Time: The mid-1970s. Place: The Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City. On the downside, it was a scum and grit-encrusted, crime-splattered no-man’s land full of bums, drug dealers, petty thieves, pimps, prostitutes, thugs and other assorted, felonious flotsam. On the upside, huge, empty lofts were up for rent at bargain basement prices, pizza was 50 cents a slice and musicians and artists from all over were flocking to this murky mecca to participate in a myriad of spontaneous performance art and contemporary art shows, music concerts, underground film and video screenings and other assorted happenings.
By this time, the idealism of the 1960s had been brutally battered, as it quickly licked its wounds and floated off into a grey haze. Although a reactionary movement, punk rock, was on the rise, the public at large was unaware of a parallel, even more visceral, vital movement that, at its genesis, had no name. In short order, it was bitch-slapped with the moniker no wave. The most well-known no wave bands— James Chance and the Contortions, DNA, Mars and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks—got corralled by Brian Eno into a studio to record their shrill, slashing, grating, anti-rock for a genre-defining compilation called No New York.