Farewell to CBGBs?
“CBGB gave us a great opportunity to start, to be able to play original songs. It’s also great that it became more popular and better known than the Cavern…” Johnny Ramone.
Looks like venerable rock site CBGB’s days are numbered…and there’s been a pretty impassioned and vocal campaign recently trying to save the building that is fondly – and pretty accurately - remembered as ‘the birthplace of US punk’…
It’s kinda obvious to those of us old enough to remember the whole ‘olde punke rocke’ phenomenon just how vitally important CBGBs was…but to anyone who is too young to have lived through it, or thinks it’s just a trendy t shirt logo, then It’s only fair to remind ‘em that this one tiny club was the springboard for such legendary notables as The Ramones, the Heartbreakers, The Cramps, the Dictators, Blondie, Television, The Voidoids, Talking Heads, the Dictators, the Dead Boys, Patti Smith and a host of others who were every bit as talented but never got the breaks…I can’t think of any other club EVER that can match that batting average and it’s pretty accurate to say that without CBGB’s then punk rock, as we know and love(hate) it woulda never happened. Just think about that for a minute!
For latecomers/unapologetic nostalgists (including yours truly) a glossy new hardback has just hit the racks which documents CBGBs illustrious history. Sure we’ve seem 95% of the pictures before – but they still thrill and amaze! Today’s bands look dumb, lumpen, drab and ugly in comparison. And at a pretty reasonable £12.95 it’s well worth checking out! Amazingly, most surviving band members all seem to remember the venue fondly – due in the main to the fact that head honcho Hilly Kristal treated the bands fairly, paying ‘em well and forking out for a first rate PA system.
Still, faced with the ever encroaching yuppification and gentrification that has blighted every major city it looks like this legendary bowery dives days are well and truly numbered…It’s been the same sad story everywhere – over this side of the pond most punk rock landmarks in these parts have been bulldozed a long time ago. The (in)famous Harp bar was flattened and replaced by an office block, the Pound was knocked down and became part of the adjoining Musgrave Street police station and weirdest of all, the notorious The Glenmachan Hotel with its infamous stables (home from home to teenage delinquents RUDI and scene of earliest punk gigs by SLF etc) was bought over by the Church of God and converted into one of their houses of worship. All the local punk record shops have long since folded and perhaps most tellingly of all local studio/rehearsal space/venue/café/hangout Giros closed a couple of years ago after fighting a valiant rearguard action against local developers and teenage apathy for years. In fact the only punk landmark that remains the same is the subway near the Albert Clock - now the haunt of barely pubescent skateboarders at weekends rather than cider drinking punk rockers..
And so progress marches relentlessly on – but for me and many others the world will be a much poorer place without CBGBs…
Brian Young – tMx 21 – 09/05