Nightclubbing | A Night at CBGBs

The Local is pleased to launch a regular column in which Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong sift through their voluminous archive of punk-era concert footage as it becomes part of the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library. They’ll share their favorite stories and clips along the way.

nightclubbingCourtesy Nightclubbing The Nightclubbing archive.

Pat: On a hot sticky night in July, 1975, I began videotaping punk bands at CBGBs. It was during the CBGB Rock Festival of Unrecorded Bands, with 40 groups that formed the core of the nascent music scene downtown. I was part of Metropolis Video, a video collective of eight, most of whom worked at MCTV’s public access department. That first night, we shot Blondie (still doing some covers, like the Velvets, Femme Fatale), the Talking Heads on their third or fourth gig out of RISD, and the Heartbreakers, a downtown super group with Richard Hell, who had just left Television, and Johnny Thunders and Jerry Nolan of the Dolls. It was their first Manhattan date. It was exciting and we shot now and then for about a year but the center would not hold and the collective dissolved.

cbgb 1

Luckily, I met Emily Armstrong and after a night seeing Patti Smith at CBs, she agreed to work with me and a new partnership was formed. Our first band was the Dead Boys in 1977 and we continued for the next four years, often at CBs but also at other clubs like Max’s, Hurrah’s, Mudd Club, and Danceteria.

Emily: Now 32 years later, N.Y.U.’s Fales Library is making everything new again. The Downtown Collection is preserving and restoring the Nightclubbing archive of nearly 100 musical performances, 20-plus interviews, video art projects and more. It will be available for scholars (yes!) to rifle through and enjoy. I hope they do – I know I did.

cbgb 2Metropolis Video with Pat Ivers Richard Hell of the Heartbreakers

In this regular column, we’ll document our experience of seeing the collection’s restoration. We haven’t seen most of the footage in over 30 years. As often as we can, we’ll share it with the musicians we filmed and post clips for you.

Our first video reflects the audience on a typical night at CBGBs. They weren’t the sort of British slaves-to-fashion that most people associate with punk. We were in a recession and no one had any money, so you got your clothes at second-hand stores and if you did have a leather jacket, you wore it all the time because you didn’t have anything else.

cbgb 3Metropolis Video with Pat Ivers Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys

CBGBs was a community. The freaks, the outsiders and the dreamers from high school who never fit in; we recognized each other in the dark. Maybe you will, too. If so, let us know in the comments. Got a good story? We’d love to hear it. We always had a lot of time to talk about music.