The best bands that played CBGB in the mid-1970s — the ones with pizzazz, songs, looks and ambition — were corralled by major labels. Now that New York’s Bowery is no longer a moonlit sewer, a few of those groups have been celebrated with career-spanning box sets. But they were the 1 percent; the others got Terry Ork, a gregarious bookstore manager who founded an eponymous label in 1975 to release Television’s first single. He soon had two investors but was an unreliable entrepreneur more interested in ”abusing heroin and having sex with young men,” according to the liner notes in new box set Ork Records: New York, New York.
The 49 songs include historic singles from Television and Richard Hell, influential alt-rock (unreleased Feelies, a mess of Alex Chilton) and lots of British-accented power pop, the best by The Revelons and The Student Teachers, who deserve to be remembered. Ork was a scoundrel and eventually a jailbird, but no one chronicled the undercard at CBGB better.