The front facade of CBGB, ca. 2005
|Location||Manhattan, New York City|
|Genre(s)||Punk rock, hardcore, bluegrass, blues, country|
Founded by Hilly Kristal in 1973, it was originally intended to feature its namesake musical styles, but became a forum for American punk and new wave bands like the Ramones, Misfits, Television, the Patti Smith Group, Mink DeVille, The Dead Boys, The Dictators, The Fleshtones, The Voidoids, The Cramps, The B-52's, Blondie, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, The Shirts, and Talking Heads. From the early 1980s until its later years, it would mainly become known for hardcore punk, with bands such as Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law, U.S. Chaos, Cro-Mags, Warzone, Gorilla Biscuits, Sick of It All, and Youth of Today becoming synonymous with the club.
The storefront and large space next door to the club served as the "CBGB Record Canteen" (record shop and café) for many years. Eventually, in the late eighties, the record store was closed and replaced with a second performance space and art gallery, named "CB's 313 Gallery". The gallery went on to showcase many popular bands and singer-songwriters who played in a musical style more akin to acoustic rock, folk, jazz, or experimental music, such as Dadadah and Toshi Reagon, while the original club continued to present mainly hardcore bands and post-punk, metal, and alternative rock acts.
The club closed in October 2006. The final concert was performed by Patti Smith on October 15. CBGB Fashions (the CBGB store, wholesale department, and online store) stayed open until October 31 at 315 Bowery. On November 1, 2006, CBGB Fashions moved to 19–23 St. Mark's Place, but it subsequently closed in the summer of 2008.
In 2012, CBGB was reborn as the largest music festival in New York City. The CBGB Festival produced large free concerts in Times Square and Central Park on July 7, 2012. They also showcased hundreds of bands in venues across the city. The festival premiered dozens of rock-n-roll movies in theaters around Manhattan.
CBGB, a then-little-known rock club, was founded in December 1973, on the site of Kristal's earlier bar, Hilly's on the Bowery, which he ran from 1969 to 1972. Originally, Kristal had focused on his more profitable West Village nightspot, Hilly's, but complaints from the bar's neighbors forced Hilly's to close, leading its owner to concentrate on the Bowery club. The full name is CBGB & OMFUG which stands for "Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music For Underground Gormandizers"*. Gormandizer (gourmand) usually means a ravenous eater of food, but according to Kristal here it means "a voracious eater of ... music". The club was generally referred to as simply "CB's". As its name implied, Kristal intended the bar to feature country, bluegrass, and blues music (along with poetry readings), but it became famous as the birthplace of the American punk movement. Perhaps most notably, punk rock pioneers The Ramones had their first shows there.
In 1973, before Hilly's on the Bowery became CBGB, two locals, Bill Page and Rusty McKenna, convinced Kristal to allow them to book concerts. In February 1974, Hilly booked local rock band "Squeeze" to a regular Tuesday-Wednesday residency, marking his change from country and bluegrass to booking original rock acts. Squeeze was led by guitarist Mark Suall, who would later reappear with CBGB's virtual house band The Revelons (including members Fred Smith of Television and JD Daugherty of the Patti Smith Group) and Sire band Alda Reserve. Although the term "punk rock" was not applied to these acts, Kristal's son believes they helped lay the musical foundation for the bands that followed. After the Mercer Arts Center collapsed in August 1973, there were few locations in New York where unsigned bands could play original music, and some of the Mercer refugees, including Suicide, The Fast, Wayne County and the Magic Tramps all played in the very early days of CBGB.
At the third Television gig on April 14, 1974, Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye from the Patti Smith Group were in the audience. The band went on to make its own CBGB debut on February 14, 1975. Other early performers included The Stillettos (featuring Deborah Harry, Elda Gentile and Amanda Jones on vocals, and Chris Stein on guitar), who supported Television on May 5, 1974. The newly formed Blondie (under its original name of Angel & the Snake) and the Ramones both arrived in August 1974. Mink DeVille, Talking Heads, The Shirts, The Heartbreakers, The Fleshtones and many other bands followed in quick succession. Some of the various bands' performances at CBGB during 1975 and 1976 were recorded on film and video by Metropolis Video.
