CBGB (2013)



Complete and utter shit.  I had already read the reviews and seen the trailer so I wasn’t surprised that this movie was going to suck.  I just watched it to see how bad it stunk and I was not  disappointed.  It did not even come close to rising above the absolute wretchedness which I had expected.  What’s sad is that CHEETAH CHROME WAS INVOLVED!!!  It’s mind boggling to me that a former participant on the CBGB scene could be involved in such a piss poor travesty and allow himself to be portrayed as a complete buffoon.  Chrome is a smart dude!  He’s well spoken and reads a lot and certainly must have been aware of how the actor portrayed him as a completely moronic thug.

But let me start from the beginning.  I wasn’t there.  I didn’t witness the first ever Ramones performance where each member played a different song, angrily stormed offstage and came back to play “Blitzkrieg Bop”; one of those legendary performances where the people in attendance had no idea that they were witnessing history being made.  But I’ve read Please Kill Me along with a ton of other literature on this topic and I’ve seen plenty of live footage from the era and, for chrissakes, I listen to all of these bands!!!

CBGB the movie is total VH1-style, biopic nonsense.  A few key scenes were underlined and recreated as stylistically bankrupt as possible (unless you consider crude comic book panel transitions a “style”).  But what do you expect from a film made by the same guy who directed Houseguest? A clever, post-modern docu-drama in the style of 24 Hour Party People?!!!!!

Like I said, I read Please Kill Me so I knew exactly what scenes they were recreating; the aforementioned inauspicious inaugural Ramones performance, Stiv Bators from the Dead Boys receiving oral sex onstage, Legs McNeil, John Holmstrom and Mary Harron interviewing Lou Reed for the first issue of Punk and Johnny Blitz’s stabbing among others.

And there you have it; the key stories behind the CBGB club excepting early performances from a bunch of other bands that were left out for practical reasons (I understand there might not have been room for Devo, the Cramps, the Misfits or the Damned but where the hell are Johnny Thunders and Heartbreakers or the Dictators in all of this?)… but the execution is a complete and utter joke.  The only one that actually, kind of works is the Talking Heads one.  They actually do look like the early Talking Heads but that only lasts for a couple minutes.  The Ramones in the movie are completely laughable.  Joey, who most considered typically cool, sounds like Woody Allen!!!  He sounds like a neurotic, New York Jew and not like a too-cool-for-school rock ‘n’ roll guy.  Apparently Linda Ramone, wife to deceased Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone, approved one Ramones song to be in the movie but… instead, for some reason, they use a Joey Ramone solo recording.

The rest of the performances stink; actors that kinda sorta resemble Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, the Dead Boys (pre-Jeff Magnum who, for some reason, never appears in the movie(?!)), Television (with a pudgie Richard Hell(?!)) and the Police (who inexplicably “save” the club at the end (?!)) poorly mime to studio recordings of some of the greatest songs ever written.  The movie is also full of blatant, easily avoidable mistakes; there were stickers all over the wall for bands who hadn’t even played there yet, Patti Smith performs “Because the Night” two years before it even came out and basically the Dead Boys’ entire story arc is a complete insult to the group, which I’ll save for the next paragraph.

I’m surprised Cheetah Chrome says anything positive about the movie since the Dead Boys are treated like Hilly Kristal’s big mistake.  The movie only shows the Dead Boys’ public persona as a group of Midwest, white trash thugs where, in actuality, they were smart, charming and polite people!  The actor who plays Stiv looks like Parry Farrel and does a bunch of stupid, overly-exaggerated “punk” poses and the Cheetah character keeps making nimrod, little kid, “nyeah, nyeah” faces while looking completely incapable of holding a guitar.  If you watch any Dead Boys TV performances, it’s obvious they’re tight musicians who have quite a bit of charisma onstage.  None of this is shown in the movie.

They do show the onstage blowjob and Cheetah Chrome shows Young, Loud and Snotty producer Genya Raven his pubes.  This is important stuff, ya know.  And they do show people shooting dope in the CBGB bathroom and guys giving each other head, which did happen, I guess.  And they do show some dramatic scenes between Hilly (Allen Rickman) and his daughter Lisa (Ashley Greene) and how Hilly can’t handle money and was involved with some shady bikers and some other vaguely historical shit or something.  But who cares?  There is so much awesome early footage available of every single one of these performers on youtube that the only reason to watch this is to see how much of it they get wrong.  Oh and the guy who played Iggy Pop is too tall.

But, if you want to see for yourself, here it is on youtube.  Save yourself a trip to the theater or DVD rental and watch it here while you can:

3 thoughts on “CBGB (2013)

  1. Mr . Hippie
    As one who was there, I can and still do vouch for the accuracy of Rupert’s portrayal of me in the film. While I appreciate your kind words about my intelligence, keep in mind that in 1977 I was a 22 year old high school dropout from the projects who was usually half in the bag by 10am and had a chip on my shoulder the size of a Marshall stack. Before that I was a D student mainly due to truancy. I was intelligent, sure, but at that time not very worldly or well read ; I got by on instinct, attitude and a sense of humor. I had been out of Ohio twice in my whole life.
    I can agree that Rupert had some trouble pulling off the onstage parts, not being a guitarist, but to me he did such a spot on job of playing me at that time, and the onstage portions are so quick, I could live with it.
    As for the Dead Boys being a mistake for Hilly,again more accurate than not. Keep in mind up until then Hilly had managed the Shirts, a nice band from Brooklyn, very good but not really punk and not really challenging.
    The Dead Boys had as much in common with your average street gang as we did a rock band- members had police records for weapons, drugs, car theft, assault- we were nothing but a challenge. When we first came to NYC we got on as well with the Hell’s Angels as we did most of the bands . So Hilly had his hands full with us. Think about it- his and the club’s fortunes were completely intertwined with the band’s. He borrowed on the club to help the band and vise versa, if one failed they both did unless he schemed well to cover asses all around. We were on the road destroying hotels, rental vehicles , gear ( we bought at least one mic at every show we ever did), getting bailed out of jail, getting in fights, etc.
    He put the club up as bond to keep Blitz out of jail when he got stabbed- yea, Johnny was charged for attempted murder even though he was a victim- think of where Cb ‘s would have been had Johnny decided to bolt…..
    On the other hand he was a novice manager and while he got us a deal with Sire, I’m still trying to extricate myself from some of the aspects of that deal….I ‘m no fan of Seymour Stein…
    So you have your right to your opinion, but not to revise my personal history, of which you know only what you’ve read. I know who I was back then, and I think Rupert captured that guy remarkably well.
    I think that Randy and Jody made a good and fun film about the club and the times, that I was glad to be a part of. Sure there’s some artistic license, some Hollywood, some inaccuracies- it’s a frigging movie, for chrissake, they ALL move facts around to fit the flow. You need to sit back, hang yer legs over the seat in front of you, eat popcorn and enjoy it, not analyze and fact check, nit pick and look for shit to gripe about. There ‘s shit to gripe about in every movie.

    • Thanks Cheetah! I appreciate the insight! Now I don’t know what ties director Randall Miller had to the music or the people involved but it seemed the movie also lacked a sense of passion for the material and that might have been a cause for many of my gripes. I don’t know if you’ve seen Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People but I think if the movie was done more like that, with a stronger sense of realism but still with humor, then it would have been more enjoyable. But again, that’s just my opinion.

    • Cheetah, just wanted to say thanks for writing your book. I am glad you are still around, and u have always been one of my all time favorite guitarists.

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