Live At CBGB’s

 

If I told you I had a compilation album from 1976  called Live At CBGB’s, what would you guess would be on it? Blondie? Talking Heads? The Ramones? Dead Boys? Televsion? Nope. Try Tuff Darfs, Manster, The Miamis and Sun, to name a few.

Why are there no big-name acts on this LP? Well by 1976 the majority of those bands, including almost all of the ones I mentioned, were either already signed to major labels or in the process of being signed to the majors, leaving only the lesser-known (but still good…for the most part) bands left behind and available for a compilation like this.

Even though nearly all of the acts on this group vanished into thin air, that doesn’t mean they’re totally without merit. In fact, I’m glad this compilation focuses on the lesser-known and more obscure acts of the CBGB’s club scene. I think it helps to paint a much more accurate picture of the groups that were playing there during that era. It wasn’t all punk, new wave and art-rock. As this compilation shows, there were a ton of power pop, blues-influenced guitar rockers, and even one straight-up metal act playing to enthusiastic audiences at the “punk” club. Discovering these lesser-known obscurities makes me love the now-lost venue even more. I hope you feel the same way after giving these tracks a listen.

Tuff Darts
All For The Love of Rock ‘n Roll
Head Over Heels
Slash
The Tuff Darts did manage to release one album in 1978, although by then they had lost their original lead singer, Robert Gordon, in lieu of replacement vocalist Tommy Frenzy. I think this is the only recording of the group ever released that features Gordon. The band isn’t very punk, isntead they have a slight glam element to their sound. I could totally see Bowie of the era adding some flourish to a track like “All For The Love Of Rock ‘n Roll.” The most punk track of the bunch is “Slash,” a dark, macabre number about preferring suicide over going on a second date with a girl from hell. Speed this track up half a beat and you’d totally have a Ramones number. Tuff Darts are just one of many bands on this album who are still around in some form or another, check out their official site here.

The Laughing Dogs
I Need A Million
It Feels Alright Tonight
The Laughing Dogs are a power pop band, which of course means that they never found any modicum of mainstream success. I can’t even imagine that they found much of a following in the CBGB’s scene, they’re way too poppy and “fun” when compared to a lot of the other bands of the era. The group released two albums in the late 70s/early 80s, and although they never took off they’re apparently still around and performing live, and good for them.

Manster
Over, Under, Sideways, Down
I’m Really Not This Way
I don’t know if you could ever really call a cover of a 60s blues-jam “post-punk” but these guys sure straddle the line with their version of The Yardbirds’ “Over, Under, Sideways, Down,” thanks largely to the batshit manic vocals of lead singer Warren Stahurski. “I’m Really Not This Way,” a heartbreaking song about being homeless,  is even an even weirder tune. It sounds like a lounge act tune from hell. What the hell happened to these guys? It sounds like they were a bit nuts. Love it.

The Miamis
We Deliver
Another power pop act. This song is so damn cute I want to hug it. You can find out more about the group, and buy their only record, at their official website.

Mink DeVille
Cadillac Moon
Change It Comes
Mink DeVille started out as a band, but as they progressed into the 80s they pretty much became a vehicle for lead singer/guitarist Willie DeVille, who became somewhat of a successful musician in the 80s and up until his death in 2004.  Mink DeVille remain a cult band to this day, and I know more than one record nerd who swear by them. I’ve never really gotten into the group, too much of a soul sound for me. They sure as hell don’t fit in on this record. That’s not to say they’re bad, they just stick out like, well, a blues/soul band on a punk/rock compilation.

The Shirts
Operetico
Poe
A.V.M.
One of the most interesting acts on this album, The Shirts have a sound that’s part new wave, part power pop and part 70s rock ‘n roll. And there were apparently like nine people in this group at one point, so I guess there were plenty of genres to go around. “Opertico” is a good tune with an amazing riff, “Poe” is a punky little rocker that fits in with the kind of music one would expect to hear at CBGB’s at the time, while “A.V.M.” is a six-minute banger that definitely has its roots in traditional 70s rock music. All are good tunes.

Another group that hasn’t gone away, The Shirts are still kicking it after 30 some years. You can check out their site here.

Stuart’s Hammer
Everybody’s Depraved
Stuart’s Hammer never got a record deal but they sure seemed to be a mainstay at CBGB’s back in the day. At their official website you can find a few posters advertising their gigs from back in the day, as well as some other cool nuggets from the era. Based on this tune I really wouldn’t call them punk, but they’re good.

Sun
Romance
This is one of the cases where the story/members of the band is far more interesting than the song itself (although I do dig the song).

First of all, if this song is any indication, Sun was a straight-up metal band. No pretense of punk or art-rock here. These dudes loved themselves some crazy guitar solos and howling banshee vocals. They sound like a band out of time and place on this record. They belong in 1983 LA, not 1976 NYC.

