Financiers have bought the brand name of legendary New York punk institution CBGBs and hope to establish a music festival, the New York Times reported this week, almost 6 years after the infamous Bowery club closed its doors.
Opening in 1973 in the then semi-derelict and distinctly dangerous Lower East Side neighbourhood, the down-at-heel bar rapidly became the key venue where seminal punk and new wave bands including the Ramones, Blondie and Television started their careers, in the process crystallising a scene that spawned punk.
Tom Tom Club’s Chris Frantz, who also started out at the club as the drummer with Talking Heads in 1975, welcomed the news.
“CBGBs was the one place in New York City where unsigned bands like early Talking Heads could perform their original songs, be applauded for it and make a few bucks, too,” he recalled. “I think it's great!” Chris told Skrufff.
The investors bought the brand from deceased owner Hilly Krystal’s daughter Lisa Kristal Burgman and Chris suggested the legendary promoter would have fully approved.
“Before Hilly died he was trying to set up a new home for CBGBs, so I don't believe he would have any problem with this deal whatsoever,” said Chris. “I hope it works out well for everyone.”
Chatting to Skrufff in 2004, Hilly recalled how the Lower East Side changed over the club’s 33 year tenure.
“When the club started there were a lot of artists, musicians and writers living here an there was an intermingling of different people. Lots of them were struggling in the arts and the rents were cheap, though right now no rents are cheap so you have an intermingling of lawyers, with all these people and the different ethnic groups. The Bowery’s changed but it’s good, you still see a lot of younger people and musicians and artists but you don’t have the Bowery Bums anymore.”
He was equally positive about the mainstream recognition CBGBs belatedly received as the club’s merchandising business, particularly T shirts, exploded with the internet.
“The fashion thing has really taken off, it’s wonderful because I’m no longer struggling so much,” said Hilly.
“Through the years it’s been tough, and it’s not been as easy as people think. My rent now is 25 thousand a month, it used to be 700 a month.”
He also spoke poignantly about punk rock’s legacy.
“The legacy here is about people taking hold of their music and making it their own way. It’s a young people’s music, I’m not young, but it’s music for young people to spout off to say what they feel, to explain what’s bothering them. That’s very important and that’s what punk is.
It’s not necessarily deep thinking but it’s an emotion based on what they feel as an individual or as a group, that’s its legacy. When you think of rock, punk is less calculated and formularised, even though it seems to end up seeming with its own formula. But it’s punk’s simplicity that makes it clearer. It’s easier for young people to grasp, and it’s not pretentious, not in its best form. There’s a certain simple drive that touches people.”
Jonty Skrufff : http://listn.to/JontySkrufff
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