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Photographer inside East Village club CBGB 1970s heyday punk Patti Smith Dead Boys


Forty years ago, a tiny East Village club became the haven for punk rock music, ultimately altering the course of music history. With walls covered in graffiti, the smell of beer and cigarettes were constant scents lingering inside the CBGB during the 1970s and 80s. Located in what was then a seedy and grungy part of New York City, the venue became the stuff of legend due to the numerous bands that took to the stage.

Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie, The Dead Boys, Television, Alter Ego, Elda Stilleto along with her brother, Fast Eddy Gentile and more all performed gigs at the club located at 315 Bowery into the wee hours of the morning. CBGB, which stood for Country, Bluegrass and Blues, quickly became known globally as the spot for hardcore punk and was often a stop for up-and-coming bands hoping to make it big. But over the years, gentrification took hold, and the grungy neighborhood – that was once known as New York’s ‘Skid Row’ due to an overwhelmingly large homeless population and where CBGB belonged – transformed into a haven for hipsters.

As a result, the owners of the venue could no longer afford the skyrocketing rent and the beloved club closed its doors for good in 2006. Two years after closing, a pricey John Varvatos men’s retail store took its place, angering New Yorkers enough to protest outside of the store for days when it opened.

Now, DailyMail.com has obtained exclusive and never-before-seen images taken inside CBGB during its heyday in the 1970s by acclaimed photographer Meryl Meisler. 

‘Here was this enigma, the CBGB, with crowds all the time, people hanging outside all the time,’ said Meisler, who is a New York native. ‘The place itself, you can almost remember the smell – the smell of beer and whatnot – in the room, and it was very interesting. I photographed some of the people whether they were performers or friends of the performers hanging out in the downstairs, going towards the restrooms or the preparations areas.

Located in what was then a seedy-part of New York City, a small bar in the 1970s became the stuff of legend when it altered the course of music history due to the rock acts that took to the stage at the venue. Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie, The Dead Boys and more all seemingly kicked off their careers at CBGB in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood. Photographer Meryl Meisler captured the above image of Patti Smith performing at CBGB while wearing a neck brace in April 1977. This is the first time the image has been published 

Located in what was then a seedy-part of New York City, a small bar in the 1970s became the stuff of legend when it altered the course of music history due to the rock acts that took to the stage at the venue. Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie, The Dead Boys and more all seemingly kicked off their careers at CBGB in Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood. Photographer Meryl Meisler captured the above image of Patti Smith performing at CBGB while wearing a neck brace in April 1977. This is the first time the image has been published 

CBGB, which stood for Country, Bluegrass and Blues, stayed open for decades at 315 Bowery until closing in 2006 due to increasing rent and gentrification. Pictured above is another photo captured by Meisler that's never been published showing The Dead Boys during a performance where they sprayed beer on the crowd at CBGB in March 1979

CBGB, which stood for Country, Bluegrass and Blues, stayed open for decades at 315 Bowery until closing in 2006 due to increasing rent and gentrification. Pictured above is another photo captured by Meisler that’s never been published showing The Dead Boys during a performance where they sprayed beer on the crowd at CBGB in March 1979

Of partying inside the venue, Meisler said: ‘Here was this enigma, the CBGB, with crowds all the time, people hanging outside all the time. The place itself you can almost remember the smell, the smell of beer and what not in the room and it was very interesting.' Singer Elda Stilletto is one person that Meisler vividly recalls seeing inside CBGB. She is pictured above in a photo captured by Meisler in April 1978 smoking a cigarette as her brother, Fast Eddy Gentile, stands by with his guitar 

Of partying inside the venue, Meisler said: ‘Here was this enigma, the CBGB, with crowds all the time, people hanging outside all the time. The place itself you can almost remember the smell, the smell of beer and what not in the room and it was very interesting.’ Singer Elda Stilletto is one person that Meisler vividly recalls seeing inside CBGB. She is pictured above in a photo captured by Meisler in April 1978 smoking a cigarette as her brother, Fast Eddy Gentile, stands by with his guitar 

The thrilling photos Meisler captured at the CBGB are set to go on display on May 20 at The Living Gallery Outpost as part of the Enthrall & Squalor: Photographing Downtown 1977-1987 exhibit.  Stilleto is pictured above in another never-before-seen photo captured by Meisler alongside another unidentified man inside the popular venue during April 1978

The thrilling photos Meisler captured at the CBGB are set to go on display on May 20 at The Living Gallery Outpost as part of the Enthrall & Squalor: Photographing Downtown 1977-1987 exhibit. Stilleto is pictured above in another never-before-seen photo captured by Meisler alongside another unidentified man inside the popular venue during April 1978

Meisler shared the scene at the iconic club wasn’t a big range of ages like the disco clubs and that it also wasn’t expensive to get in. She said that 'everyone was welcome' and that she even 'fit right in'. Meisler captured the image above showing two women sitting at the bar inside CBGB during March 1978

