Monday, October 16, 2006

CBGB Closed Last Night

It’s weird, but all the times I visited New York, I never went to CBGB. Weird, because I was totally seduced by its glamour. It’s the kind of location where cultural history happened spontaneously. Rock music seemed to take a wrong turn in the 70s, as bands got bigger and slicker and fancier. That wasn’t all bad—I will always love big 70s bands like Yes and Led Zep, among others. But this tendency also produced Journey, Styx, and even worse bands.

So CBGB shows up in 1973, and shortly thereafter bands like the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith Group, and Talking Heads start playing. Punk is born there. This music was a continuity from older, more basic rock—50s rock music, early Beatles, Kinks and Who, American garage rock. Guitar, bass, and drums. The Ramones were the purest expression of this—their music is deliberately stoopid. (Television, Talking Heads, and the Patti Smith Group were all total brainiacs in comparison.)

I think the legacy of punk is an honest sound. Honest meaning, the sound of electric guitar, bass and drums (and other instruments, if used) without complicated studio trickery. This is the hallmark of indie rock and of Metallica-style metal.

The difference between the punk-influenced “honest” sound and the more processed, studio-created sound is fairly profound to my ears. But they are just two modes of expression—I don’t see one as better than another.

But I still love the bands that got their starts playing at CBGB.

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