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.
All For The Love of Rock ‘n Roll
Head Over Heels
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.
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.
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.
Cadillac Moon [MP3]
Change It Comes [MP3]
Mink DeVille started out as a band, but as they progressed into the 80s they pretty much became a vehicle for lead singer/guitarist Willy DeVille, who became somewhat of a successful musician in the 80s and up until his death in 2009(!). 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.
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 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.
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.