Remembering the Bottom Line: Albums Recapture NYC Club's Storied Heyday

In January 1978, I moved to New York from Philadelphia to work at a free Long Island weekly, Good Times. I soon hit the pavement for my first, long night of music in Manhattan with my new editor and immediate friend, future Rolling Stone and MTV journalist Kurt Loder. Our first stop was the midtown offices of Mercury Records. The label was throwing a party for the great roots-and-party band NRBQ and their latest album, At Yankee Stadium, actually a studio record. The cuisine was appropriate: hot dogs served from a Sabrett street cart.

Kurt and I finished the evening on the Bowery — at Great Gildersleeves, where we saw a flamboyant glam-prog act, Novac, a.k.a. Phantom of the Organ; and at CBGB, in time for very late sets by the Nails, four years ahead of their New Wave hit "88 Lines About 44 Women" and singer-songwriter Steve Forbert, then on the verge of issuing his debut LP, Alive on Arrival. But in between the franks and the flaming barrels dotting the Bowery sidewalk, there was the Bottom Line, a 400-capacity club at West 4th and Mercer Streets, where I sat 10 feet away from Muddy Waters, then 64, as he fired his still-feral electric-Chicago mojo around the room.

Founded by Allan Pepper and Stanley Snadowsky, the Bottom Line opened in February 1974 and became a nexus of local rock & roll life: a Fillmore East–meets–the Stork Club where Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith played career-defining stands in 1975 and the stars at the tables often outnumbered those on stage. Lou Reed taped his famously scabrous live album, Take No Prisoners, at the Bottom Line in May 1978, and ex–New York Doll David Johansen's explosive bow as a solo artist that July was simulcast from the club, then issued as a collectible promo LP.

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