The forgotten New Yorker who changed the ‘80s music scene
January 2, 2018 5:40 PM   Subscribe

The forgotten New Yorker who changed the ‘80s music scene. New Order...were just one of dozens of new wave and post-punk acts imported across the Atlantic by New Yorker Ruth Polsky. During her tenure as a talent booker at seminal Manhattan nightclubs Hurrah on West 62nd Street (1979 to 1982) and Danceteria on West 21st Street (1982 to 1986), she was the first to take chances on then-unknown bands such as Simple Minds, Echo and the Bunnymen, the Smiths, the Psychedelic Furs and many more. With disco and rock still dominant in the charts, Polsky had a rare ear for fresh sounds, and took chances in bringing them to the United States before most other club bookers would dare.

Ruth Polsky (December 5, 1954 - September 7, 1986) was a booker and music promoter in New York City. She died after being crushed by a runaway cab on the steps of the Limelight club in New York.

Rememberences here, and here.

RuPaul and Ruth Polsky at Danceteria

Warning; massive 80's flashbacks.
posted by bongo_x (9 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
I never knew any of this. She's responsible for some of my favorite bands coming to the US. Gods bless her!
posted by Thorzdad at 6:36 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]

Thanks so much for this post.
posted by 4ster at 6:42 PM on January 2

Thanks for this post! She seemed like an awesome lady with clearly a great ear. I am always glad when super cool ladies get recognized for the work they did, and she was SUPER COOL.
posted by leesh at 7:19 PM on January 2

posted by Nanukthedog at 8:14 PM on January 2

God, we were at that Echo/New Order / Gene Loves Jez show in '87 at (forever-it-will-be, regardless of current corporate sponsorship) Irvine Meadows. I always thought Richard Blade was most responsible for influencing '80's SoCal wrt to British bands; I'm glad to know about Ms. Polsky and sad to think about the bands we never got to know without her influence.
posted by vignettist at 12:48 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]

Don't You ...
posted by filtergik at 3:56 AM on January 3

I never knew any of this. She's responsible for some of my favorite bands coming to the US. Gods bless her!

I didn't know any of this either. Those were all bands I loved as a teenager, but I had never known how they made it here. Great post.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:42 AM on January 3

It's amazing how much influence one person can have when the stars align.

If you want to know the prehistory of many of those bands and how they made it into the UK's musical consciousness, then I very highly recommend Good Night and Good Riddance by David Cavanagh, which takes 35 years of John Peel shows and reviews 400 of them from tape. Here's an interview with the author by Stuart Maconie on 6 Music. I know it's been mentioned on the blue before, because that's why I bought it, but having read through it I'm a complete convert. Of interest to this thread, there are many tales of zero-profile bands getting not only their first break but solid, continued support from Peel in the face of record label indifference. And these were often the bands subsequently picked up by Polsky.

I can't immediately find any references online to interactions between Polsky and Peel, but given their keen involvement in the same scene and close friendships with many of the same people, and given that he was not just the main but often the only conduit for indie bands into the UK scene I absolutely can't imagine there weren't direct connections. I'd be fascinated to find out.
posted by Devonian at 7:49 AM on January 3 [4 favorites]

What a great post. Thank you.
posted by bluespark25 at 10:50 AM on January 3

« Older "I wanted to be special. I wanted to be somebody."...   |   1123 Miles from Bloom County Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments