The A7

One of the amenities of life in New York was the wide and varied acquaintance that one accumulated; a pleasure that the extreme economic and social polarization of the past two decades has very nearly done away with.  In the late seventies and early eighties, quite a number of my acquaintances had some connexion with the music scene that was loosely defined as Punk Rock; this was rather puzzling to me, as my own musical interests were (and are) firmly grounded upon what is popularly known as ‘classical music’.  They made light of this and blithely informed me that my likes and dislikes, my appreciation of certain groups and songs (like The Standells and ‘Dirty Water’), and even my very appearance, all proclaimed me one of their legion, whether I cared to acknowledge it or not.  As far as I could see, the only thing that we all had in common was an involvement with, or an interest in, military aviation.  I also happened to like them, and this, in my estimation, was ‘sufficient unto itself’.

Some of them, like Jerry and his Junior Birdmen, moved on to other things, or embraced the CBGB New Wave scene; others remained and evolved with the phenomenon that was ultimately known as Hardcore Punk.  A couple of them, Eric and Chris, were connected with the A7, a covert club on the corner of Avenue A and 7th Street, across the street from Tompkins Square Park in what had come to be known as the East Village.  Eric was one of those very tall, very thin, and very blond Scandinavians, and he always spoke of being the owner of the A7.  Chris, a former Navy special operations type, originally from (if memory serves) Michigan, was employed by Weiser’s Book Shop, the noted specialists on the occult, whom I remembered at a shop on Broadway, near Astor Place, but had since moved to East 24th Street, near Park Avenue South.  He gave up Weiser’s to work as a bartender for Eric in the A7.

The last time I saw them (in late 1983 or early 1984), they were in a ‘sea of troubles’, the club having been closed down by the police (apparently no one had taken the trouble of securing a liquor license), and Eric (or perhaps his girlfriend, I can no longer remember) was having some difficulties with the bureaucrats of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Quite by accident, I recently came across some references to the A7 and the music played there, and was quite surprised to learn that it is well-known, and generally regarded as an important part of the New York Punk scene.  In these references, the owner of the A7 is identified as one ‘Dave’, a ‘genial ex-con’, and his wife as the person who kept the bar.

Was ‘Dave’ retained by Eric as a manager?  Or perhaps ‘Dave’ was Eric’s nom de guerre?  I don’t know.  I suppose it’s possible that Eric was just ‘pulling the long bow’, but it really is very unlikely that if he had, for some obscure reason, felt obliged to impress me, he should choose to do so by pretending to own something that I had never heard of, and that would not be likely to astonish me in any case.  It’s also unlikely that Chris would ‘go along with the gag’ and pretend to work for him — any such mild deception would have been utterly pointless.

I wanted a photograph of the A7 as it appeared then to accompany this post, but there are none to be found.  This is hardly surprising, as there were no camera-equipped mobile telephones in those days, and although the East Village of the early eighties was a mere shadow of what it was in the sixties, when expeditions to it required a ‘wingman’ on either side of the street, it was still not a place to walk around with a camera in the wee hours.

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