Did Reagan and Thatcher Really Keep Punk Alive?

reagan_punk_flyerIn the opening scene of the the 2006 documentary, American Hardcore, which was adapted from Steven Blush’s 1999 tome, middle-aged, bald Vic Bondie from Chicago based hardcore punk band, Articles of Faith says something to the effect of, “Reagan was saying it’s morning in America.  It’s fucking MIDNIGHT, MAN!”  This was his way of saying that, in November 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected President of these here United States, EVERYTHING changed!

It was like Germany 1933 all over again.  Only THIS TIME, there would be REAL opposition to the Nazis in the form of a bunch of 15 – 18 year old kids with crew cuts, combat boots, black denim and cutoff band t-shirts idiotically slamming into one another while a band of middling talent provided the loud, fast, aggressive soundtrack.  Sure a few casualties were rounded up in the form of split heads and severed ears – Jack Grisham of T.S.O.L. admits to slicing kids’ ears off with the spur of his engineer boot – but this was the sound of the YOUTH, a true left-wing opposition to the rising tide of Reaganite fascism.

This of course paralleled the opposition to the equally fascist government of Margaret Thatcher in England, where much more fashion conscious, mohawk wearing punks like the Exploited didn’t waste a moment to call Margaret Thatcher a “cunt.”

By the mid-80s, metal bands like Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth heard the rallying cry of the punks and joined along.  Now the anti-oppressive, anti-fascist message would have better distortion, longer songs and more guitar solos!

By the end of the 80s, the U.S. elected a moderate, slightly less fascist President in George Bush, and, in 1992, fascism was finally crushed – at least, until 2000 – when MTV rocked the vote and President Clinton was elected.  The remaining hardcore punk bands, those that hadn’t broken up, were forced to scratch their heads about what they could possibly sing about.  They had the duel challenge that their righteous, anti-fascist message was now being sold to MILLIONS of people thanks to commie, rap rockers Rage Against the Machine and the fact that, well, Clinton wasn’t a Republican.

So, THANK GOD, that, in 2000, George W. Bush was elected and the bands could get righteous again.

I got the inspiration for this piece when I read Gavin McInnes’ article about how comedians hate Donald Trump and, without him, they’d have a dearth of things to mock, as if the dysfunction of their own lives isn’t good enough.  This same line of reasoning has been parroted about punk rock and, especially its louder, faster offshoot hardcore punk; the 70s might have had some problems, but with the election of Ronald Reagan, now they REALLY had something to complain about, or as the Dead Kennedys sang, “We’ve got a bigger problem now.”

That’s of course if you think music, and punk rock especially, is something more than just a form of entertainment, a loud, fun, raucous way to “get the lead out.”  And unfortunately, for a bunch of free-loading, smelly Anarcho/crust punks, this is the case.

Although there were precursors to punk, bands such as the Velvet Underground, the Stooges, the MC5, the New York Dolls and the Modern Lovers, the general rule of thumb is that the first modern sounding punk rock album was the self titled debut from the Ramones, released in April of 1976.  Johnny Ramone was a Republican who felt that his often copied, down-strumming, “da-da-da” approach was meant to mimic the shooting of an AK-47.  A hippie he was not.

With the exception of maybe the MC5, who largely disavowed their pro-Maoist views, left-wing style revolution was never the first thing on the minds of any of these bands.  Punk, in general, was predicated upon bands who made their stake at being fuck-ups with catchy songs.

By 1977, the major labels gambled on these lovable miscreants and officially called their music “punk rock.”  These new rock groups had funny, sometimes indecent names like the Sex Pistols, the Dead Boys, the Dictators, the Saints, the Clash, the Damned, the Ruts, the Boomtown Rats, the Buzzcocks, the Heartbreakers (not the Tom Petty band!!!), the Vibrators, the Stranglers, the Adverts, the Rezillos, X-Ray Spex, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Slits and Richard Hell and the Voidoids.

