A recently uploaded video features some of the earliest footage of Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics, performing March 1st, 1979 at CBGB, doing their song “Tight Black Pants” from their first LP, New Hope For the Wretched.
The video below comes to us from Paul Tschinkel, who recorded it for his punk and new wave cable TV show, Inner-Tube, which ran for ten years on Manhattan Cable. We’ve written about Tschinkel and Inner-Tube here before.
Though the upload bills this as the “earliest performance of the band,” the band had been performing for some months prior. We wrote about their actual earliest recorded performance, from July 26th, 1978, HERE.
The Plasmatics, formed by lead singer Wendy O. Williams and manager Rod Swenson in 1977, were at the forefront of American punk, getting their start at the legendary CBGB. Their taboo-busting stage show gained them a huge cult following through the early 80s, featuring the shock antics of Williams, who was prone to wearing little more than electrical tape over her nipples and short school-girl skirts, while chainsawing guitars in half and blowing up cop cars onstage. Wendy O. Williams, who sadly passed in 1998, was one of rock’s all-time ballsiest performers, and her act lead to 1981 obscenity arrests in Cleveland and Milwaukee, where she was also beaten by police and received a charge of battery to an officer (which was later dropped, along with the obscenity charge).
In the clip below, we see, first, a recording of a TV playing an extremely rare music video for the song “Concrete Shoes.” The video is rather racy, featuring a close-up of Wendy doing some over-undie masturbation. When the video ends, Wendy sets up some transistor radios tuned to different stations on a small table and then procedes to smash them all to bits. The band then kicks in with a blistering version of “Tight Black Pants.” Wendy is in a stunning skin-tight pink and black-striped bodysuit that seems to be in danger of falling off of her at any second. At this point, she did not have her signature mohawk—though guitarist Richie Stotts was sporting the Mohican look.
This is priceless historical footage and after watching I find myself saying the same thing I say after viewing any of Paul Tschinkel’s amazing YouTube uploads: “please show us the rest!”
There are few bands in the world that bring me as much fist-pumping joy as AC/DC. I was sadly just a touch too young to see the band perform with Bon Scott, but saw the band after Scott’s departure many, many times and the albums that make up their vast catalog have always been my “go to” records since my parents gifted me with Highway To Hell on Christmas in 1979.
AC/DC killing it live at CBGB’s, August 27th, 1977
Bon Scott racing across the tiny stage at CBGB’s
Bon Scott carrying Angus Young through the crowd at CBGB’s, August 27th, 1977
Show bill for AC/DC’s show at CBGB’s, August 27th, 1977
When the band played CBGB’s on August 27, 1977, they were a late addition to the bill that included The Dead Boys and the Talking Heads. The rabble-rousing Aussies were on a U.S. tour in support of their 1976 record, High Voltage and had just played a show at the Academy of Music opening for The Dictators, and really wanted to play the popular punk club.
Angus Young rocking the fuck out at CBGB’s, August 27th 1977
Bon Scott and Malcolm Young at CBGB’s August 27th, 1977
You’ve all probably read by now that Newark Airport is about to open a branded CBGB restaurant. The menu has typical bar food fare (maybe a cut above) and presumably has typical airport pricing for comestibles; the existence of a $42 prime rib on the menu should tell most of what you need to know. The joint will be called the CBGB L.A.B. (Lounge and Bar) and will serve “American fare in a fun environment recalling the legendary music venue.” The chef is Harold Moore, who according to Rolling Stone “runs the comparatively upscale New York City eatery Commerce,” but Commerce closed last July.
The menu includes an item “Harold’s World Famous Chili,” which Rolling Stone inexplicably regards as a “nod” to Hilly’s Chili, which, given that the name “Hilly” stood for Hillel and not Harold, seems like a stretch. On the subject of Hilly’s Chili I shall allow Binky Philips, of the Planets, who opened for the Ramones at CBGB’s, to elucidate you in this excerpt from his ebook My Life in the Ghost of Planets: The Story of a CBGB Almost-Was ($1.99 Kindle):
Back then, the older folkie fella, who turned out to be the owner, Hilly Kristal, was serving food. I tried the burger first. Wow, pretty good! A week later, I decided to try “Hilly’s Chili.” It was fantastic! In fact, it was so good, I walked back to the kitchen to tell Hilly how much I liked it. He was standing there, in his red plaid wool coat, slowly stirring an industrial sized pot of the chili as if in a trance. And, with Hilly obviously oblivious, about a foot behind his right boot was a fresh and wet pile of dog shit, about the size and shape of half a cantaloupe.
