Life after Punk is more bearable knowing that it’s still happening. I don’t know where it’s happening, but that’s a good thing, since I’m sixty-three. 

Phil Marcade with The Rousers (credit: Johan Vipper)

Life after Punk has been OK. I love painting and I’m doing fine. I mostly paint imaginary scenes of white trash America, girls with beehives, things like that, so, in a way, it’s the natural continuation of my Rock & Roll path. I paint pictures of the same people I use to write songs about.

Kitchen Action by Phil Marcade

Life after Punk has been good for some of the other Punk survivors too. After the Heartbreakers broke up, Walter Lure managed to move on to a very successful and lucrative career on Wall Street. Richard Hell became a renowned author, writing several great books. 

Tish and Snooky from The Sick Fucks, owners of the Manic Panic punk boutique, built a worldwide empire with their Manic Panic hair coloring products.

Paul Zone, of The Fast, had a huge hit record (“Male Stripper") on the club scene, with his band Man2Man. He later published a beautiful book of his photos of the New York Punk scene. 

Bill and Miriam from the A-Bones founded Norton Records, the coolest record company in the world. 

Some of the British punks did alright too: Paul Simenon of The Clash became a renowned artist (his paintings are really great). Their drummer, Terry Chimes, became a successful chiropractor and has his own clinic in Essex. Johnny Rotten did TV commercials for butter! Haha! And Steve Jones has a successful radio show in California.

As for me, I got to visit all these beautiful places in Italy, which was quite strange after 40 years in New York.

Phil Marcade - 1995 (credit: R. Bennett Lewis)

I did some DJ gigs, spinning some of my vintage 45s. I have a great collection of rare stuff. Real crazy records from the ’50s and early ’60s, and the Italian Rock & Rollers loved them. 

The years pass but, so far, there almost hasn’t been a single day where I don’t pick up my guitar and belt out a few tunes, alone, in the kitchen, just for the fun of it. 

I can’t help it. I think it’s vital! 

So, even if life after Punk stunk, I stayed afloat and never sunk.

Header photo credit: V. Johnson (1975)


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.