On this day in 1977, CBGB’s the world’s foremost punk club, turned its hand to a bit of charity and ran a relatively impromptu benefit concert for PUNK magazine. It involved a select group of its infamous clientele. While performances from the Patti Smith Group, Television and Suicide were great, it was Blondie who stole the show.
One song from their territory-gaining set was with Blondie’s former bassist and then-current Television member, Fred Smith. The band played identical sets over the two night benefit and although they would welcome Frank Infante for the May 5th performance, it was this show on May 4th along with Smith that made everybody talk.
There were few magazines in the late seventies willing to take on whatever punk rock was becoming. All except one—PUNK magazine. The mag was a bonafide rag filled with punk rock riches and allowed those hoping to climb out of the musical mire at leas tone place to ply their snot-ridden trade.
Yet, as many people will tell you, being brash, anarchic and in your face doesn’t always go down well with the bank managers. In 1977, as the world and especially New York City, dealt with a serious lack of funds, PUNK became a liability few were willing to invest in. In fact, the mag would have gone under if not for Hilly and his club CBGB.
John Holstrom remembers the event clearly, “The nicest thing Hilly did for PUNK Magazine was to host our 1977 benefit. Virtually every band in the scene (except the Ramones, who were on tour) performed over two weekday nights, and the total take (around $2,000–good money in the 1970s) enabled us to publish PUNK #10 and stay in business for another year or two.”
“He was too cheap to take out an ad, but that was his business decision to make. (Although I still think it would have been cooler if he had backed us; we might have stayed in business!)”
Within that scene were not only some of the most important bands in the city but some of the most influential rock groups to have ever graced the earth. As well as Richard Hell, The Dead Boys, Patti Smith, David Johansen and Suicide was none other than Blondie.
Debbie Harry and co. may well have been selling out theatres across Europe with their new wave sound but in America, they were still more than happy to fill the tiny club. What they did is perform an iconic set capable of bringing any house down, which in CBGB’s shook the foundations with all its might.
One track that is still thankfully floating around the internet form that night sees Blondie and Fred Smith take to the stage to perform ‘I Love Playing with Fire’. It would give Smith the chance to reconnect with his old band after leaving them in 1975 to join Television (and late Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers).
Below you can listen back to that track as Blondie and Fred Smith perform ‘I Love Playing With Fire’ back in 1977 at CBGB’s as part of the PUNK benefit.