Nostalgia Trip: a teenage Buzzcock in New York 1979-1980 (part 1)

New York 1979-1980

40 year old photographs get new lease of life

[Main photo: Pretzel seller, E 26th St and Lexington Ave]

I was nineteen in 1979. I was about to spend three weeks travelling across America with Buzzcocks – our first US tour. Talk about excitement! None of us had been to America before. I needed a camera!

At this stage of my photographic career, I didn’t know the difference between an f-stop and a lens cap, so my first camera had to be easy to use… point and shoot.

If you were around at the time, you can’t fail to have escaped the barrage of TV adverts featuring David Bailey promoting the Olympus Trip 35. I believed the hype and handed over my money. Looking back at the results four decades on, I’ve got to say that little Olympus Trip did a great job. Fifty quid well spent!

Between August 1979 and November 1980 we toured the US three times. So did my Olympus Trip. It never occurred to me to take lots of band shots. I took a few – stay tuned for future episodes – but I was more interested in photographing AMERICA! Most of the photos are street scenes, buildings, views from the back seat of the van, hotel interiors and lots of 1950s American cars.

I’ve got around 200 photos from our 1979 & 1980 American tours. Going back a couple of years, I shared some of these photos on my twitter and instagram pages, but they were based on scans of the original, mini-sized 5″ x 3.5″ prints I got back from the local chemist shortly after returning home. The images I’m sharing here are far superior. I’ve made high resolution DSLR scans of the original negatives, using a full frame camera, 100mm macro lens and a good quality light table. I’ve also been using a brilliant piece of software called Negative Lab Pro to carry out the negative to positive conversion. This process has produced pictures with far greater detail and superior image quality compared to the original 5″ x 3.5″ prints I’ve had in a photo album for the past 40 years.

Later in this series I’ll include a post for the tech nerds (like myself), describing how I scanned the negatives and the process of converting those scans from negative to positive.

To get the ball rolling, here’s a selection of photos I took while wandering the streets of New York…

Cops and taxi driver – Union Square, New York (1979)
Flatiron Building, New York (1979)
Pretzel seller, E 25th St and Lexington Ave, New York (1979)

Someone suggested posting my NY photos to the Manhattan Before 1990 facebook page. They’ve accumulated a superb collection of photographs, and have been very helpful identifying some of the locations I’d photographed but couldn’t place. For example, someone identified the exact location of this ‘Explosives’ truck and explained why it was there. I didn’t hang around to ask… took the pic and briskly moved on.

Subway construction: 63rd St between Lexington Ave and Park Ave, New York (1979)

Another benefit of these higher resolution scans is I can read signs and street names that weren’t legible on the original prints. On the full size scan of the pic below, I can clearly see the sign inside the left entrance of the parking garage is ‘Aero Garage, 147-149 E 24th Street’.

Aero Garage, E 24th St, New York (1979)

Only fair to include at least one music related photo in this post: Max’s Kansas City – legendary 1970s music venue, Warhol hangout and where the Velvet Underground recorded that live album.

Max’s Kansas City, New York (1979)

More photos of New York to come in part 2 and part 3 of this series. Then I’ll move on to some of the other towns and cities we passed through as we ventured west.

Check out more of my 1979-1980 USA photos on twitter and instagram

Part 2: Nostalgia Trip: a teenage Buzzcock in New York 1979-1980

Part 3: Nostalgia Trip: American Graffiti

20 thoughts on “Nostalgia Trip: a teenage Buzzcock in New York 1979-1980 (part 1)”

  1. Fantastic! Looking forward to the rest. This is around the time I visited my friend in NY, while he was going to school nearby. I wish I’d picked up a “point and shoot” and done some similar documenting. The intensity of life on the streets of NY was something.

  2. Great photos! Did you take any in Norman, Oklahoma when the Buzzcocks and the Cramps played Boomer Theater in December 1979. My brother and I were there. It was a night to remember! It was a fantastic show. Cheers

    • We flew from Kansas into Oklahoma City Airport in a tiny plane. I was up front, next to the pilot! I’ve got a couple of pics of the approach 😲
      I’ve definitely got one of the Airport Terminal building and one of Steve Garvey departing the plane, but not sure if I took any in Norman itself. I’ll need to check that roll of film to see what comes after the airport shots. If I find any likely candidates, maybe you could ID them? 👍

        • Yes, I took some photos while we were in Lawrence. Had a roll of black and white film in the camera for that part of the trip. I’ll share some Kansas pics as this story progresses westward.

  3. So looking at these and remembering the Buzzcocks, I discovered Shelley died a year ago, which I hadn’t known 🙁
    Love seeing the photos, it feels like looking through some old window into a world that still seems so real (I grew up in that era, with that music, so it’s the most intensely real world I’ve known) but for some reason can’t get back to. Yet it still feels like home is there, it’s the place I really belong. There must be a door somewhere that opens to a street I know. Looking at these now makes wonder where on earth I am now and how in hell did I get here?
    Look forward to seeing more. Best wishes to you.

  4. As a teenage Buzzcocks/CBGBs/Max’s Kansas City fan back in the day, this is of great significance to me. Great pictures, John. What a great idea to capture all of this while on tour as a young lad. Also really enjoyed your Scottish Highlands snaps. Look forward to more.

  5. Late to the party, just stumbled upon your blog here. The Trip 35, my first serious camera too! (and my last, I suppose, since I never went heavy into photography)
    Really enjoy your work.

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