Goodbye, CBGB! Dalton Ross on his final visit
I went to pay my final respects to a dying friend on Monday night, and that old friend was CBGB. CB’s and I had a bit of a falling out over the years, but with the club set to close after a long, very public battle with its landlord, I felt it was time for one last visit, especially when I heard that the final week of performances featured three shows from one of the favorite bands of my youth, Bad Brains.
CB’s is a New York City institution. It’s where bands like the Ramones, Talking Heads, and Blondie all got their start. It’s also a dump. I remember going there for the first time when I arrived at college in New York. I remember thinking what a badass I was hanging out at CBGB. I also remember thinking, This place is freakin’ tiny. It was also dirty, smelly, and had the nastiest bathrooms (with no doors!) I had ever seen. I suppose that’s what made it badass. Over the years, I saw a lot of great shows there: Everyone from Joan Jett to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion to Helmet to Rocket From the Crypt to a thousand other bands I can’t even remember because I was too drunk or they were too lame or some sort of combination of the two. Hell, I even saw Vanilla Ice perform there, although the entire irony of the event seemed completely lost on him. (He even sported a brand-new CBGB T-shirt he had obviously bought approximately 7 minutes before he took the stage.) Of course, any fond memories I have of the place are completely overshadowed by my wife’s, because she actually got to play there when her band, Chia Pet, opened for the Lemonheads. Damn wife. She always wins.
I stopped going to CB’s about 10 years ago. A bunch of other bigger and better venues opened up, leaving the club with scraps as far as bookings went. Plus, I got older, and that whole ”kids” thing happened. (Hard to go to bed at 2 a.m. when you have babies waking you up at 5.) But I was psyched to reconnect with the joint one last time, even if the show cost $40, as opposed to the $5 cover that used to be in place. The price tag seemed especially egregious once Bad Brains took the stage. This is a group that I grew up on in Washington, D.C. A band that pretty much single-handedly started the hardcore movement (for better or for worse). But they were completely sabotaged by their lead singer, H.R. (as they have been off and on for the past 20 years). This guy used to do back flips on stage and phone in vocals from prison (before that was considered cool), but the other night he barely even moved, merely flashing a creepy smile while talking through songs on a wireless microphone that didn’t even work and he refused to take off. At one point he even put on a motorcycle helmet and just stood there motionless through an entire song. (Which I suppose was somewhat appropriate, considering he was crashing and burning before my very eyes.) The whole thing was bizarre, and not in a good way.
But then again, it was a somewhat fitting end to CBGB. You never knew exactly what was going to happen when you walked in that place. You might see a band you never heard of before that blew you away. Or you might have someone vomit all over your shoes. Or you might stumble across Vanilla Ice. It was just that kind of joint. Even when the music on stage wasn’t particularly good, there was usually something happening inside that you wouldn’t see anywhere else (did I mention the motorcycle helmet?). That’s what New York is all about. With the loss of CBGB, the Big Apple is about to get a little less interesting.
OBSESSION OF THE WEEK
I don’t get it: One of the most buzzworthy TV shows of the past six months has been Battlestar Galactica. The show ended its second season with a daring, game-changing cliffhanger. All summer I was besieged by people who were just picking up the DVDs and getting into it, and I don’t just mean your run-of-the-mill sci-fi geeks (which is to say, myself), but rather normal people. Even women! The show appeared ready to transcend the genre and do big numbers when it came back for season 3. We even put it on the cover of our magazine!!! So what the hell happened? The Oct. 6 season premiere nabbed only 2.2 million viewers — almost a million less than last year’s premiere. Where the frak did everyone go? Maybe all those people watching the DVD are still catching up. Maybe fans like my main homie Stephen King just download it on iTunes. Still, I can’t figure it out. Regardless, if you’re one of those people who has yet to climb aboard, I implore you to do so. One episode and you too will be obsessed.
As a kid, I watched a lot of TV. I mean, a lot of TV. Among my favorite cartoons was Challenge of the Superfriends. This show ruled for a few obvious reasons. For one thing, it combined the awesome powers of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman (although some may argue that Aquaman’s powers were considerably less awesome). For another, the Legion of Doom had some rad hideout in a swamp that looked like a big Darth Vader helmet. But I also loved the B-grade superheroes that also popped up from time to time, which is why this week’s List is on the Top 5 Secondary Superheroes of the Challenge of the Superfriends.