CBGB had two rules for a band to follow in order to play at the venue: they had to play primarily original music, and they had to move their own equipment. No cover bands were booked to play there. However, most of the regular bands played one or two covers during their sets. Kristal's son claims the policy was meant to help the club avoid paying ASCAP royalties for the compositions being performed.
As CBGB's reputation grew, it began to draw more acts from outside New York City. The club hosted the first American gigs by The Police, on October 20 and 21, 1978.
Though CBGB was utilized as a hot spot for touring bands to hit when they came through New York, the scene that kept the bar alive during the 1980s was New York's underground hardcore punk scene. Sunday at CBGB was matinee day (also named "thrash day" in a documentary about hardcore). Every Sunday, a handful of hardcore bands took the stage in the afternoon to dinnertime hours, usually for cheap. Bands made famous by matinees include Reagan Youth, Bad Brains, Beastie Boys, Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law, Cro-Mags, Leeway, Warzone, Gorilla Biscuits, Sick of It All, The Misfits, Sheer Terror, Stillborn and Youth of Today.
Over the years, CBGB's matinee became an institution. In 1990, violence both inside and outside of the venue caused Kristal to refuse to book hardcore shows. However, CBGB later brought hardcore back at various times, and for the last several years of its existence, had no rules about what genres could and could not be featured.
In 2005, a dispute arose between CBGB and the Bowery Residents' Committee. The Committee billed Kristal $91,000 in back rent, while Kristal claimed he had not been informed of increases in his $19,000 monthly rent. After the lease expired, they reached an agreement for the club to remain for 14 more months while Kristal dropped his legal battles and his attempts to get historic landmark status for the club.
Kristal planned to move the club far from its roots with a new CBGB in Las Vegas, Nevada. The owner planned to strip the current club down to the bare walls, bringing as much of it to Nevada as possible.
"We're going to take the urinals," he said. "I'll take whatever I can. The movers said, 'You ought to take everything, and auction off what you don't want on eBay.' Why not? Somebody will."
The club finally closed on October 15, 2006. The last week featured multi-night stands by Bad Brains and The Dictators, along with an acoustic set by Blondie. More contemporary acts, such as Jobless Bob, Avail and The Bouncing Souls, opened shows throughout the week.
The final concert was performed by Patti Smith and broadcast live on Sirius Satellite Radio. Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers attended the show and even performed on a handful of songs with Smith and her band. Television's Richard Lloyd also guested on a few songs, including a reworked version of "Marquee Moon". Toward the end of their set, Smith and her band played "Gloria," paying tribute to the Ramones during the chorus by alternating between the original lyrics and the "Hey! Ho! Let's go!" of "Blitzkrieg Bop." In her final encore, the song "Elegie," Smith read from a list of musicians who had died since they last played at CBGB.
Hilly Kristal died from complications from lung cancer on August 28, 2007. In early October 2007, Kristal's family and friends hosted a private memorial service in the YMCA near the village. Soon after, there was a public memorial where CBGB staff and others paid tribute.
After Kristal's death, his ex-wife, Karen Kristal, and daughter, Lisa Kristal Burgman, engaged in a legal battle over the purported $3 million CBGB estate, settling in June 2009 with Burgman receiving "most" of the money that did not go to creditors and estate taxes.
On November 2, 2007, it was announced that high-end men's fashion designer John Varvatos would open a store at CBGB's former space at 315 Bowery in early 2008. Varvatos expressed a desire to "do justice" to CBGB's legacy. Much of the graffiti covering the toilets was preserved, along with some playbills from the club's 10th anniversary shows in 1983 that were discovered behind a wall. The store opened in April 2008. The Northeast corner of Bowery and Bleecker houses Daniel Boulud's restaurant DBGB, named after CBGB.
