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The Shirts

The Shirts on the Staten Island Ferry, 2015
The 2006 album, Only The Dead Know Brooklyn

Download bundle of 13 CD song excerpts (23Mb): mp3 | AAC/m4a. All excerpts are around two minutes long.

'Only The Dead Know Brooklyn' album cover

‘If you were to believe the press, the CB’s scene was only made up of a handful of bands but that just wasn’t true. There were all kinds of musical styles being represented… and one could even claim the SHIRTS were the precursors to the musical RENT.’

– David Byrne in his afterword to
Thirty Years from the Home of Underground Rock, CBGB & OMFUG 
published 2005 by Harry Abrams Inc

The Shirts album coverThe SStreet Light Shine album coverhirts’ heydays were in the late seventies. As an integral part of the raucous and classic CBGB scene, they experimented from their own distinctive musical starting point. During their brush with big-time showbiz, they were managed by Hilly Kristal, who was still the club’s owner in 2006 as it prepared to celebrate its 33rd birthday, and then close down (unwillingly) in October. The group had reformed in 2003 as a larger ensemble.  More about the Shirts at CBGB..Read the story-to-date (2009).

Robert Racioppo and Artie Lamonica, elder statesmen of the Shirts (from Brooklyn), were interviewed in New York on Monday April 21 2003 at 5pm. They spoke fast, since the rehearsal followed with the new, expanded lineup heading for performance at CBGB on Saturday May 31 2003. Newcomers are Caren Messing (vocals) and Kathy McCloskey (keyboards and vocals). Annie Golden is no longer with the band.

The Shirts on stage at CBGB, New York 2003, their first performance after regrouping.  More photos…
photo: Molesworth

The Shirts on stage at CBGB, New York 1978.  More photos…
photo: JR Rost

The Shirts’ Brooklyn Video

conceived and directed by JR Rost

still from the Shirts' video Only The Dead Know BrooklynThe Shirts’ song Only The Dead Know Brooklyn tells of the perils of underestimating the rougher parts of the borough. It’s a take on Thomas Wolfe’s short story (he of the 1935 publication in The New Yorker, not that guy in the white suit).

still from the Shirts' video Only The Dead Know BrooklynPicking up on the CD booklet, and his own photos of industrial archeology, JR Rost delivers a remarkable tour de force of live club performance, montage and flat-out fancy effects. It’s available to watch on YouTube, below. Its release unfortunately coincides with the closure of the legendary club where they played for its whole existence: 1973 through 2006. These are parallel histories.

Brooklyn Gallery

The montages, combinations of old industrial Brooklyn, CBGB on stage, and more were so good that we put together a gallery of 16 stills from the video. Truly, a dream world. Off you go…

The Shirts under the Gowanus Expressway/onstage at CBGB as the ‘Park Slope yuppie’ dances by