The essential guide to reading and watching CBGB

The “historical film” CBGB hits theatres today. I haven’t seen it and have no desire to. Let’s face it: it’s going to be shit. Something tells me it’s not doing the NY Punk scene or Hilly Kristal any justice. But thank god if you’re into the American punk scene there is no shortage of good movies and books to read. So stay in. Save yourself a tenner (and save yourself from watching another horrendous movie with Malin Akerman) and dig up some of these instead:

1. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk

This book is classic. Now it doesn’t just specifically look at the NY punk scene, as there are times the interviews jump to LA or Detroit, but everything always comes back to the hub of it all. Please Kill Me is a wonderfully in-depth look at the early days of American punk. You get an unparalleled look into Johnny Thunder’s drug addiction, what it’s like to be a groupie, and – all through interviews by the wonderful Leg McNeil and Giallian McCain of various players in the scene. This is the very definition of a “page turner.” The Blank Generation has never sounded so loud on paper.

2. The Dead Boys Live at CBGB’s 1977

Sorry, Rupert Grint, but nothing is better than watching the real Cheetah Chrome. The Cleveland band are unbelievable to watch live (well, you know). It’s a wonder that a dive bar could even hold the sound and power of punk bands like the Dead Boys. You can watch the entire show on youtube, but here’s a nice tasting with “Sonic Reducer.”

3. CBGB: Decades of Grafitti

This is more of a picture book than a read, but the images show the years of “love” it had gone through. The photographs show an empty bar with graffiti everywhere that mark it’s long history. The bar itself just breathes the lives of people that walked through those doors. It looks disgusting, but it was probably a whole lot of fucking fun.

4. I Slept With Joey Ramone: A Family Memoir

Again, not specifically about CBGB, but I Slept With Joey Ramone is a touching, yet harsh, look into the life of the club’s most iconic performer. Written by brother Mickey Leigh, the pages are filled with stories of the life of a man who grew up with a brother who struggled. The story weaves in and out of heartbreak (Joey’s struggle with OCD) to laughs. It’s a beautiful tale from the outside looking in. One of the best scenes is not even about Joey Ramone, but instead about the first time Mickey Leigh kiss his future-wife to the Flamin’ Groovies “Shake Some Action.” The story is a reminder that although all of these musicians were becoming legends, there were people alive in that club.


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