Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cro-Mags footage from "The Beat" / The Richie Birkenhead breakdown

Cro-Mags "It's The Limit" and "Hard Times" footage from the 1986 film, The Beat

Our boy Andy O aka Agent A. comes direct from Canada to intro our posting of one of the greatest pieces of film ever captured: The Cro-Mags footage from The Ritz featured in "The Beat." Andy lays the groundwork, while I dissect Richie Birkenhead's appearance below. Special thanks to Ed McKirdy over at Livewire for the Richie screen grabs. HARD TIMES. -Gordo DCXX

Late 1986: I was in grade Seven. It was a snowy Friday and I was paying my paper route collection to the district manager in this parking lot. I had in my hand a tape this grade eight punk guy (who later became a best friend and who’s house I’d often crash at after shows) lent me, telling me I needed to hear this band. It had a red cover, with a picture of a nuclear bomb detonation on the front, with “The Age of Quarrel” stated in stark cold-war bleakness across the bottom of the tape album cover. “Cro-Mags” was across the top, somehow seeming even more powerful than the image of the nuclear explosion (as the music on it turned out to be!). After giving the paper its due, I headed toward 7-11 for a Friday night slurpee, as I shoved the remaining cash into my pocket (all magical thirty two or whatever dollars it was! Hell, if I was careful, that was a few 7-11 trips, a movie and enough left over for a comic and an album!).

I put the tape in my walkman, hit play, and was within a few seconds hit by all 345 megatons of We Gotta Know. The world for me changed that day. I am sure you have all had those crushing moments when a piece of music pushes you past who you once were into some new previously unknown time and place. I STILL get that rare feeling when some song really strikes home. That was one of those moments, times ten, and I will to my dying day remember that fireball shockwave of first hearing the Cro-Mags. Thanks to older friends I had already been well introduced to all the usual suspects of Minor Threat, D.R.I., Motorhead, Dead Kennedys, FEAR, The Accused and many more incredible bands, I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever felt the pure solid, knock you down and punch right through your chest IMPACT of a band more than that first time I heard the Cro-Mags.

Incidentally, this parking lot was about a ten minute walk from the “infamous” (and up to that night, for me anyways, mysterious) “Cro-Mags Tree”; a large tree that had “Cro-Mags” spray painted on it.

I missed their two shows in town with GBH (one of which is documented on a bootleg that floats around the world…”Live at Wellingtons”), but older friends I have since met to this day talk about how much the Cro-Mags demolished everything. Somewhere there’s VHS footage of at least one song (if my memory is right it is from the Le Rendezvous show) and it is truly incredible. One older buddy of mine told me all he had heard was “Wait til you see this band from New York…I saw them last night…you have no idea what you are in for….” and to this day says it is one of the best bands he’s ever witnessed.

Enough about this…if you are reading this blog, there is a high probability you have your own incredible “First time I heard the Cro-Mags” story (and probably far more exciting if you actually got to see them at that time). I suggest you revisit that memory! If you’ve somehow found your way here but never heard the Cro-Mags, then you have one up on the rest of us; you still get to hear them for the first time.

Now to the footage! I need to at least sprint around the block three times after watching this and then go attack a gym (or look for an Urban Cro-Mag Training Obstacle Course to navigate and conquer!!) and this footage somehow gets better every time you watch it.

1986 Cro-Mags (yes, from the same show they shot the We Gotta Know video) from the 80’s movie The Beat (as the “Iron Skulls”). John Joseph’s story about the filming of this alone is worth the price admission to his powerful book.

It’s The Limit kicks it off, then Hard Times EXPLODES!!! (with I believe the Krakdown singer contributing some backups at one point…and ten points to whoever flips OVER John Joseph….). The band is like combat unit. Harley, Doug and Paris are totally locked in and sound more intense than being inside of a pounding 50 cal. machine-gun, Pete is clobbering the drum kit and filling Mackey’s big shoes phenomenally well and John Joseph is nothing short of Olympic.

And the crowd?! Enough energy to probably kick-start the Large Hadron Collider ( ).

There’s various youtube versions of this, but this version seems to be the clearest, brightest, and with the best sound. It is also sadly as I type this, with less than 100 views. Please change this number.

(note: the “jumpy” beginning is in the actual movie…all the pit action and diving is full-tilt after a few seconds…)

 -Agent A.

Richie Birkenhead 
:56 - 1:05 in The Beat

Ok, I'm not gonna pretend to be the first person who has ever dissected the Cro-Mags footage from The Beat, or even the first person to dissect Richie's appearance in this live footage. But it still deserves being thoroughly analyzed again, second by second. Even though I have done this all in my mind before, I figured I'd share it here. 

