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Vanished Venues: The Bottom Line

Monday, October 18, 2010

Opened in 1974 by Allan Pepper and Stanley Snadowsky, The Bottom Line was a cabaret-style venue that catered to fans and music industry honchos alike. We talk with Wall Street Journal music critic Jim Fusilli about the club's three-decade run at 15 West Fourth Street in Greenwich Village. And: share your own memory of The Bottom Line.


Today's Playlist:

1. "Spirit In The Night" - Bruce Springsteen

2. "She's So Tough" - Mink Deville

3. "Cat's In The Cradle" - Harry Chaplin

Photo by Peter Cunningham
The long line outside the Bottom Line, 1976.
Photo by Peter Cunningham
Leo Sayer and Richard Belzer filled The Bottom Line Between November 30 and December 2 of 1976.
Photo by Peter Cunningham
Charlie Rich at The Bottom Line

Photo by Peter Cunningham
Elvis Costello at The Bottom Line

Photo by Peter Cunningham
James Taylor at The Bottom Line

Photo by Peter Cunningham
Bruce Springsteen at The Bottom Line

Photo by Peter Cunningham
Hall and Oates at The Bottom Line

Photo by Tiffany Camhi.
The Bottom Line closed in 2004 after being unable to pay market-rate rent on the space. They are currently planning to reopen the venue in a different location.
Photo by Tiffany Camhi
Now, the building is part of New York University.
Photo by Peter Cunningham
The Bottom Line was located on the corner of West 4th Street and Mercer Street in the West Village.


Jim Fusilli

Comments [33]

King Cobra Jet from oswego co. N.Y.

Made a tape off WOUR F.M. in 76 or7 of Muddy Waters Sun Seals and Johnny Winter.Still got it, anybody see this great performance ?

Jan. 29 2016 03:15 PM
Patti Jones from Canada

I worked there '76 through 77 and it was incredibly interesting. The staff were great especially Margie Alvarez and Donna. Acoustics were great and so are my memories. The venue was conducive to intimacy with the musicians but never suffocating.

Jul. 27 2015 05:45 PM
George Simpson from United States

I used to work at Sirius Satellite Radio on an old, gone channel called the Border. Once in a while, Meg Griffin would send me down to MC a show. It was a privilege to stand on that stage. Quite a thrill for an old mountain man from Vermont.

Jan. 07 2015 03:50 PM
Linda Kenny from Charlotte, NC

Back in 1974, my best friend was Lucy Deforeest. Her husband Bruce and brother in law John Geier helped build the Bottom Line. I remember opening night for the private showing starred Patti LaBelle. Bruce said if she could not break their sound barrier, they were good. I met Alan and Stanley many times through the building process. I can not remember if they were and Lucy and Bruce's wedding?
Now, I am 60. Lucy, Bruce and John have passed and I miss them all. I had a dream last night about that place in time and hope that if Alan and Stanley are still on the planet that they are well and happy.
God bless, Linda Kenny

Nov. 10 2013 01:05 PM
3-D BOB from Bronx, NY

Loved this place ! I was there for the opening week and caught every show of the Fabulous Dr. John, early and late. The fact it was just about the music made it a pleasure to go there. The late shows were the great shows ! Many musicians would be in the audience as they would hit it when their gigs were over. Tower of Power would blow the place apart while Gentle Giant would be in the audience going nuts. The Blues guys were the best Albert king, Freddie King, Buddy guy, you name it. Many times you would be sitting next to Bill Graham or Clive Davis. lots of music business guys. They had eclectic line ups, Sleepy John Estes opening for Weather Report was great. but the best show Ever was Count Basie and his full orchestra burning the place down one night in '76. It was like the Queen Mary ocean liner squeezed into a phone booth !!! What a place !!

Jun. 22 2012 02:08 AM
tomato tomato from NYC


the words I read, the first words I read above the bathroom stall that was just puked in, drank a shot and a beer, my band that later named Springwheel, which consisted of Stuffy Capobianco, drummer Josh Kates, and Rob Terry sat in on bass, We had an hour to play, we sold 50 tickets at a buck to get the room; set but a setup problem resulted in a three song medley of Stuffy;s originals that we never rehearsed together, no recording and I got a parking ticket for $75 bucks. No of which would could save the SPRINGWHEEL, maybe if demand I'll drop it on itunes like the BEatles....peace, Also played every other club on Bleeker Street that would let us the Sumer of 1994, TWELVETOMATO.

