James Campion on CBGB

I'm on a bit of a James Campion kick right now, having recently subscribed to his email list which supplants the need to read the Aquarian (and being in North Jersey, it's nearly impossible to find that long-standing tabloid anyway).

His obituary for punk club CBGB is required reading for anyone who listens, has listened, or might listen to the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, or the Clash. What other American club is cross-referenced by the Talking Heads?

What I find both sad and humorous about the decline and fall of CBGB is that punk rock was supposed to lead to the decline and fall of "real rock". I'm not quite sure how that was reflected in real life, since real NJ rocker Bruce Springsteen gave a hit song to punk NJ rocker Patti Smith ("Because the Night"), and the attitude ensconced in punk seems to have re-appeared in rap, hip-hop, grunge, industrial, and a metallicized renaissance. I'll admit I was as taken aback by System of a Down (on first listen) as my parents were by the Ramones. That, I believe, is the point: push the boundaries, challenge common perception, make music.

Art that is safe hangs on your wall. It's there for the duration. Art that challenges your perceptions requires a few passes, and probably some repeated listening. Perhaps network distribution of music will replace the need for small clubs like CBGB, because you'll be exposed to a wider variety of art with less travel, late night hours and parental scorn. But the dispersion of culture electronically will never replace the creation of culture through the physics of a tightly packed space so eloquently described by JC.

Comments:

I played at CBGB's twice. The first time was on a Monday night at one in the morning. I was playing with a post-punk-hard-core-metal group called Fat Elvis. The only people there were the bartender and doorman - it was pretty depressing and the bathrooms gave new meaning to raunch. There was no rock-n-roll glory that night. I played there again a few years later at the CB's gallery - it was an art space they set up next door and I was with a three piece free jazz group called the Mellow Edwards. We did things like play Eric Dolphy's Iron Man over the chords of Black Sabbath's Iron Man. That was an afternoon gig and a lot cooler than the Fat Elvis show - but it was an art gig (you dig?) and clearly not in the stick-it-to-the-man spirit of punk. I guess CB's time has come - they probably mourned the end of all the jazz clubs in midtown back in the day too.

Posted by Tzvi on November 08, 2006 at 02:19 PM EST #

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