The Downtown Pop Underground: New York City and the literary punks, renegade artists, DIY filmmakers, mad playwrights, and rock ‘n’ roll glitter queens who revolutionized culture.
by Kembrew McLeod
(Abrams October 2018)
The 1960s to early ’70s was a pivotal time for American culture, and New York City was ground zero for some seismic shifts in music, theater, art, and filmmaking. In THE DOWNTOWN POP UNDERGROUND, cultural historian Kembrew McLeod takes the reader on a kaleidoscopic tour of the city, telling the story of the interconnections between the alternative music, theater, film, video, writing, fashion and art worlds that flowered in downtown New York. McLeod uses accounts of these artistic cross-pollinations to reveal an alternative history of recent pop culture.
Through interviews with the famous (Debbie Harry, Yoko Ono, Lily Tomlin) to lesser-known-but-essential offbeat artists, rule-breaking poets, gonzo filmmakers, rock and roll drag queens, McLeod shows how these outsiders reshaped the larger culture, and from downtown New York made waves on an international scale. Ambitious in scope and scale, the book is fueled by the actual voices of many of the pivotal characters who broke down the entrenched cultural divisions between high and low, gay and straight, and art and commerce—and whose impact is still largely felt today. The book also features many never-before-seen photos of this glamorous and dynamic time.
Kembrew McLeod is a Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. He has published and produced several books and documentaries about music and popular culture, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Slate, Salon, SPIN, MOJO and Rolling Stone. Kembrew’s documentary Copyright Criminals aired on PBS’s Emmy Award-winning Independent Lens series, his 2007 book FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION® (University of Minnesota Press 2007) received an American Library Association book award, and his 2014 book PRANKSTERS (NYU Press 2014) received a “Best of the Best Books You Should Know About” designation from the American Association of University Presses. He recently was awarded a National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar Fellowship to support THE POP UNDERGROUND, and is based in Iowa City.