1) Apache Chief
Much like Ron Jeremy, the Apache Chief was blessed with the gift of great size. On demand and on command he would make himself super-huge and do stuff that Superman was presumably too lazy to fly up and do himself.
2) Rima the Jungle Girl
She had sexy flowing white locks, but as far as I can tell her only power was calling upon other animals to save the day. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that kinda swiping Aquaman’s hype?
3) El Dorado
Sure, he may have been a mildly offensive Mexican stereotype, but what powers! Dude could teleport, read minds, and shoot lasers out of his eyes. Again, lasers out of his eyes!
4) Black Vulcan
From what I can remember, all of his powers were energy-based. Clearly, he was no El Dorado.
This annoying blue creature was the space monkey pet/mascot of the only slightly less annoying Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna. So why is he on this list? Just so I could let the world know how I truly feel about him.
First off, a few programming notes. Once again, I just want to thank everyone for their incredible letters. (Yes, even the mean ones.) It’s nice we’ve been able to build a little community of freaks and geeks here. As I said before, I don’t have time to respond to the letters outside of the ones that make Reader Mail, but I assure you they are all read and appreciated. One other note: That form at the bottom is not to send a link to your mom, next-door neighbor, or milkman along with messages like ”Check out what this dork has to say!” No, those messages go straight to my inbox, so don’t be surprised if the milkman gives you a weird look next time you ask him about it. Speaking of which, does anyone actually use milkmen any more? Where the hell did I pull that one out of? Regardless, lots of great e-mails this week regarding my little Vinnie Vincent pity party as well as my List of The 5 Best Replacement Singers of All Time (from the same column). Let’s kick things off with Matt Dickun, who is fairly sure I forgot an obvious candidate for said list…
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden. Your exclusion of him means you’re lame. For God’s sake, the man fences! — Matt Dickun
Point ceded, Matt. Points, actually (my lameness and his fencing). I stand by the List, though.
Dalton, how could you forget Ronnie James Dio replacing Ozzy in Black Sabbath? Absolutely my number one. By the way, I saw Vinnie Vincent with Kiss in one of his first tour performances in Dayton, Ohio. Not only was the makeup a joke, but I thought he was going to seriously injure himself falling off the platform shoes. — Mike Fisher
Sorry, Mike. I was never a Dio fan, but I always loved the fact that he composed a song titled ”We Rock.” How beautifully minimalist is that? The dude just cuts right to the chase, especially with lyrics like ”But we’ll sail on, sing a song, carry on. ‘Cause we rock, we rock, we rock, we rock, we rock, we rock, we rock, we rock, we rock!” Damn straight, you do!
Thank you. Now I have Vinnie Vincent Invasion’s ”Love Kills” (from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master) stuck in my head. You know you loved it when the Vin-Man used Freddy’s glove on his guitar in the video. — Jason Cohen
Damn! I missed that one. Unfortunately, Washington, D.C., was, like, the last place on the planet to get cable TV, so I missed out on a lot of fantastic 1980s metal videos. And then whenever I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Headbanger’s Ball, I was too frightened by the anti-gravity forces of Adam Curry’s hair to watch for long. Lucky for me, there is such a thing as YouTube — watch the video with me, won’t you?
Actually, Vinnie Vincent’s singer (Mark Slaughter) and bass player (Dana Strum) went on to form Slaughter. His drummer (Bobby Rock) went on to Nelson. Not that I own albums by either of those bands. Nope, uh-uh, no way. (Whistles innocently.) — Jen Foote
My bad, Jen. I knew the drummer went on to join some crappy band, I just couldn’t remember which one. Seeing as how the Vinnie Vincent Invasion featured former and future members of Journey, Kiss, Slaughter, and Nelson, does that qualify them as a supergroup, or just super-lame? One of life’s many mysteries.
That’s about it for this week. Are you hip to the Battlestar Galactica trip yet? Have a good CBGB memory to share? Care to defend Gleek the monkey? Write on in to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just fill out the handy-dandy form below. Until then, CBGB RIP!