Back in the 1970s CBGBs was a rough bar. The Hell's Angels frequented the Bowery bar and no one challenged their claim to the punk rock venue, since the Angels scared off other asshole bikers, although not every night.
In 1978 a packed house of garage rock fans greeted the Cramps' debut and the Akron band performed, as if the world was diving into the sun at the coming of tomorrow.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Sunglasses After Dark, Strychnine, and a cover of the Trashmens' Surfer Bird highlighted the show. My hillbilly girlfriend danced to every tune like her veins flowed with moonshine. Alice wasn't white trash, but her West Virginia home wasn't far from the coal-mining hollows of Appalachia.
During the encore the scrawny saxist James Chance of the Contortions took the stage to fondle two Jersey biker chicks. Their boyfriends stood in the front row. Chance had a reputation for trouble and stuck out his tongue.
The girls thought he was funny.
The biker boys didn't see the humor and jumped onto the stage.
It was more a beating than a fight.
Chance was skin and bones and the biker had mechanic muscle. A solid right caught Chance on the nose and blood poured onto his dirty white shirt.
Eric Mitchell, b-movie actor extraordinaire, scrambled on stage to rescue his skinny friend. The part-Cherokee warned the biker to stop.
The band kept playing Surfing Bird.
Alice grabbed my arm to stop my joining them. I stayed with her. This wasn't my fight.
The biker looped a slow overhead right and his fist loudly impacted on Eric's nose. More blood splattered everywhere.
Merv the bouncer threw out the bikers.
They went without a struggle.
The 6-3 doorman looked like an Addams family member.
Even the Angels respected Merv. The former discus thrower was a tall man.
The next night Eric entered the bar with a black eye.
Chance sported the same badge of dishonor on both eyes.
That night the two were everyone's darlings, because at CBGB's there was never any shame about losing.