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It is probably also thanks to the iconic photos of Roberta Bayley and David Godlis that the New York clubs have acquired such a state. It is almost certain that if you were with the CBGB between 1975 and 1978, it was Roberta who welcomed you. Sometimes, however, he left his station to take some pictures of friends who were on stage, like Johnny Thunders and his Heartbreakers, Walking heads or Blondie.
Her photos often ended up in Punk Magazine, an independent magazine of which she was the cameraman. In 1976, at the door where Roberta lived, David Godlis (alias GODLIS) appeared and within a short time the two photographers became friends. After moving from Boston to New York, where he had studied photography with Nan Goldin, GODLIS developed a real obsession with the underlying scene, which was born around (and thanks to) the CBGB, as he himself says in his book Geschichte is Made At Night (2018).
"In the 70s, people perceived New York as a place they didn't want to be. However, he says, "I can tell you that everyone who visited the Citizens' Federation at the time really wanted to be there. "Roberta Bayley, 1977. Photo from GODLIS. We talked to Roberta and Godlis at i-D, who still live in St. Marks today, to find out what made this place so special and unforgettable.
I took my first photography class in high school, I was 15 or 16 years old, and I learned how to develop in the darkroom and in printing. I took photos for fun, it wasn't serious and I didn't study photography. I started selling photos for very little money.
I didn't understand why I should take photos, but not sell them, today it seems stupid to me. In fact, I would like to kill myself because I would have to take thousands of more photos, especially in some situations. I did a lot of them with Blondie, but only because the photography was very easy and I had travelled a little with them.
I' m glad I actually quit, because then I watch Godlis and the absurd amount of movies he has, I don't know what to do with them. Godlis: I bought a camera in 1970, I was 18 years old, it was a Pentax Spotmatic. So I dropped out of school and moved to New York.
Photo of Roberta Bayley. Raymond, 1977. Photo from GODLIS. Have you come to scan the CBGB? I arrived in New York in April 1974 before going to London, where I had lived for two or three years. Someone asked me, "What are you doing here?" and I said I wanted to see the New York Dolls live; you know, everyone wants to help you when you're new so you can discover the city.
When I first met David Johansen, he wore a long dress, high heels and a conspicuous fur. That was the time when television was firmly anchored in the CBGB. Bands were looking for a place where they could play regularly to learn how to perform and improve in public.
When I saw this place with the big top, I thought, "This must be the place," and then as soon as I entered the place, the first person I met was Roberta. In New York there were professional venues where they played bands under contract, but the CBGB was more improvised, it was different.
But I never expected to take pictures. It wasn't seen as a thing or a thing to be really Cool about taking pictures of rock stars, and then they weren't real rock stars, it was all new. Photo from GODLIS. Arthur Kane, Dee Dee Dee Ramone, and Richard Loyd, 1977. Photo of Roberta Bayley.
What was so special about the CBGB that it was a unique place to photograph? R&B: I took pictures of some bands I liked, but some others. I almost have no pictures of Blondie because there were too many people when they played. Instead I have some nice photos of the Ramones, because at the beginning there was nobody there to listen to them.
You knew immediately which bands would be successful and which would not. Still, we liked a lot of musicians from those less awesome bands, even though we didn't like the bands. I was a big supporter of Robert Frank and his book The Americans. There is a picture that sticks to me, a group of children sitting around a juice box in a candy store in the 1950s.
I wanted to take a picture similar to the CBGB. Even when you went peeing in the men's room, you had the idea to take a picture there. There were bands that you really wanted to hear and that you couldn't hear anywhere else. United Virginia Mason non of the CBGB, 1976. Photo of Roberta Bayley.
NARRATOR: Calling Heads, 1977. Photo from GODLIS. When you took these photos, did you imagine that today, many years later, you would still talk about it? It also helped that they were inspired by so many bands of the past. I thought I could publish a book. But then, in 1980, the Sex Pistols were already over, and the death of Sid Vicious and Nancy had caused the punk not to turn it into the New Wave, and nobody wanted to make a book with these photos.
At one point, however, I received calls from people who were interested in the photos from the 70s that influenced Nirvana so much. And at the same time there was something nobody could clearly define, and that was exactly what happened to the CBGB, and then Please India came out.
The book made clear the origins of the scene, the fact that she was first born in New York and then arrived in England, but that they were both important. In people' s minds, what looked like vintage was exactly what happened to the CBGB. While writing my book, it was enough for me to put back a recording from television or Richard Hell to revive this atmosphere in my head.
Blondie, 1977. Photo from GODLIS. Photo of Roberta Bayley. Photo from GODLIS. This is Hilly Kristal, il proprietaryario del CBGB, 1977. Photo from GODLIS. CBGB, 1977. Photo from GODLIS.