Monday, October 16, 2006

Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music

CBGB & OMFUG closed, which you already know if it matters to you. I didn't set foot in the place until 1996. I have no regrets.

From 1966 through 1972 I was a rock musician. My "career" began right after high school when the third chord in "Gloria" was a mystery to be solved, & wrapped up with a short stint accompanying two talentless freaks from the awful David Peel's Lower Eastside group in the very strange era preceding punk, best represented by the New York Dolls. I'm no stranger to small stinky clubs. Or the drugs, druggies, drug dealers, & the sociopaths accruing to those scenes like poisonous fungi. In 1973, I moved to north Jersey to attend the brand new, then-hip, Ramapo College & also to escape the suffocating atmosphere of pre-renovated New Brunswick, where I could not seem to pry myself loose from nefarious past associations. CBGB opened in the Bowery a few months later. I missed little. I knew plenty of students who devotedly followed the emerging downtown music scene, & I let them figure out how to stagger home by public transportation at 4 am.

A few years later I moved back to central Jersey, to a quiet street near downtown Linden & a relatively stable domesticity. My involvement in poetry brought me back to the bars & small clubs to do readings; The Court Tavern, The Roxy, The Melody Lounge in NB, stages I generally enjoyed because the audiences were responsive & only infrequently abusively drunk. & then to one in Hoboken I really liked, Maxwell's, a comfortable pub up front with Harp on tap. Subsequently, I found myself in many other venues listening to friends' bands, in Belleville, Irvington, Roselle, Rahway, Woodbridge, South Amboy, Old Bridge, Red Bank, Fords, Sea Bright, Jersey City, Newark, Asbury Park, Belmar, & NYC. Some were especially stinky, some not. Few had clean restrooms.

I didn't need to pay much attention to punk, new wave or its offshoots when I joined WFMU in 1981. Those were covered expertly by other DJs & I had my own free form agenda, based mainly on my own record collection & heavily weighted toward jazzy TV & movie soundtracks, spoken word, 70s funk, & avant guard music from the 50s & 60s.

I know the initial musical importance of CBGB; three of my favorite 70s bands came out of there; The Ramones, Television, & Talking Heads, pretty conventional tastes in retrospect, but not back then. CBGB never abandoned its original Lower Eastside identity - indeed, doggedly held on to it, & in that rapidly gentrifying neighborhood the loss of an egalitarian establishment is a sad event. Maybe it will go Vegas & become the aging punker's version of Hard Rock Cafe. There, wearing brand new black "Gabba gabba" teeshirts, with slot machines jangling all around, as many people will say they did drugs with Dee Dee Ramone as claimed to have slid naked through the mud at Woodstock.


Bob, you certainly have covered many fine New Jersey drinking establishments in your lifetime. Have you been to the new Waiting Room yet on Cherry St. in Rahway? I quaffed a few pints there last night and enjoyed some nachos. The place is a bit larger (it occupies the old McCrory's Five & Dime) but still offers the same greasy pub grub and a killer jukebox comprised of many WFMU Marathon Premium CDs that the DJs were offering.
I'd expect a good juke there. I used to go on quiet Sunday nights & play The Clash, Frank Sinatra, & Steely Dan. Nobody ever complained,
Back in the days of the old Waiting Room, we used to get the biggest bang for our buck that we slid into the jukebox. Our typical set included:

1.) "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic" (9:39) by Issac Hayes.
2.) "Cortez the Killer" (7:31) by Neil Young.
3.) "Bankrobber" (4:35) by the Clash.

Where else can you get 20 minutes of music for a dollar?

Check out my thoughts on CBGB's and punk rock here.

A portrait of the poet as a young man...
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