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

Steven Lee Beeber
  • Review
By – March 30, 2012

When Hee­bie Jee­bies crossed my desk, I was intrigued by the premise: how Judaism as a faith and tra­di­tion influ­enced the peo­ple respon­si­ble for mak­ing my scene what it was. 

Any­one who’s seen a Woody Allen movie can tell you that self-loathing and guilt are very much a part of Jew­ish life. What’s also a part of that same cul­ture is the abil­i­ty to use art, music, and dark humor to sur­vive and tran­scend. Punk is a cul­mi­na­tion of all of those things, tied togeth­er with a final ele­ment cru­cial to Jew­ish cul­ture – family.

In no oth­er place is this more appar­ent than in the sto­ry of The Dic­ta­tors, out­er-boro punks front­ed by Hand­some Dick Man­i­to­ba, whose borscht-belt, irrev­er­ent com­e­dy between songs endeared him to the ear­ly audi­ences and to Epic Records. But when the first album tanked, The Dic­ta­tors rebrand­ed them­selves as a more seri­ous” band, and their glow slow­ly faded…their thun­der seized by the Ramones. 

From Lou Reed to John Zorn, author Bee­ber weaves an intrigu­ing tale, with each chap­ter pulling the cov­ers off some of the most famous and infa­mous punks and show­ing how their Jew­ish her­itage and expe­ri­ence made them, and they made the music.

Bill Wil­son is the founder and Pres­i­dent of Black­out! Records, the high­ly respect­ed inde­pen­dent rock music label. He is a reg­u­lar colum­nist and con­tribut­ing edi­tor for the Indiehq weblog. He lives in Hobo­ken, NJ with his girl­friend and Lola, the world’s most cud­dly Amer­i­can Pit BullTerrier.

Discussion Questions