Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Stream of Consciousness Review of CBGBs: The Movie

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2014
Images from the Internet

Watching CBGB’s: The Movie (yeah, I’m just getting’ to it now, you wanna make somethin’ of it?), and here are some comments that I’m sure most of which have already been logged elsewhere before, but I’m just riffing.
While I believe they should have used Please Kill Me as a reference, as it is the source of information of the period. Using the Punk mag framework is interesting. The ‘zine came out, however, after the scene had already started, so… how can they posit that they originated the music revolution after the Ramones were already playing over a year?
Johnny Galecki does a decent Terry Ork, but I remember Ork being a lot more twitchy, quirky and effervescent. We (I and Bernie Kugel) used to stop by Cinemabilia, the film memorabilia store he worked, and buy his singles directly from him.
The stage is on the wrong side of the club, as it wasn’t moved to the right side until a couple of years later (the first band I saw play on the new stage was Blondie). Early on, the pool table was on the right, where the stage ended up.
The sound system started out as crap, until Hilly infamously bought a way-expensive and incredibly sounding one later in the ‘70s. It was top of the line for it’s time considering how the club looked so run down.
When we meet Television, the focus seems to be on Tom Verlaine, and they definitely undercut Richard Hell’s personality, which was equally as strong. And I remember Hell being twitchier on stage, jerking around and weaving back and fourth, rather than leaning forward aggressively.
The soundtrack is the best thing so far, but they’re too ambitious, just playing the opening notes of Lou Reed’s “Heroin” and the Flamin’ Groovies’ “Slow Death,” for example. As much as I love the song, the placement of the Count IV’s “Psychotic Reaction” confused me. Much of the music in the film is, of course, out of sequence chronologically, but I’ve heard that complaint before…anyway back to it.
Oh, and Jonathan, the dog, was way-way uglier. He was a friendly pooch who mostly left you alone, though he really did shit all over the place. I always kept away from the pinball machine near the door because underneath was a favorite place of his to release the hounds of bowels.
Talking Heads first show as in June 1975, opening for the Ramones (first show I saw there). Blondie opened for the Ramones a few weeks after that. There were maybe twelve people in the audience. I never saw a full house until a couple of years after that. The first time I needed to make a reservation was early ’77 when the Dead Boys were opening for the Damned. The actor who plays Debbie Harry is mangling her New Jersey (not New York) accent. When Talking Heads played, bassist Tina Weymouth was focused on Byrne with big, staring eyes, not unfocused off in the opposite direction. Byrne waved his head back and forth when he sang, though in the first show I saw he moved the front of his head instead of the back, so his voice had a Doppler effect.
I never ever saw Patti Smith booed for doing poetry on stage. She usually read until the band was plugged in, tuned, and ready to play. Of course, “Because the Night” wasn’t performed until much, much later, as it was co-written with Springsteen, and she would not have ad access to that large an A-list talent at the beginning. By 1975, when Patti played the Bottom Line (the first time I saw her play, but hardly the last), she rarely was at CBs anymore, though infamously – and it’s mentioned at the end of the film – she was the last to play on its stage.
The best part of the Punk interview with Lou Reed was when they mentioned how Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators called him a creep in the song "Two Tub Man," though  the line was actually written by Adny/Andy Shernoff, and they never mentioned that it was a lyric), and he became irate. I never saw Johnny Ramone rush off the stage in anger, but did see DeeDee do it a couple of times after getting electrical shocks.
Much as I love Wayne/Jayne County, and give her props for helping the scene in its most nascent stages, I think of her more as a Max`s person, probably because she wrote (and performed) the definitive theme song for the other club, and DJ'd there often.
The Dead Boys' portrayal seems pretty decent to how I remember, though it would have been cool to show how Stiv climbed inside the bass drum, as he did sometimes. However, this scene is definitely based on a 1977 film clip of the band that is available on YouTube. Ron Weasley's Cheetah Chrome is quite good, though; it was the first thing that made me smile in the film. Check out Cheetah`s version of the events in his autobiography (reviewed HERE).
As for song-time being accurate, it is correct that they had Blondie doing "X-Offender" in that period. While I know Debbie and Iggy had a bond through both being ex-users, and were friendly, I never heard of them playing together on stage at CBs; in fact, I don`t remember Iggy ever on stage there at all, although I could be wrong about this. I wasn`t there every night, after all.
Joey Ramone reading a contract? He was way smarter than most people gave him credit for, but he also had incredibly bad eyesight, and received most of his news from television (as opposed to Television).
I`m an Alan Rickman fan (been so especially since Kevin Smith`s Dogma in 1999, though his stance on being anti-Israel is weighing heavily on me), but even he can't help the dragging second and third acts. Hell, even Johnny Blitz getting stabbed seems…whatever. And what about the Blitz Benefits? They were amazing; went to two of the three, and saw Belushi fill in on the drums with the Dead Boys.
Oh, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks were also mostly a Max`' band (though they may have played CBs, too). They were one of the worst interviews I ever did; total assholes.
And what about the Live at CBGB's double LPs No mention of that at all. I have a distinct memory of driving there on my way to somewhere else in the rain, just to pick up the copies directly from the club. Yes, I still have them.
The Police were as boring live in real life as they were in this film. Saw them play the Diplomat Hotel basement for about 100 people around the time of "Roxanne" and thought they were absolutely terrible (The Vapors, who I also saw there, were so much better). My good friend`s future ex-wife never forgave me for hating them and wanted me banned from being Best Man at their wedding. Nice.
It was nice to see Genya Ravan portrayed. Her rightful distaste of the Dead Boys' use of Nazi imagery is well documented, and the actor playing her, Stana Katic, did a decent job, despite the poor New York accent, but where was Castle? Check out Genya's excellent autobio, Lollipop Lounge (2004).
The Dictators' music is represented and there is a little Dictators sticker at the beginning, but they were the first CBGBs band singed, despite the nada physical depiction on film. Johnny Thunders and Walter Lure, while being mostly (again) related to Max`s, rarely played CBGBs in their various forms, such as the Heartbreakers, the Heroes, the Waldos, etc.
Thee were also many strange acts to play there, that one would not normally thing of, such as Peter Tork and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (I had some words with him about that name: HERE).
Overall, yes, it was important for me to watch this, but mostly, yeah, it was a bad film.
Postscript by Phyllis Stein:
I don`t remember Iggy ever playing with Blondie at CBGBs. Although Iggy did hang out one night in the summer of 1977 with Thunders, Sable [Starr], and me. The Blitz stabbing was fiction in the film. The rest of the Dead Boys were not even with Johnny Blitz when he was stabbed. Blitz was with his girlfriend, Michael Sticca, and Marcia Leone, Billy Rath`s girlfriend. The soundtrack is a joke. The New York Dolls never played there ever! And the Talking Heads song they included was much later from 1978. Jonathan was a Saluki. In the film, they cast Jonathan as an Afghan hound. I could go on and on, but I`m sure you get my point.
RBF: Please feel free to add your own corrections below in the comment section. Note that what you write will not show up until I approve it, to fight SPAM.

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