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

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  157 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Based in part on 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 i ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Chicago Review Press
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Showing 1-30
3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  157 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Lawrence A
When I saw the title of this book, I nearly plotzed. I became a punk/new wave fan in 1976-1977, during my freshman year at Brandeis, when my classmate Neil Kaplan (younger brother of Ira Kaplan, the soon-to-be-frontman of Yo La Tengo), played me the compilation record "Live From CBGB's" and Television's "Marquee Moon," the latter of which quickly became one of my 2 or 3 favorite records of all time (see, e.g., my profile picture on Goodreads, in which I'm wearing the cover art of that album on m ...more
I read this at the same time I read Please Kill Me, and that’s actually something I think everyone should do. Or, if you are not someone who reads multiple books at once, you should read these close together. They complement one another extremely well. That one’s the oral history, the dirt and the gossip and who’s fucking whom in which bathroom while on what drugs; this one is the background, the influences, the history and the culture that made that other book possible. (While you're at it, rea ...more
Jon Yates
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
Starts out making a somewhat interesting argument about the influence of Jewish culture on Punk before devolving into all sorts of speculation and some fairly insulting, preposterous notions (Nazi-obsessed Ramones Johnny and Dee Dee are de facto Jews because they grew up in as minorities in a largely Jewish enclave...according to Beeber, being alienated or marginalized in any way is synonymous with Jewdom). The turning point comes when Richard Hell (ne Myers) objects to being included (he was ra ...more
NYLon Carry On
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Jewish punk! Who knew!? I'd never thought about it, or noticed it before... But, yeah, punk is a Jew thang!

Great interviews.

Very well written. Never boring. And, I LEARNED SO MUCH!!!
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been wanting to read this for almost 10 years, and it was only at the end of last year that I finally managed to get hold of a copy. Two copies, to be precise: a book I got via interlibrary loan and a new purchase. Imagine how excited I was.

And what can I say: it was well worth the wait. As expected, I wasn’t too happy with the chapter on English punk and how non-American contributions in general are downplayed or neglected. (I recently stumbled across the Peruvian proto-punk band The Saico
Jan 24, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The best thing about this book is the title - it's quite witty. Trying to convince readers that if it wasn't for Judaism, Lenny Bruce or Hitler, there wouldn't have been punk rock, or that if he hadn't been Jewish, Joey Ramone wouldn't have become the Godfather of punk is a real stretch. In fact, most of the book reads like a compendium of castoff lines from Seinfeld or Shecky Greene - "it's our musicality and punkishness that has sustained us as a people for 2000 years. . . " The Yiddish expres ...more
Mar 09, 2009 rated it liked it
You know that feeling you have when, say, you know someone well, but then you meet their family and they make sense, have a context? I felt like this book did that for the New York (ans a bit of the British) punk scene. It showed how many of these people were already apart from mainstream society before they ever became musicians. Plus, I loved the quotes from these rockstars where they used Yiddish.
Alysia Abbott
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Steven Beeber has written the music book I've been waiting to read. From Lou Reed (ne Lou Rabinowitz) to Blondie's Chris Stein, Punk Rock's Jewish roots are vitally important but have been too long ignored. Beeber has the music scholarship and the writing chops to create a vital and compelling read. I couldn't put it down! The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's is a must have for every serious music lover.
Sherri Machlin
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
It was so enjoyable to learn some of the historical background and theories behind the slam dance between Jews and Punk Rock! Growing up as a suburban Jewish NY teen, I was nourished by The Ramones, Blondie, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, countless other bands- your book was a unique take on the post-modern Jewish experience.
Mercer Smith
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This star rating is for the content of the book rather than the book itself. I learned a lot by reading and got much deeper insights into this culture. But, my god, is the author smug as get out. It was torturous to read in places because he was so full of himself.
Mar 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
The main argument found in Steven Lee Beeber’s Heebie Jeebies is hinged on two main points: First, Jewish Americans played a pivot role in the formation of not only the punk rock movement, but in American and Western music as a whole. Second, that this is an overlooked secret. To the first part I say: duh; and to the second I say… well I guess it’s not such a secret. I was unaware that not only scholars, but people in general were ignorant to the prominence of Jewish Americans in music history a ...more
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: nobody
i really tried to like this book, especially since the subject matter is very near and dear to my heart! but frankly i was very disappointed, most of the material seems like a rehashing of what i had read in Please Kill Me except this author is trying to convince you of his theory that Judaism played a key role in the creation of punk. of course i want to buy into this theory with every ounce of my heart, but the poor writing, repetitiveness of each chapter and some sort of naivete that comes fr ...more
Music Guy
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
FIVE STARS for this bold and surprising read. Through a combination of original interviews and archival research, Beeber uncovers the hidden-in-plain sight Jewish origins of American punk rock, wittily examining the lives and lyrics of artists such as Lou Reed, the Ramones, and Jonathan Richman (the Modern Lovers). Carefully researched and compulsively readable.
Jun 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Thought I knew a lot about punk 'til I read this book. It's fascinating, but the last few chapters lag compared to the earlier ones. The book inspired me to rummage through itunes trying to find those albums/artists that interested me most. A must-read for music fans!
Jun 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Be you Jew, punk, or neither, a terribly entertaining and muscular read.
Aug 01, 2016 added it
Oy, those sweet little bar mitzvah pictures.
It was kind of like a punk game of Jew-not-a-Jew. Loved it.
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Punk rock fans, jewish scholars
I went through a Punk Rock phase a long time ago, never fully realized that it was largely a Jewish movement. Very well written and insightful.
Jan 30, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: didn-t-finish
I've just begun the book...although I have already flipped through it. Fascinating to see what musicians "real" names are. I'll be back...:)
Rishon Blumberg
Oct 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Jun 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I'll start by saying I loved reading this. It taught me a ton I didn't know about Jews in punk (obviously) as well as punk in general, a genre I like and have listened to a fair amount of but is a subject in which I'm not really educated at all. (For example, I was sure that the Sex Pistols formed before the Ramones, but that was wrong.) More than just knowledge though, it also gave me a fresh appreciation for the genre.

