October 14, 2006

"It was a private world. We dreamed it up. It flowered out of our imaginations."

Richard Hell has an op-ed in the NYT:
It makes me think of that Elvis Presley quotation: “When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books, and I was the hero of the comic book. I saw movies, and I was the hero in the movie. So every dream I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times.” We dreamed CBGB’s into existence.
Aw, the sweet, sentimental punk kids -- all grown old, and now their clubhouse has gone. Or... that is...
CBGB’s is going to be dismantled and reconstructed as an exhibit in Las Vegas, like Elvis. I like that. A lot. I really hope it happens as intended.
It's funny -- and another thing that makes my generation seem so old -- that he likes that CBGB's is going to Las Vegas. We all made fun of Elvis for relocating there back in the 70s. It's okay, Hell tells us, to be old and sentimental and nostalgic.

8 comments:

Dave said...

The last time I went to CBGB's--about five years ago--a kid, my age (I'm 31 now), said, effecting a poseur cool "It was so much better when Joey and Patti Smith played here."

I assume "Joey" meant Joey Ramone.

ignacio said...

I was in there in 1999, along with an A&R from a record company who apologized to me (unnecessarily) for dragging me along. He was taking a look at an up-and-coming nothing special young band as a favor to a longtime friend.

The show was sparsely attended and there a distinct smell of vomit....maybe appropriately.

I know a 23 year old lesban whose favorite album is the Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat," which she first heard when she was 13. Just so, if it lives on, it lives on.

To artificially preserve CBGB's is to seek to turn what once was for some a profound experience into kitsch.

George said...

Other quotes from the op-ed piece:

"A horrendous dump....[a] smelly and ugly nowhere...Suicide...the Dictators...Voidoids...Dead Boys...Many of us were drunk or stoned half our waking hours...[It was the] site of conspiracies, orgies, delirium...God likes change and a joke. God loves CBGB's."

The above sounds more like a description of Hell written by a man named Hell.

Drew W said...

George said: The above sounds more like a description of Hell written by a man named Hell.

Punks have always delighted in their reputation for depravity, especially when it was completely undeserved. I became acquainted with Richard Hell (real name: Richard Myers) around 20 years ago. People may have considered him the prototypical punk with a cartoonishly nihilistic name (second only to Sid Vicious), but Richard was actually an intelligent, subtly funny and erudite guy. He was associated for years with the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, which was probably closer to his heart than leading a rock band. Personally, I always hoped he’d go back to making albums, but maybe he figured he was better off quitting after recording the classics Blank Generation and Destiny Street (both of which featured the late, unquestionably great guitarist Robert Quine). A year or two ago, I saw Richard shopping at Circuit City on 14th Street in Manhattan. He didn’t recognize me, which wasn’t surprising, but I’m sure I was the only one in the store who recognized him -- which is also not surprising, I guess.

As for CBGB, Richard’s op-ed observation was right: “There’s one not much different from it in every burg in the country.” CBGB was a small-town rock’n’roll joint for a big city, and a lot of people felt at home there -- including, once upon a time, me. I’m glad I got to spend as many nights hanging out there as I did, seeing some wonderful bands. I had close friends who bartended there, and spent a year going out with a woman I’d met there. Like most landmarks, I figured it would always be around. And even though I haven’t set foot in there in at least ten years, I always felt like I could walk back in and feel the same comfortable vibe. And now that I’m already getting misty over the place, I’m proud to say that the first professional rock’n’roll performance my daughter ever attended (at age 4 and ½) was by Teddy Thompson (with guests Rufus and Martha Wainwright), next door at its annex, the CBGB Gallery.

Okay, two quick CBs memories, since it's okay to be old and sentimental and nostalgic:

One: I was there the night -- a Replacements show, I think, although I wouldn’t swear to it -- when Dean Of American Rock Critics Bob Christgau was physically assaulted by a bunch of guys, reportedly from a band he’d panned in the Village Voice. When the melee erupted, about 15-20 feet away, a fellow rock writer turned to me and said: “We’ve got to go help Bob!” I agreed that we should go over and help Bob. After a decent interval, that is.

Two: In 1982, I stood on the CBGB stage and introduced Peter Holsapple from the dB’s, who was playing as a solo act that night. After my rousing intro, I wanted to scoot off the stage as quickly and inconspicuously as possible, but was worried I’d trip on one of the wires that were all over the place and look like a fool in front of the whole room. Looking down at my feet as I started to hop off the stage, I smacked my head into one of the massive CBGB monitors that hung from the ceiling on chains. The impact was so hard that I nearly lost consciousness. My bartender-friend (who played in bands there a lot) reassured me that mine was by no means the first cranial encounter with the mighty CBs monitors.

Townleybomb said...

I grew up idolizing the first wave of punk rockers and have lived near New York for most of my life, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I never even managed to see a show there-- even my straightlaced sister had her first date with her now-husband there! I came damn close to blowing off a lucrative job to rush up there to see the Talking Heads tribute band when I found out they were closing.

I think a move to Vegas makes a lot of sense-- after all, Downtown and the north strip are way more scary and decadent than the Bowery these days....

LarryK said...

As one of Richard Hell's bandmates used to sing, "You can't throw your arms around a memory... so don't try." Don't know if that ever made sense, but it obviously doesn't now that we have Las Vegas to keep old fantasies alive.

chinesearithmetic said...

I've seen Heart 23 times, including last month. You guys are dorks!

Ann Althouse said...

I was just listening to Heart today on the radio ("Barracuda"). I'm willing to concede this is the greatest rock singing in the female category -- even though it's not my favorite style of rock music.