CBGB is a club with a worldwide reputation, but it started out as a tiny, dirty hole in the wall furnished entirely in wood. It opened in 1973 and quickly became a favorite destination for the artsy weirdos and outcasts of New York City. Although known as a punk club, and birthplace of The Ramones, it housed a diverse mix of mix, including Patti Smith’s art rock and later the Talking Heads new wave stylings. The most commercially succcessful band was Blondie, fronted by the iconic Debbie Harry. Cuepoint put together a wonderful history of the club with numerous high-res images and a link to a CBGB-inspired music playlist.
Our Hole in the Wall: An Oral History of the CBGB Scene
The MJQ nightclub was founded in 1994 by George Chang, a 6’4″ Swedish-Chinese party monster. He quickly cultivated hip cache with an eclectic mix of music, including lounge music, dub, jungle, acid jazz, retro-soul and trip-hop. Three years later he upgraded to a larger venue and became a cornerstone of Atlanta nightlife that is still going strong today. Creative Loafing provides an expansive two-part oral history of the club, providing fascinating anecdotes how the club actively evolved with the times in order to stay in business.
Late-night magic at MJQ: An oral history, Part I
Late-night magic at MJQ: An oral history, Part II
The Abbey started in 1991 in West Hollywood as a coffee shop before the coffee shop boom. It quickly became a prime spot for working lunches and meetups, catering to a primarily gay clientele, including rights groups. The shop took it to the next level, however, when it tackled nightlife like a caged hyena: Shirtless bartenders, go-go dancers of both sexes, and legendarily generous cocktails. Owner David Cooley takes credit for creating the appletini, which is apparently to die for. I’m thirsty.
Hollywood’s (Very, Very Wild) “Gay Cheers” Turns 25: An Oral History of The Abbey
The Playboy clubs, first launched in 1960 and peaking with over 1,000,000 members and 25,000 Bunnies, epitomized the mainstream “cool” nightclub of the 1960s. Hugh Hefner was able to leverage the cache from his gentleman’s magazine to the restaurant space, with chic bachelor decor and high-end food. And, of course, there were the Bunnies, one of the pre-eminent American sex symbols of the 20th century. Vanity Fair revisits the wildly successful nightclubs for some behind-the-scenes stories.
A Bunny Thing Happened: An Oral History of the Playboy Clubs
Bonus: Pictorial archive of the Playboy Clubs in the 1960s:
The Golden Age of the Playboy Club
Vanity Fair provides an oral history of the Tropicana, whose dreamy elegance attracted the glitterati like moth to a flame, including the likes of Marlon Brando and John F. Kennedy. Besides recalling the glory days, the piece also covers the effect of Fidel Castro’s revolution and the current state of the still-functioning club.
All Havana Broke Loose: An Oral History of Tropicana
1992 proved to be a fortuitous time to start a rock club in Chicago as the city started churning out quality alt-rock bands at a rapid clip, and the decidedly low-brow Empty Bottle hosted all of them at one time or another. The club holds a special place in the heart of many Chicagoans and the Chicago Reader provides some quality anecdotes from bands and bar staff in excerpts from a 2016 book on the club.
An oral history of the Empty Bottle
The Motor Lounge didn’t last a decade, but its run as a premier techno club is well worth chronicling. All of Detroit’s techno royalty played the club numerous times, and quality outside talent eventually joined the fun. The principals reflect on the highs and lows of the frantic run.
Nightclubbing: An Oral History of Detroit’s Motor