TVD Kickstarts: CBGB Punk Photos by Godlis, 1976-1979: The Book

I’ve known David Godlis’ photographs longer than I’ve known him. If you’ve read any number of books or New York Times articles about CBGB and related subjects, chances are you know his work as well. I finally befriended him 6 or 7 years ago during one of my frequent periods of unemployment. He needed some help scanning proofsheets, and I was able and willing. Listening to a mix of Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Howard Stern broadcasts, we got to know each other pretty well.

The one surprising thing I found out was that he had never had a book published. “I’m working on something…” “I’m talking to some publishers…” “I may do a Kickstarter campaign…” These were the various things he said keeping things somewhat close to the vest. Well, he’s finally launched his Kickstarter campaign, and the response has been astounding. He met his initial goal of $30,000 within five days! Of course, if you’re interested in a limited edition copy of the man’s timeless work, you should still donate.

Godlis was generous enough to spend a few minutes talking about the CBGB days with us.

What did you shoot prior to discovering CBGB, and how did you discover the club?

Prior to arriving in New York City in 1976, I was a “street photographer,” trying to shoot like Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, and Lee Friedlander all rolled into one.

When I moved here from Boston and found some work, I began looking for a club or bar to hang out in that had music or a good jukebox. I guess all paths were leading to CBGB’s after I spied an issue of Punk magazine and saw the back of the Village Voice with those adverts for bands with odd interesting names – Blondie, Television, Ramones, Suicide. I had also seen a photo in Boston of Patti Smith and Bob Dylan in the summer of 1975. So, down to the Bowery I went and the rest is history.

Can you recall your thoughts or feeling the first time you entered CBGB?

I really remember standing on the Bowery outside the club before going in. That was a scene in itself. Was there really a place with music down here? Open emptiness all around. Then after looking around, I remember seeing the awning with those odd letters.

Walking in, there sat Roberta Bayley right up front. Knockout tough girl at the front door, behind a grizzly desk. Who knew she shot the Ramones cover? Richard Hell? It was a bit like going to a carnival, or a great ride at Coney Island. Then walking past Roberta, the sawdust floors, the great wooden bar. Television was the band that night. I walked all the way down to the front and thought—these guys (and everyone watching them) have all the same Velvet Underground records as me. Interesting. Then after they went off, a great juke box and cheap beers. I was hooked.

What drew you to the club?

More like what drew me back to the club. I recently posted a photo of one of the cute bartenders at CBGB’s, a girl named Maureen with a Dee Dee bowl cut hairdo. She was the one who said to me one of those first nights, “You haven’t heard the Ramones? They’re playing next weekend.” Seeing that’s gonna draw you back. Then Blondie, then Talking Heads. A club with a bunch of great people to hang with. How could I not keep going back? And once I decided to start taking pictures, I was on a mission. And I was back almost every night for three years.

Who were your favorite acts to shoot?

The Ramones were my favorite. I can still recreate in my mind The Ramones playing a 4 day weekend—2 sets a night—in 1977. Me photographing almost every set. The Ramones were so much fun. And CBGB’s was such a fun and perfect place to shoot in. Hilly gave me total access. And then hanging out on the street was fun too. What a time.

Are there any acts that you didn’t shoot, and wish you had?

By the time I got to NYC, Television with Richard Hell had already happened. Would have loved to have shot that.

Your personal top 5 favorite photographers?

On the scene or all photographers? There are so many good ones.
Biggest influences: Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand, Walker Evans, Brassai.
Rock Photogs: Roberta Bayley, Jim Marshall, Jerry Schatzberg, Pennie Smith, Daniel Kramer.

For information on how you can assist in funding David Godlis’ limited edition CBGB Punk Photos by Godlis, 1976-1979: The Book, please visit the Kickstarter campaign page.

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