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CBGB: Decades of Graffiti Paperback – 28 Aug 2007
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CBGB's is little more than a bar, a stage and two bathrooms. Since the club opened in 1973, very little has changed about the physical space, with one exception: the graffiti. The club has never tried to stop its patrons from adding to the mosaics of ink and pencil that literally cover every square inch of the club's walls. As grimy and layered with ink as they are, the walls contain the history of the club, from the musicians to the fans. "CBGB: Decades of Graffiti" documents this phenomenon with photographs from the private collection of the club's founder and owner Hilly Kristal, as well as contemporary images. Musicians who have graced the club's stage will also offer recollections about the graffiti. The verve of the lettering, the passionate, drunken silliness of the words and messages echo the power and innovation of the countless hours of music that have screamed off the stage. Ephemeral and fleeting as those emotions are, they are things people want to possess, and this book will provide the opportunity to do so. While CBGB's reputation is rooted in the music, the music spawned a scene that people now associate with the club as a physical space.Without the music, there would be no club; the same as without the club there would be no music. Without this book, there would be no record of these graphic treatments of the punk aesthetic, especially since the club will soon no longer exist.
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This book is a testament to the building itself and the lives that passed through it. The graffiti that lines nearly every inch of space tells the history of the events that went on in there. It's a disgusting place. It's every inch a punk rock haven. This book gives a peek at what went on in there in it's 30+ year existence.
I never made it to CBGB during my punk years and I'm kind of glad I didn't, but I'm glad to have been given the opportunity to take a peek at it. In 2006 CBGB was closed for good to make way for upperscale establishments. This book is as close as anyone will ever be able to get to its history now.
The short text pieces that accompany the pictures give you a greater sense of being there and the pictures are gorgeous, even when they show you the disgusting side of the whole place. Anyone who has never been there and is curious to know what it was like should pick this up. Also, anyone who was lucky enough to have been there should get this as well. A souvenir to remind them throughout the years ahead.
What this superb little book celebrates is the atmosphere in which all of this history took place, a club notoriously filthy, whose owners invited the patrons to graffiti the walls, the floors, and especially the bathrooms. Photographer John Putnam has supplied designer/writer Salyers with gritty photos of the stage and the seats, the green rooms (where artists prepared before performing), the bathrooms with some of the most wonderfully vile language and demonstrations of man's ability to deface public property are at a peak, and the bar. The colors are rich and ludicrously dirty and the words left behind are scribblings by minds toked on drugs and loud music.
Is it pretty? No, but it is definitely art, if art reflects life. The form follows function here as well as any design team could approach a subject. The book is fascinating, a bit repulsive as graffiti is often meant to offend, and an art piece that makes the reader want to wash up after reading and perusing! This is an exhibition as much as a book: the CBGB is no more, having fallen victim to the gentrification and bulldozing mentality of our modern city planners. All of that make this fine little book a 'must have' for anyone interested in art movements, music movements, or the rather soulful denigration of our youth of the 70s foraging through the agonies of becoming adults. Excellent! Grady Harp, October 06
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