Ruth Polsky

Ruth Polsky (December 5, 1954 - September 7, 1986) was a booker and music promoter in New York City.

Polsky was raised in Toms River, New Jersey and graduated from Clark University, where she worked on the students newspaper.[1]

Lene Lovich, Ruth Polsky and Les Chappell, 1978(?) by Nigel Dick

During the period 1979 until her death, Polsky was talent buyer[clarification needed] at Hurrah[2] and then Danceteria[3] in New York, also promoting shows at The Ritz and booking bands out across the U.S. In this role, she was crucial in breaking many, particularly UK-based, post-punk acts in the U.S., including tours for The Smiths, New Order, Einstürzende Neubauten, The Only Ones, The Sisters of Mercy, The Birthday Party, Cocteau Twins, and The Chameleons.[4] She worked closely with Shirley O'Loughlin[5] at Rough Trade to bring in The Raincoats, Delta 5, Young Marble Giants, Cabaret Voltaire, The Go-Betweens, The Slits and The Pop Group for their U.S. debuts. Ruth booked the Joy Division USA tour in May 1980, which was canceled after Ian Curtis' death. Other bands that got their first break in the U.S. via Polsky are The Cult, A Certain Ratio, Echo & the Bunnymen, Simple Minds, The Teardrop Explodes, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Gene Loves Jezebel, and the Jesus & Mary Chain.[6]

She died after being crushed by a runaway cab on the steps of the Limelight club in New York.

"A driver for a car service has been charged with running a red light after his vehicle collided with a taxicab that spun out of control, struck and killed a woman in front of the Limelight discotheque in Chelsea, the police said yesterday. The victim, who was killed instantly Sunday night when the cab pinned her against the front of the building at 47 West 20th Street, was identified yesterday as Ruth Polsky of 90 West Houston Street, according to a police spokesman, Officer Joseph McConville"[7]

Notes 1979-1986Edit

Polsky is quoted after attending Elvis Costello's first U.S. shows, including the notorious April Fools' Day Marathon on April 1, 1979.[8]

Polsky wrote an article on Lene Lovich for The Aquarian in July 1979.[9]

Polsky booked Simple Minds into Hurrah for a show on October 24, 1979, where the band were filmed by The Old Grey Whistle Test, giving them crucial UK TV exposure.[10]

Polsky's efforts were not exclusively dedicated to European groups; in 1981, she brought Big Star to New York for some of their first live dates.[11]

Polsky's close relationship with Stiff Records led to a package show titled "Taking Liberties" at The Rainbow in Finsbury Park on February 21, 1981, featuring New York bands The dB's, The Fleshtones, Raybeats, Bush Tetras, The Bongos, and Polyrock.[12] Live tracks recorded at the show of all except Polyrock were released on a Stiff compilation titled Start Swimming.[13][14]

In 1983, Sonic Youth's Kill Yr Idols recording session was financed by Polsky who "drunkenly" double paid Lydia Lunch for a band performance at Danceteria.[15][16]

Polsky managed Certain General from 1984 to 1986, and released Will You on her own S.U.S.S. label.[4]

Polsky almost managed The Smiths in February 1984 [17]

Polsky contributed photography to the Sisters of Mercy 1985 album First and Last and Always.[citation needed]

Posthumous notesEdit

Morrissey dedicated The Smiths' single "Shoplifters of the World Unite" to her memory.[18]

The Virgin Prunes dedicated their 1986 live album The Hidden Lie to Polsky: "If this is a goodbye LP, then it's a special farewell to Ruth Polsky." [19]

On December 5, 1986, New Order played a benefit for Ruth at the Roxy in New York, performing an encore with Joy Division tunes "Atmosphere" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart". The first time the band had played these songs live since Joy Division.[18]

A brief obituary on The ARChive of Contemporary Music website read:

"Ruth was the first to place monitors around a club and play video for the dancers. She had willed her records to the ARChive, but ghoulish record dealers camp out on the steps and buy them off the family." [20]


In February 2017. the New York Post ran a profile of Polsky titled "The Forgotten New Yorker Who Changed the '80s Music Scene".[4]


  1. ^ Phull, Hardeep. "The forgotten New Yorker who changed the '80s music scene", New York Post, February 7, 2017. Accessed March 19, 2017. "Born in 1954, Polsky grew up in Toms River, NJ, as one of four siblings. Obsessed with music from a young age, she majored in English at Clark University in Massachusetts, writing a column for the school paper and even interviewing a young Bruce Springsteen."
  2. ^ Joe, R.: Disco Forum Report: Keys to Successful Programming Are Mulled, pg. 48, Billboard, August 16, 1980
  3. ^ Lawrence, Tim (Sep 9, 2016). Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822373926.
  4. ^ a b c Phull, Hardeep (February 7, 2017). "The forgotten New Yorker who changed the '80s music scene". New York Post. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Howe, Zoe (2014). The Jesus and Mary Chain: Barbed Wire Kisses. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-250-03024-5.
  7. ^ ,New York Times September 9, 1986
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  9. ^ Polsky, Ruth (July 4, 1979). "Lene Lovich (Lay-na Luv-itch) Dials The Lucky Number". The Aquarian. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2017.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ "dream giver redux | discography | dvds | seen the lights - a visual history".
  11. ^ Eaton, Bruce (2009). Big Star's Radio City (Volume 65 of 33 1/3 ed.). A&C Black. ISBN 9780826428981.
  12. ^ Palmer, Robert (February 20, 1981). "POP JAZZ; NEW YORK ROCK BANDS EXCITE LONDON". New York Times. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ Jarnow, Jesse (Jun 5, 2012). Big Day Coming: Yo La Tengo and the Rise of Indie Rock. Penguin Books. ISBN 9781101588680.
  15. ^ Chick, Steve (2009). Psychic Confusion: The Sonic Youth Story. Omnibus Press. ISBN 9780857120540.
  16. ^ Azerrad, Michael (Dec 1, 2012). Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316247184.
  17. ^ "The Smiths First UK Tour". BigMouth. Q Magazine. February 2001. Archived from the original on 6 November 2003. Retrieved 12 February 2017.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  18. ^ a b Hook, Peter (2009). The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club. London: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-84737-135-5.
  19. ^ "Limbos – Aprende sobre música, nuevas culturas, arte y entretenimiento". Limbos.
  20. ^ "The ARChive of Contemporary Music". September 18, 2003. Archived from the original on 2003-09-18.

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