Nov. 19 2010 02:35 AM
Ed "I Kissed The Pope" Hickey from Irvington NY

I worked at The Bottom Line from September 1976 until September 1977. AND, I went to two Bruce Springsteen shows in 1974, on "walk in" tickets. While I worked there, I saw so many great concerts, and as Russell wrote above, got a great education in jazz. ( Russell W, of the Sic Fu*s, is that you?)
Best memories: Lights were down, Patti Smith started singing "Because The Night", lights came up, and the guy playing piano was Springsteen. The cast of "Saturday Night Live" would show up. Going to the Dolly Parton after show party at Windows of the World, and riding up with Mick Jagger. It wasn't all fun, but a lot of good memories. John Curtin, the head host, would give autographs as Meatloaf. John,where are you?

Oct. 21 2010 06:02 PM
Gina from NYC

Saw a lot of shows there when I was in grad school. Many times I would walk over to the box office in the afternoon and get a ticket for the same night. Saw Taj Majal there twice, Jane Siberry many times, an Idiot's Delight 'In Their Own Words' show. And Michelle Shocked, summer of 1993. In the middle of a song, she stopped to ask if it was after midnight because it was her first wedding anniversary. She dragged her husband on stage to celebrate.

Oct. 21 2010 03:14 PM
J Howard from NYC

I worked at the BL in the late 70s –started in the kitchen with John the Chef but quickly got moved to the floor when my lack of culinary skills was discovered. Fine by me – that’s where I could watch the shows – and what a great experience that was. My favorite shows from that time include: Dire Straits, Philip Glass (playing music from Einstein on the Beach – phenomenal!), The Police, George Thorogood & the Destroyers, Peter Tosh, The Roaches, Garland Jeffreys, The Tourists (pre Eurythmics), Prince, The Tom Robinson Band, Clannad, Joe Jackson (looking sharp), Dexter Gordon (who seemed to always think that the 8:30 show started at 10:30), John Cougar Mellencamp (at that time, performed as John Cougar – he was second on the bill to Tracy Nelson who canceled that night b/c she was sick – maybe 40 people in the audience – great show with John running all over the room having fun.), Willy DeVille, Lowell George, The Shirts, Pat Benetar, Steve Forbert, and, or course, The ‘Be Stiff’ tour – a group show of Stiff Records artists (Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Rachel Sweet, etc) I recall how the English band, The Fabulous Poodles (I think it was them), scheduled to have their show broadcast live on WNEW, had their equipment stolen the night before and, instead, had to do an acoustic set with borrowed equipment.

For me, though, the most memorable shows at that time were the Lou Reed shows – you never knew what was going to happen as the room was always way-too-packed, electric, and potentially combustible – great stuff.

As for what happened to these venues, later, as I recall, when they first came to New York, the more-know artists (The Clash, semi-big at that time Adam Ant, etc.) started to play larger venues like the Palladium instead of the BL. And then, of course, in ’81, MTV started broadcasting, which really changed how artists were introduced.

Oct. 21 2010 02:46 PM
Ken Shane from Springfield, NJ

I don't know what venue some of these haters went to, but it surely wasn't the Bottom Line that I knew and loved. It was simply the best music venue that I've ever been to, and in my line of work I've been to a lot of them.

Memorable shows were the legendary Bruce Springsteen shows in 1975, Todd Rundgren's "Back to the Bars" tour, and several Buddy and Julie Miller shows.

Oct. 18 2010 09:29 PM
steve taylor from Brooklyn

I played the Bottom Line a few times beginning in 1984 with my band (the Fugs). It was a great venue. When the show aired, I was driving, so I didn't call in with a comment, but I really wanted to respond to what one of the guests said. He seemed to be saying that venues like Max's and the BL went out of business because the music outgrew the smaller venues. But there were, of course, economic factors. I remember being at the BL before a gig and talking with Charlie Rothschild, a veteran agent promoter of NY music since the early 60s. He was saying that the reason there were so few medium-sized venues between the dive bars and the big halls was the cost of insurance. Great show. I listen every day. Thank you.

