New York Film Locations

Interview with Bob Egan

7 Fenruary 2015

Have you ever looked at an album cover and wondered where the photograph on the front had been taken?

Well… Bob Egan from New York City has been researching this subject for several years now and is the creator behind PopSpots, a website purely dedicated to pin-pointing street locations in New York City which have been featured on album covers. OtsoNY recently caught up with Bob and asked him some questions about his website and the reasons behind it.

Originally from Boston, Bob moved to New York City in the late seventies when Soho only had one restaurant and there were no 24-hour-opening retail stores. “Even now after all of these years I still feel more like a Bostomian than a New Yorker,” laughed Bob. “Half of us here are originally from out of town!”

Bob currently resides in the apartment building at the corner of Fifth and Eleventh, which has noticeably been seen in several films such as ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’, ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ and more recently, ‘Just My Luck’. But it’s Manhattan’s Lower East Side that he is most fond of. “I particularly like the East Village and the small streets within Chinatown,” said Bob. “Everything is starting to change at a rapid pace now, so you have to go to Brooklyn to find the old fashioned places. I used to like the Financial District when it was empty, but there are people there twenty four seven now.”

The idea for the website came to Bob after he gave a friend a tour around the city and started pointing out places that had been used for album covers as well as movies. “Most of the guidebooks for Greenwich Village were published ages ago and none of them mention recent events,” explained Bob. “So when I used to take out-of-town guests around Manhattan I'd mention where album covers were photographed, where movies had been shot, where the famous rock clubs were and it suddenly dawned on me that I should make a website for other out-of-towners.”

(Bob Egan in 1977)

(Bob Egan at his Cornelia Street apartment in 1977)

The first entry on PopSpot was Neil Young's album, ‘After the Gold Rush’. The image of the front cover was taken by professional photographer Joel Bernstein and shows Neil Young walking passed the iron railings at the northwest corner of Sullivan Street and West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village. “This was where my favorite Souvlaki restaurant used to be,” recalls Bob. “I easily recognized the area because I used to walk pass the NYC Law School all the time and so I knew that it had been taken there.”

(Neil Young album 'After the Gold Rush'. Photo take at Sullivan Street and West 3rd Street in Greenwich Village)

(Original photograph that includes Graham Nash)

After the photo was posted on the website, Bob received an email from the actual photographer, who originally described the image as an “accidental shot” of Neil walking through Greenwich Village. He thanked him as he had forgotten the exact spot where the photograph had been taken. A short time after, Graham Nash also made contact with Bob to explain that he was in the original photo, but had been cropped out.

(PopSpot: Bob Dylan album 'The Freewheelin'. Photo taken on Jones Street at West 4th Street)

(PopSpot: 'West Side Story' soundtrack. Photo taken on West 56th Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenue)

One cover that still eludes Bob is ‘Blonde on Blonde’, an album by Bob Dylan. “It's my favourite album,” said Bob, matter-of-factly. “But finding the location is the most elusive as I suspect that the building may have been demolished by now. There are few clues in the photo, but even the photographer who I had the fortune to meet at an art exhibition doesn’t remember where it was taken.” The inlay picture of ‘Blonde on Blonde’ has also been a challenge. Bob explained, “The photo was taken on the same day and has been featured on the cover of a Saturday Evening Post in 1965. In it Dylan is on a real beaten-down brick lined street that has a bend in it. I spent several months on the search. I tracked down all of the bent streets, lanes and alleyways in New York and visited them all. I even contacted a street historian who told me that some of the curved roads used to exist near the Brooklyn Bridge but were wiped out when a huge apartment complex was put up there. Finally, I found the street where the historian had suggested in a photo from 1966 at the New York Pubic Digital Archives. It was taken in the exact spot where the Dylan had stood a year or two before the entire neighbourhood was demolished.” Bob added, “I enjoyed that search because in a way I had to go back in time to another world to find the location.”

(Bob Egan in 2015)

Bob has also spent a considerable amount of his spare time tracking down all of the locations featured in the opening dance sequence from the musical, ‘West Side Story’. “I grew up listening to that album,” explained Bob. “Many articles have mentioned that the film was shot where Lincoln Center is now, but they never specify exactly where. So I decided to research it and found the four blocks north where a group of buildings called the Lincoln Center Towers are now. The demolition company had knocked down about 6 blocks of old tenements, and this is the amusing part,” smiled Bob. “I discovered that the film company had actually paid the demolition company to leave one block still standing, that being 68th between Amsterdam and West End, so that they could film the opening sequence. I have a great shot of just the 68th Street building next to three blocks of completely flat land. When the actors danced in and out of the buildings, there was nothing behind the doors!”

PopSpot is updated monthly and already includes 50 entries with another 50 currently being researched. “I am always looking at new album covers and every Saturday I go to a flea market on 39th Street where there are lots of rare albums with interesting covers.” Bob now has 1,500 followers on Twitter. “Most of my activity comes when I send out a notice for new listings. When I tweeted a Grateful Dead location, it was re-tweeted by Deadheads and I had so many hits in one day, it caused the server to break down!”




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