When the CBGB opened in 1973, it was clear, maybe Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not New York’s — the city was falling into some sort of adrenalised comic book dystopia. Hilly Kristal’s rebranding over the former biker bar was supposed to house country, bluegrass and blues, but the zeitgeist had other plans for it.
Andy Warhol’s factory had stepped one toke over the line, and the prelapsarian dream that blossomed from the flowerbed of the sixties was now a ruinous relic like a long-forgotten civilisation that the History Channel will say was built by aliens and abandoned centuries from now.
The spirit of the age was gritty tumult and grimy turmoil. Hippy flower power was an old ideal that had been paved over and buried under brutalist architecture. While opiates and Chines Rocks replaced opulent excesses, the only priceless spiritual commodity that the zeitgeist had to offer was poverty.
This feverish despair that had been forecast in a thousand bad acid trips from the decade earlier reflected the disheartening failure of the technological fix to bring about post-war progression. The sprawl of concrete, commercialism and internal decay sunk New York’s lowly denizens into a plashy mire of crime and punishment.
However, punk gloriously clawed its way out of the darkened depths of degeneracy and never even brushed itself clean after it clambered into a sauntering snarl. Joey Ramone was the bowl cut Frankenstein monster that the cultural New York cocktail shaker had poured out as an emblem of the disintegration of humanity after a fair glug of The Velvet Underground and The New York Dolls had been slung in there.
The place they were serving this most-vile concoction was none other than The CBGB: The spiritual home of seventies artistic heathenry. From here a cultural wave akin to a beer-sodden leather-clad Italian Renaissance occurred where the notion of art as an elitist medium was bludgeoned into submission by kids who had something to say.
Formerly known as the Bowery, it took a while for the home of punk to book gigs. It wasn’t until February 1974 that Squeeze (not that Squeeze) were booked to play as the resident band. Then came Television on April 14th and the rest, as they say, is ancient history.
Sadly, the show was over, and the cultural mecca became a clothes shop when Patti Smith played the final performance there in 2006. Thus, on the day it was first opened we’re celebrating the mammoth impact of the scene with a playlist of 40 amazing songs that were borne out of the movement. Enjoy responsibly…
The ultimate CBGB playlist:
- ‘I Got You Babe’ by The Dictators
- ‘Hey Little Girl’ by Dead Boys
- ‘Born to Lose’ by Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers
- ‘Dream Baby Dream’ by Suicide
- ‘Blank Generation’ by Richard Hell
- ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie
- ‘Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town’ by Talking Heads
- ‘Baby, I Love You’ by Ramones
- ‘Redondo Beach’ by Patti Smith
- ‘Marquee Moon’ by Television
- ‘Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl’ by Mink DeVille
- ‘Human Fly’ by The Cramps
- ‘Lonely Planet Boy’ by New York Dolls
- ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ by The Nerves
- ‘See No Evil’ by Television
- ‘Piss Factory’ by Patti Smith
- ‘Atomic’ by Blondie
- ‘Love -> Building on Fire’ by Talking Heads
- ‘Genius of Love’ by Tom Tom Club
- ‘Stay With Me’ by The Dictators
- ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory’ by Johnny Thunders
- ‘Ain’t it Fun’ by Dead Boys
- ‘Time’ by Richard Hell
- ‘Chinese Rocks’ by Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers
- ‘Juke Box Baby’ by Alan Vega
- ‘Frankie Teardrop’ by Suicide
- ‘X Offender’ by Blondie
- ‘Psycho Killer’ by Talking Heads
- ‘Judy is a Punk’ by Ramones
- ‘Love Comes in Spurts’ by Richard Hell
- ‘Spanish Stroll’ by Mink DeVille
- ‘Postcards from Waterloo’ by Tom Verlaine
- ‘Break it Up’ by Patti Smith
- ‘1880 Or So’ by Television
- ‘Trash’ by New York Dolls
- ‘Get Outta My Way’ by The Laughing Dogs
- ‘Love Shack’ by The B-52’s
- ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ by Ramones
- ‘Cherry Bomb’ by The Runaways
- ‘Goo Goo Muck’ by The Cramps