At some point in my life I knew Joey Ramone was Jewish, since I recently re-
Dec 29, 2017 rated it did not like it
I was SO EXCITED for this topic, and I was equally disappointed. I struggled to get through the intro, and couldn't finish the first chapter. The author makes assertions and rather than explaining them with facts/evidence/research/etc just kind of 'explains' them with further barely connected assertions. I would do anything for someone to take this topic on again who is a better writer, or has even the slightest bit of academic inclination or... really it felt like anything could have improved t ...more
Antonije Mirović
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 10, 2016 rated it liked it
The musician cast is the same as in McNeil and McCain's "Please Kill Me" but instead of entertaining the reader with stories of punks and pre-punks shooting up on the stairs, getting the clap, cross dressing, and stabbing Nancy Spungen, this book argues that the Jewish background of the subjects is responsible for Punk as a significant aesthetic and cultural movement. Given the stories recounted in "Please Kill Me" it seems like a stretch to say that Jewish influence is somehow to be blamed for ...more
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Steven Beeber interviewed scores of NY punk/new wave scenesters (including pre-, post-, etc.) about the influence of Jewish-American culture. This is good stuff: it turns out that for some of these people there was an influence, & it's been little-discussed previously. Now for the book's flaws...

The editing is sound as far as grammar & fact-checking goes but readability would have been improved by simply crossing out the many repetitions of anecdotes, descriptions, phrases & quotes,
Apr 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: music fans, punk fans, history buffs
I like punk, but I'm not Jewish. Let me start off my review that way.

I've read a good deal about being Jewish, and I have many friends who are Jewish, but it's hard to see punk being the domain of anyone other than the socially, or emotionally, alienated, regardless of ethnicity.

The foundation of this theory is a bit shaky - The Ramones were undeniably punk, but others he cites as 'major' influences were minor; or rather, they were major influences in the New York punk scene, but not London's, o
Sep 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Like many other reviewers, I too really wanted to agree with the argument of this book. I think the premise is flawed, though. As Beeber says over and over in the book "According to Lenny Bruce, if you're Catholic in NYC, you're Jewish" (paraphrasing). It's easy to conflate being Jewish and being a New Yorker. But, the sound and attitude were first cultivated by the MC5, Stooges, and lesser-known Death - all from Detroit and none Jewish. Okay, their manager was Jewish - it's a far cry to say his ...more
Oct 15, 2012 rated it liked it
An analysis of Punk rock that takes the position that Punk sprang from Jewish angst. Beeber covers Jewish influences such as Lenny Bruce and Lou Reed as founding reasons for a subsequent wave of Jewish punk rockers. While Joey Ramone, Richard Hell, Chris Stein just to name a few were Jewish this seems a forced dissertation for a movement that had to happen. Disco, prog rock and self indulgent arena rock (with those endless drum solos)were the real cause of Punk. That some of Punk's best were fro ...more
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