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The Downtown Pop Underground

New York City and the literary punks, renegade artists, DIY filmmakers, mad playwrights, and rock 'n' roll glitter queens who revolutionized culture

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


The 1960s to early ’70s was a pivotal time for American culture, and New York City was ground zero for seismic shifts in music, theater, art, and filmmaking. The Downtown Pop Underground takes a kaleidoscopic tour of Manhattan during this era and shows how deeply interconnected all the alternative worlds and personalities were that flourished in the basement theaters, dive bars, concert halls, and dingy tenements within one square mile of each other. Author Kembrew McLeod links the artists, writers, and performers who created change, and while some of them didn’t become everyday names, others, like Patti Smith, Andy Warhol, and Debbie Harry, did become icons. Ambitious in scope and scale, the book is fueled by the actual voices of many of the key characters who broke down the entrenched divisions between high and low, gay and straight, and art and commerce—and changed the cultural landscape of not just the city but the world.

From Publishers Weekly

Aug 27, 2018 – In this astute cultural history, McLeod, a communications professor at University of Iowa, documents the remarkable artistic ferment in lower Manhattan during the 1960s and '70s. Even as white flight and a collapsing industrial base pushed the city toward ruin, McLeod writes, the chaotic depopulation opened creative spaces for bohemians and long-marginalized social groups. Fueled by a newly assertive LGBTQ community and the broader counterculture, experimental artists reconfigured popular genres and older avant-garde traditions with stunning results. Highlighting transformative artists Andy Warhol, Hibiscus, Harry Koutoukas, Ed Sanders, and others and their intertwined milieus, McLeod provides a panoramic scan of a revolutionary era. Assiduously tracing the ebb and flow of influence and individuals among theater (La MaMa's founder Ellen Stewart), music (John Cage), and film (Shirley Clarke, who co-founded the Film-Makers Cooperative), McLeod depicts a freedom birthed by a DIY aesthetic, technological advance, and cheap rents. He pays tribute to CBGB and the musicians who performed there (Patti Smith, Blondie, and New York Dolls among them), and the most illuminating sections document an Off-Off Broadway where outr figures such as Hibiscus, Stewart, and Jackie Curtis challenged gender norms and performance traditions in ways that resonate through pop culture today. This is a fascinating look at a long-gone New York City art scene.
The Downtown Pop Underground
View in iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: United States
  • Published: Oct 23, 2018
  • Publisher: ABRAMS
  • Seller: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.
  • Print Length: 368 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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