Home / The Queen Is Dead, Boys, And It’s So Lonely On A Limb

The Queen Is Dead, Boys, And It’s So Lonely On A Limb

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I am not going to wax poetic over the closing of CBGB's. I'm sad to see it leave, but I was never there, so I have no personal attachment and I can't be one of those wankers who weeps for a cause they know nothing about. Ian got the also-defunct July for Kings to sign my CD there once, but that's as close as I ever got. While I admire all the greatness that came out of the early days, (The Talking Heads, Blondie, and Patti Smith, specifically) I'm more saddened by what it's become and how it's dying a pop star death instead of a punk one.

CBGB's died years ago. The birthplace of punk burned as soon as Hilly Kristal decided to market tee-shirts to teeny boppers. Why didn't he buy the club lot with the blood money Hot Topic paid him? I bet if you asked any such sporting bimbo to name three bands, not including the Ramones (the tee-shirt of which her mall-emo boyfriend is wearing) that came out of the infamous Bowery bar, she might be able to stammer, "Blondie," but only because that tee-shirt is hanging in her closet.

Worse, he's moving the club to Las Vegas. Vegas, baby, Vegas. How many punks can you imagine in Las Vegas? He'll probably host a star-studded opening with Hilary Duff (sporting her ultra-punky "Stuff" line) and Kevin Federline on the mike. I hope Joey Ramone haunts him for the rest of his days. There's a word in the punk world for this kind of treatment — sellout.

If we wanted to properly memorialize CBGB's, we'd let it die. Having Patti Smith sing at the closing ceremonies was a good touch, but the truth remains that CBGB's is not unlike an aging pop star — desparately clinging to a dead era, exploiting the glory days with a big glittery show in the has-been capital of the world. He might as well design the club with plastic plants in giant brandy snifters and an all-you-can-eat buffet. Can you imagine David Byrne flailing across the stage in his big suit, wailing, "This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, be sure to tip your waitress?"

Death is the only suitable finale for a punk — a violent, iconic death, not sequined jeans and crab cakes at what should have been a funeral long ago.

"This place is not a temple," said Patti Smith. "It's a state of mind." Hopefully those who were once there will remain in that state of mind, a bittersweet recollection of what it used to be, and for those who grow up knowing CBGB's as a Vegas venue, well, that's no state of mind I wish to be in.

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About Retro Music Chick

  • Liberal

    I was there, both last night and back in the day.

    The sad part about CBGB closing is that with CBs gone, the newest physical evidence that this city was ever relevant is the Algonquin Hotel.

    It’s not that CBGB died years ago. It’s that New York, in terms of its cultural relevancy, died years ago.

    I’m not sure of the exact date and time of death, but it was either the first day that a high-school freshman in Seattle put on a flannel shirt and stared at his shoes or the first day a high-school freshman in a Des Moines suburb shaved his head into a Mohawk. Or maybe it was the day Lou Reed moved to New Jersey. Regardless of when the death occurred, last night was certainly the night after the will had been read and everyone realized that they got nothing.

    The fact that New York had died first occurred to me as I sat in CBs 313, the non-stinking rat hole that everyone likes but no one loves that sits next-door to CBGB, the stinking rat hole that no one liked but everyone loved.

    The forty-two other people who had actually been at CBGB way back when were also inside. Outside, the press had given up looking for someone aside from Tina Weymouth who was actually interesting to interview and was beginning to devour itself. Their only alternative was to ask those standing in line, “So you came all the way into the city from Westchester on a Sunday. How was the traffic?”

    My post-mortem for New York as a cultural icon was officially written when I saw David Fricke yawn while Patti Smith was onstage. It is possible that he was bored by Robert Christgau’s, “Who am I and what am I doing here?” impersonation of a Ross Perot Vice Presidential candidate, but I really think that it was just past his bedtime. The only time either of them moved was during So you Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star. “Oh, a Byrds song. I like them,” Wiggle, wiggle.

    Vegas is, as you say, the has-been capital of the world. The sanitized, plasticized, one-third scale buildings of New York, New York are a fitting tribute to this great has-been of a city. It’s the perfect place for CBGB.

    Now, if we can only move the museums to Vegas and let Donald Trump build $3 million apartments on that land, we can replace Grant’s tomb with a marker that reads, “Here Lies New York, May She Rest in (no car horns – $350 fine) Peace.”

  • Murphy

    I’m sad it’s dead too.

    But I agree with you, RMC. It was on life support, dead long ago.

    But, oh, it was grand once.
    Isn’t that funny? Punk philosophy was never one for nostalgia.

    and are we–now dying our hair not for the cool flat black effect, but to cover the gray–ready for the next thing?

    My question is….
    heard anything good lately?

  • To a person like myself, who appreciates the great traditions in rock, the closing of CBGB’s certainly ranks not as a loss but as the beginning of a myth, a punk pantheon which will certainly be replaced by others.

  • Steve Humann

    My friend AnnDoll had a leather jacket that said ‘Punk Is Dead’ back in 1980. I remember hearing that sentiment from older punks all the time because my first show wasn’t until ’78 and I never saw the Sex Pistols. Punk was stillborn really I think. Cut off from commercial success by it’s own noxiousness (except for the less dangerous New Wave variety) it took several more decades for the rest of the world to find our level of rage/nihilism palatable.

    CBGB’s? Whatever, New York spends way too much time thinking about its very own newyorkness and this is just another opportunity for more of that narcissism. Like Albini said on the last Big Black album, something about not enough bands breaking up soon enough. Maybe you could apply that to venues too.

  • Funny you should bring up Anndoll. She ended up in Vegas for quite a while. Thankfully, she’s back amongst friends in L.A.

    Her jacket was correct in 1980/81, Punk Was Dead. It had turned into hardcore with the influx of suburban middle class angst invading the cities. Both east and west.