Hilly Kristal (1932-2007) R. I. P.

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The godfather of punk rock, Hilly Kristal, lost his battle with cancer on Tuesday; less than a year after his world famous venue, CBGB-OMFUG closed its doors.

Back in in 1973, when New York was a deteriorating mess and white flight had sent its professionals and working classes off into the nether regions of Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, and outer Queens, an enterprising connoisseur of Country, Bluegrass and Blues rented out a dive in the heart of Manhattan’s Bowery. In between serving cheap booze to bums, derelicts, bikers and laborers, Hilly Kristal dreamed of bringing a taste of Americana to the big apple. Little did he know he’d accomplish more than that, but certainly not as he expected.

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Instead of starting a blues revival, Hilly’s club played host to an American musical REVOLUTION. From the moment he allowed fledgling avant-rock protopunks TELEVISION to use his bar as an impromptu practice space, well into the days when THE RAMONES were drawing capacity crowds (which wasn’t hard to do, given how small the place was) of young, enthusiastic, disenfranchised New Yorkers tired of disco’s opulence of fallen hippies-cum-MEtheists (and its class elitism), rock’s prog’d-to-death overproduction and self-indulgence, and an overwhelming sense of urban decay; CBGB nurtured rock music’s last, profound evolutionary leap.

Not only was a new form of American music born but a lifestyle took shape; its long-standing epicenter: Hilly Kristal’s CBGB-OMFUG.

There were venues that preceded CBGB, like the Mercer Art center, and there were contemporaries that also nurtured the nascent punk revolution, like Max’s Kansas City, but neither venue had CBGB’s longevity. From 1973 until October of 2006, CGBG-OMFUG burned its grimy, urine-scented torch of “Other Music For Uplifting Gormadizers” at 315 Bleecker Street; and its spark was a man named Hilly Kristal.

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R. I. P., companero!

 

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~ by darkvault on August 30, 2007.

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