In 2006, an American rock and roll palace closed their doors for good. The legendary New York nightclub, CBGB, has been the mecca of punk rock music and the underground music scene for over three decades. The story of CBGB and its owner, Hilly Kristal, was depicted in a 2013 movie. With such a rich history full of some of the most influential and exciting musicians of all-time, how did the movie fare?
It wasn’t a good sign when the subtitles on the opening credits read, “Somewhat based on real events”. Hilly Kristal (Alan Rickman) had a dream of opening a country music bar in the Bowery section of NYC. With limited finances, Hilly found a beat-up bar with roaches, plumbing, and electrical issues in the perfect location where the police probably wouldn’t be concerned about noise violations. Hilly named the club, CBGB (County, Bluegrass, Blues). The first band seen auditioning for the club was Television (one of the most influential garage punk bands of all-time). Although at this point, they were rough, unpolished, but Hilly says “they’ll get better if we put them on stage every night!”
As the film progresses, we watch Blondie (as played by Malin Akerman), the Talking Heads, the Ramones, Iggy Pop, and even the Police audition and play at the club. Unfortunately every “live” performance is actually a studio recording with liberal tweeking of a true musical timeline. For her first appearance at the club, Patti Smith is shown reading poetry on stage then breaks into “Because The Night” (her biggest commercial hit). Only problem was this song came out 3 years later than her debut at CBGB.
If you’re a fan of 70’s punk and New Wave, you’ll love seeing the rise of the club, the depiction of the disgusting conditions yet totally fascinated by the amazing roster that played at the historic club. But if you’re a movie fan, you’ll be disappointed by the cheesy predictability and the film’s caricature of the key roles in the film. If you take it as a fun Saturday afternoon distraction, you’ll get some laughs and have a blast hearing some classic music. Johnny Galicki (The Big Bang Theory) and Rupert Grint (Harry Potter) make key cameos in the film.
FUN: 8 out of 10 GREAT FILM: generous 4 out of 10
“THE DEAD BOYS” Movie Clip
“A GIRL SHOULD KNOW BETTER” Blondie (1975)