From what I could dig up, Sun went through a number of line-up/name changes during its short run. The guitarist in this line-up was a man by the name of Niki Buzz, who some may know for his work with the 80s rock groups M-80 and Vendetta. A more notable contributor to the band, however, would be their bass player Bill Laswell. While that name may not ring a bell for some of you, Laswell is one of the most influential and experimental bass players and producers of the past 30 or so years. He played a key role in Herbie Hancock’s electronic phase of the early-80s, and he formed the experimental rock outfit Praxis in the 90s, a supergroup that had a revolving door line-up that included Mike Patton, Iggy Pop and Buckethead.

I don’t know how long Laswell stuck around in Sun, but at some point the group lost him and Buzz and then changed their name to Son. Then, I assume after more line-up changes, they became Getaway and released a pair of albums in the early 80s for A&M records, one of which included a slightly different version of “Romance” under the name “Getaway.” Someone from the band is on YouTube today, and he has more than a few videos featuring the band in its various incarnations. Check out his channel if you’re interested in learning more about the group.

12 Responses to “Live At CBGB’s”

  1. chadwicktron says:

    Laswell was also a part of The Golden Paleminos, a phase I went through.

  2. Zigzagwanderer says:

    Thanks – this looks like fun .

  3. Tommy Frenzy says:

    Tuff Darts is still playing. Unfortunately Jeff Salen passed away in 2007. His website is listed as the band website above, which is not correct. While Jeff was still alive, Tuff Darts put out two more CDs on Captain Trip Records, a Japanese Label. 1) “Sweetheart” was a compilation of demos that got us our Sire/Warner Brothers deal and features the band in their basic form…black Les Pauls plugged directly into Marshall tube amps. A collectible indeed. 2) “You can’t keep a good Band Down.” This one contains new songs written in 2007. Both of these CDs are available on Amazon at discounted pricing. TUFF DARTS continues to play in NYC. Most recently at the CBGB’s reunion in July 2012. Videos from this gig are up on youtube under my channel. Search for the IMTFRENZY channel.
    Enjoy!
    Tommy Frenzy / Tuff Darts

  4. Lost Turntable says:

    I’ll fix the link! Thanks for the info dude.

  5. Mike Insetta says:

    Thanks for the nice comments about our band Stuarts Hammer. We had a blast playing there. More items to come shortly on our website. Rolling Stone called our song the best song on the album
    Mike Insetta Bass Guitar

  6. James Britt says:

    I remember when this came out (I have it someplace in my mass of vinyl). They waited so long to do something like this, and the feeding frenzy to sign “punk” and “new wave” bands was well underway, that the groups who really would have best represented CBGB were unavailable because of their contracts.

    OTOH, this collection is useful in that it sort of describes what CBGB was like 80% of the time, on those week-day nights when Talking Heads or Television were not playing.

    It’s also interesting that the term “punk” was meant to include bands such as are on this album; later, that term was co-opted to mean only bands that played some sort of Ramones variant. When I was going to CBGB I considered Television, Talking Heads, Ramones, Void-oids, Tuff Darts, all as punk rock bands. Used to mean being inventive with whatever skills (or lack of ) you had. Now it’s just some tired genre well past its due-date.

  7. Nicky says:

    I was there for all 3 night of recording. I was aphotographer at the time. Yes, Blondie and Talking Heads did record on those nights, but they were not on the LP. Where are the tapes??? Visit my page on Facebook: Lower Third Enterprise

  8. B says:

    Hmmm, got the album (used) in 1978. My original opinion still holds. Other than Manster, the rest are true honest to God throw-away’s. Fact is, a ton of excellent new bands were playing out in NYC when this record was recorded that were becoming no-wave, punk pt 2, post-punk, etc and they were not asked to perform. I in 1978 thought, hey a bunch of 4th rate bands from the NYC suburbs that would either fill-in for a band that could not make their CBGB’s commitment or get gigs in the suburbs because they were, well, Uninteresting.

    This record is the example of a criminal waste of vinyl as so many other groups were out there in the area that deserved to have a performance recorded and pressed on this album.

    I tried and tried and tried to see this record in a good light but the best thing about it is the pictures on the cover.

  9. Taxi says:

    Glad to see the interest in our album. I was the house soundman at CBGB from the very beginning and for nearly every performance during the recording of this album. I was there long before my friends Norman Dunn, Charlie Martin and Cosmo Ohms (on the lights) joined in for a great ride. After the album was completed the 2″ master tapes were recorded over when Charlie and Norman could not get Hilly to buy tape. We each only made $20 a day. We did not sit in judgement of the bands who played during our tenure. We simply made the club a safe and secure place to play. If you came we asked only that you play original music, move your own equipment and give back the same respect and warmth that we gave to everyone. We promised everyone that they would be heard, loud and clear. Very loud.

    Taxi

  10. Joey Cola says:

    To Taxi…
    CB’s spoiled me. It had the best sound… EVER. On either side of the mic.
    You and Charlie were the best. When the three remaining members of Sorrows get together and play out these days, it’s like, sigh…
    CB’s was truly slumming it for the audience, but if you were on stage, it was first class all the way. (except maybe for the occasional, blood encrusted SM58)
    JC

  11. Taxi says:

    Please, never forget Norman and Cosmo. Together we created a place to nurture and support so many people that the music industry simply did not want. Merv made it safe and protected all of us. And we thrived. Thanks for the kind words.

    Taxi

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