Replay Thursdays - CBGB Edition w. The Vinyl Villain


The 1970’s was a dark time in New York City when it had collapsed into a desolate and drugged-out post apocalyptic nightmare fueled by an economic crisis.

Upper Manhattan’s glamourous disco techs like Studio 54 would host dj’s to spin upbeat funk, soul and disco music while big arenas like Madison Square Garden held sold out concerts that led rock legends of that time to their legendary status.

Elsewhere, a notorious bar located in the run down Bowery district was bubbling with a newer raw and edgier rock and roll sound. The venue showcased a variety of acts who would unknowingly lay birth to punk rock and new wave while giving much praise to influential rock stars of the time like Iggy Pop, The Velvet Underground and David Bowie. That bar was known as CBGB & OMFUG (an abbreviation for the kind of music that played at the venue: Country Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers- or simply CBGB’s).

CBGB’s helped launch the careers of several notable bands such as The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads and Patti Smith. The bar’s founder and owner Hilly Kristal wanted bands to play original songs. On many nights the venue saw some of the most influential acts in rock and roll get their start on this tiny stage in its rough around the edges interior.

Amongst the crowds, through the cigarette smoke and beer stained floors, one could often find their favorite musicians playing pinball in the back, on one of their 2-3 machines, depending on what year in history we are talking about.

The raw, gritty and haggard atmosphere of the club provided the audience with a more intimate show with their favourite bands, paving the way for touring punk bands in the 80’s who made sure to make CBGB’s their stop in NYC, and an ambition for the locals to finally feel like they’ve made it.

As the punk scene grew shifting from the 70’s to the 80’s, more bands were making a name for themselves by playing gigs at CBGB’s such as The Cramps, The Police, The Misfits, The Beastie Boys, Bad Brains, D.R.I., Plasmatics The Replacements, Sonic Youth, J. Mascis and the list goes on…

Like all great things, CBGB’s eventually came to an end when it finally closed its doors in 2006. What was once a temple of hard drugs, booze fuelled nights and dirt cheap concerts has now ironically become a high-end men’s fashion boutique. Some of the relics have been left behind from the original bar including the graffiti tagged across the walls, several posters and likely the spirits of punk. Heck, you can even play a game of Bally’s Captain Fantastic pinball while you’re there!

For this week’s Replay Thursday’s at Zed*80, DJ Vinyl Villain will pay homage to THE diviest of dive bars; CBGB’s by taking you back to a time when all one needed was hard rock, cheap beer and pinball to get the night going.

Nathan Hunter