10 Things the CBGB Movie Got Wrong

Categories: CBGB

ramonesish.jpg
YO ITS DA RAMONES TAKIN' A STROLL!

6. The Ramones song The Ramones audition with in the movie isn't actually by The Ramones
The Ramones justifiably get their fair share of screen time in CBGB. They fight. They talk funny. They get a record deal. After signing their deal their poster gets plastered all over the Bowery. They also audition for HIlly. One problem, though, the song they play--"I Got Knocked Down (But I'll Get Up)"--is a Joey Ramone solo joint he wouldn't record until years later.

7. Its comical depiction of "Punk"
There are a few quick-cut scenes that feature new publishing magnate John Holmstrom pacing the street quickly with one of his new Punk magazine writers talking about just what it is "punk" means, what exactly its aesthetic is, and what purpose it serves. What does it mean, they wonder, when Stiv Bators of The Dead Boys cuts himself onstage, or moons a child in the car next to their tour van on the freeway, or gets fellatio on stage? Chaos is inevitable, right? We may as well embrace it! We may as well give it a soundtrack. The world is burning and we're happy to assist. PASS THE GAS CANS!

You get it. Like the infamous punk episodes of Quincy and CHiPs, anytime someone explains punk, acts punk or even says punk, chances are it'll be one of the least punk things you've ever heard. It'll make you cringe, and it happens nearly the entire movie. One scene in particular--an on camera interview with a bored and sneering Lou Reed--will make you shudder violently.

8. The Bowery is in New York City, not war-torn Beirut
Dead bodies, burned out cars, 15 junkies every cubic foot: there's no doubt downtown New York of the early '70s is much different than the gentrified, commodified, yuppie cupcake bake shop utopia it's become. But the film overdoes the point of Bowery squalor to the point of exhaustion. I mean, the place had Fresca on tap, for Christ sake, how bad could it have been?

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Mickey Sumner as Patti Smith in CBGB.

9. Ghost instruments on Patti Smith's rendition of "Because the Night"
Look, we said some of these would be a bit nitpicky. So here's that: Patti Smith wrote "Because the Night" with Bruce Springsteen in '78. Hilly Kristal founded CBGB in '73. There's certainly no indication in the movie that five years have passed (the whole thing actually seems boiled down to a matter of months), but we'll let the fact that she sings the song slide. One thing, though: If you listen not-so-closely, you'll hear piano while she performs. Alas, there is no piano onstage with her.


10. Hilly's dog's bowels were legendary

Hilly's dog poops quite often in the movie, a fact the film feels it must remind you of about every 20 minutes or so. As the movie ends and some of the "Where Are They Now" text fills in some of the blanks, HIlly's dog even gets the last shout out, in an attempt (we guess?) at lighthearted whimsy. "His bowels were legendary." OK? But was his poop really deserving of so much screen time? The fact that he crapped all over the bar and Hilly's apartment may have been right, historically, but in terms of telling CBGB's story, it comes across so very wrong.

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19 comments
starstar
starstar

i love punk music..i wish i could hang out at CBGB'S back then...

themusicaljunkie96
themusicaljunkie96

This to me feels like the writer is desperately looking for reasons to criticize the film. (Seriously,"The only bar in the city with Fresca on tap"?) These mentioned things happen in most biopics. No movie can ever be 100 percent truthful. It's always tied in with a little fiction. Anyways, watch the movie and get your own personal opinion. The soundtrack kicks ass, by the way. 

luther14
luther14

I worked for Hilly from 1985 - 1989. I knew Hilly pretty well. Formative experience. I haven't seen the movie and I'm not in a rush to. I don't care to see fiction. I have my own memories. From the descriptions and reviews, it looks like an attempt at a 'Sid and Nancy' kind of movie. Trying to capture some essence but throw the facts out the window. That kind of entertainment holds little value for me. 

I think of real musicians and the technical people I knew. I think of the Kristals. It was a family business and one of those amazing New York stories. The place is a part of the music landscape. It's story is worthy of a good documentary - like Motown, Stax, or Chess. That's right - I'm also one of those that has a limited like for 'Cadillac Records'. Maybe it serves a purpose in putting the name in people's minds - but little else. 