Oct. 18 2010 05:09 PM

I saw Lowell George with a couple of
Little Feat band members about a week
or two before he died. He was one of my
all-time favorite rock singers.

Oct. 18 2010 03:03 PM
Abigail from Brooklyn

I grew up in the New York in the 70's and although I have very many special memories of shows at the Bottom Line---the Police, 10,000 Maniacs, Poi Dog Pondering and Lucinda Williams, the sad truth is that the Bottom Line had a terrible reputation as an exploitative, horrible place to work and to play. My family and friends have always been artists and musicians and there was no club in New York that was more dreaded as a venue---the hustle for the terrible drinks was intense, the vibe was awful, the sound appalling. The waitresses were unsalaried and abused which made them grumpy. I loved the bands but I have no nostalgia for the Bottom Line---which always seemed so aptly named, as that was their main concern.

Oct. 18 2010 02:44 PM
a g from n j

a lot of comments sound like people missing the forrest for the trees. truth be told,i was so focused on the music,i did not really care about food,pillars,creepy weirdo psycho whatevers'. i got a nice present,i didn't give a bloody how the wrapping looked,or if it was given to me with a smile or not.

Oct. 18 2010 02:44 PM
Sharon from Clark, NJ

Every Thanksgiving I found myself there with friends to see Buster Poindexter and then we followed him and the band around in the conga line.

Oct. 18 2010 02:38 PM
kp from nj

How about one in Jersey... The Meadowbrook in Cedar Grove. It was 'the' place in the early 1980's for new bands, especially 'new wave'. I was there nearly every Friday night for years. U2 was the biggest future star I saw there, but I also saw Eurythmics, Flock of Seagulls, Robert Palmer, Duran Duran, Robert Gordon, The Waitresses, Stray Cats, Romeo Void, Oingo Boingo, Romantics. Peter Gabriel, Ramones, Pete Shelley.....

Oct. 18 2010 02:38 PM
Sharon in LIC from LIC, NY

Saw great concerts and among the ones that stand out were Laura Nyro in a red dress with red roses on a shiny black piano, Roy Buchanan who came in quietly, got on stage and said he was going to "rock our brains out", Tim Hardin and oh, so many others.

Oct. 18 2010 02:37 PM
dan oppenheimer from Long Island

The Bottom Line was unusual in that it was a music venue -- not a hang-out, not a scene, not a celebrity spot. It wasn't ahead of the curve, trend-setting or exclusive; the food was "fast", the seating was hit-or-miss. But oh man, the music was always the focus, typically great sound work at less brain-cruching volumes than CBGB or Max's, groups up-and-coming, or down-but-not out, solo, acoustic, electric, big, little, famous and not. It was, as RW has mentioned, a great jazz venue, but also blues, Brit pop, reggae and folk. It could be seen as a legacy of the best radio mixes from the 60's and early 70's when you could hear almost any style of music at one time or another.

Oct. 18 2010 02:36 PM
a g from n j

wnew-changed because of media consolidation,as much as changing tastes,don't you think?

Oct. 18 2010 02:36 PM
Diedrich Knickerbocker from Manhattan

My wife and I went on our first date to the Bottom Line. The show was NRBQ in around 1982. She didn't want to go and turned me down and then reconsidered. We are still together. Another great memory was seeing a young K.D. Lang open for Warren Zevon.

Oct. 18 2010 02:35 PM
Vincenzo from Plainfields NJ

Before a tear is even wasted over the demise of the Bottom Line, let's remember that the place was run by two of the biggest skinflints that ever operated
(recall how the waitresses always look so stressed..and how mundane the food was,not to mention the cheap chairs and tables).The only reason the club lasted so long was the subsidy as a showcase from then flush record industry! Sure there were many great great shows--but that was due more to record company A&R guys and publicity departments than
the clubowners--who no doubt "skimmed" the place to death!!AND people who were willing to overlook the discomfort!!

