Last call at New York's CBGB's punk bar
EDWARD J. CROWDER / Connecticut Post Online
Article Launched:10/15/2006 04:44:12 AM EDT
It may be that CBGB's punk rock heyday had already passed by the
time Tom Andrukevich first stepped inside 30 years ago.
In 1976, Television, Patti Smith and the other acts that had made
it the most famous dive bar in Manhattan had already been signed.
But even then a suburban kid like Andrukevich could walk into the
Bowery bar, which closes forever today, and rub shoulders with Joey
"All of the Ramones except for the drummer were there,"
recalls Fairfield resident Andrukevich, 47, of that first visit
to CBGB to see the Dead Boys. "Lenny Kaye was there, David
Johansen — the first time I went there, all those people were
still hanging out."
Like many drawn to the music scene that had formed around CBGB,
and Max's Kansas City across town, Andrukevich was deeply affected.
Within two years he would form the Stratford Survivors — named
after his hometown — and take the stage at CBGB himself, the
first of a dozen gigs he's played there with various bands.
"It was still a very local phenomenon — not many kids
in my school knew about it. It was still pretty much off the beaten
path," said Andrukevich, who still figures into the local music
scene as bass player for the Zambonis.
In the ensuring 30 years CBGB would go from a low-rent boozemill
at 315 Bowery — Manhattan's version of Skid Row — to
a tourist attraction, a point of pilgrimage for anyone interested
in rock 'n' roll history.
Its closure today comes after a lengthy and well-publicized landlord-tenant
dispute marked by intervention of well-known musicians such as Little
Stephen van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band.
Chip Anderson recalls taking Metro-North from Bridgeport with his
sister to see the Ramones at CBGB in the mid-'70s.
"It was packed to the ceilings," said Anderson, 48, who
comes from Stratford and now lives in North Carolina. "Back
then the Ramones weren't always as tight as they should have been.
Sometimes they would start two different songs at the same time
and they'd start to fight — Dee Dee would throw down his bass
and Johnny would jump in."
It wasn't long before Anderson, too, started rounding up friends
for a band. By 1977 they'd formed Epitome, considered by some to
be the first Connecticut punk band.
"I think, the truth be known, anybody who ever went to CB's
at least thought about starting a band," said Anderson, who
now plays bass for South Carolina-based Cartoon Factory.
CBGB was founded in 1973 by entrepreneur Hilly Kristal in a neighborhood
best known at the time for its homeless population Its full name
is CBGB & OMFUG, which stands for "Country, Bluegrass and
Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gourmands."
It turned out to be a poor, perhaps ironic, choice of names. Kristal's
vision changed fatefully in 1974 when the proto-punk band Television
talked their way onstage, soon to be followed by other early punk
acts including the Ramones, the Patti Smith Group, Blondie and Talking
Heads, to name a few.
The word "punk" was not yet in widespread currency and
a notorious British band, the Sex Pistols, had yet to encapsulate
the leather-and-spikes look that became associated with the genre.
The scene at CB's was well established by the time the Pistols played
there in 1977.
"The music at CBGB's in those early years was very diverse
— there was no one way to dress, there was no one punk sound.
It wasn't defined yet," recalls Andrukevich. "It was just
kind of an arty crowd. There was no slamdancing, there was no real
dancing, it was just too cool of a crowd."
A decade later CBGB became the center of New York's nascent hardcore
scene, and has remained an important stop on the city's local music
Punk poet Smith and her longtime guitarist, Lenny Kaye, are booked
for closing night. Blondie's Debbie Harry and the Bronx-punk band
the Dictators were on the schedule for Saturday's show. The Ramones,
the band most closely associated with CBGB, is defunct after the
deaths of three of its four founding members in the last five years.
Kristal, 74, has said he plans to move the club far from its Bowery
roots with a new CBGB's in Las Vegas.
"I always said Hilly should go to Vegas," said punk rock
historian and Cheshire native Legs McNeil. "Girls with augmented
breasts playing Joey Ramone slot machines. It would become an institution."
The Associated Press contributed
to this report.