CBGBs has closed. Big deal. It was one of the breeding grounds of the early American punk scene but other scenes since have had as big, if not bigger impacts on modern music. They’ve built this big shrine making CBGBs a Mount Olympus, but I seem to remember reading of the impact of places like the Mercer Street Center and Max’s Kansas City on that same scene (and later the Mudd Club and the Knitting Factory. Hell, it could be argued that whatever early hip hop clubs sprang from NY had a much more earth shaking effect, but I digress.) Which leads to me to two topics:
1) One of the groups that put CBGBs on the map was the Ramones. I’ve recently read where they are thinking about making a movie about the band based on a soon-to-be-published book by Joey’s brother. The biggest question is why? If you’ve ever watched most of the movies based on bands (I’m thinking Beatles, the Doors, the Monkees & Def Leppard right off the top of my head), they usually are the worst, most clumsily acted things you’d ever want to see. And super cheesy. (oddly enough, the ones based on individuals (Buddy Holly, Tina Turner, Kurt Russell as Elvis) are not bad.) Plus this one has the added factor that you know who it’s probably gonna be heavily biased in favor of (Joey) and against (Johnny). I’ve never heard much good about Joey’s bro. The records he used to make were certainly not any good.
But the Ramones industry (ala Jimi, Tupac & Jeff Buckley) must have new product. Too bad this money couldn’t have been pushed the band’s way when most of them were alive and could enjoy it. This goes the same way with commercial radio airplay. That band beat their heads against the wall from the late 70s to the early 90s trying to get a hit. Now DJs that were probably cranking out Molly Hatchet and Journey and Pearl Jam on the radio (at that point in time) have featured segments where they play the bruddas. Whatever. I once got to drive Joey around trying to get his penicillin prescription refilled (he got sick at an outdoor show in Florida) and had to tell Dee Dee when wrestling was on. Those moments are in my Ramones movie…..
2) Once again, CBGBs is kaput. Don’t care that much because I never went there. Had I gone there any time after that initial 1975-1978 burst I doubt I’d think any differently. There really wasn’t much of CB’s scene after that point (the NYC hardcore bands just weren’t very good.) Where I did go was an Atlanta club called 688. 688 closed 20 years ago this month. I once figured out that I went to something like 360 + performances at the venue, most of those in about a 3 1/2 year span (May 1983 – October 1986). Because of the dumb concept of drinking age admission (I never cared anything about alcohol, I’ve never been drunk in my life), I missed a number of great shows at the club before I turned 19 in April of 1983. Siouxsie. Gang Of Four. Richard Hell. The Professionals. The Method Actors. The Stranglers. Echo & The Bunnymen. REM. 999. Johnny Thunders. Wall Of Voodoo. Billy Idol. The Fans. Vietnam. Jim Carroll. Anti-Nowhere League. Psychedelic Furs. But I got to see some amazing ones as well. Iggy Pop with Chrissie Hynde joining him on-stage (at a “teen” show.) The Brains, The Basics. The Heathen Girls. The Go Gos (all of these also at “teen” shows.) Dead Kennedys. Circle Jerks. Pylon. The Bongos. Guadalcanal Diary. Marianne Faithfull. Black Flag. Meat Puppets. The Gun Club. Violent Femmes. Hoodoo Gurus. Red Hot Chilli Peppers (who sucked both times I saw them there.) Lords Of The New Church. Eurogliders. Minutemen. Drivin N Cryin. Nightporters. NRBQ. Mutabaruka. Afrika Bambata. Flipper. Jesus & Mary Chain. 86. Husker Du. Soul Asylum. Peter Tork. The Bluebells. Jason & The Nashville Scorchers. Specimen. Chris Stamey. The dB’s.Â Let’s Active. The Residents. Glen Branca. The Three O’Clock. Green On Red. The Rain Parade. The Blasters, The Dream Syndicate. Nick Cave. Sheer Thursday. The Church. Subhumans. The Exploited. Scream. UK Subs. The Restraints. The Bangles. The Suburbs. The Replacements. plus more I can’t think of right now. 688 was a place to go when nothing was going on because you knew some one you knew would be there. You might fall in love there (this may have happened to the author with not so great results). You might see Phreddy Vomit fall through the roof there. You might have one of the Nightporters tell you how he hoped he’d soon hit it big so that he could quit selling drugs. You might run into members of the Clash (they stopped by in 1982). Or Marco Pirroni (early Banshee and member of Adam Ant’s band. later with Sinead O’Connor as well.) You might nearly physically run over Susanna Hoffs (she was at a True West show and I nearly plowed right over her short self.) You might see skinheads attacking a pick-up truck on Spring Street. You probably weren’t going to be bored. (unless it was that one Meat Puppets show.) So I do understand the feelings people like Debbie Harry, Patti Smith and Richard Hell had about CBGB’s closing because I can empathise. My CBGBs closed 20 years ago.
8 thoughts on “It was 20 years ago…..”
While I do harbor fond memories of CBGB (mostly playing there a half-dozen or so times), I agree with your take on the 688 … that was an amazing place. I saw many of those same shows, plus I’m sure I played a few of ’em. I’ve seen a lot of rock joints in my day, but few compare to the 688 in its heyday.
688 was a great place where I spent way too many nights delaying my education. But I have some great memories and tinnitus to show for it. of all the hundreds of shows, none topped having Phreddy Vomit fall through the ceiling and land just a few feet away. Surreal doesn’t adequately describe it.
I just hopw that Iggy Pop’s songlist is still somewhere in that building.
They painted over Iggy’s setlist when the club became the Rollick…..
Thank you for the kind mention —
688 was an amazing place.
Best…Club…Ever! and —
Home of the Heathen Girls!
Still waiting for the world to see a Heathen Girls CD, Rose. (Hopefully with “Who Is Gonna Break The News?” (or whatever that song was I have on tape somewhere from when Marc played it on Mark Williams’ show.)
I bought a yellow t-shirt at one of the two teen shows the HGs did at 688 in the fall of 1980 (I think one in September and one in October).
Thank you for the kind words, cool love, and the patronage, so long ago.
Being a patron of the arts is a very high calling!
Rest assured that when the legal issues are finally clarified, once and for all, the CD will finally be free to manifest.
If it were up to me alone, I would give it away to everyone who wanted it.
For me, as an artist, that is where the deepest value lies in this music now; in the wonderful memories of all of us who were a part of that great music scene.
I feel honored to be remembered so kindly, and would be grateful to be able to give back to so many who shared their time, and hearts with us.
Best to you, and thanks again —
p.s. Feel free to drop me an email whenever you like…I’ll keep you posted!
688 was the reason I punk’d. Saw the mohawks as I was being driven from The Fox on a school bus. I’ll never forget that. First show was Black Flag (w/ Kira on sax!?). However, I must say, “All HAIL The Metroplex!” Looking forward to the ‘reunion’ at Masquerade in October. Oi!