They wrote fuck-up songs for fuck-up kids about fuck-up topics, or, as Johnny Ramone said, “we just want to write about sick topics.”  Punks sang about serial killers, Nazis, rapists, horror movies, beating people up, boredom, juvenile delinquency and, well, being a fuck-up, while bashing out wonderfully juvenile, short and catchy songs that hearkened back to 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, albeit with much louder distortion and snottier vocals.  They also wore funny clothes, making “anti-fashion” statements with torn t-shirts, spiky hair, safety pins, smeared makeup, leather jackets and even swastikas.  Many disguised their attempts at obnoxiousness as “artistic statements.”  Some on the mainstream saw them as a threat; many more saw them as just the new thing the kids are into.

Occasionally a band like the Clash would sing about being on the dole, working in a factory or rioting against “the man.”  Occasionally a group of so-called Anarchists such as Crass would try to make you feel bad for everything you enjoy.  Leather jacket?  That’s made out of an animal!  And soon a movement based upon their principles emerged, saying that punk could no longer be about having fun being a fuck-up. NOW punk had to have a message!

Meanwhile, in the United States, by 1979, major labels like Sire (actually Sire was a much smaller label, but it was bought by Warner Bros., bumping it up to major status) had grown tired of their fuck-up bands.  The Ramones, the Dead Boys and Richard Hell and Voidoids weren’t selling millions of their fuck-up records to millions of fuck-up kids like they had hoped.  Instead, the majority of Americans prefered Animals by Pink Floyd, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac or the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.

So, the fuck-up bands either had to break up or change their approach for commercial appeal, giving us the closest to punk crossover hits with the Patti Smith/Bruce Springsteen duet “Because the Night”, catchy as hell pop songs by Blondie and “Whip It” by Devo.  Meanwhile, the underground was bubbling with activity and new labels such as Slash and Dangerhouse emerged with new fuck-up bands with names like the Weirdos, the Germs, X, the Bags, the Deadbeats, the Controllers and the Dils.

But, just being a fuck-up with really great songs wasn’t good enough.  The Dead Kennedys formed in 1978 in San Francisco and their singer, agent provocateur Jello Biafra had a real message to sell to the kids.  Punk rock wasn’t about fun!  We have to change the world, man!  We have to take the world back from its evil obsession with capitalism.

The irony is that the first Dead Kennedys album, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, released in 1980, primarily attacked limousine liberals like Jane Fonda (“Kill the Poor”), rich black people who claim they have a connection with ghetto black people (“Holiday in Cambodia”), shady landlords (“Let’s Lynch the Landlord”) and ultra-liberal San Francisco governor Jerry Brown (“California Uber Alles”).

With the exception of maybe “Chemical Warfare” and “When You Get Drafted”, one could make an argument that Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables was just politically ambiguous satire with no leftist agenda.  Hell the track “Holiday in Cambodia” has the line “bragging that you know how the niggers feel cold/and the slums got so much soul” before bashing Pol Pot, the Communist dictator of Cambodia.  The track “I Kill Children” is just supposed to be shock punk with no message and “Your Emotions” is just Jello telling some broad, “your emotions make you a monster.”

The point?

By 1980, with the death of major label interest in “punk rock” and the rise of “new wave” and “power pop” or the so called skinny tie bands, a younger, angrier, MUCH more antisocial wave of punks hit the scene.  Anorexic, heroin addicted, twenty-something art school types, who spiked their hair up and wore torn blazers with safety pins, were replaced by line-backer sized, beer guzzling, suburban surf jocks, who shaved their heads and wore black jeans with chains for belts and engineer boots.  Safe pogoing (jumping up and down to the beat) was replaced by vicious slam dancing (or the mosh pit, if you will), and hardcore punk was born.

Does any of that sound like the beginnings of a leftist political movement?  None of the music on any of the records by Black Flag, Minor Threat, Circle Jerks, the Misfits, Fear or Bad Brains had a single mention of Ronald Reagan.  Personal turmoil, angst, self-hatred, hatred for society and, in the case of the Misfits, horror movies, were typical themes.

