The Police, Talking Heads, the Velvet Underground, Television, the Stooges, MC5, Blondie – CBGB (2013)

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The irony, of course, was that Hilly Kristal originally wanted to open a roots-rocking Bowery bar — thus, the name: CBGB, which stood for “country, bluegrass and blues.” Lucky for us, that’s not how it turned out.

Through a confluence of happenstance and location, CBGB would become ground zero in an explosion of late-1970s punk, underground rock and new wave sounds. Rather than celebrating the roots of rock, the club would herald, as a new motion picture reminds, the arrival of its next big cataclysm. CBGB, starring Alan Rickman as Kristal, opens later this month. This original motion picture soundtrack, featuring the club’s most influential acts, is due via Omnivore Recordings on October 8, 2013 both digitally and on (what else?) pink vinyl.

Of course, framing those complex times is no easy task, despite the accepted safety-pin imagery that’s grown up around the era. CBGB actually featured several scenes within the scene, representing a confluence of attitudes, approaches and styles.

In keeping, this set opens with a one-two sucker punch of the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” (a tangle of nervous, minimal grooves and weird lyrical detachment) and then MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams (a bloody knuckled, emotional outburst). That essential complexity is what gave the club — and that period — its fizzy sense of promise.

And so we have the New York Dolls (“Chatterbox”) tearing glam at its seams, and Television (“Careful”) with its thrusting old-school power-pop pretensions. The angular nihilism of Richard Hell and the Voivoid’s “Blank Generation” and the Velvet Underground’s “I Can’t Stand It,” but also the anthematic fuck-yous of “All by Myself” by Johnny Thunders and “I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)” by Joey Ramone. CBGB was home to both the serrated fury of the Stooges’ “I Wanna be Your Dog” but also the reggaefied college-rock of the Police’s “Roxanne.”

It’s hard to believe any film will be able to capture the power and sweep of those times, really. But, I’m happy to report that this 20-song soundtrack — brisk, yet definitive, it also also features a brand-new version of “Sunday Girl” from Blondie — most certainly does.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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