Here’s a shiny, happy facsimile of the familiar awning:
Several months ago, eagle-eyed Twitter user Proof of Use spotted this suggestive bit of legal gobbledygook involving the “usable nonuse explanation” of the lawful paths open to the undisclosed holding company that owns the rights to the CBGB’s name in the wake of the passing of Hilly Kristal.
Upon information and belief, use of the registered mark in connection with the registered services ceased approximately 7 years ago, contemporaneous with the death of Hilly Kristal, the founder of the famous CBGB club in the lower Manhattan. On May 21, 2012, registrant acquired the registered mark from the estate of Mr. Kristal, and during the ensuing period the mark has not yet been used by the registrant in connection with the registered services. The registrant has, however, been working with OTG Management to create a CBGB-branded restaurant and bar in the United Airlines terminal—Terminal C—in Newark Liberty Airport. ... there is currently a space in the terminal reserved for a CBGB restaurant and bar. ... the registrant anticipates that the mark will be back in use in U.S. commerce in connection with the registered services in 2015.
The reader will notice that they just came in under the wire, as being in the news during the calendar year 2015 as an operating entity. I don’t know the details, but I’d bet anything that the holding company is required or heavily incentivized to have the CBGB trademark put to use before a certain set number of years had elapsed or they would lose it.
Here’s Gothamist’s final word on the subject: “We hear it may be opening by the end of the year.” Exactly. That’s not a coincidence, goes my wager.
This restaurant was probably just going to be called L.A.B at one point. I mean why Newark airport of all places for a CBGB-themed eatery? And as anyone who ever stepped foot in the joint can tell you, “germy” would be one of the very first words that would come to mind to describe CBs. The last time I was at CBGBs someone had kicked the urinal off the wall and the toilet was overflowing. Not pretty. As for eating there? This only makes sense in the context of a “use it or lose it” trademark extension.
But just when you’re thinking what a fucking lame idea this is, here’s something even worse: In 1991, future jailed pedophile and rapist Gary Glitter, once one of Britain’s most beloved entertainers, now a figure of public hate, opened The Glitter Bar in London’s Piccadilly Circus (which is some prime real estate, obviously). All of the waitresses were 12-year-old Vietnamese girls in lingerie (okay I just made that last bit up). Here’s footage of “the Leader of the Snacks” at the restaurant’s opening. At about seven minutes in, Glitter shows up and bumps and grinds to his own music, stuffed into his 70s stage clothes like a noncey sausage.
Mercifully the Glitter Bar closed just a few years later, not long before Glitter infamously took his computer full of kiddie porn to be repaired.
Whether it’s the Left Bank, or Bloomsbury, or Sun Records in Memphis, the Cavern Club in Liverpool, or London’s King’s Road, there is always one location that becomes the focus for a new generation of artists, writers and musicians. In New York during the 1970s, this creative hub could be found in a venue called CBGBs where different bands came to play every night spearheading the punk and new wave movement and bringing about a small revolution which changed everything in its wake.
Amongst the musicians, writers and artists who played and hung out at Hilly Kristal’s club at 315 Bowery were conceptual artists Bettie Ringma and Marc H. Miller. Bettie had come from from Holland to the US, where she met Miller—a writer and photographer whose passion was for telling “stories with pictures, with ephemera and with a few carefully chosen words.” Together they started collaborating on various multi-media and conceptual artworks.
In late 1976, Marc and Bettie were drawn to the irresistible pull of creative energy buzzing out of CBGB’s. Most nights they went down to the venue and started documenting the bands and artists who appeared there:
Our first photograph of Bettie with the movers and shakers at CBGB was taken during our very first visit to the club in late 1976. Standing alone by the bar was one of Bettie’s favorite performers, the poet-rocker Patti Smith. At home at CBGB and a wee bit tipsy, Patti was more than happy to oblige our request for a picture with Bettie. Soon we were CBGB regulars, checking out the different bands and slowly adding to our collection of pictures.
Marc and Bettie’s original idea of creating “Paparazzi Self-Portraits” at this Bowery bar developed into the portfolio Bettie Visits CBGB—a documentary record of all the bands, musicians, artists and writers who hung out at the venue, with photographs becoming:
...a reflection of the new aesthetic emerging at CBGB, a contradictory mix of high and low culture energized by fun and humor, the lure of fame and fortune, and a cynical appreciation of the power of a good hype.
More of Marc and Bettie’s work from this punk era can be seen here.
Patti Smith was hanging around at the bar, but no one was taking pictures of her because she was super-shy. She posed with me and then just went away: some musicians are like that, they’re not into socialising. They’re just artists.
