I've been to Stax. I've been to Hitsville. Heck, I've
even been to SUN Studios, where Sam Phillips' flinty production
hand sparked some of the BEST early rock and roll. Paul
Simon once sang "he was goin' to Graceland." But, thank
goodness, I DID GO to CBGB's. . .right before it closed
its doors forever on Tuesday afternoon, October 31, 2006,
in New York City.
Smith had headlined the final concert performed there
on October 15, 2006. I wish I had been at the show. But,
I was happy just to meet club founder and owner, Hilly
Kristal, after I rode the subway down to the club. I shook
his hand and said, "Thank you." Then, I gave him a CD
of the audio tribute you can download from this site.
What did I get out of this visit? Well, I sensed a few
ghosts. Joey Ramone sang there. Arthur "Killer" Kane of
the New York Dolls played his bass there. Johnny Thunders
thrashed his guitar there- - -although neither played
CBGB's with the New York Dolls, but performed there with
spin-off groups after the Dolls broke up. I'd seen photos
of the place. It looked small and ratty. When I laid eyes
on the place in-person, I realized it was small and ratty,
featuring a very long and narrow performance space.
I arrived at the club on that incongruously bright and
warm Halloween afternoon, CBGB's workers were busy dis-assembling
the wooden stage that Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine had
built for the place themselves so their band, Television,
could perform in the club back in early 1974.
retrospect, I suppose this compulsion to visit the place
was just another step in mapping my musical genome. I
know I'm an odd duck, a mutant, a fifty- something African
American male who relishes good rock and roll. Chalk it
up to renegade DNA.
of my generation checked out the Beatles, admired their
boots and then returned to the racially and musically
segregated communities that remain the norm here in America
for more reasons than I have time to mention. But, not
me. I continued to follow rock after Beatlemania subsided.
I loved its energy, its daring, its self-invention.
turned 21 just as the punk movement was exploding in NYC.
Although I was in grad school at Atlanta University, I
lived punk rock vicariously from 800 miles away, peering
wide-eyed through the "magazine window" of Creem
and Rolling Stone. My black leather jacket and
tattered jeans drew disapproving stares from brothers
and sisters in the 'hood. My "rocker style" guaranteed
my expulsion from the up-and-comers club of the black
bourgeoisie. I didn't care. My father was a factory worker.
If it wasn't for the unfortunate reality that all blacks
have to deal with racism and that this battle against
racism forges a powerful shared identity that overwhelms
all the other social and economic factors that differentiate
us, I was more a product of the blue collar culture that
spawned punk than I was of the genteel world of Atlanta's
African American elite. But, hey, I'm overanalyzing. I
was just being who I wanted to be at that point in my
life. It was only rock and roll- - -and I liked it.
DOESN'T at some juncture revisit their youth? I suppose
it's my turn to do so.
the bemused security guards and irritable workers, I was
just another obvious Out-of-Towner gawking and snapping
photos of the legendary rock club in the Bowery.
CBGB's. . .I'm glad I visited your storied confines."
can own the accompanying audio documentary to this fascinating
piece of music history!
requests for hard copy CDs to firstname.lastname@example.org
requests for downloadable MP3 versions to email@example.com