Meisler shared the scene at the iconic club wasn’t a big range of ages like the disco clubs and that it also wasn’t expensive to get in. She said that ‘everyone was welcome’ and that she even ‘fit right in’. Meisler captured the image above showing two women sitting at the bar inside CBGB during March 1978

Meisler is one of four photographers who will be featured as part of the exhibit thanks to her being a ‘New York original who captured the essence of a time indelibly etched in the City’s consciousness.’ Pictured above are two women with long hair that Meisler found captivating inside CBGB during a show by The Dead Boys in March 1979 

Meisler is one of four photographers who will be featured as part of the exhibit thanks to her being a ‘New York original who captured the essence of a time indelibly etched in the City’s consciousness.’ Pictured above are two women with long hair that Meisler found captivating inside CBGB during a show by The Dead Boys in March 1979 

Of how the CBGB became iconic, Meisler said: ‘It shaped our culture in a lot of ways. I mean this tiny club had a long lasting effect on the early 21st century and I am glad that those people who were there said yes when I asked if I could photograph them.’ The photographer captured the above image showing a man leaning on a wall during The Dead Boys performance at CBGB in March 1979

Of how the CBGB became iconic, Meisler said: ‘It shaped our culture in a lot of ways. I mean this tiny club had a long lasting effect on the early 21st century and I am glad that those people who were there said yes when I asked if I could photograph them.’ The photographer captured the above image showing a man leaning on a wall during The Dead Boys performance at CBGB in March 1979

'I photographed some of the people whether they were performers, or friends of the performers hanging out in the downstairs, going towards the restrooms or the preparations areas. And the customers, the crowds and the performers really had a distinctive style of looking and the coolness,’ Meisler stated. Pictured above is  Stilletto sitting down while enjoying a beverage inside CBGB during April 1978 in a photo Meisler took

‘I photographed some of the people whether they were performers, or friends of the performers hanging out in the downstairs, going towards the restrooms or the preparations areas. And the customers, the crowds and the performers really had a distinctive style of looking and the coolness,’ Meisler stated. Pictured above is Stilletto sitting down while enjoying a beverage inside CBGB during April 1978 in a photo Meisler took

Meisler is also the author of two books, A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick and Purgatory & Paradise: Sassy 70s Suburbia & the City, which include photos from Fire Island, Studio 54 and the Lower East Side. Some of the photos from the CBGB that will go on display as part of the exhibit on Sunday are included in her books. Pictured above is a photo Meisler took showing a woman's foot and leg April 1978  at the venue

Meisler is also the author of two books, A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick and Purgatory & Paradise: Sassy 70s Suburbia & the City, which include photos from Fire Island, Studio 54 and the Lower East Side. Some of the photos from the CBGB that will go on display as part of the exhibit on Sunday are included in her books. Pictured above is a photo Meisler took showing a woman’s foot and leg April 1978  at the venue

‘The graffiti was awesome on the walls, because you can see the names of the band members – the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Jimmy Page, Patti Smith Group and Miriam + Joey with hearts around each other. This was a place that helped launch their careers and made them so well known.’

Of the captivating black and white photo collection, the 66-year-old shared that the images she captured of Smith at the venue are some of her favorite.

‘I went purposely to see her and I also went purposely to see The Dead Boys, because they were somewhat well known. So I purposely went to go see those groups because it was a thrill – and so here I was, right in front of her,’ Meisler recalled.

‘I liked photography; I’m not usually someone who takes photos of people performing though, but I couldn’t resist snapping photos of Patti Smith because, you know, here she was literally singing ‘Gloria’. And she had a neck brace on because she had hurt her neck.

‘She’s a performer who didn’t burn out and has always been true to who she is.’

Meisler's images of the iconic bar show a glimpse into how the CBGB played a critical role into music history. Pictured above is a woman walking down the stairway inside CBGB 

Meisler’s images of the iconic bar show a glimpse into how the CBGB played a critical role into music history. Pictured above is a woman walking down the stairway inside CBGB 

 Meisler said that witnessing Smith perform inside CBGB was one of the best moments she's ever experienced. She captured the photo above of Smith as she performed her song 'Gloria' while wearing a neck brace in April 1977 at CBGB

 Meisler said that witnessing Smith perform inside CBGB was one of the best moments she’s ever experienced. She captured the photo above of Smith as she performed her song ‘Gloria’ while wearing a neck brace in April 1977 at CBGB

Meisler explained that she started going to CBGB regularly thanks to her friend Judy Jupiter who was dating a bartender who worked at the venue. She captured the above photo of a few band members after a show with Jupiter hugging a guy smoking a cigarette on the ground inside the venue in 1977

Meisler explained that she started going to CBGB regularly thanks to her friend Judy Jupiter who was dating a bartender who worked at the venue. She captured the above photo of a few band members after a show with Jupiter hugging a guy smoking a cigarette on the ground inside the venue in 1977

