Cleveland didn’t quite know what to make of the punk and subsequent new wave revolutions of the mid-to-late ’70s. There was a small but rabid underground scene that produced, but could not sustain punk greats, Dead Boys.
Dead Boys departed for New York and became mainstays at the now endangered CBGB’s, but Cleveland was where it all began and there is snarling magic in the air on the Northcoast once again with the announcement that a reunited Dead Boys will play a 30th Anniversary show on Halloween 2005 at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom.
The band features its original line-up of Johnny Blitz (John
Madansky), Cheetah Chrome (Gene O’Connor), Jeff Magnum (Jeff Halmagy), Jimmy Zero (William Wilden) and, being that it’s Halloween, the late Stiv Bators in spirit.
“We’re just gonna get up there and do what we always do” Cheetah Chrome explains. “People will either like it or they won’t but anyone who knows us knows we don’t give a shit what anyone thinks anyhow.”
Dead Boys frontman Stiv Bators, guitarist Jimmy Zero and bassist Jeff Magnum were looking for musicians in Cleveland in the summer 1975. Being fans of Iggy Pop they wanted to play Stooges covers and have fun. At that time guitarist Cheetah Chrome and drummer Johnny Blitz had just walked away from the seminal Rocket From the Tombs. The five formed a band called Frankenstein and their first gig was that Halloween.
Frankenstein did only four gigs total in Cleveland and were immortalized on a lone posthumous release, Eve Of The Dead Boys (Bomp), with three songs including “Sonic Reducer,” “High Tension Wire” and “Down In Flames.” The band found it hard to find gigs in Cleveland and soon broke-up only to reform again three months later in New York City, calling themselves Dead Boys.
Frank Mauceri of Smog Veil Records opines, “Today’s rock ‘n’ roll comets come and go. They quickly become remnants of the past, but Rocket From the Tombs were the Big Bang, and the resulting gamma-emiting constellations were, and are, Dead Boys and Pere Ubu. This gig, however, celebrates the primordial spew that came between the two. It’s the 30th anniversary of the first live sighting of the Dead Boys pre-cursor, Frankenstein, and it provides the rockologists in Cleveland a glimpse of what it was, and what it then became.”
Young Lound and Snotty was one of the first punk records released in the U.S. when it came out on Sire Records in 1977. I was a college radio music director at the time, and was stunned by the sheer nastiness of the whole production: the brutish album cover graphics, the vicious guitar of Cheeta Chrome, and googly-eyed Stiv Bators’ maniacally sneering vocals.
Snotty’s centerpiece “Sonic Reducer” is one of the true anthems of the punk era. Its ominous opening chords spread like a poison fog toward the listener, then the band POUNCES on the same four chords with the fury of children in full-on temper seizure mode. Bator’s snarled, hoarse vocals, “I don’t need anyone, don’t need no Mom and Dad,” reinforces the brat-fury image. But for all its bile and swagger, “Sonic Reducer” essentially carries on the “saved by rock ‘n’ roll” tradition that predates Elvis. No matter how bad things get, there is always rock ‘n’ roll, and sometimes that is enough.
The band’s only other studio album was ’78’s We Have Come For Your Children (with the splendid “Ain’t It fun”) – they sadly broke up in ’79, with Bators going on to form the interesting punk/goth hybrid Lords of the New Church with ex-Damned guitarist Brian James, before tragically dying in a Paris, France auto crash in 1990.
On September 18, 2004 the remaining band members played together at the Beachland Ballroom for the first time since ’79. Since then Blitz, Chrome, Magnum, Zero have played together again only on August 28, 2005 for the Save CBGB’s benefit concert series.