Phil Marcade was not only a witness to the Punk Revolution, he was a part of it as a musician, a friend and a fellow traveler in an era that indelibly made its mark on rock n’ roll. Stay Thirsty Magazine visited long distance with him from Bologna, Italy, for these Five Questions about his new book and the Punk Rock movement.

STAY THIRSTY: In your book, Punk Avenue, you chronicle your days during the birth of the punk rock revolution. You were both the lead singer of a punk/blues band, The Senders, and a friend of many of the greats of that era. Looking back, what do you miss most about that time? And least?
Phil Marcade

PHIL MARCADE: I miss the freedom most, and the desperation of heroin addiction least. Of course, I guess I miss being young, in a cool young band that’s part of a cool young scene. But regardless, I miss that sense of freedom that seems to have pretty much vanished since the arrival of AIDS and terrorism. I miss the good/bad ol’ days when the Twin Towers proudly stood high above Manhattan and the concept of getting shot by a bunch of religious nuts with machine guns at a rock concert didn’t occur to you. I miss the innocence of these fun times. That’s what I tried to capture in my book, the sense of freedom of the late seventies, how simple everything was before the internet, and the sexual freedom everybody enjoyed in that short period of time when the pill already existed but AIDS didn’t yet. There was just so much more freedom around. You could smoke cigarettes at the movies. You could smoke cigarettes on a plane. Once the plane had taken off, you could even smoke a joint in the bathroom, if you wanted. I always did. Imagine that now? Mostly, I miss all my friends who have died. I don’t really miss surviving on “Happy Hour” mini-hotdogs from Max’s Kansas City, though. 

STAY THIRSTY: Fueled by its raw, in-your-face music, drugs, sex and violence, the New York City Punk Underground scene from 1972-1982 left an indelible imprint on the history of contemporary music. Many of the icons of that era died young. How did you manage to survive?

PHIL MARCADE: I may be dead by the time you publish this! But yes, so far, I’m still alive. I have no idea why, though quitting drugs and getting on a better diet than just Max’s mini-hotdogs probably helped. Apart from that, I’m just lucky, I guess. Sometimes I still can’t believe all these friends have died, like Cookie Mueller and David Armstrong, and Johnny Thunders, Willy DeVille, Lux Interior, Bryan Gregory, Stiv Bators and all the Ramones. All these people I loved so much. But yes, the New York City Punk Underground scene was fueled by danger and, perhaps, that’s what made it so interesting, but, of course, some participants were going to get hurt. Everybody was being very naive about heroin back then, and AIDS also took a lot of lives before we all learn to protect ourselves. I shared needles with friends who got AIDS, so, indeed, I was incredibly lucky not to get infected myself. I also gave up on mountain climbing! But you’ll have to read my book to understand what I’m talking about, here. Haha!     

STAY THIRSTY: Your book has a Preface written by Debbie Harry and a Foreword by Legs McNeil. Why did you choose each of them to introduce your insider’s look into the history of the punk rock explosion? Why did you choose quotes from Bob Dylan and Tom Waits for the epigraph?

PHIL MARCADE: I chose Debbie’s legs! Really, I chose Debbie and Legs because they were there at Max’s and CBGB in ‘75, ‘76, and because I knew them both since then. They were incredibly nice about my request and I was just so touched by what they wrote. I was floored, actually. These two were so important in the story of the beginning of Punk in New York, you know. With Punk Magazine, Legs and his partner John Holmstron pretty much coined the term “Punk Rock.” Debbie, Chris Stein and the rest of Blondie lived right there, on the Bowery, in total poverty, a block away from Arturo Vega’s loft, where the Ramones resided. Debbie was part of the New York Punk revolution right from the very start and she led the way for all the Punk Rock girls that followed. She was especially important because she stood her ground in this male dominated “Macho-Rock” scene that was typical of the mid-seventies. And yes, I love these two quotes, from Dylan and Tom Waits. I thought they really summed it up and were funny as hell, so I wanted to throw in these two deep thoughts as an appetizer.  

STAY THIRSTY: In Punk Avenue, you recount your relationships with Johnny Thunders and Nancy Spungen, to name just two. If you could talk to them today, what would you want to know?

PHIL MARCADE: “Where you been, all these years?” Haha! If I could talk to them today and they’d answer me from the beyond, of course I would ask them both what really happened on the night they died. What did happen in that room at the Chelsea Hotel and in that room in New Orleans? I would really like to know. Did Nancy commit suicide? Did Sid stab her? Someone else? There seems to have been some foul play in that hotel room where Johnny died too. He had just arrived in New Orleans, tried to score heroin and crossed path with some real slimy characters. Neighbors at the hotel heard some kind of argument, some kind of fight. Something happened in there but, just like the New York police had handled Nancy’s death, the New Orleans police didn’t care to investigate the death of “just another junky” either. Once Johnny and Nancy would have filled me in on that, I would then probably ask them both if they’d like to come over for dinner. 

STAY THIRSTY: If you could tell the story of the advent of Punk music in only one sentence, what would it be?

PHIL MARCADE: You can’t, that’s why I wrote Punk Avenue, you see. But if I had to narrow it down to just one sentence, I’d say: “In 1972, a bunch of cool kids in New York got real tired of Emerson, Lake & Palmer and started to make there own brand of raw, basic rock n’ roll with short fast songs loaded with rebellious and outrageous lyrics about the urban decay they lived in.” Another way to sum it up with a much shorter sentence could be, “Fuck Off!”

(Phil Marcade header photo credit: Eva Savini)


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