May 11, 2008

Landmark Preserved?

For anyone who grew up going to or playing shows at CBGB it is difficult to fathom the legendary shit hole, I mean infamous NYC venue morphing into a top end boutique paying homage to rock and roll using the same well worn space . The original flyered/stickered/graffiti walls are now protected by glass suggesting an illusion of respect and preservation to the room's former life. Chandeliers now hang from the ceiling. A small stage doubles as a shoe display. Guitar amps live a stifled life acting as a table for a bottle of Jack Daniels; an accessory to the store's trying too hard bad boy image. It has been said that the filthiest bathrooms in the history of mankind have been turned into storage rooms but what I really want to know is how or who had to clean up that repulsive 30 plus years in the making mess.

Ironically an outfit at John's Varvatos 315 Bowery Boutique costs more than what the bands who once performed at a typical night at CBGB were paid, even if they were to pool all their money together along with the tips from the bar staff. For a touch of true CB's nostalgia I can only hope that they bus in homeless people to beg for change and potentially point homemade weapons at you just like the good old days when the residents from the homeless shelter above the club would hang out in front on warm nights- creating one of the strangest rock meets not mixers on the planet.

Varvatos truly believes that by playing R&R dress up with the old CBGB (which houses three of his fashion lines within its walls) he is now a part of the club's mythic history. That's sort of like someone buying John Lennon's iconoclastic round glasses and saying they are now a part of The Beatles history. Nope, you are still just a fan with clearly a lot of money to toss around.

Commercial rent has skyrocketed to astronomical proportions (40K to 150K a month!!!) in the East Village so in my mind it is just a matter of time that this landmark to New York's music history is doomed to become the bank or newest Starbucks conquest that John Varvatos was trying to spare it from in the first place. John is only delaying the inevitable. To be blunt, his store won't last the test of time. If some of the most famous bands in the world couldn't save CBGB why would a designer's utilitarian sleek silhouettes be able to do it? I don't care how modern your fabrics are or how much you think people will be willing to pay for them in a "famous" location, it simply can't last more than a few years.

I suggest we go ahead and take all the salvaged parts of CBGB now embarrassingly used as a backdrop for rich people to shop within and ship to the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland where the club can be given a decent memorial in a place that actually pays tribute to ROCK.

For kicks the museum should also recreate the CB's bathrooms by placing them at the hardest to reach / furthest point in the building where those with full bladders will have to snake their way through a packed house only to make their way down dimply lit stairs to the pits of hell otherwise known as the latrine. Men could then face the humiliation of public urination since the stairs ended at a door-less men's bathroom and women could look forward to relieving themselves in a half standing / half squatting position (Because God knows what was smeared or dripped all over the toilet seat, assuming there even was a toilet seat) while holding the stall door shut with one hand because there isn't a lock and cursing because there isn't any toilet paper, the toilet isn't flushing, and there is only one working sink with a faucet spitting nothing but scalding hot water. Now that is the CBGB I remember.

I am a nostalgic person but the more I reminisce about CBGB, the more I am convinced it is time to send it off to greener pastures. New Yorkers need to create a new legendary space for bands to play and stop beating a dead horse with a couture fashion line.


  1. What a shit hole. I am glad it's gone. I loved how bands went on after the headliner also. Hey were playing with Swervedriver at cg's, they go on at 11pm and we go on at 2am haha.

  2. I guess if it was still around we would be saying "Ol' CBGB, she just ain't what she used to be." But, I do have too many fond memories of that place not to miss it. CBGB was my church on Sundays from 1986 until the NYHC matinées stopped. A friend went into the new designer shop there and told me that he couldn't afford to sneeze in there and, there were bus loads of tourists with guidebooks milling about. He also said that they did a very good job of preserving the look and feel of the club in there (for a clothing store). I have mixed feelings about it. Either way, it's over.

  3. Ah yes, the mid to late 80's, I too recall those years. I played coat rack , key holder, and occasionally punching bag to the 98.6% male popluation at those hardcore shows.