Turns Out That CBGB is a Kip

Book: Black Swan Green

Author: David Mitchell

Music: The Tide is High

Composer/Artist: Blondie

We all thought, for years, my friends and I, that Blondie was Debbie (sorry, Deborah) Harry. We neither new nor cared that there was a band attached. Then the cooler ones realized she had a name of her own and the band was actually quite important in the whole scenario.

What a string of hits they had. She (feck the band) came to my attention with Denis. Or ‘Den-ee’ as it was exotically pronounced. When I found out it was spelt ‘Denis’ it led me, for a while, to assume she (feck the band) was French. She wasn’t, of course. Still isn’t, for that matter. Following that came Hanging on the Telephone, Heart of Glass, Sunday Girl, One Way or Another, Dreaming, Union City Blues, Call Me, Atomic, The Tide is High, and Rapture – all within three years. That’s 11 instantly recognizable pop classics in three years.

She was (and still is) American, of course. Unusually, she was in her early 30s when she hit the big time. Along with the Debbie Harry/Blondie confusion that’s probably the other thing that most guys of my generation remember. She and the band played regularly at CBGB in New York. When I first came to New York in the late 1980s, CBGB was no longer that nebula of punk and rock legends it had been in the 70s and early 80s but it was still a thrill for me to go there for a show by the band of the brother of a good friend. It turned out that CBGB was a really, dirty, unpleasant, stinking kip, as we would say in Ireland (Google it). I remember being stunned at how absolutely shitty this legendary punk venue was. I’m fairly sure that was the only time I ever went there.

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