Were there leftist bands?  Sure.  Following the election of Reagan, the Dead Kennedys sang several songs about “cowboy Ronnie forking out his tongue at human rights”, D.O.A. sang “Fucked Up Ronnie”, D.R.I. did “Reaganomics” and Suicidal Tendencies even sang “I Shot the Devil”  about shooting the man, a rather tasteful statement considering the recent attempt on his life (to be fair, the song also talks about shooting Anwar Sadat and John Lennon).  Other bands, with names like Reagan Youth, Corrosion of Conformity, Millions of Dead Cops, the Dicks and the Crucifucks, sang more generic leftist lyrics, typically bashing war, politicians, cops, Christians, teachers, jocks and heavy metal bands; basically anyone that didn’t adhere to their narrow minded view of life.

As a side note, I talked with Paul Bakija of Reagan Youth at a gig they did in Cleveland, and you best believe he collected a princely sum for selling their song “Degenerated” to a Hollywood studio to use in the 1994 comedy film Airheads, starring Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi and Adam Sandler as members of a goofy punk metal kinda band called the Loan Rangers.

But, it was mainly Tim Yohannan, an ex-Yippie, who was essentially the Saul Alinsky of the punk scene, that tried to fashion hardcore punk into some sort of left wing opposition movement.  His magazine, the ultra popular, Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll deliberately bashed any bands who didn’t adhere to a strident leftist way of life and, as the 80s progressed, punk rules got more stringent;  being “true” and not being a “sellout” or a “poser” became more difficult with each passing generation, to the point where you have bands today who have the strictest of attitudes of what constitutes “punk.”  Punk isn’t about music, man!  It’s a way of life!  I actually got yelled at by some punks for listening to Bad Brains because, in the 80s, they referred to openly gay bands like the Big Boys and the Dicks as “bloodclot faggots.”  “You just think it’s about if you like the music and don’t care at all what they stand for?”  I’m not kidding.

By 1986, there was both a political and musical backlash; political in the form of New York Hardcore bands like Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags and Murphy’s Law, who blatantly supported Ronald Reagan and musical as hardcore bands moved away from their core sound and tried other approaches.  Black Flag became sludgier and helped invent grunge, the Meat Puppets became a sort of country punk hybrid, Husker Du turned into a melodic rock band, the Replacements became the Tom Petty of the underground. Early bands like Misfits, Minor Threat and Negative Approach broke up so that their singers could form more expansive, experimental bands.

How much of this had anything to do with Ronald Reagan?  I’d say none of it, but I’d be lying, because, in Reagan America, that awful, fascist place where people were oppressed, these bands had the freedom, the wherewithal, the extra capital from lower taxes and the chutzpah to launch their own labels, their own scene and their own little world apart from the major label and corporate/liberal media.  To be fair, labels like SST and Alternative Tentacles were started in 1978 and 1979 respectively, but, at very least, Reagan didn’t prevent these labels from functioning.  They were examples of capitalism at its finest.

The irony is that, in 1986, the Dead Kennedys’ career wasn’t killed by Ronald Reagan and his “oppressive”, right wing regime, but by Tipper Gore, wife of Al “An Inconvenient Truth” Gore, a Democrat, who felt that the insert for their 1985 Frankenchrist LP, the H.R. Giger painting, Landscape XX, a supposed metaphor for corporate America’s alleged fucking of its workers, was obscene.  In other words, it was the leftist liberal Democrat who killed the art.

Dead Boys

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special introductory paragraph

Eve of the Dead Boys EP (as Frankenstein)

Young, Loud and Snotty

We Have Come for Your Children

Night of the Living Dead Boys

“The Nights Are So Long”/”All the Way Down (Poison Lady)” 7″

My brother got me Please Kill Me for my 16th birthday back in the grand ol’ year of (Death Race) 2000 and, as a result, I got into the underworld of 70s punk rock.  When all the other kids were listening to their Blink 182 and Sum 41 or what have you, I was rockin’ and rollin’ to the New York Dolls, Stooges, MC5, Dictators, Ramones, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers and, of course, this here pictured band of merry pranksters called the Dead Boys.

