The Bottom Line (venue)
|Address||15 West 4th Street
Manhattan, New York City
|Opened||February 12, 1974|
The Bottom Line was a music venue at 15 West 4th Street between Mercer Street and Greene Street in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. During the 1970s and 1980s the club was a major space for small-scale popular music performances.
Owned by Allan Pepper and Stanley Snadowsky, the Bottom Line opened on February 12, 1974 and enjoyed a successful three-decade run, presenting major musical acts and premiering new talent. Bruce Springsteen played showcase gigs at the club and Lou Reed recorded the album Live: Take No Prisoners there. Harry Chapin held his 2000th concert at the Bottom Line in January 1981.
The Bottom Line hosted an extremely wide variety of music and musicians. Among the thousands who performed on its stage were Eric Clapton, Carl Perkins, Linda Ronstadt, The Police, Richard Marx, Prince, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Van Morrison, The Stone Poneys, Chuck Mangione, Emmylou Harris, Clinn Rippy, Neil Young, Barry Manilow, Laura Nyro, Loudon Wainwright III, New York Dolls, Lyle Lovett, The Electric Flag, Pat Martino, Todd Rundgren, Graham Parker, Stan Ridgway, Horslips, Dire Straits, Chris Hillman, Hawkwind, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Tracy Nelson, The Pointer Sisters, Betty Carter, Ravi Shankar, Ramones, Miles Davis, Gato Barbieri, Bill Evans, Charles Mingus, Mose Allison, Muddy Waters, Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Ray Barretto, Peter Gabriel, Al Kooper, Tom Waits, Melvin Van Peebles, Neil Sedaka, Billy Joel, Suzi Quatro, Patti Smith, Flo & Eddie, Toots and the Maytals, Cheech & Chong, Tower of Power, Tim Hardin, Roger McGuinn, JJ Cale, The Meters, Greg Kihn Band, Ry Cooder, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Sam & Dave, Asım Can Gündüz, The Ronettes, John Cale, Gong, Peter Bardens, The Violent Femmes and Michael Hedges.
The Bottom Line seated 400 people and had a no smoking policy, long before that restriction became New York City law. The Bottom Line employees considered each other family, some of whom had worked there for decades - such as bookkeeper Rose Singer. Rose was particularly beloved for treating all the people at the Bottom Line -- including, as might be imagined, many from backgrounds much removed from her own Jewish Orthodox practices -- like they were her own children, as she often peppered her conversation with Yiddish phrases and made them laugh when they heard this older Jewish lady from another generation belting out songs by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and her beloved Meat Loaf.
In later years the club hosted In Their Own Words: A Bunch Of Songwriters Sittin' Around Singing, a series of performances with commentary organized and initially hosted by radio personality Vin Scelsa. Another staple was the annual Downtown Messiah, a reworking of Handel directed by Richard Barone. At Christmastime, musicians like Vernon Reid and David Johansen made The Messiah their own. The venue was also well known for annual New Year's Eve shows by The Turtles (often performing as Flo & Eddie). Another recurring event was The Beat Goes On, a show in which performers covered pop songs around a theme, such as Christmas songs, or songs from a given time period. That show presented performers including Fountains of Wayne, Richard Lloyd and Hedwig and the Angry Inch's John Cameron Mitchell. The Bottom Line was also the site, in April 1995, of four concerts by Joan Baez in which she collaborated with a number of female performers, including Dar Williams, Janis Ian, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Indigo Girls and Mary Black, the results of which were recorded and released as the album Ring Them Bells.
The Bottom Line's cachet faded with time, and by 2003 the club was deeply in debt ($190,000 in back rent, plus several hundred thousand dollars in other expenses) and no longer bringing in large crowds. Its landlord, New York University (NYU), increased the rent to market level, which was beyond the club's ability to pay, and in a contentious negotiation the university threatened eviction. Fans Karen and Carmine DeMarco started a petition on their website in support of the club. Bruce Springsteen offered to pay the club’s back rent if NYU and the owners could settle on a lease. Sirius Satellite Radio offered the same, but rather than risk a takeover, Pepper and Snadowsky closed the club before they could be kicked out. The last Bottom Line show was on January 22, 2004, just shy of the club’s thirtieth anniversary. The building now houses NYU classrooms.
Pepper and Snadowsky attempted to find another venue to carry the Bottom Line name. The club's website, still provides the club's official history. From 2005 through 2011, the site was updated annually on February 12 (anniversary of the club's opening), with a letter detailing their current progress. In February 2007 they announced plans to release a box set of archival recordings on Koch Records. In 2011 they announced the box set was in "limbo" pending settling of performance rights issues, and the search was continuing for a new location. Snadowsky died in February 2013 from complications of diabetes. The site was not updated in February 2014.
Pepper holds recordings recordings of more than 1,000 shows and is releasing some of them in the Bottom Line Archive Series of his own Bottom Line Record Company.
- Bottom Line Corporate Website
- USA Today, "N.Y.'s famous Bottom Line gets reprieve", Oct 23, 2003.
- The Villager, "The Bottom Line tries to avoid end of the line", Oct 29, 2003.
- “CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; The Bottom Line, a Place Where the Music Always Came First”, Jan 26, 2004
- Stanley Snadowsky, Nightclub Founder, Dies at 70 by Paul Vitiello, New York Times, March 2, 2013.