BOOK REVIEW! THIS AIN'T NO DISCO, THE STORY OF CBGB BY ROMAN KOZAK (Faber and Faber, 1988)
I figure hey, already got two outta three books on Max's Kansas City rotting away in various cubbyholes throughout the abode so why not one on their main competitor in the realm of seventies hangouts, mainly CBGB? The perusal of this 'un would make for a good time-passer during them lonely evening hours, especially considerin' how much info not only on the club but on the half-million or so acts booked there twixt 1973 and 2006 remains unknown by even an anal retentive lout like myself. And after having assigned a review of this to a stringer for my own crudzine back when it originally came out inna late-eighties, perhaps it is time for me to check it out 'n see if there're any li'l scraps of heretofore unknown info that only I could care about! Y'know, it just might brighten my life if only a tad, and given how killer time is catching up with me I better do it now'n a good ten years later when I have the sneaking suspicion that I won't be able to do any in-depth, pertinent reading from a pine box six feet underground.
There is at least another CBGB book of coffee table dimension which I skimmed at one of those chi chi megabook coffee shops a few years back. I didn't care for the thing since it was jam packed with the same old candid snaps we've seen for years on end with a few newies taken of up and coming amerindie types that weren't setting off any alarms in my issue-specified brain. Only the photo of Screamin' Jay Hawkins really caught my attention, though frankly if I was operating under the delusion that such an endeavor would have contained nothing but ne'er before seen photos of Kongress, Master Radio Canaries and their ilk I would have been fooling myself even more'n I usually tend to.
At least THIS AIN'T NO DISCO ain't chock fulla the usual candids of then-recent flash inna alternative music pans, and surprisingly enough it is a solid read with interesting sagas regarding the club and the detailed behind-the-scene goings on that most of us are probably still unaware of. However, if the entire thing just doesn't come off as if it were one long magazine article (kinda like each 'n every piece on the place that's been written o'er the past thirtysome years all scrunched together) I don't know what does!
I do like Roman Kozak's abilities and style considering that English is definitely his second language, and what little that I have read of his various articles for BILLBOARD and the like regarding the underground were good enough to satisfy my usually jaded self. It ain't like he's another industry whore (or at least he did not have the airs of being one), and his encapsulations of just what was going on re. the New York rock scene (above and under) sure reads a lot better'n Anastasia Pantsios' rather pithy and dry reminiscences regarding the Cleveland groups of the past and present. But I do detect a slight industry-ish feel to this tome which does make THIS AIN'T NO DISCO come off more like stodgy history 'stead of a celebration of the last great moment in Amerigan garage band rock, and that ain't exactly something I'm looking for in any sorta read to pass mine eyes. Perhaps this coupled with the lack of highly-charged photographs does tend to dampen things a little more'n a maniac such as I would have hoped.
Still, I highly recommended THIS AIN'T NO DISCO if only for those wild anecdotes and recollections regarding the general mayhem that was coming outta not only New York, but the world at a time when it seems as if the powers that be had temporarily lost control of something that was within their iron grip for a longer time'n any of us could imagine. And hey, hardly anything's been left out in this 'un, from the early days of bitter struggle through the Patti Smith residency and Summer Festival to even the infamous Wayne County-Handsome Dick Manitoba kerfuffle which got the club covered in such magazines as THE WEEKLY WORLD NEWS! It only goes to show you that Kozik was smart enough to cover most of the bases which even suits a guy like myself who wants to know every pertinent anecdote and group sound that came outta the place like yesterday!
I never thought it would happen, but thanks to this book some mysteries that have been plaguing me o'er the years happened to get solved which does make me quite the happy camper. Well, at least I think they did, such as the identity of Metteyya's Voice, the group with the esoteric name who graced the stage of CB's during the spring of '76 ne'er to be heard from again. Not 1000% positive that the description none other's Shirts lead singer Annie Golden gave of this act from a "Long Island commune" dressed in white who lit incense and played a "spiritual" psychedelic rock was in fact the act in question, but since the Shirts were opening for the Voice I have the feeling that this mystery act 'n MV're undoubtedly one 'n the same! Not that this cold case file is exactly closed, but at least it gives an idea of what was going on in the En Why See underground clubs back in the mid-seventies and from what I can tell it wasn't all Dead Boys 'n Ramones!
And if you don't think this book covers a good portion of the obscure, even the time Geofrey Crozier went wild and started throwing spears and pyrotechnics into the audience before knocking his cauldron over gets mention so you know this wasn't one of those piecemeal affairs! Of course a stickler like myself woulda loved to've read about the time Lou Rone got his group Cross banned from the club 'round Thanksgiving '75 after setting his guitar on fire and pissing on it to put the fire out (and this after CBGB owner Hilly Kristal beamed proud approval at Lou's guitar prowess!) but like, we can't have EVERYTHING! But we got this, and until the next book on the heyday of seventies underground rock hits my boudoir I guess it will more'n hafta do. And for that I'm at least a slight tickled pink about it!