40th Anniversary of CBGBs

On December 10th in 1973 CBGB, the famed New York City music venue, opened to the public. Hilly Kristal opened CBGB with the intent to play Country Bluegrass and Blues bands, hence the name. But unfortunately for him at the time, and fortunately for everyone else, those acts were difficult to find in New York City. So other bands were booked, and CBGB essentially launched the punk and underground music scene in the United States.

Randal Miller and Jody Savin are responsible for the new feature film called and about CBGB, and Joey recently interviewed them about their project and the beloved music venue. Miller and Savin had been to CBGB in its glory days. Savin was a self-proclaimed starving poet in New York City back then, and says she spent a great deal of time at CBGB since it was one of the few venues she could afford.

Inconveniently for the filmmakers, the modern location of CBGB on Bowery and Bleeker is much nicer looking than it once was. “New York is tough these days because it’s so gentrified, it’s so nice. The Bowery is beautiful, so we needed to find places it looked like back in the day.” So not only did they film in New York, but also in Savannah, Georgia. “One thing that was really fantastic for us is that when they shut down the club in 2006, they tore out the bar, the bathroom urinals, everything, and that was all in a storage facility in Brooklyn. We had that shipped to us and we built the club on a soundstage using the actual bars and urinals even, which was pretty cool. That was pretty fortuitous.”

Joey wanted to know how difficult it was for them to cast such iconic musicians for their film, and Savin had the answer. “It was definitely a challenge. Some were easier than others. You know, Malin [Ackerman] had always wanted to play Blondie, and her reps called and said “Malin wants to play Blondie,” and we said “fine!” She was our very first choice. In our dreams we had Malin playing Blondie,” Savin said. “Some of the characters were much harder to find.” Alan Rickman, who plays Hilly Kristal, actually has some famous musical friends including Sting, who is played in the movie by Keene McRae. McRae is from Alabama, but apparently his English accent fooled even Alan Rickman.

The soundtrack to the movie is incredible. They put a wish list together of the iconic Blondie and David Byrne songs that should be in the movie, but they realized they needed to have a large amount of fairly unknown songs in the film so that they could have that sense of discovery. 

The film can be found on Amazon and iTunes now, and DVD and Blu-ray soon. Find out more at their website here.