This past Saturday marked the 10th anniversary since CBGB closed its doors for good. Lord knows, the place has been mythologized in that decade: its original awning ended up in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Museum; there was (briefly) a CBGB music and film festival; a CBGB restaurant popped up at Newark airport and garnered some of the worst Yelp reviews ever; and the Met even recreated the infamous CBGB bathroom. Heck, we even dusted off some photos from the vault last week.
During the punk club’s last night, Patti Smith performed and reminded everyone, “There’s new kids with new ideas all over the world. They’ll make their own places—it doesn’t matter whether it’s here or wherever it is.” She was absolutely right. Despite highly dubious efforts like the CBGB movie and HBO’s Vinyl, as well as the forthcoming Ramones Way in Queens, there are people roaming the Bowery today who wouldn’t know CBs from a hole in the wall (or a Varvatos store).
If you’re the type to say “Hilly who?”, you might want to educate yourself by consulting some of the films, books, and art that have touched on CBGB in the past decade. With the help of author Steven Lee Beeber (The Heebie Jeebies at CBGB’s) and curator Marc H. Miller, who put on the Ramones exhibit at the Queens Museum earlier this year, we compiled a list of some of the best.
History is Made at Night by David Godlis
If you’ve ever seen photos of CBGBs from the 1970s (like the one of Joey Ramone carrying a massive “Gabba Gabba Hey” sign on stage), chances are you’ve seen the work of East Village photographer Godlis. He caught the Cramps, Blondie, the Dictators, Lydia Lunch, and others performing onstage and lounging outside, many of them falling over from Hilly’s cheap booze (or worse). Flipping through these photos, you can almost smell Iggy Pop’s sweat.
The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB’s by Steven Lee Beeber
It should be no surprise that many punk pioneers have Jewish roots. Hilly Kristal, the founder of CBGBs, grew up on a Zionist, socialist collective in Roosevelt, NJ called the Jersey Homestead, founded by his uncle. Albert Einstein even visited and supported the homestead. Beeber does a beautiful job of unwrapping CBGB’s history through a Jewish lens.
Punks, Poets, & Provocateurs, NYC Bad Boys 1977-1982 by Marcia Resnick
Marcia Resnick once explained why she gravitated toward rebel boys like Richard Hell, Allen Ginsberg, and David Byrne: “I was curious about what I could learn about men as a woman photographing them,” she told Crave. “The punk rockers were primarily ‘bad boys’ whose sound and visual style were against-the-grain. Bad boys can be both formidable and endearing. Being ‘bad’ also makes one sexually attractive.” The book also includes commentary by Victor Bockris and additional texts by John Waters, Richard Hell, Gary Indiana, Max Blagg, Liz Derringer, and Marcia herself.
Chris Stein / Negative: Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk by Chris Stein
Looking for behind the scenes photos from someone actually in the band? The co-founder and guitarist of Blondie began photographing the downtown scene of the early ’70s when he was a student at the School of Visual Arts. That’s when he met Debbie Harry. This book, a blend of performance photos and behind-the-curtain shots, documents rock stars like David Bowie, the Ramones, Joan Jett, Richard Hell, and Iggy Pop as well as fascinating downtown characters like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Stephen Sprouse, Anya Phillips, and Divine.
Playground- Growing up in the New York Underground by Paul Zone
Paul Zone’s snapshots are as much a personal memoir as they are a documentation of rock history. Through the eyes of the ultimate fan, this is the front-row experience for every punk who missed CBGB’s in its heyday.
CBGB- Decades of Graffiti by Christopher D Salyers’ (ft. Richard Hell)
If you’ve ever gone into the John Varvatos store, you may have looked around and felt a tinge of sadness as you noticed the only original part of the CBGB’s are the stickers behind casing. Luckily, Christopher D Salyers photographed the plethora of graffiti the club accumulated over years.
“Bettie Visits CBGB” (Radio Wolfgang Program)
Marc Miller and Bettie Ringma’s “Bettie Visits CBGB” turned the fan experience into art: the first photo of Bettie came when she and Marc visited the club and managed to get a photo with regular performer Patti Smith. Bettie and Marc became regulars themselves, building up a portfolio of photos of Bettie posing with artists like the Ramones, the Talking Heads, Dead Boys, Legs McNeil, and more. But who is Bettie Ringma? And how did this turn into an art project? Listen to Bettie herself tell the story.
Please Kill Me: Voices From the Archives
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain was the first oral history of punk, and now you can hear the interviews from all the greats used in the book. Iggy Pop talks about Jim Morrison’s great hair, and interviews with Richard Hell, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Joey Ramone are narrated by the writers themselves and Michael des Barres.
Marc Miller’s 98Bowery and Gallery 98
Marc Miller has generously made his photographed history available via an online archive. See the original invitations for the 1978 Punk Art Show in Washington DC, along with photographs from Marcia Resnick’s “Bad Boys” and Legs McNeil’s “Punk Manifesto” from Punk magazine. Looking for something a little more hardcore? Check out some very NSFW images from X Magazine. A public service!
The East Village’s “senior citizen social center,” as Miller puts it, is a very punk one indeed. According to Emily Armstrong, who maintains the Nightclubbing archive along with Pat Ivers, this is where everyone who was around then gathers when there’s a related art exhibit. Check it out, you’ll never know who you may run into.
Danny Says, 2016
It seems like everyone has been talking about this documentary on the life of Danny Fields, and for good reason. The Harvard dropout was one of Warhol’s closest friends, and punk probably wouldn’t have happened in the way we know it today if he hadn’t become manager of Iggy and the Stooges, the MC5, and the Ramones.
Jim Jarmusch’s Gimme Danger, 2016
Before he went on to play Carnegie Hall, Iggy Pop was a total washout. His best seller with the Stooges peaked at 106 on the charts, and after the band broke up, Iggy checked himself into an insane asylum. Jim Jarmusch sits down with Iggy for this new documentary, opening October 28. It tells the story of the band’s rise, fall, and rise again through archival video, unseen photos, and new animated sequences.
Lou Reed’s Red Shirley, 2010
And now for something completely different… This documentary directed by Lou Reed was one of the last pieces of art he worked on before his death. The short doc illustrated the life of his cousin, Shirley Novick, who lived through World War I, fled Poland during World War II, and took part in a 1963 civil rights march.