Delightfully trashy, sleazy and juvenile, the Dead Boys – singer Steven “Stiv” Bators, lead guitarist Eugene “Cheetah Chrome” O’Connor, rhythm guitarist William “Jimmy Zero” Wilden, bassist Jeff “Magnum” Halmagy and drummer Johnny “Blitz” Madansky – hail from Youngstown, Ohio where Cheetah Chrome, Johnny Blitz and Stiv Bators were in the short lived proto-punk/art rock band Rocket From The Tombs with future Pere Ubu members David Thomas and Peter Laughner.

The Dead Boys made two albums for punk’s major label industry leader Sire under the hope that they would knock Foreigner off the radio.  It didn’t happen, the band was dropped and broke up, occasionally reuniting during the 80s, while Bators went onto a power pop solo career before joining Lords of the New Church.  In 1990 he died while in Paris after getting hit by a car and not going to the hospital.  As for the rest of the members, well, eh… Cheetah did release a solo single and jam with both Nico and a pre-poopy GG Allin and way later reformed Rocket along with a new band called the Batutsis with Sylvain Sylvain.

Also, Stiv Bators was really short and scrawny and liked to entertain the audience in a manner similar to Iggy with antics like hanging himself from the pipes above, rolling all over the stage, crawling between other members’ legs, jumping into the crowd and acting like his neck and head are a penis that spits loogies.

One last thing: a lot of record labels seem to think you can’t have too much of a good thing so they released a lot of posthumous Dead Boys live product.  I don’t have all of the live albums so I apologize if the discography seems incomplete.  As I purchase or download more, I’ll add and review them.

Eve of the Dead Boys EP (by Frankenstein) – Hell Yeah – 1996

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Before the Dead Boys called themselves the Dead Boys, they called themselves Frankenstein.  Interestingly the name didn’t come directly from the source but from David Carradine’s character in the hilariously violent, 1975 Roger Corman produced exploitation film Death Race 2000.

Before they were a punk band or rather, before there was a thing widely known as “punk rock”, the members of Frankenstein wore their hair super long, smeared makeup all over their faces and decked themselves out in creative of ways – for instance, Stiv Bators wrapped himself up in electrical tape – with obvious stylistic nods to Alice Cooper, the New York Dolls and Iggy (especially Cheetah Chrome’s dog collar).

The group only performed a handful of times.  One of those includes their 1975 Halloween show where they had a guy roam the stage in a Frankenstein monster costume while the band played a mixture of originals and covers, among which included “Deuce” by Kiss, “Death May Be Your Santa Clause” by Mott the Hoople and “Don’t Mind Rockin’ Tonight” by Ducks Deluxe.

But, more importantly than a few covers is their originals.  This here three track EP proves that with the punk tag or not, they had their sound intact.  All three tracks on Eve of the Dead Boys would end up on the first Dead Boys album.  Although a tad slower than the album version, “Sonic Reducer” sounds as it would on album, which makes it even more of a trip to picture them performing the four chord punk tune decked out in their outrageous, pre-punk stage attire.  Stiv Bators doesn’t sound as biting as on the album but that might have to do with his voice being buried by lousy demo production.  Chrome’s and Zero’s guitars are ferocious and slashing as they would be on the album.

The other two songs are the apocalyptic, coke paranoia ballad “High Tension Wire” and the high speed, “chuga-chuga” punker “Down in Flames.”  “High Tension Wire” has a slightly different arrangement with the dark, sick bridge riff played twice but “Down in Flames” sounds just like the album version complete with Bators’ white trashy shouts of “DEAD BOY! DEAD BOY RUNNIN’ SCARED!”

Young, Loud and Snotty – Sire – 1977

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Play loud and play often.