In February 2008, it was announced that Morrison Hotel, a SoHo art gallery dedicated to music photography, would open a second location in the former CBGB Gallery space next door. However, in June 2009, it was announced that the Morrison Hotel gallery would close.
It was also announced that the alley behind the club, officially known as "Extra Place," would be turned into a pedestrian mall. The New York Post quotes Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys as saying, "If that alley could talk, it's seen it all," and, "All of Manhattan has lost its soul to money lords."
The awning from CBGB can be found in the lobby of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
In popular culture
CBGB, a film about Kristal and the origins of the club was released in October 2013. Directed by Randall Miller and starring Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal, the film has received harsh reviews from press and music sources alike.
- CBGB featured in a promotional ad during the bid for New York City to host the Olympic games in 2012.
- CBGB is featured as the only non-fictional venue in the 2010 rhythm game Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. A replica of the club was opened for one night only at Paramount Studios for the game's launch party.
- Talking Heads, who had strong ties to the area, account for perhaps the most famous lyrical mention of CBGB with the song "Life During Wartime", in the verse "this ain't no Mudd Club or CBGB...". Much later, in a related effort, the club played an overtly prominent role in the song "Punk Lolita" by The Heads, a 1996 collaboration of three former Talking Heads members with various guest vocalists.
- In Bandslam, CBGB is a favorite place of central character William Burton.
- A central character in Spike Lee's 1999 movie Summer of Sam, Richie, becomes a regular CBGB patron after becoming a punk rocker.
- CBGB is also featured in The Simpsons episode "Love, Springfieldian Style", named "Comic Book Guy's Bar".
- In the television show Californication, the character Karen Van Der Beek was said to have worked in CBGB, as a bartender. In "The Unforgiven", the premiere episode of the sixth season, the opening scene takes place in CBGB, in a flashback depicting how Hank and Karen met.
- In Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Nick and Norah break into the, by then, closed CBGB.
- In Gilmore Girls, Rory Gilmore's friend Lane Kim's band, Hep Alien, gets booked for a gig at CBGB.
- In Joan Jett & The Blackhearts clip of "Good Music", Joan Jett skips a fancy dinner party to go play a gig at CBGB.
- Lana Del Rey references having a job singing at CBGB's in her b-side song "Never Let Me Go".
- In Green Day's music video for their 1994 hit "Welcome to Paradise", drummer Tre Cool is seen wearing a t-shirt sporting the CBGB logo.
- In "Losing My Edge" by LCD Soundsystem, James Murphy mentions CBGB as the rock club where he first played Daft Punk to 'the rock kids'.
- In 13 Going on 30, Matt Flamhaff is seen wearing a CBGB shirt.
- In the Bon Jovi track "What's Left of Me" from the album What About Now, the protagonist singer of a punk rock band decries 'why they sold off CBGB's I don't understand'.
- In the Broadway musical Rent by Jonathan Larson, Mark describes the apartment he shares with Roger: "Old rock 'n' roll posters hang on the walls. They have Roger's picture advertising gigs at CBGB's and the Pyramid Club..."
- During the flashback sequence in Sex and the City 2, Carrie Bradshaw says she met Samantha Jones while Jones worked as a bartender at CBGB.
- "Playing in the Neighborhood". The New York Times. December 19, 1993. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
- "Pop And Jazz Guide". The New York Times. January 24, 2003. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
- Yahoo Music coverage of concert
- Dodero, Camille (March 25, 2008). "CBGB St. Mark's Shop Closing at the End of June". The Village Voice.
- Gilmer, Marcus (May 8, 2012). "CBGB now a festival, could reopen in new location". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 8, 2012.
