antiMUSIC is pleased to welcome aboard
Trent McMartin who not only has been filing special news reports but now
will give you the "lowdown" on various music related topics!
As always the views expressed
by the writer do not neccessarily reflect the views of antiMUSIC or the
iconoclast entertainment group .
The Queen Of CBGB
Legendary New York club CBGB still hasn’t run out of lives yet. With last
weeks ruling by a Manhattan Civil Court judge, all is clear for negotiations
for a new lease agreement to resume between the club and the Bowery Residents
Committee, who own the building in which CBGB’s is a tenant. The judges
ruling also recognized the historical significance and impact CBGB’s had
on the local area when she recalled how the neighbourhood had suffered
from “destitution, degradation and substance abuse” before the club opened
CBGB opened in the early seventies and
began to gain notoriety when many up and coming artists would perform at
the club playing music that was to be later christened “punk” rock by critics
and patrons who saw the shows. Bands that would frequent the club
included such musical pioneers as Television, Blondie, The Ramones, The
Heartbreakers, Patti Smith Group, Richard Hell and the Voidoids and The
Talking Heads among others.
Thousands claim they were witnesses to
what would be later seen as a music revolution and though many of these
claims can be supported and are truthful a lot of them are just outrageous
attempts to cash in on history. The legend of CBGB’s has grown over the
years but in reality, it was a relatively a small underground phenomenon
especially in the beginning.
One woman who was there and had been since the beginning is New York City
resident Deborah Olin. This remarkable woman was a regular patron of CBGB
when it was still called Hilly’s on the Bowery. She attended the club’s
very first shows becoming so well known and liked by CBGB employees and
musical guests that she has never paid to get in.
“I loved CBGB’s because it was my place,
my tribe, my hangout, etc,” wrote Olin in a recent e-mail. “I was attached
to the people who worked there the bands who were friends and some people
I met there and just someplace to go.”
Olin, who is a professional photographer
(she once wrote and took photos for Circus Magazine) and head chef, once
lived in Blondie guitarist Chris Stein’s apartment where Stein’s girlfriend
and band member Debbie Harry would also stay on occasion. Olin still remains
friends with both of them to this day
“I’d watch Chris Stein shave like a little girl and put on his Alice Cooper
makeup every morning like when I was a little kid watching my father shave
or my mom putting on makeup,” Olin said in the e-mail. “I felt so safe
in that house.”
Olin is also widely credited with putting
on the first punk rock festival she held in a gymnasium where over 2000
people attended. Too support her claims, she and Chris Stein still have
posters from the event. Debbie Harry once wrote it was Blondie’s biggest
audience up to that time calling the show “pure heaven.”
Olin was also a huge fan of many of the music acts that would grace CBGB’s
stage during those days. She loved Blondie because she knew the band members
very well and of course she enjoyed The Ramones. Olin didn’t really hang
out with Johnny and Joey Ramone speaking only to Johnny a few times and
hanging with Joey occasionally but she did hang out with Marky and Dee
Dee all the time describing those days as “the most funniest craziest times.”
One of the best bands she ever saw wasn’t
a punk band but a hard rock band that blew the roof off. AC/DC played there
in the late seventies with original singer Bon Scott who would pass away
a few years later due to an over consumption of alcohol causing him to
choke on his own vomit while passed out.
She watched The Police play numerous times
but wasn’t really interested in them saying, “they sounded exactly as they
did on there first record. They weren’t that interesting to me for some
reason but I thought Sting was a nice guy.”
Olin also enjoyed the band Television only after they got rid of Richard
Hell, the Talking Heads, The Mumps with Lance Loud, Jayne Country, The
Dead Boys, Slander Band, The New York Dolls (in which Chris Stein turned
her onto), The Voidoids, and the Heartbreakers, which was her favourite
band. Olin regarded Johnny Thunders, (a member of the Heartbreakers) as
the individual who should have been the biggest superstar out of everyone.
She knew Thunders from hanging out at Max’s Kansas City where he often
played and they were friendly together once even sharing a limo with Keith
Richard’s common-law wife Anita Pallenberg where they all drank screw drivers
out of a Tropicana juice jars.
“Johnny (Thunders) and I were friendly
and I feel I understood him,” Olin said. “He was always soft spoken and
funny and sweet. He liked to call everyone kid. ‘Hey kid, hey kids.’ He
was a very New York old school Italian boy, in his way he was old fashion.”
