CBGB OMFUG

CBGB OMFUG
edited by Ian Brill
Boom! Studios, 2010

This is the most pretentious graphic novel I’ve ever read. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of what emerged from CBGB, but let’s not forget that this small New York club not only gave us the American Punk and New Wave scene, it was also Ground Zero for lily-white hipsterdom, and all that entails.

For approximately six years from the mid-’70s it was the most important music venue in America, launching Patti Smith, the Ramones, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Dictators and The Dead Boys, to name but a few. Unfortunately it spent the next quarter of a century coasting upon that enviable legend, and when it was finally closed in 2006, its plywood stage, famously filthy toilets and sticker-encrusted walls* were dismantled by a team of workers wearing surgical masks to block the stench.

The site is now a notoriously overpriced clothing store filled with punk “merchandise,” a fine illustration of how money eventually consumes and destroys everything.

This collection of short stories suffers from only having a few participants who were involved with the actual scene. Three of the nine stories feature some sort of time-travel scenario where CBGB in the ’70s is revealed to be the most awesome thing in the universe ever – and you thought hippies going on about the ’60s were annoying!

The best story ‘Oozy-Suzi-Q-Tip’ attempts to capture the gleeful dayglo cartoon nihilism of the Ramones, and the worst, ‘Rock Block,’ has nothing to do with three-chord rock and everything to do with being a privileged, pretentious wanker: “And you could tell the people onstage were writers. Poets. Channelers of the disaffected”.

AAAAAAARGH.

For me the best thing about this book was discovering the online virtual tour of the club, photographed panoramically in 2006 just before it closed. Exploring the tiny dressing room and behind the bar is fascinating, but also unbearably sad.

*It makes the San Fran Bath House look like Barbie’s Dream House.
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