Monday, September 12, 2011

And Speaking of Gorgeous...

New York City in the late 70s and early 80s may have been a scary place -- with rampant crime, abandoned crack vials on every street corner, and that Ed Koch idiot standing in front of the Brooklyn Bridge demanding that people tell him "How'm I doin'?" -- but at least one thing, thankfully, hasn't changed since those long ago days; the quality of our street musicians. Then, and now, they were and are the best in the world.

I bring this up because, for some reason I can't account for specifically, I started thinking about The Iranian Beatles the other day.

They weren't actually Iranian, of course, although that's how everybody I knew referred to them at the time, but in the late 70s and early 80s they were a Manhattan fixture, particularly in the area around Greenwich Village -- three vaguely swarthy guys playing acoustic guitars, another one simulating drums with a couple of cardboard boxes, and all of them singing covers of Beatles songs in the most astoundingly pretty harmonies you could possibly imagine.

Here they are on a corner somewhere back then doing "I Saw Her Standing There," which will give you an idea of how utterly charming they were.

Eventually I found out they were actually Latino ex-gang members from the South Bronx, and that they were called Street the Beat. They used to absolutely make my day whenever I would run across them in performance (you never knew where they were going to show up, which was, of course, part of the fun). To my knowledge, they never went into a recording studio, but they did do the occasional club show at Folk City, where (I can tell you from personal experience) they were no less amazing than they were al fresco.

And they had a couple of original songs in a Merseybeat vein that would, or should, have been hits in the context of the early New Wave, when such things were being re-appreciated. Here's one of them -- "Falling in Love," as seen on an early morning Public Affairs show on NYC Channel 9 in 1983.

I have no idea what happened to the band, although apparently the drummer has a Facebook page. In any case, if "Falling in Love" doesn't make you swoon, or weep for what might have been, there's no hope for you.


MJConroy said...

Wow! These guys were good!
Found a youtube channel for them at

Here's another great original:


Sal Nunziato said...

Wow! Such memories. FD13NYC and I loved these guys so much, we actually covered one of their originals. "Go To Him," I believe. If you're reading, FD, remember that? Nice pull, Simels.

DB said...

Life is unfair.

There are thousands of songs that never should have come out of my radio and these guys join the list of performers whose songs belonged on my radio instead.

The great thing about discovering, late in middle age, my love for power pop is that I realize that most of the stuff I enjoy is from performers known to very few people.

Just as shitty music is everywhere, so is great music.

DB said...

And the song that MJConroy links to feels like proto-Pablo Cruise.

Loved the song.

Sal Nunziato said...

And...they had a monthly gig at the West 4th Street Saloon. Caught them there a number of times.

edward said...

Even better than the Rutles;>

Seriously, it is probably best they were never "discovered", I can imagine some record company AR dept turning them into the Knack or something. They have a degree of purity that shouldn't be screwed with.

Anonymous said...

I feel robbed - on the streets of Madison WI we were limited to three competing versions of Ecuadoran folk bands, all of which performed "El Condor Pasa"

uh, my word is "nutskin"

Anonymous said...

This is a great piece of urban musicology.

Is it possible these guys made it uptown? Memory recalls them one time on Central Park South near the Columbus Circle entrance. And they were great. I don't know what it's like now but in the 80s, NYC's street music could be beyond exceptional, even with our share of El Condora Pasa combos.


steve simels said...

Apparently, they played SNAFU (home of a fondly remembered Flo Mos gig) which was in the west 20s if I recall.

I think they were also in Soho a lot, serenading the shoppers on weekends.

Anonymous said...

(Thank you for repeating the name of that place. I remembered the location but not the name.)

In a better world, Street the Beat would be internet sensations. They are impressive on these old videos.


pete said...

I heard them do, I think, "And Your Bird Can Sing," somewhere near Sheridan Square.

bglobe313 said...

Wow. Thanks for calling this to my attention. There's got to be some recordings somewhere.


Anonymous said...

Their wonderful! Great find Simels. I loved the original song.


Anonymous said...

These guys ARE an internet sensation. I downloaded "Falling in Love", edited out the blips and beefed up the sound some time ago. These guys need to get back in the studio, or someone ought to cover this thing. What a tune!

FD13NYC said...

Yes! Yes! Sal and I used to see them at the 4th Street Saloon quite often. They were a pleasure to hear.

Steve, what made you dig this up? Small world heh?

steve simels said...

FD -- I have no idea what made me think about them last week. Just popped into my head, and what a pleasure to find them on YouTube.

Dave said...

"Falling in Love" is fantastic. On my way to discover more. Thanks, Steve!