Oct. 18 2010 02:33 PM
Ken Braun from Nutley, NJ

For my ears' worth, the Bottom Line was the best-sounding small concert venue in New York. But if you were sitting on the side or behind a piller, the view wasn't great.

Oct. 18 2010 02:32 PM
Lindsey Horner from NYC

I first went to the Bottom Line to hear the great John McLaughlin and his acoustic Indian fusion band, Shakti, at the age of about 16. It was a life changing experience and the first of scores of shows of all kinds of music that I took in there. When I became a musician myself and played there with several different artists, I really felt that I had grown up and in a sense, arrived. When the place closed, I felt that a key part of my youth was gone forever.

Oct. 18 2010 02:32 PM
Ken from Little Neck

Thanks to having very strange musical tastes, I spent much of my teenage years at the Bottom Line with my father learning about different kinds of music and seeing some wonderful acts that just didn't come around all that often. We were devastated when it closed down.

Oct. 18 2010 02:31 PM
MythicStreet from NYC

There was much great music at the Bottom Line, but it was run in a creepy way. So many bad vibes--from trying to reinvent the definition of "gross" in their settlements to just charging musicians to bring in a cup of coffee from outside world. They even cooked up the idea, now copied by other venues, to present fake benefits--charging legit charities big $ to rent the room, while expecting all musicians to appear for free. Not missing it!

Oct. 18 2010 02:26 PM
a g from n j

i remember dizzy gillespie at the bottom line,early 80's. someone in the crowd yelled,how come they call you dizzy. diz' stoped for a sec,looked serious and retorted, "because that's what your moma named me". he broke the house up,we were all in stitches. great memory.

Oct. 18 2010 02:21 PM

The Bottom Line was great because of its ecclectic program. I remember seeing Captain Beefheart, Devo, and then a memorable Sonny Rollins concert there way back. At the Devo show, there was a rustle through the crowd as we turned to see Joni Mitchell in beret and cape emerging from the darkness. Even though we were herded out quickly after each show like we were cattle, I'm sorry it's gone. Good music, cheap prices!

Oct. 18 2010 02:19 PM
Frank Grimaldi from New York

As a kid, I always tagged along with my older sisters to go to the Bottom Line.
I saw The Rasberries, The Eric Burdon Band, The Hello People, Janis Ian, Laura Nyro, Leo Sayer, The Hollies, The Tubes and of course, Bruce Springsteen who walked down a line of tables from the stage. Those were the days he sang "She's A Rebel," and before "Born To Run." The thing I remember most about the Bottom Line was their brownies - they were the best!!!

Oct. 18 2010 02:17 PM
Chuck from NJ/NYC

Have worked at Wetlands, Knitting Factory...gone/changed

My favorite, most frequented NYC venue 70-80's ... THE BOTTOM ( Bitter End runner up)

Paul's Mall, Jazz Workshop along with the Bolyston St Theater (Boston) was/were my intro to quality small venues

There should be law: no concert halls over 500 seats!

Oct. 18 2010 02:07 PM
a g from n j

shame on nyu forever,for pulling plug on,"the bottom line". shame on real estate jackal/goons,whose only perogative is filthy lucre. push out the artists,and over time we will get club "duane-reade" and "chase" coffe shop,where i guess the people who caused this mess can hang, while the rest of us are banished to brazilia del norte............

Oct. 18 2010 02:04 PM
Jim McLaughlin from Bedminster, NJ

One of my all time favorite venues. I have so many fond memories of shows there.

The one that sticks out most is Peter Gabriel Oct 4, 1978. Robert Fripp joined in on the encores.

Oct. 18 2010 10:56 AM
Matt N. from NYC

I remember seeing the Roches there at least a half dozen times. They were a staple at the place. I think they played at least two shows every month through the eighties. All great performances, and a perfect venue for them.

Oct. 18 2010 10:01 AM
Russell from NYC

I worked at "the Line" for over ten years, in two stints through the 1970s and 1990s. While I always had mixed feelings about the venue, I have to say I received a fantastic music education---particularly in jazz (I got to shake Charles Mingus' hand my first night working there in 1976)---there.

As an example of the club's eclectisim, I would have to say my three favorite shows there were Dolly Parton, Television, and Sun Ra.

Oct. 17 2010 07:14 AM

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