Let’s not expend too much energy arguing about who invented punk rock but Terry Ork, a sometime associate of the Warhol set, spent the mid 1970s watching and waiting before launching a record label with friend Charles Ball to capture the raw rock ‘n roll he saw on the club stages of New York. His label served not just to document the local scene, but also helped to make concrete a DIY sensibility that was growing independently on both sides of the Atlantic.
A classic dreamer, Ork was a Hollywood-obsessed filmmaker who ran a memorabilia store, Cinemabilia, through which he met Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell of the formative Television. Assuming the role of band manager, Ork Records became an outlet for their first tentative scratchings (‘Little Johnny Jewel’) but also the definitive retch of Hell’s ‘(I Belong To) The Blank Generation’ before becoming a home for outlier power pop (Alex Chilton, Chris Stamey) and peer influenced material (The Student Teachers’ ‘Channel 13′ is just missing the vocals of Debbie Harry to make it a Blondie number) over a 13 disc release run, all now compiled by Numero Group alongside a good heft of unreleased material.
As with many round-ups like these, not everything is great: rock critic Lester Bangs probably thought he was doing a Captain Beefheart but he wasn’t, while Chilton occasionally sounds disinterested, but The Erasers’ ‘I Won’t Give Up’, with its Patti Smith-esque build-and-release and the Raw Power nihilism of Cheetah Chrome’s ‘Still Wanna Die’ emphasise there were worse places to be during the late 70s than CBGBs. Nicely annotated, with a wealth of period imagery, this 2CD (or 4LP) set is a worthy effort for scholars of the period.