The Occult on the Bowery

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Incident Report Description

I had already been living in New York on East 10th Street for a few months when in the early spring of 1975 I was asked to play bass in a fledgling rock band that would later become fairly successful. Their name was Blondie and their bass player had quit to join another group, Television. CBGB on the Bowery was just starting to make a name for itself and would soon become the home of an honest-to-goodness scene. Soon after joining the group I had to give up my place on East 10th, and I moved in with the singer and guitarist. Their tiny flat in Little Italy, however, quickly proved too small for the three of us, and by that summer we had found a new nest, an illegal sub-let in a loft space above a liquor store (off license) at 266 Bowery. CBGB itself was a block away, as was the ‘Bunker’, home of the Beat writer William Burroughs. Although playing in a New York rock band was fantastic enough, living with the singer and guitarist was inspiring for another reason. Much of the debris left behind by the previous 60s generation was still around, and my loft mates – who were a part of that time – shared a kitschy interest in the occult, magic, and general weirdness. Aside from horror fiction and movies, I had had no interest in spooky stuff, but after a while, seeing beat up copies of Crowley’s Diary of a Drug Fiend, Leary’s High Priest, The Tibetan Book of the Dead other ‘mystical’ tomes piqued my curiosity. An artist who shared the space with us was a Crowley devotee, and he often did Tarot readings with Crowley’s famous Thoth deck, a rare item at the time. One book I pulled from the shelve proved to be life-changing. It was Colin Wilson’s The Occult. Unlike other works on the subject, it related the occult and mysticism to literature and philosophy. I had by then read a great deal of existentialism, and Wilson’s way of weaving Sartre and Nietzsche into chapters on Gurdjieff and Madame Blavatsky was exhilarating. After reading The Occult I was hooked, and read everything on magic I could find. I still do, and have even added a few things of my own to the literature. You can find them, I’m pretty sure, at Watkins – Gary Lachman
Credibility: UP  DOWN  6

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