NYC's Ghost Landmarks of Rock
One might think that if anyone now working at 19-25 St. Mark's would know about the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, he or she would be at the piercing parlor. But when a 22-year-old guy there named Reuben (last name refused) was asked how it feels to be working where the Velvet Underground played its most famous shows, he asked, "The velvet what?"
Rock promoter and concert producer Bill Graham outside the Fillmore East. Formerly called the Village Theater, the 2,700-seat venue became The Place to play when you hit New York. (© Bettmann/Corbis)
The Fillmore East: From bands to bankers (1968-1971)
New York's major pop theater back in the day was the Fillmore East, around the corner from St. Mark's Place at 105 Second Ave., where under concert promoter Bill Graham's auspices pretty much everyone played (Fats Domino! Derek and the Dominoes! John Lennon, sitting in with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention!) and legendary live albums were cut by the Allman Brothers Band, Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys, Miles Davis, Jefferson Airplane -- the list goes on and on.
Originally built as a Yiddish theater, 105 Second is today an Emigrant Savings Bank branch. There are two ATMs at the entrance; the tellers are in the rear. In the front window, where Graham's posters advertised Love and the Kinks (both on the same bill), or The Who and Chuck Berry and Albert King (all on the same bill), a sign now lists foreign-currency exchange rates.
Vanilla Fudge during an April 1968 performance at the Fillmore East. In its short life, the Fillmore East was midwife to live albums by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, King Crimson, Taj Mahal, Ten Years After and many others.(© Interfoto/Alamy)
But here, finally, is a building where the past hasn't been entirely forgotten. The wall opposite the tellers' cages is adorned with pictures of the Fillmore and reproductions of old newspaper articles telling its story, from March 8, 1968, when it opened, until June 27, 1971, when it closed. Indeed, this stretch of Second Avenue has been rechristened, if not altogether orthographically, as Bill Grahams (sic) Way.
There's only one problem: The Fillmore was pretty big--a 2,700 seat space--and the bank is tiny. Where's the rest of what used to be here? No one at the bank seemed to know. But next door, at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, a custodian named Juan Robles, who's worked at the school for decades, can tell you the whole story. What is now the bank was simply the Fillmore's entrance and box office. The stage and auditorium were "upstairs and in the back," Robles recalls. It's all apartments now, a complex called Hudson East, with the entrance around the corner, at 225 E. Sixth St. But admittance for a closer look is prevented by a doorman.