315 Bowery at Bleecker Street in Manhattan now houses a high end fashion boutique. The alley behind it has been paved into a pedestrian walkway. The entire area is user friendly and pretty.
In another realm, invisible to the naked eye, the ghosts of this little spot are doing things that are unsuitable for print.
Image Ronnie Ramone
The full name of the place was “Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers”, but for the creatures of the night, the four generations of anti-everything revolutionists, it was known as CBGB. “CB’s”, to regulars like Jagger, Springsteen and Warhol. “The birthplace of American punk rock”, to all.
Before the term “Punk Rock” was coined, CBGB was born in 1973. Brain child of legendary underground maestro Hilly Kristal, the venue initially set out to showcase performers of the genres that made up its acronym, but was cosmically chosen to become the launching pad of the angst driven, moody cyclone of anarchy and art that is indeed punk. Names like Patti Smith, The Ramones, Misfits, Blondie and Bad Brains were among the party crashers at CBGB, which at the time was one of the few forums for original American underground music. Hardcore Punk performers, both Straight Edge and not, used the heavily graffiti layered walls as a launching pad. Count Gorilla Biscuits, Tool, Rollins Band, and Youth of Today amongst the thrashers that once bounced on the hallowed stage.
The CBGB experience was not limited to the Punk scene, though. Country legend Alan Jackson played before a sold out crowd. In their first U.S. concert, The Police played to almost no one. Even The Dave Matthews Band, the antithesis of nonconformity and revolt, were signed because of a gig at Hilly’s iconic music hall. But, at its very core, CBGB was Punk.
CBGB closed its doors in 2006. Though a Punk Rock Museum or Hall of Fame would be somewhat of an oxymoron, given the ideology of the genre, CBGB might have been just that. Before his death, Hilly Kristal had sought National Landmark status, a request which received an inconceivable denial. The club does live on for younger generations through film, television, gaming and advertisements (again a conflict for purists), but no re-enactment, this writing included, can capture the essence of what CBGB was. Nothing truly can. For fans, it was a place to see future giants and aspiring prophets play next to superstars. It was a scene in which the names on the marquee might have been an eclectic blend of platinum records and a plumber from Queens with a mean axe.
Just no covers-bring your own art. DIY. And make it original."I felt very good about it, letting them do their own thing," Hilly said in later years. "In any art form, I think that's the most important thing." Unique he was. Original was the joint. Legend, is CBGB.