On practically any weekend from 1974 to 76 you could see one or more of the following groups (here listed in approximate chronological order) in the often half-empty 300-capacity club: Television, the Ramones, Suicide, the Patti Smith Group, Blondie, the Dictators, the Heartbreakers, Talking Heads, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and the Dead Boys. Not to mention some often equally terrific (or equally pathetic) groups that aren’t as well remembered, like the Miamis and the Marbles and the Erasers and the Student Teachers. Nearly all the members of these bands treated the club as a headquarters — as home. It was a private world. We dreamed it up. It flowered out of our imaginations.
How often do you get to do that? That’s what you want as a kid, and that’s what we were able to do at CBGB’s. It makes me think of that Elvis Presley quotation: “When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book. I saw movies, and I was the hero in the movie. So every dream I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times.” We dreamed CBGB’s into existence.
Rock and Roll High School, The New York Times, October 14, 2006
I went to CBGB's, of course, right after I moved to New York, long after it had ceased to be relevant, like every other idiot tourist and newcomer who had grown up on Talking Heads and Patti Smith records.
It was a complete and utter toilet, as described faithfully by Mr. Hell in his Times op-ed; I've been in (much) nicer men's rooms at football stadiums.
But it still had a tiny scintilla of magic left, just as the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ seemed to hold on to a little cachet, long years after The Boss stopped playing little clubs and blew town.
I wouldn't mind seeing Patti Smith close the place down tomorrow night, but I'll be on a plane to North Carolina.
Reportedly, CBGB's is going to be dismantled brick by brick and reassembled in Las Vegas, where canny owner Hilly Kristal plans to reopen.
While the club is closing, CBGB-labeled fashions can still be bought, and a NYC storefront will allegedly be maintained for this purpose (we'll see how long that lasts in the era of rising rents and effortless international e-commerce.)
They're building luxury condos down on The Bowery these days, you know.
And the beat (ahem) goes on.