One individual she did not care for was
Patti Smith. Olin thought Smith babbled too much during performances randomly
spouting off poetry and non-sensical sentences. She also felt at times
Smith wasn’t a very nice person but Olin did enjoy Lenny Kaye (The Patti
Smith Group’s guitarist) and the band's performances would be entertaining
only when Smith strictly stuck to singing the songs.
One of Olin’s wishes was to see the Sex
Pistols who never played CBGB’s and ended up imploding during a U.S. tour
in early 1978. Sex Pistol manger Malcolm McLaren was the manger for the
New York Dolls in New York City in the 70’s where he took the sounds and
fashions of the emerging punk scene in New York and brought them back to
England for his new band which would end up being The Sex Pistols.
Today Olin regards the current state of
CBGB’s as a shell of it’s former self. The club now relies more on its
famous name and legendary status rather than being an actual hub of cutting
“I also think it’s like a cemetery and
over,” Olin wrote when describing CBGB. “It’s depressing to be there. It’s
Like Memphis in ‘54, Liverpool in ‘63 and Seattle in ‘91, the New York
punk scene was made up of people who shared a common love of music and
camaraderie. And as with many scenes, the New York punk scene hit its peak
and was soon followed after by a period of decline and eventual burn out.
“It was very tribal, very close scene,
anyway the world ignored us we were a joke,” Olin notes when describing
those days. “Now its Ramones on Pepsi commercials and Blondie for Doritos.
Now they noticed when its gone..it’s weird.”
Being around artists for most of her life, Olin doesn’t have the romantic,
rock and roll celebrity outlook as many people today do. It’s more of a
personal thing for her because the artists weren’t rock idols to her but
friends and acquaintances.
“I hung out since I was 11,” Olin remarked
in one of her e-mail letters. “I even later hung out with the Who so being
around musicians and creative people was a natural thing for me and where
I felt the most accepted and it was more fun of course!”
“Your looking at it from what you read
after the fact,” Olin explained. “Your looking at the Ramones as this band
or Blondie…not people you goofed around with or you understand. It’s weird
relating to Blondie as rock stars, it’s so bizarre.”
Posted by Trash:
anyone notice Debbies really pretty not in a cheap groupie way but really cute..She definetly dosnt look like the idiot looking punkers and sluts that you associate with cbgbs and punk and the sex pistols and mohawks I like that. TO me thats hot Wih I was there when Debbie C.b.'s was! No wonder she was well liked she looked normal too. Checked all the links out as well Great photographer. I agree she should have her own website. and yeah tear down the walls a MacDonalds would be the same thing as it is now.. serving warmed over steamed crap
Posted by Casey:
Great story Debbie C.B.'s is a true rocker chick. I checked out all the links. I followed Bobby awes directions to this flickr site she has and her photos are amazing.Lots of cbgb rally photos and rock photos of everyone even robert plant.I also took note that she photographs alot of other subjects and shes a truly great artist, Shes also got a wickedly great sense of humore i recommend you all check out the flickr.com site of Debbie C.B.s NYC and look at her Bad Barbie Doll TOy pOrn and Trump and jesus photos that have text they are piss funny.Debbie should have her own website I dug her stuff on the ramone site but she really needs to have her own unless she already does? You get from her the real person not the musican on there best interview behaviour and I find that more interesting. Sounds like there was alot of good times. By the way I heardHilly will not be getting a new lease and its just as well. It is dead. Seems it all points ot hilly who mismanaged it its a tourist trap belongs in a mall. tear it down have one last party everything free and let rome burn
Posted by BUTCH :
TEAR DOWN CBGB'S! punk wasn't about monuments, tourist destinations, idols, mecca-like shyt holes. tear it down and put a mcdonalds there. or a starbucks. another useless place on a useless lot. 30 years ago CBGB's was relevent, now its just a relic. coup-de-grace. put it out of its misery. you've got yer memories. thats all ya need. burn baby burn.
Posted by Bobby Awe:
great stuff - I believe the link to "See more of Deborah's photos by clicking here!" should open this
Posted by The Schwab:
It's funny how Blondie was the most commercially successful. But when you think of american punk rock. you think of the Ramones.
Posted by DeadSun: Great, great article, Trent. Fantastic.
A vital chunk of invaluable information for ANY self-respecting Rock fan.
Hats off to you and Deborah Olin. Many thanks. DS