Meisler also said that the 'graffiti was awesome, on the walls because you can see the names of the band members – the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Jimmy Page, Patti Smith Group and Miriam + Joey with hearts around each other. This was a place that helped launch their careers and made them so well known.’ Pictured above are two then-high school students from Brooklyn inside CBGB in 1977; Meisler years later reconnected with the two women above and they are still good friends

Meisler also said that the ‘graffiti was awesome, on the walls because you can see the names of the band members – the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Jimmy Page, Patti Smith Group and Miriam + Joey with hearts around each other. This was a place that helped launch their careers and made them so well known.’ Pictured above are two then-high school students from Brooklyn inside CBGB in 1977; Meisler years later reconnected with the two women above and they are still good friends

Meisler also noted how the clothing style people wore inside  the CBGB is still relevant. ‘Looking in retrospect, when you look at the style from back then, I mean that is still a style of fashion,’ she stated. ‘It’s still in style and it was a very very East Village-Bowery look. I mean you heard about the SoHo look in London, but this is very different.' Pictured above are two people kissing during The Dead Boys show at CBGB in 1978

Meisler also noted how the clothing style people wore inside  the CBGB is still relevant. ‘Looking in retrospect, when you look at the style from back then, I mean that is still a style of fashion,’ she stated. ‘It’s still in style and it was a very very East Village-Bowery look. I mean you heard about the SoHo look in London, but this is very different.’ Pictured above are two people kissing during The Dead Boys show at CBGB in 1978

The late Stiv Bators, who was one of the leaders of The Dead Boys, was also a regular at CBGB with the band. Meisler captured the above image of him and said his death in the 1990s was truly ‘a loss to music and culture’

The late Stiv Bators, who was one of the leaders of The Dead Boys, was also a regular at CBGB with the band. Meisler captured the above image of him and said his death in the 1990s was truly ‘a loss to music and culture’

Meisler, who captured hundreds of photos during the disco scene, noted that the clothing style that people wore to the CBGB is still being sported now, decades later.

‘Looking in retrospect, when you look at the style from back then, I mean that is still a style of fashion,’ she stated. ‘It’s still in style and it was a very, very East Village-Bowery look. I mean you heard about the SoHo look in London, but this is very different.

‘And the customers, the crowds and the performers really had a distinctive style of looking and the coolness.’

She added that the scene at the iconic club wasn’t a big range of ages like the disco clubs and that it also wasn’t expensive to get in.

‘I fit right in and everyone was welcome,’ she noted. ‘If you look at the photos, you see people smoking but people can’t do that anymore in restaurants or bars.’

Meisler also captured images of the late Stiv Bators, who was one of the leaders of The Lost Boys. She said his death in the 1990s was truly ‘a loss to music and culture.’

‘He is really respected by many generations of music lovers. These (performers) are people who really lived how they wanted to live and share how they wanted to share in their time,’ Meisler stated.

‘It’s pretty impressive and I also want to say that it was very impressive the long lasting styles.’

The thrilling photos Meisler captured at the CBGB are set to go on display on May 20 at The Living Gallery Outpost as part of the Enthrall & Squalor: Photographing Downtown 1977-1987 exhibit.

The pop-up exhibition, part of Lower East Side History Month, aims to ‘hark back to a time when living and (life) was cheap and legends were born’ according to a press release from the gallery.

‘It’s never been cheap to be in a place like New York City and the owners of the CBGB kept it going for a really really long time and I think that’s impressive,’ Meisler shared. Pictured above is a woman standing inside CBGB

‘It’s never been cheap to be in a place like New York City and the owners of the CBGB kept it going for a really really long time and I think that’s impressive,’ Meisler shared. Pictured above is a woman standing inside CBGB

The pop-up exhibition part of Lower East Side History Month aims to ‘hark back to a time when living and (life) was cheap and legends were born’ according to a press release from the gallery. Pictured above is a woman smoking inside CBGB in 1978

The pop-up exhibition part of Lower East Side History Month aims to ‘hark back to a time when living and (life) was cheap and legends were born’ according to a press release from the gallery. Pictured above is a woman smoking inside CBGB in 1978

Meisler is one of four photographers who will be featured as part of the exhibit thanks to her being a ‘New York original who captured the essence of a time indelibly etched in the City’s consciousness.’

Her images of the iconic bar show a glimpse into how the CBGB played a critical role into music history.

‘It’s never been cheap to be in a place like New York City and the owners of the CBGB kept it going for a really, really long time and I think that’s impressive,’ Meisler shared.

‘It shaped our culture in a lot of ways. I mean, this tiny club had a long-lasting effect on the early 21st century, and I am glad that those people who were there said yes when I asked if I could photograph them.’

Meisler is also the author of two books, A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick and Purgatory & Paradise: Sassy 70s Suburbia & the City, which include photos from Fire Island, Studio 54 and the Lower East Side.



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