Hilly Kristal, founder of legendary New York music venue CBGB OMFUG, passed away last week at age 75. CBGB’s became home base for a number of local groups in the early 70’s, and that scene coalesced into a big part of the American Punk movement. Kristal’s dive bar was essential to the growth of these bands, because most New York venues at the time wouldn’t allow unknown bands to play original music. Kristal (with a big push from Television founders Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell) provided untested artists with a place to hone their act, and in the process made his bar one of the most recognizable brand names in the world.
Here are ten albums by artists that called CBGB home at one time or another:
Television * Marquee Moon
Television founders Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell almost literally had to twist Kristal’s arm to get him to let them play at the club on one of its off nights. But once they got their foot in the door, it took little time before lots of other groups followed suit and one of the most important movements in the history of American music was given its initial spark.
Ramones * Ramones
Ur-punks Ramones were the indomitable essence of American Punk, and all of the songs that formed their groundbreaking debut were worked up on CBGB’s stage. Kristal reportedly wasn’t too impressed with the group the first time they played the club, but he quickly warmed to them.
Talking Heads * Talking Heads 77
Drawn to New York by the emerging music scene, these former Rhode Island School of Design students cut a most incongruous figure among the bands at CBGB. All jittery energy and intense, literate lyrics, they stood in stark counterpoint to the 1-2-3-4! bellowings of many of their fellow punks.
Patti Smith * Horses
It’s true that Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye played all around New York as they were developing the material that would become Horses. But Smith was closely enough identified with the club that she was selected as the final act to perform there before it was closed for good last October.
Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers * L.A.M.F
After splitting from the New York Dolls, guitarist Johnny Thunders formed The Heartbreakers with ex-Television bassist Richard Hell. This little-known gem is a straight ahead rocker that was recorded after Hell had left the group to form…
Richard Hell & The Voidoids * Blank Generation
Like Patti Smith, Hell considered himself a poet first and a musician second. He took part in three groups – all CBGB regulars – before he was able to record his misunderstood Punk anthem ‘Blank Generation’. He has also long claimed that Malcolm McLaren swiped the ripped T-shirt/safety pin look from him.
The Dictators * Go Girl Crazy!
It’s hard to tell whether Dick Manitoba and company were on the level or merely satire. With songs like ‘Master Race Rock’ and a cover of Sonny & Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’, the Dictators were at once blatantly offensive and snidely funny. Like a good fart joke, Go Girl Crazy! still has its place in the world.
Blondie * Parallel Lines
The most unlikely success story to come from Punk generally and CBGB’s specifically, Blondie defied all of the conventional wisdom about what a band in New York during the 70’s should sound and look like. More powerpop than punk, Blondie took a polished version of their sound into the Top 10 again and again during the 80’s, and even scored an early rap masterpiece with ‘Rapture’.
The Dead Boys * Young, Loud & Snotty
Originally from Cleveland – which boasted its own nascent punk scene – The Dead Boys formed from the ashes of pre-punk group Rocket From The Tombs, and moved to New York in time to become a part of the mid-70’s CBGB’s scene. Nasty, loud, and rude, the Boys had much in the way of attitude, but little in the way of songs.
Sonic Youth * Daydream Nation
When the No Wave movement caught hold in NYC in the early 80’s, CBGB was central in championing this new, post punk sound. Sonic Youth was just one of thousands of bands that over the years were given a chance to play the music that they wanted to play, in front of an enthusiastic crowd, right in the seedy heart of the Bowery.
Tags: Blondie, CBGB, Hilly Kristal, Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, NYC, Patti Smith, Punk, Ramones, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, Sonic Youth, Talking Heads, Television, The Dead Boys, The Dictators