By: Serach Nissim
One of Manhattan’s musical hot spots may soon be just a memory, as developers make way for new office towers, as part of the Penn Station redevelopment project.
As reported by Crain’s NY, the small unimpressive industrial building on West 30th Street holds a legacy of New York City recording studios. The building, which was once home to some hundred recording studios, now has just two studios remaining. One of the studio owners, has turned into a community activist, in a bid to hold on to his spot.
Gov. Kathy Hochul already approved the Penn Station project, and to pay for it, developers are slated to replace the aforementioned building and surrounding area with new office towers, which will generate profits, and which are slated to pay for the renovation over time through their payable property tax revenue.
Steve Marshall, a musician and electrician who has a recording studio in the building, is not looking to make it easy for them though. He has history in the building, which has barely been altered for the past century. He moved into his apartment in 1975. In the early 1980s, Madonna, the famed popstar, had entered the building as a newbie singer looking to catch a break. She had entered Marshall’s apartment on the eighth floor, and sang her heart out. Marshall recalls that one of the musicians had been unimpressed. “He told her, ‘Don’t quit your day job,’ ” Marshall said. “Six months later she released Like a Virgin.”
West 30th Street became a music hub in the 1950s, when singer and songwriter, Harry Belafonte, opened shop there. The Ramones rehearsed in Marshall’s studio, and drummer Tommy Ramone lived in the building. “I never made it big, but I had a lot of fun,” Marshall said. “I’m a scrabbler and knew how to get the crowds to come in.” He spent many years playing music in burlesque clubs with his band. He was an electrician to stars including Bette Midler and Mick Jagger.
Marshall is now working to raise awareness and save his neighborhood from gentrification. He admits Penn Station needs to be rebuilt, but West 30th Street’s music legacy is worth keeping, he told Crain’s. He has rallied his friends to write letters to the state development authority. Already Simon Kirke from Bad Company as wells as Bernard Fowler, a backup vocalist who toured with the Rolling Stones, and numerous others have penned letters to support his cause. He wants to contact Madonna to join too, saying she must care, as she’s recorded six times at his studio or others on the street.