From The Desk Of The Jigsaw Seen: CBGB

The co-founder of the Jigsaw Seen 25 years ago (alongside ace guitarist Jonathan Lea), former all-Maryland high-school soccer player Dennis Davison gets his exercise these days as a professional dog-walker. Strolling L.A.’s concrete canyons gives him ample time to do what he does best: write distinctively original lyrics and melodies that give off the mere whiff of former heroes such as the Bee Gees, Who and Love. Unlike previous albums, Old Man Reverb, Jigsaw’s fourth set of originals in the past four years, has a unified sound running throughout. Davison and Lea will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the Jigsaw Seen.

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Lea: Growing up on the East Coast, my bandmates Dennis Davison and Tom Currier managed to play at the legendary club CBGB as teenagers. (On the West Coast, I could only read about it in Creem.) While Dennis would have to head back to Baltimore after a show, Tom lived in Manhattan and eventually befriended the club’s owner, Hilly Kristal. I’ve asked Tom to share some of his memories of this era:

“Hilly was a bear of a man, a physically imposing presence that belied his gentle nature. He nurtured bands not just by providing a performance outlet, but also by being a sponsor, inviting my band and many other bands to make demo recordings at the club and trying to get us record deals. It was exciting to be a regular weekend headliner, but to be taken under Hilly’s wing and hear him singing our songs as he walked around the club gave us real confidence. Getting rich wasn’t Hilly’s priority. The bands were paid fairly, and recording time and an engineer were provided for free. He did it on a handshake. I once asked him what a contract between us would look like, and in a deep, mellifluous voice he said, ‘It’ll look like a bunch of paper.’ Hilly was most interested in making and seeing something happen, and he succeeded in a big way.”

Ironically, the building where Mr. Kristal generously helped launch the careers of the Ramones, Blondie, Television, Patti Smith and many others is now a John Varvatos store, in the gentrified “upscale” Bowery, affordable only to the “blank check” generation.

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