Ruth Polsky

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Ruth Polsky (December 5, 1954 - September 7, 1986) was a pioneering booker and music promoter in New York City. She died after being crushed by a runaway cab on the steps of the Limelight club in New York.

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

"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"[2]

During the period 1979 until her death, Ruth was talent buyer at Hurrah[3] and then Danceteria[4] in New York, also promoting shows at The Ritz and booking bands out across the country. In this role she was crucial in breaking many, particularly UK-based, post-punk acts in the USA, including tours for The Smiths, New Order, Einstürzende Neubauten, The Only Ones, The Sisters of Mercy, The Birthday Party, Cocteau Twins, and The Chameleons.[5] She worked closely with Shirley O'Loughlin[6] 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 US debuts. Ruth booked the Joy Division USA tour in May 1980, which was canceled after Ian Curtis' death. Other bands that got their first USA break via Ruth are A Certain Ratio, Echo & the Bunnymen, Simple Minds, The Teardrop Explodes, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Gene Loves Jezebel, and the Jesus & Mary Chain.[7]

Notes 1979-1986[edit]

Polsky is quoted after attending Elvis Costello's first USA 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 Europeans, in 1981 she also brought Big Star to NYC for some of their first live dates.[11]

Polsky's close relationship with Stiff Records led to a package show 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 called 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 1984–1986, and released Will You on her own S.U.S.S. label.[5]

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 notes[edit]

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 (Live in Paris 6/6/86) 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, encoring 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 story was told by her dad at her funeral of how Ruth fell out of a car when she was a baby, but was retrieved when they drove back looking for her.[citation needed]

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 entitled The forgotten New Yorker who changed the ‘80s music scene.[5]


  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. ^ ,New York Times September 9, 1986
  3. ^ Joe, R.: Disco Forum Report: Keys to Successful Programming Are Mulled, pg. 48, Billboard, August 16, 1980
  4. ^ Lawrence, Tim (Sep 9, 2016). Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983. Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822373926. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Howe, Zoe (2014). The Jesus and Mary Chain: Barbed Wire Kisses. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-1-250-03024-5. 
  8. ^ Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Polsky, Ruth (July 4, 1979). "Lene Lovich (Lay-na Luv-itch) Dials The Lucky Number". The Aquarian. Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  10. ^
  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. ^
  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. Retrieved 12 February 2017. 
  18. ^ a b Hook, Peter (2009). The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club. London: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-84737-135-5. 
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ The ARChive of Contemporary Music

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