The Heebie Jeebies At CBGBs

The Heebie Jeebies At CBGBs

“The Heebie Jeebies At CBGBs – A Secret History Of Jewish Punk”

Steven Lee Beeber

Jeez! I know…I know…not another damn book on ye olde punke rock…yaaaaawn. Well then, hold up fer a second bub…cos I guarantee that this here spunky hardback volume is so gloriously wigged out and totally off the wall that it’ll (almost) make ya remember why ya went apeshit fer all that malarkey in the first place. See, unlike the usually dayglo, cut’n’paste, shoddy ‘I did it my way’ slab of lame ass money grabbing revisionist claptrap, this here book actually does have something brand spanking new to say, exploring for the very first time in print (at least that I’m aware of!) the impact and influence of the Jewish faith and culture on 70’s US (and UK!) punk…

Hardly sounds like a laff riot huh? And it ain’t something I’d actually have ever thunk about before – but credit where it’s due as author Steven Lee Beeber grabs your attention right from the get go and never lets up for a moment. Thankfully too, as ya mighta twigged from the somewhat irreverent title, this ain’t no dusty academic work neither. Drawing on over 125 new interviews with such movers and shakers as Lenny Kaye, Hilly Kristal, Tommy Ramone, Chris Stein and Malcolm McLaren - Beeber digs deep, uncovering and illuminating the twisted skein of influences that both inspired and alienated so many young post-holocaust Jewish kids, creating a unique wise ass outsider attitude and persona that found an ideal outlet and means of self expression in Noo Yawk punk.

Though sceptical at first, I did find myself swayed by Beeber’s persuasive prose - and on reflection - it really IS kinda amazing just how many of punks original prime movers came from a Jewish background. Refreshingly, Beeber doesn’t shy away from difficult questions: like why so many flirted unashamedly with Nazi imagery - and he don’t tar everyone with the same brush either - admitting that whilst some embraced their Jewish heritage willingly, others ignored or were embarrassed by it and some flat out denied it.

Whilst he concentrates on the late 70’s US scene in the main, there is also a wealth of illuminating new material on UK punk too - with some particularly fascinating material from the often-tedious Malcolm McLaren and others. F’rinstance, did you know Clasher Mick Jones was Jewish? Nope! Me neither? And for completists/anal retentives - there are also some previously unseen photographs that will floor ya!

OK - for my money it’s all mebbe a little too glib at times - and Beeber does tend to try to shoehorn a few too many square pegs into round holes - but overall I do gotta say that this is one of the most insightful and thought provoking books I’ve read in an age – and whether or not you agree or disagree with the writer, it certainly does offer up a whole new perspective on 70’s punk - which is something I ain’t come across for a long, long time. And that can’t be bad - so check it out!

Brian Young – tMx 28 – 01/07
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