For me, this kind of entertainment is barely a step above a neighborhood children's talent show. I mean all of these glamorized and fictionalized things that depict one or two poor writer's vision(s). I refer back to 'Sid and Nancy' as an example. Sophomoric stuff for simple minds. Okay if you have the time to waste. Harmless. 

There is something else at play here. Lisa Kristal is an executive producer. I know Lisa. Anything that has her black heart attached is faulty from the get go. Then I look at the CBGB corporation. There is a music festival. I went last year. I saw little in innovative or pioneering musical ideas. The most interesting thing I heard about the festival this year was about gay activist Jim Fouratt dumping Coca-Cola in front of the red carpet as a protest to CBGBs corporate ties to the giant - and their sponsorship of the Sochi olympics in homophobic Russia. That's right - CBGB are tied to the bad guys and are a talent vacuum. Now there's a story. Scandalous. 

Bottom line is, if your life is interesting then movies of this type may not be. I need the real thing. But that's just me. 


garibaldi
garibaldi

It seems as though the point of this article is to nitpick things that are minor and inconsequential to the movie for the sake of nitpicking the CBGB movie, because that's a cool, music writer-y thing to do.  Did you even do any research before your big myth debunking here? Doesn't seem like it.

illgen
illgen

Past is nostalgic, the present rock scene is what's tangible, see what's happening in New York rock scene right now at

www.NYCrocks.TV

suzinnebarrett
suzinnebarrett

Went there once, and CBGB's was a total DIVE in every sense of the word.  Yeah, clubland wasn't always clean or pretty, but Hilly Crystal, who has been championed for years, was hardly a responsible club owner.  The bathrooms were a health hazard.  

Alan Richman as Hilly Krystal?  You can't recreate the NYC of the 70s, but as an active participant of the scene in the late 70s, this city was never more exciting than it was then.  

Binkconn
Binkconn

Wow, a guy nearly got electrocuted. That happened to Keith in '65.

fablalumia
fablalumia

For the Record, Wayne County played there in December 1973, 6 months before Television 'discovered' the place..

Bethel Rogers
Bethel Rogers

Artistic license @ Useful for filling in gaps, whether they be factual, compositional, historical or other gaps a slight manipulation for dramatic effect

purchase2
purchase2

#11. Karen Kristal

Although they had already been divorced for several years at that point, when Hilly opened CBGB's it was his ex-wife Karen whose name was listed on the liquor license. And Karen was anything but a silent partner. Anyone with memories of CBGB's hardcore Sunday matinees will likely still have Karen's presence burned into their consciousness. "How old are you?" was literally her only way of determining 14 year olds from 16 year olds. 

"I was more scared of Karen than I was of the skinheads," said George Tabb, a founding member of the False Prophets, former CBGB employee, and longtime Kristal family friend, as well as a reporter who covered the scene at the club for Maximum Rock'n'Roll. "They all had this respect for her. She put on the matinees—it was her idea, and that basically started the whole hardcore movement in New York."

http://www.villagevoice.com/2007-09-11/news/cbgb-made-hilly-kristal-a-millionaire-his-ex-got-nothing/

santiamriver
santiamriver

@luther14 Saw the movie, it truly sucked. Having worked there, you would know more than me, but I was in cbgb's 2, 3 times a week in the late '70's, that and Max's Kansas City was my places. This movie didn't capture it at all. And Alan Rickman sucked as Hilly. And he kept his Brit accent, that really through me off. What's with Hollywood using all these Brits. Anyway there was no throughline or point of the movie . But no, it wasn't like Sid and Nancy. That actually was a good movie. The director, Alex Cox was making a strong point of the that time period, and somewhat of a social statement, it worked. There was none of that in here. It didn't make any statement, didn't honestly depict the times, was not really a biop of Hilly, nothing, but the music

luther14
luther14

@Bertil Rogers Is that a fancy way of saying 'taking a creative dump?'

luther14
luther14

@purchase2 Thanks for setting the record straight. I worked for Hilly in the 80s, during the day, helping him out with everything. Karen was there and active as well. There's a real story there. 

garibaldi
garibaldi

@purchase2 yeah but the movie never went past the 70's and very early 80's (before the NYHC scene). Thats also why its absurd for the author to think that Fishbone should have been included.

luther14
luther14

@garibaldi @purchase2 The main point of the original comment is that Hilly would not be running the place at all, even in the 70s, without Karen. Her daughter, Lisa Kristal, conveniently left that out of the film. 

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