The Early CBGB Scene

The Early CBGB Scene

Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye noted that the early CBGB scene was quite small. “It was the same twenty-five or thirty-five people in the audience,” he said, “and you would get up onstage and play, and then go offstage and hang out and watch your friends play. Everybody had a sense of the destination, but the fact that this destination was so improbable allowed you to develop at your own speed.” Doorwoman Roberta Bayley also recalled that CBGB was practically deserted in the beginning, noting that only people they didn’t know ended up paying the two dollar cover. “1975 was the best year,” said Paul Zone, who would soon join his brothers as the lead singer for the Fast. “It really was, because no one was signed and everyone was there. Every single night you could see the main characters.” The bands sounded quite different from one another but were united by a sense of spirit and discovery. “We weren’t competing with each other,” Chris Stein said. “Television, Talking Heads, the Ramones—we all shared equipment and had each other’s backs for the first year, when everything was starting to come together.” Debbie Harry acknowledged that there was certainly some animosity between certain people, “but in a pinch, if you asked nicely, you could borrow an amp.”

From Chapter 31 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


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