Manhattan venue CBGB is remembered as the prototypical punk-rock hole in the wall, and an incubator for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame talents the Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie. Yet in the bigger picture, one of the most influential dive bars in music history made sense for Alan Jackson‘s first New York stop since 9/11, in 2002.
CBGB stood for Country, Bluegrass and Blues (the oft-forgotten second half of its name, “& OMFUG,” was an acronym for “and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers”) — the genres that founder Hilly Kristal expected to book before punk rock and new wave offered cosmopolitan options to disco and arena rock. In fact, one of the earliest performers at the club after its 1973 opening was country artist Con Fullam.
In short, Jackson’s Feb. 6., 2002, CBGB appearance in support of his Drive album was more like a homecoming than a trip into hostile territory.
“This is like deja vu for me,” Jackson told Rolling Stone at the time. “This is the kind of place I was playing 10, 12 years ago … well, a lot nicer than some [laughs]. The kind of music that I make and the kind of entertainer I am I probably fit in better in a place like this than some of the bigger arenas that I play, where I just walk out there and sing. I’m just a singer and songwriter, but they try to put the lights and video around me and make me look exciting.”
Besides, Jackson’s biggest song at the time was the 9/11 tribute “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” and CBGB stood about two miles from Ground Zero.
“When it happened, I was just floored by it,” Jackson told Rolling Stone. “Like most people, I was just really devastated. I didn’t want to write or sing or do anything. Two weeks later, I wanted to write something. I didn’t want to write that patriotic song, but I didn’t want to forget about how I felt and how I knew other people felt that day. That thing came from heaven, or somewhere [snaps his fingers] in the middle of the night.
“Somebody asked Hank Williams about songwriting once, and he said that he just holds the pen — God writes the songs [laughs],” Jackson added. “Believe me, that’s the way I felt on this song.”
Flip through the photo gallery above to peek inside Jackson’s 2002 CBGB show.
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