During It's The Limit, going into the crushing breakdown (aka the greatest part of any song in history) at :56, you can see the red shirted Birkenhead on the far right side of the Ritz floor, pushing himself up onto stage and getting a boost from someone in the process. Somehow even this alone, just these three seconds of action, look cool as hell.

By 1:00, he is fully on stage, and syncing up with the music, clearly already starting to realize that parts of his brain are melting and pouring out of his ears - thus the unbelievably classic head hold...a move that will be imitated and ritualized by young moshers over the next 23 years. The end of life (aka the crushing mosh part) are moments away, he's got the entire stage in front of him, and the energy of a shark eating a tiger at his fingertips...just holding his head wondering if he can keep it all together.

1:02 - boom...way too much energy and he just decides he'll let his brain melt entirely, it's too much too contain, thus the removal of the hands. He jumps up and is exploding now into a stage mosh en route to perhaps the world's greatest stage dive. But let's slow it down.

1:03 - the jump has now turned into the initial stages of a strut with another patented NYHC move, the triumphant 'Tommy Carrol-esque-fist-pump-in-the-air-in-mid-mosh-greatness' move. Done properly, it's probably the coolest looking thing ever. The fact that Richie's like 6'1 and could knock out probably 80% of all inmates at Rykers just makes it that much cooler. At the end of the fist pump, mosh greatness progresses as the same hand goes behind his head, he shifts his weight to one foot, and classic NYHC skanking ensues for a second.

1:04 - both hands now shift to the top of the head, again signaling the losing of the mind before final lift off into the crowd. It almost seems to serve as a helmet of sorts for a second before the lowering of the shoulders and final preperation for take off. The lighting has revealed camouflage pants and high top Nikes - aka the two best items of clothing you could ever wear on your lower body.

1:05 - airborne with a slight downward twist and roll of the shoulder, he actually pushes off with only his left foot, skipping over a stage monitor and another stage diver (possibly with a moustache?). He basically glides across the heads of the crowd on his chest, his fall broken by the sea of bodies going absolutely insane as Bloodclot's voice rings out the word "SEEEEEEE!!!!!"

While we never even see him land, we know there has been perfect execution. Even if not, it really doesn't matter. What he just did on stage is possibly the most awesome thing a human being could ever do during pretty much the greatest musical sounds ever produced. Study it. Live it. To do anything else would be the waste of your own life. -Gordo DCXX


Brett Hardware said...

Have I ever mentioned I love the Cro-Mags?

David said...

Maybe you might need to study the Kennedy Assassination videos to find out if there really was a second shooter or not...with this kind of analysis, you might solve that mystery once and for all...

Dave K.

Anonymous said...

Greatest analysis of a stage dive ever.

lennyzimkus said...

Porcell on left side of stage @ 37sec. white t pushes some guys then dives

Anonymous said...

jesus fucking christmas best video ever topped off with the best stage dive/stage mosh analysis ever, a pulitzer prize should be awarded and ritchie b owes you a firm handshake for solidyfing him as one of the greats in nyhc. big ups.

risingsun said...

goddamn this site is amazing. richieeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

Billy said...

The best part about it is that no one ever dreamed that there would be a medium like the internet for this shit to be enjoyed for eternity.

Ben Edge said...

I can't figure out what's so special about this particular stage dive (aside from who he is, what band is playing, and what year it is).

Ricky Jefferson said...

Ben Edge, you seem like a guy who likes to answer his own questions, but doesn't fully understand what he's talking about.

Anonymous said...

Hallo guys, just watched We gotta
know for abouth the 9999 time since
1987. Does anyone know who that guy
with the mustache and long hair are
who greets them in the beginning?..

This site is amazing..thanx a lot


Anonymous said...

dear ben edge:

the particular dive and caught-in-a-mosh action is so special because it is richie birkenhead (aka underdog singer, YOT guitarist during YOTs best incarnation, aka one of the coolest NYHC figures ever), on fucking stage for the cro mags (best band ever) in 1986 (best year of the cro mags) at the ritz in nyc (one of coolest venues ever).....that alone means he could get on stage and do absolutely nothing and it would be awesome. but then, you throw in the fact that he gets up and does like the coolest thing you could do while on stage for 6 seconds (which is mosh a little in a really cool way then dive a classic style dive), and you pretty much have the clear answer on what makes this video so special. (DIIIIIING!) - class is over.

Anonymous said...

Greatest analysis of a stage dive ever.

attn: NBC sunday night football,
i think we just found your john madden replacement.

David said...

Mustache and long hair would be Chris Williamson, their "manager"...he was an odd guy for sure...