CBGB’s: The Roots of Punk Lets You Watch Vintage Footage from the Heyday of NYC’s Great Music Scene

There’s a new film com­ing out about the rise of CBGB as the pre­mier site of New York punk, new wave, and art rock. And I have to agree with Dan­ger­ous Minds, it looks like this might just be “AWFUL.” But then again, maybe not. Who am I to make a crit­i­cal appraisal of a work I haven’t seen yet? Watch the trail­er and make your own pre-judg­ments.

No mat­ter how this fic­tion­al­ized ver­sion of the CBGB sto­ry turns out, we are lucky to have copi­ous footage from the real hey­day of the dirty Bow­ery club that made the careers of The Ramones, Pat­ti Smith, Tele­vi­sion, Blondie, the Talk­ing Heads and count­less oth­er New York bands who rose to semi-star­dom, or local noto­ri­ety, from CBGB’s famous, filthy bow­els. Although Alan Rick­man must sure­ly do a fine job as CBGB’s own­er Hil­lel Kristal, there’s noth­ing like hear­ing from the real thing, and you can, in the doc­u­men­tary CBGB’s: The Roots of Punk (part one above, part two below).

Kristal, who intend­ed to cre­ate a space for “Coun­try, Blue­Grass, and Blues,” end­ed up man­ag­ing a very dif­fer­ent beast when he real­ized that no one in low­er Man­hat­tan cared about his tastes. Instead, to keep the lights on, he was forced to let the lowlifes in, the “dere­licts, lost souls… hook­ers and pimps and junkies,” who came from the flop­hous­es and ten­e­ments to hear music that spoke to them.

Some­times they got it, some­times they didn’t, but for the musi­cians who used Kristal’s dive bar as a live rehearsal space, the oppor­tu­ni­ty to play, night after night, and cre­ate their own sounds and iden­ti­ties, the CBGB’s expe­ri­ence was invalu­able. You’ll hear a few of them reflect on those heady times in the film, but most­ly, CBGB’s: The Roots of Punk is a car­ni­val of vin­tage per­for­mances from New York’s sem­i­nal punk bands. Maybe the Hol­ly­wood ver­sion won’t be so bad, eh? Even so, I’d rather watch, and lis­ten to, the real thing.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Deb­bie Har­ry Turns 68 Today. Watch Blondie Play CBGB in the Mid-70s in Two Vin­tage Clips

The Talk­ing Heads Play CBGB, the New York Club that Shaped Their Sound (1975)

The Ramones in Their Hey­day, Filmed “Live at CBGB,” 1977

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness



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