GigList Playlist: CBGB, New York City

The hub of New York's burgeoning punk rock and new wave bands in the mid-to-late 70s, CBGB was privy to some of the most influential gigs in punk music and beyond. Here's a playlist to prove it.
Posted: 8 April 2021 Words: Tom Curtis-Horsfall Photos: David Godlis, Allan Tannenbaum

You're probably all fairly well-versed with the legendary New York City venue that is CBGB: conceived as a country and bluegrass music venue by owner Hilly Kristal (the initials CBGB & OMFUG stands for "Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers"), his original vision swiftly veered as New York's burgeoning punk rock and new wave bands made the venue its hub.

From the Ramones playing their first ever gig at the venue in 1974, to the immutable glamour of Debbie Harry illuminating its sweaty, graffiti'd confines as a backing singer for The Stillettoes firstly and later as the singer of Blondie, to visionaries like David Byrne of Talking Heads and Patti Smith mastering their craft, the local scene was privy to some of the most influential gigs in punk music and beyond. That's without mentioning Television, Suicide, The Cramps, Misfits, The B-52s - the list goes on.

CBGB also notably welcomed British bands like The Damned, The Jam, The Police and cult icons X-Ray Specs for the country's first experience of punk rock and the like from across the pond, a coming together of two very perspectives of what 'punk' meant to those who played and lived it, all of which were pioneering artists in their own right.

Regrettably the 350-capacity venue was forced out of business as the surrounding area of Bowery in Manhattan's East Village became gentrified therefore driving up rents exponentially. Legal battles about unpaid rent ensued, and despite Kristal winning the case against the venue's landlords, the lease was discontinued and CBGB closed in 2006.

After the 70s the venue remained a grotty, animalistic vortex of live music as a platform for the hardcore punk scene, but for now we're focusing on the golden era of CBGB, with a playlist to prove its importance in the evolution of punk, new wave, and underground music.

More from buzz