Debbie Harry is a really great singer. She had a very different style from what was emerging there at that time. She was not shy, but she was very aloof: you can see that in the picture, hiding half her face behind her hair. It wasn’t something she needed, because she was very pretty, she was the frontwoman. But it gave her safety.
I just love the Ramones. When their music starts I can’t sit still, I just have to start hopping and dancing, and I’m 71 now. We saw them live about 10 times: we would go out of our way to see them perform.
Three aspiring musicians: Richard Hell, Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were looking for a place “where nothing was happening” for their band Television to play. If nothing was happening then the bar owner had nothing to lose. One day, down in the Bowery, Verlaine and Lloyd spotted a place initialed CBGB-OMFUG. They sidled across, went inside and talked to the owner a former singer and musician Hilly Krystal. As Lloyd recalled in Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s essential oral history of punk Please Kill Me, Hilly wanted to know what kinda music they played. They answered with a question:
‘Well, what does ‘CBGB-OMFUG’ stand for?’
He said, ‘Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers.’
So we said, ‘Oh yeah, we play a little of that, a little rock, a little country, a little blues, a little bluegrass…’
And Hilly said, ‘Oh, okay, maybe…’
In fact, the only real stipulation for appearing at CBGB’s was to play new music, and although Suicide and Wayne County had already appeared at CBGB’s (after the demise of the Mercer Arts Center), it was not until Television, Patti Smith, The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads and The Dead Boys started taking up residency that CBGB’s changed from something where nothing happened to somewhere it all happened.
If you were disappointed by the shitty CBGB’s movie made a couple of years back starring Alan Rickman, then you will get a better sense of the energy, talent and musical revolution that took place at CBGB’s in the mid-1970s with this hour-long TV documentary Blitzkrieg Bop . Focussing on The Ramones, Blondie and the The Dead Boys, Blitzkrieg Bop mixes live performance with short interview clips and a racy newscast voiceover. It’s recommended viewing.
The This Ain’t the Summer of Love blog has uncorked a real gem on the Internet—with the help of one of its loyal readers. Four years ago, TATSOLunearthed a 1982 Billboard article describing a CBGB-produced cable access show to “include interviews, comedy skits, and live performances.” A few days ago Stuart Newman, a member of the The Roustabouts, a band that was featured, uploaded a YouTube video of an episode of “TV-CBGB” and passed on the link to TATSOL. Victory! And a coup for a worthy blog.
The episode is peculiar and mildly riveting. It’s 90% performance but not true concert footage. There’s a bizarre opening sequence hosted by “Jo Thompson” (actually Wendy Walker), although it’s unclear why her MC duties necessitated a fictional character—in her bit, she walks through the club introducing us to a half-dozen CBGB employees, including Hilly, who are obliged to hold a freeze-frame pose for quite a long time while she tells us about them using the third person.
Of the somewhat overpopulated “sitcom” portions, the dialogue is predictably muddy and you never really know who anyone is or if they’re “fictional” or “real”—Hilly does his best playing himself. The bits attempt to portray something of the day-to-day experience of working at CBGBs. It’s completely incompetent as sketch entertainment, but nonetheless touching to watch a typical cross-section of unmistakably downtown fashionista wastoids gamely mimic a smash hit sitcom—there’s even a laugh track! The intermittent scenelets that feel a little SCTV outtakes or perhaps one of those short films shown during the Chevy Chase era of SNL—albeit with cable access production values. Furthermore, the birthday party for a pregnant co-worker feels entirely inauthentic; the brief scene in the scuzzy bathroom in which two women indulge in a bit of gossip feels a lot more true to life.
Here’s the lineup of bands: Idiot Savant, The Roustabouts, The Hard, Jo Marshall, Shrapnel, and Sic Fucks. None of the bands are great, but every single one is peppy and utterly enjoyable; unlike the scripted bits; the music performances feel absolutely like what it must have been like to attend CBGBs on a regular basis—a useful reminder of just how rousing and vital the median CBGB act was. (I was way too young to experience any of this, so my notions of the bands’ “authenticity” are the merest guess at the truth.)
The episode is an odd glimpse of a CBGB identity that never took shape, as a cable access mainstay; maybe someday it would have migrated to MTV and become a national TV icon. It never happened, but the sturdy format of bands just playing good rock and roll always works.
The only question now is, what else is out there?? The indefatigable TATSOL inquires: “Were there any additional episodes filmed? And if yes, where is the footage of those episodes? Hope we don’t have to wait four more years to find out…” Amen to that!