The Description of CBGB in This 1976 Issue of Modern Screen Magazine Is Amazing


Last year’s CBGB: The Movie made an attempt to capture the essence of that legendary NYC rock and punk club — and failed miserably. It got a lot wrong. And even the things it got right seemed cartoonish (not to mention, we can’t look at Alan Rickman and not think of him saying, “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker” in his most dastardly Hans Gruber villain voice). Well, turns out all the folks involved in CBGB: The Movie needed to do to etch out a realistic depiction of the place is read this spot-on description, from a column called “Rock Scene,” in the April 1976 edition of Modern Screen magazine:

See also: 10 Things the CBGB Movie Got Wrong

Rock ‘n’ Roll in New York: CBGB is a seedy bar on the Bowery, outside of which pretend harlots and apprentice punks lean against cars, or against the sidewalk, or in doorways, carefully thinking about how each move they make will project to the other leaners. It’s like an Andy Warhol attempt to recapture the ’50s — a carbon copy of “cool” and “tough”, but clearly not the real Campbell’s Soup. The electricity of slightly off-kilter minds and loose morals does float around the place: you’re in one of those movies where three deranged teens break into the house, cut the phone wire, terrorize Mrs. Smith with a switchblade, snicker at daughter Debbie, and smack poor Dad around, all without any particular reason other than to have “something to do.” But it all seems to be played out on a Milton Bradley gameboard.

CBGB was the original home — with Max’s Kansas City — of glitter rock. Glitter’s gone now — Kiss has taken the music to the Midwest, and the crowds have all gone to the discos. So CBGB turned arty, and now harbors “adventurous bands — the forerunners of what’s to come.” If you take it from CBGB, the music of the late ’70s is going to be on the psychotic side — both feigned and real. The musicians can’t play, the singers can’t sing — but they do get weirdness across to you. Anyway, it’s not the music that matters — it’s the queasy feeling you get watching those outmates strut their stuff. And the words.

So. Much. Shade.

There’s no byline on the Rock Scene column, so we don’t know who exactly was throwing these bucketfuls of salt at the pretend toughies who leaned on everything in and around CBGB. But we do know that completely cynical and bitter snapshot of the place said more in two paragraphs than The Movie managed in 90 minutes.

If you’d like to read more, you can buy the issue online for $9.99 (plus $4.99 shipping). The column later goes on to call Patti Smith a “visionary” — in quotes — and wonder why, after the release of Horses, she became “an overnight phenomenon, a culture model.”

Actually, you should read part of this, too, because it’s next-level dickery:

Articles on Patti have become so linguistically complex that they are almost impossible to read. Springsteen ran into trouble in Europe — the colossal press outflow, the Newsweek and Time covers, have turned audiences against him. Patti Smith is walking the same tightrope with, in our opinion, considerably less talent to work with — but you’re going to be hearing a lot about her.

Modern Screen, ladies and gentlemen. The place snark was born.