Monday, September 12, 2011

And Speaking of Gorgeous...

New York City in the late 70s and early 80s may have been a scary place -- with rampant crime, abandoned crack vials on every street corner, and that Ed Koch idiot standing in front of the Brooklyn Bridge demanding that people tell him "How'm I doin'?" -- but at least one thing, thankfully, hasn't changed since those long ago days; the quality of our street musicians. Then, and now, they were and are the best in the world.

I bring this up because, for some reason I can't account for specifically, I started thinking about The Iranian Beatles the other day.

They weren't actually Iranian, of course, although that's how everybody I knew referred to them at the time, but in the late 70s and early 80s they were a Manhattan fixture, particularly in the area around Greenwich Village -- three vaguely swarthy guys playing acoustic guitars, another one simulating drums with a couple of cardboard boxes, and all of them singing covers of Beatles songs in the most astoundingly pretty harmonies you could possibly imagine.

Here they are on a corner somewhere back then doing "I Saw Her Standing There," which will give you an idea of how utterly charming they were.

Eventually I found out they were actually Latino ex-gang members from the South Bronx, and that they were called Street the Beat. They used to absolutely make my day whenever I would run across them in performance (you never knew where they were going to show up, which was, of course, part of the fun). To my knowledge, they never went into a recording studio, but they did do the occasional club show at Folk City, where (I can tell you from personal experience) they were no less amazing than they were al fresco.

And they had a couple of original songs in a Merseybeat vein that would, or should, have been hits in the context of the early New Wave, when such things were being re-appreciated. Here's one of them -- "Falling in Love," as seen on an early morning Public Affairs show on NYC Channel 9 in 1983.

I have no idea what happened to the band, although apparently the drummer has a Facebook page. In any case, if "Falling in Love" doesn't make you swoon, or weep for what might have been, there's no hope for you.