Thursday, February 12, 2015

throwback thursday: cbgb

If you never were quite sure what the initials on the awning of downtown rock mecca CBGB meant, the film CBGB answers that question.

CBGB = Country, Bluegrass and Blues, OMFUG = Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers

But as for the rest of it ... I love Alan Rickman, maybe even more than the next guy, but he can't do much with this dull attempt at trying to recreate the downtown New York punk scene of the '70s and '80s. Rickman stars as Hilly Kristal, the man behind the club, and, many believe, the punk movement itself, at least in the U.S.

Not very good caricatures of famed musicians like Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and many others are not helped by the dreadful wigs and costumes that nullify any attempt to conjure up some fun nostalgia. Harry Potter fans may be thrilled (or not-so-thrilled) to see Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) drop trou as the Dead Boys' Cheetah Chrome. From behind, but still.

For those who might want to get a taste of what the club really produced, the soundtrack at least features some quick blips of great, original music, including: "Life During Wartime" by the Talking Heads, "Roxanne" by The Police, "Blank Generation" by Richard Hell and the Voidoids, "Sunday Girl" by Blondie, "I Can't Stand It" by The Velvet Underground, and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by The Stooges.

When I was in art school in the '80s we ended up at CBGBs on numerous occasions. The bathrooms were absolutely frightening and filthy, as is depicted in the film, but it was New York, and exciting, and it still felt like a landmark.

The club closed in 2006 and founder Hilly Kristal passed away the following year. Patti Smith played a moving tribute to Kristal and the club, which, happily, can be enjoyed. A much more fitting tribute than this mismatch of a film.


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