CBGB was a New York club that launched the careers of influential artists like Blondie and The Ramones, and its archive footage is must-see stuff for fans of punk, new wave and art rock. The name stood for Country, Bluegrass and Blues and the now-famous institution was located at 315 Bowery at Bleecker Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
It opened in 1973 and sadly closed some 33 years later in October 2006. While many of the musicians have since hung up their six strings (or succumbed to a life of “live fast die young”), CBGB lives on in the hearts of many, and now thanks to the Internet we can all enjoy a piece of the action through these amazing films.
CBGB: The Roots of Punk
Last week saw the release of CBGB, a 2013 adaptation of the club’s story in narrative form. Starring the likes of Alan Rickman, the film has garnered somewhat of mixed reaction from critics and fans alike. Luckily we’ve got documentaries like The Roots of Punk, which takes a look at the real CBGB through poor quality footage shot in the club’s formative years.
It’s short but sweet, with a total runtime somewhere around 12 minutes, but it packs in more authenticity than a narrative adaption ever could, and is worth a watch if only for the grainy, gritty, shaky footage of 1970s New York. Bliss.
Blondie @ CBGB, Mid-1970s
Before Blondie’s sound became more somber and new-wave in the early 1980s, the band produced a raw, rocky sound which resonated well among regulars at CBGB. So well in fact, that the club is often credited for having launched Blondie’s career to new heights (and what heights they were).
The footage above from 1975 and 1977 respectively shows the band playing the unrelease “A Girl Should Know Better” and “Rifle Range” from a few years later, which sounds pretty-darn-raw considering where how band ended up sounding in their later years.
Talking Heads @ CBGB, 1975
Another band that experienced tremendous success as a result of their CBGB sessions, here are two films featuring the fantastic Talking Heads performing in 1975. Above is an acoustic version of the band’s well-known single “Psycho Killer” while below is the full 33-minute set that the song is taken from.
Unfortunately the footage cuts out mid-way through No Compassion, but aside from that – considering its age and the nature of capturing artists on film – the footage is surprisingly good.
The Ramones @ CBGB, 1977
No CBGB collection of videos is complete without The Ramones, a band that meant as much to CBGB as CBGB did to them. And this isn’t a poor quality, half-assed performance but a hair-raising energetic ode to the punk gods featuring some of the band’s best material, filmed in remarkable quality to boot.
Opening with “Blitzkrieg Bop”, the band burn through “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”, “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” and (in part 2) perform “Rockaway Beach” and finish on the fantastic “Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World”.
Many Other Gigs
It isn’t just the ultra-successful bands who have been immortalised through video footage at one of the world’s most important venues, and plenty of important musicians can be found hawking their musical wares at the club. These include Dead Boys, Bad Brains, Social Distortion and Big Black, among many others on YouTube. Even pre-terrible Green Day played a surprise set there in 2001, arguably long after the club’s heyday.
Bonus: Take A Virtual Tour of CBGB
While looking for a link to an interactive photo tour of the club I happened across this gem, which the uploader muses is “possibly the last video shot inside CBGBs”. It’s unclear who it is behind the camera, or quite how they got access, but their attention to detail is tremendous. Virtually every inch of the club is absorbed in (admittedly poor quality) video form.
Of course, I also managed to find the original panoramic photo tour, which features some wonderfully detailed images that can be panned, zoomed and explored at your leisure over at 360vr.
View: CBGB’s 360º Photo Tour
Did you enjoy these videos? Maybe you visited CBGB in its heyday? Add your comments, below!