- Official CBGB website
- [THE Mad Monks Guide to NYC 1999 Crotty & Lane -Interview with Hilly – pg 190]
- Debunking CBGB Myths: An Interview with Dana, Hilly Kristal’s Son, Tiny Mix Tapes, September 11, 2007
- Nobakht, David (2005). Suicide: No Compromise. UK: SAF Publishing. p. 222. ISBN 0-946719-71-3.
- BRC Home Page. Brc.org. Retrieved on September 29, 2010.
- The Continental Drifts – - NYC Life – New York. Village Voice (September 5, 2006). Retrieved on September 29, 2010.
- CBGB deadline reached, lease not renewed. Punknews.org. Retrieved on September 29, 2010.
- Stars return in CBGB's last shows:The Dictators, Debbie Harry and Patti Smith are among the artists returning to perform at legendary New York music club CBGB, ahead of its closure after 33 years, BBC News, October 12, 2006
- Sarah Ventre, May 1, 2010. "How far would you go to see a show". NPR. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- The Final CBGB Settlement: Hilly Kristal's Estate Takes Its Last Legal Bow, The Village Voice, June 16, 2009
- Segal, David (November 2, 2007). "A Punk Temple Reborn: Would You Like To See the $200 Safety Pins?". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
- "Now Opening Saturday Special". Racked.com. January 14, 2008. Retrieved January 16, 2008. "We don't want anyone to walk into the space and say, 'Oh, they screwed it up.' We want them to walk in and say, 'It's not CBGB, but they did the right thing.'"
- Brettell, Karen (March 27, 2008). "NY gallery keeps punk alive in old CBGB space". Reuters. Retrieved June 30, 2009.
- Sisario, Ben (April 19, 2008). "At the Former CBGB, the Punks Once Played but the Rich Now Romp". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2008.
- Baron, Zach (March 27, 2008). "More Dancing on the Exhausted Ashes of CBGB: Daniel Boulud's DBGB". Reuters. Retrieved May 18, 2009.
- Greenspan, Izzy (June 29, 2009). "Breaking: Morrison Hotel Gallery to Leave CBGBs". Racked. Retrieved June 30, 2009.[dead link]
- FERMINO, JENNIFER (March 25, 2008). "HOBO GOES HAUTE". New York Post. Retrieved March 28, 2008.
- "CBGB, New Film Tells the History of New York City's Legendary Club". http://laughingsquid.com. April 10, 2013. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
- "CBGB (2013)". imdb.com. Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Sickler, Linda. "'Punk rock' inventor Legs McNeil coming to Savannah post 'CBGB'". Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- Campbell, Marc. "If You Thought CBGB's Bathrooms Were Full of Shit Check Out the Movie". Retrieved December 1, 2013.
- NYC 2012 Olympics Promo Video, NYC Olympic Committee via YouTube, (Timecode 1:36–1:49)
- Guitar Hero launch party on the Paramount backlot – Soundgarden Performs
- Beeber, Steven. The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's: A Secret History of Jewish Punk. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-55652-613-8.
- Brazis, Tamar (ed.). CBGB & OMFUG: Thirty Years from the Home of Underground Rock (1st ed.). New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 2005. ISBN 0-8109-5786-8.
- Heylin, Clinton. From the Velvets to the Voidoids (2nd ed.). Eastbourne, East Sussex: Gardners Books, 2005. ISBN 1-905139-04-7.
- Kozak, Roman. This Ain't No Disco: The Story of CBGB. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1988. ISBN 0-571-12956-0.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to CBGB.|
- Official site
- Between Punk Rock and a Hard Place New York Magazine
- Rock ‘n’ Roll High School NY Times op-ed from Richard Hell
- CBGB Takes Final Bow Before Eviction WCBS TV
- Christmas At C.B.G.B.s as featured on the club's official website.
- Butthole Surfers recorded at CBGB by Barbera Milne 6/13/85
- Virtual tour of CBGB interior