Finishing a Dead Thought
Yesterday I mentioned The Dead Boys and I didn’t have time to finish my thought so I’m coming back to it today even if I’m probably the only one who cares. As I mentioned, unless you’re a punk rock geek The Dead Boys are a half forgotten band from the mid to late 70’s NY punk scene. While they may pop up on an odd compilation and the name Stiv Bators or Cheetah Chrome might ring a bell, it’s likely that more people have heard Pearl Jam’s cover of their song “Sonic Reducer” than have actually heard The Dead Boys and that’s too bad because musically they still hold up pretty well.
There’s backstory here…The Dead Boys began in Cleveland as Rocket From the Tombs but RFTT eventually fizzled and split, guitarist Cheetah Chrome and drummer Johnny Blitz took the band’s songs and looked to start a new band while the other half of RFTT formed Pere Ubu. The new Chrome/Blitz band included singer Stiv Bators, bass player Jeff Magnum and Jimmy Zero on second guitar and was called Frankenstien but it also went nowhere until The Ramones pulled into Cleveland and the band realized that their Stooges inspired rock might find an audience in New York. With the help of The Ramones, the band booked some gigs in NY under the new name The Dead Boys.
The band was right, New York was the place for them and they became a key part of the downtown scene. With the benefit of hindsight you can say that the arrival of The Dead Boys changed the scene completely, prior to their arrival you had the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television etc…all who were creating something while maintaining a healthy respect for what came before them. After all, if you strip down the guitar and drums the Ramones best songs are catchy songs you can sing along to, they are basically the Shirelles in leather jackets, Television owes a huge debt to jazz and (gasp!) prog-rock while the Talking Heads not only built on the sound of The Modern Lovers, they took a member of the band (Jerry Harrison).
The Dead Boys biggest influence was The Stooges and they took the Stooges nihilism to new levels and added the violence and excess that would become identified (incorrectly) as “punk rock”. The image of the Dead Boys as dangerous brought with it a lot of notoriety and a lot of other lesser bands followed their lead both in NY and elsewhere. Things devolved quickly and punk became less about a do it yourself ethic and more about the safety pins, mohawks and other things that you still see kids wearing. It would be unfair to say that The Dead Boys are responsible for the bastardization of punk but I think they represent the point when things shifted and it’s a shame because it shouldn’t have been that way, The Dead Boys were really a decent band, that should have been able to find an audience without creating an image listen to their first record “Young Loud and Snotty” and judge them for yourself or see the clip below.
In addition here’s a song (Click to download)