The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB`s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk Book

The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB`s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk by Steven lee beeber

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Based in part on the recent interviews with more than 125 people—among them Tommy Ramone, Chris Stein (Blondie), Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith Group), Hilly Kristal (CBGBs owner), and John Zorn—this book focuses on punk’s beginnings in New York City to show that punk was the most Jewish of rock movements, in both makeup and attitude. As it originated in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early 1970s, punk rock was the apotheosis of a Jewish cultural tradition that found its ultimate expression in the generation born after the Holocaust. Beginning with Lenny Bruce, “the patron saint of punk,” and following pre-punk progenitors such as Lou Reed, Jonathan Richman, Suicide, and the Dictators, this fascinating mixture of biography, cultural studies, and musical analysis delves into the lives of these and other Jewish punks—including Richard Hell and Joey Ramone—to create a fascinating historical overview of the scene. Reflecting the irony, romanticism, and, above all, the humor of the Jewish experience, this tale of changing Jewish identity in America reveals the conscious and unconscious forces that drove New York Jewish rockers to reinvent themselves—and popular music.

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Steven lee beeber

A book by Steven lee beeber

Steven Lee Beeber is a writer and editor who also plays saxophone and worked with bands such as the Chowder Shouters, a gospel-punk bank in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a frequent contributor to a variety of magazines and is the editor of Awake: A Reader for the Sleepless, an anthology featuring fiction, comics, essays, poetry, found texts, and other material for insomniac readers. In The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB`s: A Secret History of Jewish Punk, Beeber reconsiders the origins of punk rock, the rebellious musical genre of the mid-1970s characterized by Mohawk haircuts, safety-pin piercings, and defiant attitudes. Beeber challenges the conventional theories of punk`s origins in England and instead asserts that it developed from the efforts of Jewish performers, club owners, and producers in New York and America. “Beeber discloses that prime movers in creating, supporting, and popularizing punk were Jews,” noted Benjamin Segedin in Booklist. Based on more than 125 interviews with musicians and other sources, the book identifies a Jewish lineage for punk that begins with irreverent comic Lenny Bruce and continues through some of the genre`s most influential participants, including Lou Reed, Joey and Tommy Ramone, Chris Stein of Blondie, and the Beastie Boys. Beeber also finds it significant that one of the most influential and iconic music clubs of the time, the storied CBGB`s, was owned by a Jewish man, Hilly Kristal. Beeber assembles dozens of “interesting biographical sketches of the preeminent Jewish punks, rather astutely placing the punk rockers among the pantheon of Jewish entertainers,” observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Beeber also addresses one of punk rock`s most controversial aspects: the embracing of Nazi imagery and symbolism. He finds this behavior to be in no way an endorsement of Nazism, but is instead a means of removing the power from these symbols through overexaggerated acceptance. Nazi symbols not only fed punk rock`s inherent need for rebellion, but also expressed “the intention of disrespecting Nazism by mocking the“ failed seriousness ”of these same symbols,” commented Sam Jemielity in Playboy.

“So songs such as the Dictators `` Master Race Rock `or the Ramones` `Blitzkrieg Bop` are not disrespectful of Jews, but a joke — perhaps unsophisticated and in poor taste — mocking Nazism, ”Jemielity stated. “With equal parts spirit and scholarship, Beeber succeeds in placing this still-influential music within a broader historical and cultural context, and assures that punk`s `secret history` is a secret no more,” concluded Reneée Graham in the Boston Globe. Library Journal contributor Matthew Moyer commented that “strong writing and even stronger subject matter keep one enthralled” with Beeber`s historical account.

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