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join her at CBGB's but she needed to take her friend along who was also staying there, this girl who was young, thin, withdrawn...who sat there on the sofa endlessly staring at the coffee table then would frequently excuse herself to go off to the bathroom; then you wouldn't see her for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

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