Monday, June 13, 2011

The Last Song Ever At CBGB's... and a short essay

Patti Smith performing 'Eulogy', the very last performance at CBGB's ever again

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I'm just remembering - It was the summer of 1977.
Typical warm New York evening. I was staying 9 Bleecker St......just down the street from CBGB's at the New York Yippie collective.
I'd been traveling alot those last couple of years.
Ever since I'd turned 18 I didn't have to look over my shoulder every time a cop drove past...I was legal now.
So, I hitchhiked alot between California and New York during that time.
After hanging with the Yippies at the Republican Convention in Kansas City, Mo. I'd bounced back to San Diego, then Berkeley and then back, and then hooked up with some Yippie friends in Athens, Ohio for a time,...and then I found myself back in New York City.
I was being asked to go to Maryland to help some local activists to kickstart preparations for events that would occur during the Presidential Inauguration of Jimmy Carter.
I still had one night left in New York City.
There was a girl staying at the collective...Linda, I think her name was, yeah, ...Linda Gelb,....she wanted to hang out with me that night and she asked me to join her at CBGB's but she needed to take her friend along who was also staying there, this girl who was young, thin, withdrawn...who sat there on the sofa endlessly staring at the coffee table then would frequently excuse herself to go off to the bathroom; then you wouldn't see her for quite awhile.Linda told me ...she'd just gotten out of an institution -she'd been sent there after OD'ing on PCP. She hadn't been the same since. Linda convinced her to come along with us... or had she convinced me to come along with them. Linda the social director.
We paid our way, entered, and sat down at table against the wall just to the left of the stage. The place was near empty. There were two other people in the club besides us. One biker , one drunk.
First a band was called the Preachers... the band playing fast while the singer just stood there with one arm supporting the elbow of another that continuously held a cigarette just inches from his mouth through the whole set. I couldn't tell what he was singing or talking about. Just some kind of endless narrative set to some fast jerky music.
Linda and I chatted it up...sometimes talking about her ex boyfriend who I knew well... Linda, a product of a middle class jewish family...she hung out with Yippies because she'd been brought in by her ex who she errantly thought was far more affluent than her first impression. She knew him in his dealing days when he'd had plenty of money to afford fine restraunts and expensive cars. Then he'd got busted and had to got underground. But she liked the NY Yippie collective and the traffick of ex luminaries of the 1960's who frequented the group and took part of the various events and radical hippy conspiracies hatched there. Although its founders and biggest fish had long since abandoned the nest (Abby was still underground, on the run and Jerry Rubin had gone to Wall St looking for work)
it was still from time to time the meeting point of the hipeousie.
Linda's friend kept excusing herself to wander off to the bathroom for long unexplained periods while Linda and I chatted it up. I was drawn to Linda but I could tell that unless I had a "career" or was destined to become a media was only going to be a fling.
The next band came on... they were called 'the Deadboys'.
Again, a singer with a strong sense of disaffection. He just stood there, trying to project as much ambivalence as he could muster... Linda would go to fetch her friend and we'd sit there, just the three of us -then the girl would slink off to the toilets again.
Stiv Bators, the singer stood there with a clipboard as if taking his every cue from it.... when the song would finish he'd just look down the clipboard and read off the next one.... then dryly he announced, "this next song is called 'fistfucking'!" He began to turnaround as the band played a slow metal durge and then he bent over as if emulating the recipient... the biker jumped to his feet and threw a chair towards the band... then the other guy who was by the bar lunged at him.
The two girls emerged from the bathrooms. At the sight of the disarray Linda suggested we head back to the collective. I didn't get the feeling the show was going to go on much further anyway.
We headed back.
Hardly anyone was up.
Linda took me to her strings attached.
She liked my company and I hers.
The next day I'd have to leave for Maryland. So I didn't see her for a very long time again.
Her friend, only two days after I left was sitting in the front room; there, she picked up a pair of scissors and cut her own jugular artery....she died that night.
I made a few trips to NYC since then, and to CBGB's... this is just one that stands out in my mind. My generation... and the birthplace of our soundtrack. I'll miss it. - David

West Berlin 1988

West Berlin 1988
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West Berlin as best as I recall,
Berlin when there were two Berlins,
Berlin, when there were two points of view,
To those looking on,
and to those looking out,
West Berlin, as a nervous fish in a small fish bowl,
Reveling in it's specialness,
The crossroads of cultures and countries,
East BErlin, as the hungry larger fish,
museum centerpiece of archaic dialects,

paying pennance,
paying eternal pennance,
paying and staying eternally.....unrepentant

West Berlin, island of self indulgence,
neon orgasms,
all night drumbeats,
the rythymic soundtrack for confrontation,
liasons with a loud soundtrack,
East Berlin,
Sea of grey buildings,
Grey life in the scarcity of abstractions,
absence of loaughter in the presence of strangers,

the workers' paralytic hell............

