Saturday, 30 June 2012


I was wandering around Manchester Trafford Centre the other evening, catching the last bargains of the summer sales (more on this soon) when, behind the rails and rails (and rails) of mustard coloured chinos in TOPMAN, I found a hardback photo book called CBGB and OMFUG.

I know, WTF? Well, apparently CBGB and OMFUG was a music club playing Country, Blue Grass, Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers. Geddit? It was founded in '70s Manhattan by Hilly Kristal and, despite not being alive in the 70s (sad times) and having never been to the club, I can quite honestly and confidently say that it is NOT the kind of place I would EVER frequent.

I'm just to snobby.

I like cocktails, hand sanitizer, perhaps even a nice foreign person to squirt Dolce & Gabbana fragrance on me as I leave the bathroom. Not cocks, hands and foreign people squirting god knows what as I run out of the door.

However, thanks to this £3 find in the TOPMAN sale (sub-culture lovingly mass produced) I can gork at the insanity that was CBGB and OMFUG from the safety of my own home. Bonus.

Another thing that attracted me to this book was (it was £3) that it was a hardback coffee table book about a sub-culture/underground music establishment that wasn't the Hacienda. Living within the M60 in Manchester means that at every turn the Hacienda is rammed down your throat. The legend won't die, they even knocked it down and it still churns out books, Ellesse collaboration t-shirts exclusive to Harvey Nichols Manchester, revival gigs, spin off clubs, an endless slew of money grabbing initiatives that step further and further away from it's original intention. It's like a one-hit wonder pop-star (Leo Sayer) who, after releasing that one good song (Thunder in my Heart), couldn't bow off gracefully and say good night (Celebrity Big Brother)  - OK maybe my metaphor isn't airtight but the meaning still stands. And yes, I get the irony that CBGB and OMFUG's book on sale in TOPMAN is guilty of all the same capitalist crimes but I'm a complicated fellow, ya dig?

So, yes, I bought the (£3) book and thought I'd have a flick through. Hilly Kristal (who totally looks like this Norwegian actor in a shit remake of The Thing that I watched last night) writes a nostalgic introduction whereby he praises the club's legacy and the legacy of the artists that played there.

Hilly Kristal and Kristofer Hivju of The Thing (2011)

He comments about the club's location, "the rents were cheap, but the streets were strewn with the bodies of alcoholics who you had to step over to get in the door," furthermore confirming my aforementioned conclusion that this is not a fashion Rambler kinda venue. Still, I flicked on... 

The black and white images of underground urban frivolity, drugs, drink and dancing is mesmerising. It's depicts a night scene not unlike any other night scene but one (seemingly) littered with icons of a musical past, captured mid-set or eyeballing the camera in a drug induced haze. Debbie Harry plays pin-ball, Sting, shirtless, plays to the crowd, Iggy Pop slumps on a bar stool and even Shakira makes an appearance (still not sure why)! The smell of raw sweat and cigarette smoke seems to wafts off the pages and you can't help but feel a little bit sticky and dirty when you've finished (or is that just my newly applied St. Tropez tan?)

I'll now hand over to some of my favourite pictures from the book...

Ramones, 1977
Photo: Danny Fields

Ripped jeans, one of my favourite things about this book and, coincidentally, one of my favourite things about Clarissa Explains It All!

Willy Deville of Mink Deville, 1977
Photo: Ebet Roberts

Not even sure who he is but black tees, pale skin and that heroine-chic thing really pushes my buttons.

Debbie Harry, 1977
Photo: Bob Gruen/Star File

A work blazer never looked so anti-establishment.

Debbie Harry, 1978
Photo: Stephanie Chernikowski

Courtney Love, 1991
Photo: Bob Gruen/Star File

Ray Cappo of Youth of Today, 1987
Photo: Michael Lavine

Look at the dudes flying in the air!