CBGB Icons: Where Are They Now?


So everyone knows that Patti Smith is America’s new media darling, and that Just Kids is going to be a movie. But the release of a new Blondie album, Panic of Girls, this week got us thinking about what became of the other denizens of CBGB? As the burgeoning punk nostalgia industry suggests, the downtown scene of the 1970s and early 1980s has officiallly become part of New York’s cultural mythology – but as ever, it’s a fairly narrow view that’s entered the history books. While the likes of Smith, Blondie, and The Ramones are justifiably (if belatedly) celebrated for their ongoing influence on music, there are plenty of other CBGB veterans who are still out there making fascinating music and art somewhere out of the public eye. We’ve investigated what ten of our favorite CBGB-related punk and post-punk artists are up to these days — read on after the jump!

Richard Lloyd

Then: Angel-faced Television guitarist

Now: Solo artist and online philosophy guru

The Television guitarist still lives in New York and is still making music — his most recent solo record came out in 2009. His website is well worth a visit — it collects a variety of his writings along with an ongoing Q&A session with fans, where people can ask questions which Lloyd will eventually answer. The site also used to be home to a collection of fantastic (and free) guitar lessons, which mixed technique tips and Lloyd’s singular approach to the instrument with his meditations on life, philosophy and the nature of the universe. Sadly, as of mid-last year he removed them from the site and suggested that they’d soon be for sale — as there’s no sign of them yet, we feel somewhat justified in noting that you can get an overview of his ideas via The Wayback Machine (all the diagrams are gone, so you can’t freeload completely). It’s worth checking out his lessons on YouTube, too.

“Handsome” Dick Manitoba

Then: Allegedly handsome Dictators frontman

Now: Publican and bane of Dan Snaith

If you want to find “Handsome” Dick Manitoba, you need look no further than Manitoba’s, the bar he operates on Avenue B in New York City. He opened the establishment in 1999, and seems to have spent most of the years since posing for photos with its patrons. When he’s not at his bar, he’s hosting a show at Sirius XM satellite radio. Apart from this, he was in the news during the 2000s for suing a bewildered Dan Snaith — formerly known as Manitoba, and now as Caribou — for his use of the name “Manitoba.”

Wayne/Jayne County

Then: Microphone stand-wielding Electric Chairs frontman/woman

Now: Enthusiastic conspiracy theorist, painter and online merchandise seller

The perpetually flamboyant and unrepentant Jayne County’s career seems to have been lived in the spirt of her most famous song (the immortal “Fuck Off”). These days, she seems to spend an inordinate amount of time online. Her website and blog are certainly, um, interesting — a fairly crazed melange of politics, explicit paintings, and apparently random linkage. If you’re a fan, you can also shop at All Things Jayne, the official Jayne County online merchandise store!

Richard Hell

Then: Television/Heartbreakers/Voidoids bass player and Malcolm McLaren’s stylistic inspiration

Now: Novelist and critic

Although he continued to make music after the demise of the Voidoids — releasing an album with Thurston Moore, Robert Quine, and various others under the name Dim Star in the early 1990s — Hell has largely devoted himself to writing over the last two decades. He’s published three novels, along with a fairly substantial body of non-fiction (including plenty of music criticism) and several books of poetry. He’s also dabbled in acting over the years (if you look carefully, you can spot him in mid-’80s Madonna vehicle Desperately Seeking Susan).

Alan Vega

Then: Motorcycle chain-wielding Suicide frontman

Now: Musician and sculptor

Vega is still active as a musician — Suicide still play the occasional show, as anyone lucky enough to have caught them at ATP a couple of years back will no doubt tell you all about, while Vega’s most recent solo album came out only last year — but these days, he’s largely focused on his work as a sculptor. His pieces featured in a group show at PS1 in 2006, and he had a major retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon (there’s much information about the show here if you read French).

Cheetah Chrome

Then: Fiercely ginger Dead Boys guitarist

Now: Likeable elder statesman and punk-era memoirist par excellence

The Dead Boys were one of the punk scene’s more notorious bands, and guitarist Cheetah Chrome was a large part of the reason why. So it was something of a surprise that he wrote one of the more entertaining, intelligent, and forthright memoirs of the era in his 2010 book A Dead Boy’s Tale. In print and in person, Chrome today comes across as a genuinely humble and likeable guy — as this interview from the time of the book release demonstrates (key quote: “I just wish we could have been around long enough to make sure Limp Bizkit didn’t exist”).

James Chance

Then: Saxophone-wielding No Wave icon

Now: Saxophone-wielding man about town

A man who’ll forever hold a place in Flavorpill’s affections for “engaging in a physical confrontation” with Robert Christgau, James Chance was also brave enough to a) make the saxophone cool and b) spend more than five minutes in the company of Lydia Lunch. Like various others in this feature, he’s still in New York and still emerges from time to time (like in November last year, when he re-formed James Chance and the Contortions for a one-off gig at (Le) Poisson Rouge, which we are still kicking ourself for missing).

Tommy Ramone

Then: Founding Ramones drummer, and the (relatively) “normal” one

Now: Bluegrass guitarist and banjo player

It’s one of the great rock ‘n’ roll injustices that most of the Ramones died before they had a chance to truly enjoy their belated success, although quite what Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee would make of seeing kids who clearly have no idea who the band are walking around with Ramones t-shirts on will have to remain forever a mystery. The only surviving original Ramone, Tommy Erdelyi played drums on the band’s first three studio albums and also acted as a de facto manager, producer and general calming influence. After he left the band, he continue to produce records (including, most memorably, The Replacements’ Tim), and these days he’s in a bluegrass duo called Uncle Monk, where he provides guitar, mandolin, banjo and the sort of subterranean vocals that’d make Mark Lanegan proud. You can hear more of their work here.

Ikue Mori

Then: DNA drummer and sonic adventurer

Now: Non DNA drummer and sonic adventurer

One of our favorite No Wave artists (not least because she seems like she’d actually be a pleasant person to spend time with), Ikue Mori’s exploration of the possibilities of sound has been an ongoing and intriguing journey. Thirty years after she moved to New York and joined No Wave icons DNA, Mori is still making fascinating music — most recently, she worked with Flavorpill fave Julianna Barwick on a suitably otherworldly piece (above) for the consistently involving FRKWYS series.

Tom Verlaine

Then: The man who defined the word “angular”

Now: The man who defines the word “angular”

The Television guitarist and singer has been an elusive figure over the years, rarely giving interviews and surfacing every few years with a new solo album. However, if you believe this extensive interview he and the rest of Television gave to Brazilian MTV earlier this year, a fourth Television album may be on the cards (although apparently not with Richard Lloyd, since he’s not involved in the interview). In the meantime, Verlaine is apparently often to be sighted at Strand Books.