I can't say as I reacall much more than the cobblestones
Yet I know the cobblestones well,
I know the colour of the morning's light cast timidly upon them,
Which my feet took to with aggressive affection,
The cobblestones, as seen through my strained eyes,
Eyes adjusting from the smokey discos I've stumbled out of,
Eyes straining, ears ringing,
My head swimming,
My clothes covered in sweat,
Sweating from the dancing,
from the drinking,
from lustful conversations,
from heated political debate,
All orchestrated over cold bottles of beer,
glasses of sekt,
mixed drinks,
And the occasional friendly, high powered, quickly downed, social shots of brown tequila,
and it's obligatory after-slice-of-orange,

I sweat,
from the contact with strangers,
from the embraces of friends,
from feeling and seeing paradise won and lost,
to the helpless ruin of jealousy and regret,
fromp being pulled out of isolation and into the social,
Over and over again,
played and preyed upon,
'Von tiefen, zum pflegmatisch',
to a deeper understanding,
Understanding the real nature of the true Berliner,
The true Berliner is in love with the images,
The image of the macabre and the gothic rocker,
The image of acid flash and hip hop,
The image of the smoked out, blue lit jazzer,
The image of the middle-class and it's model citizen,
The image of revolution ...and the masked anarchist,
Inside each,
Always doing it to the end point,
The image of intolerance,
the image of decadence,
the image of romance,
the image of confrontation,
the image of flying so high,
so as to fall so far below,
the image of judging images
the images encased and perfectly preserved,
of artistic movements,
of musical histories,
of political upheavels,
and all atrocities past and present,

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Then, there is the image of the proletariat,
whose eternal vigilance,
at working and drinking,
is the heartbeat for the total being of all other images
that have come and past


West Berlin 1988


I recall the cobblestones,
Counted to the doorways of the next kneipe,
Counted to the streetcorners,
Where leather clad denisens of art and autonomy,
stood with their backs against brick walls,
holding bricks and bottles of beer,
laying in wait for the polizei
The polizei patrol like the occupying invader,
Inside the van,
four boyish faces in full armour,
bred in the west's shell of naiveté,
Trained and then thrust into the thick of the fray,
"Ich war junge gewesen, sheise, noch ein cigarette',
Clack, clink, clack- clack-clack,
the brick has hit the van

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Counting the cobblestones to the next café,
where they who sit and laugh,
live and dress,
as individual acts of art,
down shots of brown tequila in unison,
with its obligatory after-slice-of-orange,
Chin - chin!
Warm Berlin brown tequila summer evenings,
where the sun fades at 23 o'clock,
where the sun rises at 3am
Counting the cobblestones along the canals,
stumbling along the path
that bikes rumble on
Transgressing the dreaded autobahn for bikes
Counting the cobblestones past Turkish Imbisses,
shrouded in their thick scents of Döner Kebab,
Turkish delicacies ath sustain life at
3 marks a pop
Turks congregate inside these hot shops,
on the warm Berlin evenings,
Heatedly arguing politics and soccer
And returning the smile of any stranger
friendly enough to offer one
For after 20 years,
of doing the work that no german wants to do,
20 years,
becoming europeanized,
They are not germans,
but guests who've overstayed their welcome,
and smiles are hard to come by

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Counting the cobblestones,
Down ancient boulevards,
and ancient buildings,
from whose ancient windows and balconies,
ghosts wave fists and banners,
with the hammer and sicle flying,
ghosts throw flowers,
and wave swastika flags,
Under which ghosts march,
Some proudly,
Some as victims

Now the only cheering,
is the jeering of young turkish youths,
and taunting german 10 year olds
sporting mohawks
Time has left the cobblestones for me to count,
I have no choice but to count them,
For I have given myself up to drink,
and the force of gravity,
to guide me home,


West Berlin 1988


The snows caught me by surprize,
I was still counting the cobblestones,
and the bottles broken on them,
Sugar fell upon them
When I looked up,
And got it full in the face,
and looked around to find a different city,
White, cold and illuminescent
Day two,
It was grey slush
So I became familiar with the grey slush,
and the subterranean world,
and the people who inhabit
the subterranean world
I don't mean the 'spiese',
not those hamsters coming and going,
running in timid precision on the escalators,
not the polizei and the train kontrollers,
searching for those who haven't paid the fare,
Not the sullen turkish washerwomen,
commuting en masse,
at the hour that I've chosen to go home to sleep
Not the couples kissing and cooing,
their veins still filled with sekt and desire
Not the jovial old workmen,
gallantly joking with the ladies
not the old drunks,
bellowing racist statements at foreigners,
Statements they recited in their youth,
in the service of the Reich... now affixed to the neo-fascist Republikaner
(which in german means 'republican')
No, not the skinheads sitting quietly observing,
Not the young prolies,
with their noses buried deep in their
racist, nationalist Bild Zeitung newspapers,
the paper that's not news without
tits or soccer
Not the nervous punks,
their flourescent haired heads
bobbing back and forth,
keeping careful lookout for the trainkontrollers
Not the aging prostitute,
sitting with her boisterous john
Not the two schwule talking softly,
with their pink triangle buttons,
saying something louder
Not the brash young turkish lads,
trying to impress the girls

I guess I mean the true subterranean people
The true subterranean people are
the dispossessed
they are the homeless people keeping warm,
they are the jobless people making money,
they are the pointless people killing time,
they are music people sparechanging with notes,
they are the insane, sharing an interest,
creating abstractions out of life
in a country that has no place
for abstractions
This is germany they say,
there are no abstractions,
there are no subterranean people,
and there are no dispossessed
Here, every face has a place,

This is the modern germany,
This is the modern subterranean world,
during those cold Berlin winters,
and on the cobblestones,
in front of the train stations,
during the warm Berlin summer nights

West Berlin when there were two Berlins,
West Berlin, as best as I recall

(music performance at the Vieze Gasten Revue, 2003 featuring Raf and Mich of Kamil Foo MC'ing )

'On Opiates'    written and performed   by David 'Shadow' Velà squez with accompaniment by the Veize Gasten Revue Ensemble.Click here to listen to West Berlin 1988 on the track called 'On-Opiates 2004'