Joan Jett

Legendary Venues: CBGB

About 2 weeks ago I was hired for a gig at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. My position for the show was since cut, but at the time I was super stoked to work a show there. For those who don’t know, The Stone Pony is a legendary venue known for launching the careers of famed New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. It got me thinking about music venues. There’s plenty of famous venues across the country and I should probably write about them some time. So here we are. I thought at first I’d write one epic blog post about a bunch of them, but then I figured it would get too long. Instead, I’ll be doing a new blog series spotlighting each one. The first on that list is one of the most legendary venues I can think of, CBGB (& OMFUG).

The now defunct CBGB was founded in 1973 by Hilly Kristal. CBGB, which stands for “Country Bluegrass Blues” (& “Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers”), was located at 315 Bowery in the Bowery neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, NYC. CBGB originally was opened to house the genres it was named for but became a haven for late 70’s punk rock bands. It is often referred to as the birth place of punk rock. The venue gave rise to many bands who frequented it’s grounds like The Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, Talking Heads, Misfits, The Dead Boys, and Joan Jett. It’s decor was somewhat legendary too. Graffiti covered the walls of the venue making CBGB look just as edgy and original as the bands who played there.

In the 1980’s it became a mainstay for hardcore bands like Gorilla Biscuits, Agnostic Front, Youth of Today, Sick of It All, Cro-Mags, and Murphy’s Law. By the 90’s, bands like Green Day, Sum-41, and Korn became synonymous with the famed venue.

CBGB operated until the mid 00’s when rent became an issue and forced its closure in October of 2006. Patti Smith played the final show at CBGB on October 15th of that year. Since its closure, the site where CBGB once stood has transformed into a John Varvatos retail store, but remnants of its existence still stand. Outside the store, the pavement is engraved with the marker “CBGB 73” to commemorate the venue’s existence and the year in which it was founded. The store itself pays homage to the venue through its decor as well.

I first learned about CBGB shortly before it closed in 2006. At the time my music of choice was from alternative genres like indie, emo, punk, ska, and hardcore, so the venue had a significance to me. Although I listened to more modern bands from those genres I went through a period where I listened to classic punk bands like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and The Clash. Besides the music, the culture of punk rock really stood out to me, making the CBGB seem like the coolest venue ever. After learning about The Ramones and more about punk rock history, I added The Ramones classic logo band tee along with a CBGB t-shirt to my collection. I wore both with pride. By the time I realized I wanted to visit the CBGB though, it was about ready to close its doors. After it closed, I remember thinking I should just go see it, even if it was only from the outside, but I didn’t visit NYC much then so it never happened. In fact, even though I visit NYC more now, I always forget that I still need to make a stop at 315 Bowery even if it is just a John Varvatos store.

Though the venue ceases to exist, it’s still a prominent tourist spot in NYC. There was also a music festival honoring the legendary venue from 2012-2014. I actually had CBGB feels while writing this because I just watched my favorite band play a “Blitzkrieg Bop” cover last night knowing I’ll never get to see The Ramones play it in the place that made them famous. Even though the venue isn’t around anymore, its spirit is still alive and well making CBGB & OMFUG one of, if not the most legendary music venues ever.

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The Film Playlist: The Runaways

I’m sure most of you know who Joan Jett is. Even if you don’t, I’m sure you’ve heard the song “I Love Rock & Roll”. What you may or may not know is that “I Love Rock & Roll” is actually a cover song. The song is originally by the British rock band, The Arrows. What you also may or may not know is that before Joan Jett started Joan Jett & The Blackhearts (the band famous for the song “I Love Rock & Roll”), she was the rhythm guitarist in an all-girl rock band called The Runaways, and in 2010, a drama film about the band was released.

The Runaways stars Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as lead singer, Cherie Currie. It was written and directed by Floria Sigismondi and based off a book by Currie, herself. In the film, Joan Jett, a rebellious teenager, wants to become a rock star. Fortunately, one night at a local club she meets record producer, Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), and mentions forming an all-girl rock band. Fowley has an interest in the project and introduces Joan to drummer, Sandy West. The meeting ignites the formation of The Runaways. They find Cherie Currie in a club one night while on a search for hot blondes to be a part of the group and invite her to tryout. Like Joan, the movie introduces Cherie as a teenager who also dreams of rock stardom, having lip synced a performance to David Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul” in a high school talent show. At the tryout, when the band criticizes Cherie’s audition song choice, Fowley and Joan write a spur of the moment song for Cherie to sing, “Cherry Bomb”. It solidify’s her spot in the band, and leads to a future filled with touring, parties, drugs, alcohol and rock & roll.

Since the movie is based off of Currie’s memoir, it focuses primarily on Currie’s story as part of The Runaways from 1975-1977 (the band was active from 1975-1979), her problem with drugs, and relationship with Joan. The movie also features the band’s most famous songs, “Cherry Bomb”, “Hollywood”, “Queens of Noise”, “California Paradise”, and “You Drive Me Wild”. The film received positive feedback from critics and fans but still under performed at the box office, only grossing around 4.7 million dollars.

When I heard about The Runaways, it was during the same era of the Twilight series phenomenon. Of course, Kristen Stewart was pretty big on the Hollywood scene at the time because of her lead role of Bella Swan in Twilight series. Dakota Fanning also starred in most of the films as Jane, a member of the most powerful vampire coven, the Volutri, so knowing both of the two actresses well hyped me up for The Runaways. When I finally saw the film, I loved it. I loved hearing the story behind the band and watching a film that showed the 70’s rock & roll scene. It was also pretty bad ass to see a group of girls performing like they did. Seeing the movie lead me to an interest in The Runaways. I downloaded their music and frequently sang “Cherry Bomb” with my friends when we hung out. It was such a hard, edgy song that most times we’d scream the words “cherry bomb” during the chorus.

The Runaways were typically a hard rock, punk rock, heavy metal style band. They released three studio albums under Mercury Records and one with Cherry Red Records. They went through several lineups during their short existence, but Joan and Cherie, along with Lita Ford and Sandy West were mainstays. Cherie left the band in 1977 after a blow up with Ford (Joan took over lead vocals), while the others were with the group until the band split in 1979 after some disagreements over music style. The movie depicts the blow-up between Cherie and Lita near the conclusion of the film.

The Runaways fits The Film Playlist well. It’s a great music film and like all the films on the playlist, is a must-see for any music fan. It’s an edgy drama that shows the story of this historic rock group. Since it does feature a real-life band, I figured a few song recommendations by The Runaways were in order too.

  1. Cherry Bomb
  2. You Drive Me Wild
  3. Rock & Roll
  4. Thunder
  5. California Paradise
  6. I Love Playin’ With Fire
  7. Queens of Noise
  8. I Wanna Be Where The Boys Are
  9. Hollywood
  10. School Days