This ain’t the Mudd Club

The first record I ever bought was the 7″ single version of “Heart of Glass“, back in 1979. This came to mind today when I read that Hilly Kristal, owner of CBGB’s in New York, had died, just a year after the club was forced to close as the neighbourhood around it gentrified. CBGB’s hosted early gigs by Blondie, and several other bands that I grew up with, like Television, Talking Heads and the Ramones, so the news of Hilly’s death produced the depressing realisation that a time that I had lived through was being consigned to the history books.

I visited CBGB’s a few times in the early 90’s, though by then the club’s glory days were long past, and the bands I saw were completely forgettable. At least the Bowery was still authentically scuzzy, and observing the street life was quite entertaining. I remember being tremendously impressed by the general grittiness of New York the first few times I visited – it was exactly how I had imagined it would be from watching Taxi Driver and Mean Streets. I hear that the city has been cleaned up a bit in the last few years, which I guess is good news for New Yorkers, if disappointing for Scorsese-loving tourists.

The last time I was in New York was 1992, for the CMJ. I saw some great gigs during the course of that event, notably The Flaming Lips and The Jesus and Mary Chain, both on the same bill at the Roseland Ballroom, and enjoyed some interesting social interaction with the local music crowd.

Now CBGB’s is gone, Joey, Johnny and Dee-Dee are dead, and the time when I would jet across the Atlantic to go to a music festival is nothing more than a fading memory. I keep meaning to go to SXSW or Burning Man, but at some point in the last decade my life became too complicated to do things impulsively, and I’m no good at planning ahead, so I don’t think it will be happening any time soon.

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