Any punk fan worth his/her/its salt is familiar with the upper, mid-tempo, four chord punk anthem “Sonic Reducer”, that kicks off the just under 30 minute long, debut Dead Boys LP Young, Loud and Snotty.  But for those who are unfamiliar, I’ll give you a brief breakdown.

Song kicks in with two chords (“dah-dah”), followed by the four chord riff played on the root notes with a phasing effect, then the main riff is played as bar chords accented with “dee-dee-dee-dee” string bends, then the main riff is played with palm mutes (“chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga”) while a pissed off, white trashy, slurred but totally understandable, Midwest punk guy shouts these opening lines:

“I don’t need anyone
don’t need no mom and dad
don’t need no pretty face
don’t need no human race
I got some new for you
don’t even need you too”

and then things get confusing.  For the whole of my life, I thought the next line was “I got my time machine/got my electronic dream” because, ya know that makes sense right?  “Me against society”, punk attitude crossed with a weird, science fiction concept.  What else could it be BUT a time machine?  Alas, according to Cheetah Chrome’s autobiography, it’s “dull machine.”  Oh well, life goes on.

The rest of Young, Loud and Snotty contains three more songs in the vein of “Sonic Reducer” and its muscular, metalled up punk, one speedy song with a very glammy riff and a gross title, one melodic, “Anarchy in the U.K.” tempo punky number with equally sleazy lyrics (“all this and more, little girl/how about on the floor, little girl”), a New York Dolls-y, mid-tempo rocker that’s apparently about Lydia Lunch but has the lines “I don’t really wanna dance/girl, I just  wanna get in your pants”, two ballads and a cover of a 60s pop song that the group manages to make sound sleazy without even changing the words.

The strength of Young, Loud and Snotty, if you haven’t guessed already comes from a combination of Cheetah Chrome’s and Jimmy Zero’s super tight playing and killer riffs combined with Stiv Bators’, slurred, pissed off, punky drawl which turns the worlds “girl” into “guuhl” and “pants” into “payants.”  Regarding the playing Cheetah Chrome (and probably Jimmy Zero even though he’s a rhythm guitarist so it’s harder to tell) is not some “bar chords only”, punk rock novice like say, mmm, Johnny Ramone.

Furthermore, while most people basically compare the Dead Boys with the Stooges and the Dolls and, while Chrome’s playing has similarities with James Wiliamson’s and Johnny Thunders’, much of the tight, mean guitar interplay between Chrome and Zero along with their filthy, distorted but not heavy tones reminds me of Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce, lead and rhythm guitarists form the Alice Cooper group.  This is especially so on the dark, minor chord, hard rock ballads “Not Anymore” and “High Tension Wire.”  Hell, I’d compare “Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth” with “Under My Wheels” and “High Tension Wire” with some of the evil, sick riffing in songs like “Is It My Body” or “Halo of Flies.”

Lyrically though, the album is very Stooges inspired.  “Sonic Reducer” has the same antisocial message as “Search and Destroy.” “Ain’t Nothin’ to Do” is thematically similar to “No Fun.” “All This and More”, “What Love Is” and “I Need Lunch” are fuck songs just like “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “Loose” or “Penetration.”  And “Down in Flames” doesn’t fit any of these categories since it’s about some nuclear bomb detonating crazy guy and the riff is similar to “Nights in Venice” by the Saints.

On a final note, Johnny Blitz is a very good drummer and Jeff Magnum didn’t even play on the album!

We Have Come for Your Children – Sire – 1978

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If you’ve read Please Kill Me, then you know that the Dead Boys, especially Cheetah Chrome and Jeff Magnum, were not particularly happy with their second album.  Chrome apparently called James Williamson on the phone begging and pleading him to save the album while Magnum yelled at producer Felix Papalardi for giving the band a weaker sound.  The simple idea of making a loud, guitar based rock record shouldn’t have been lost on him considering he produced Cream records and played bass for Mountain.

We Have Come for Your Children doesn’t sound THAT bad but, if you’re expecting the same raw and dirty guitar tones or, hell, the same level of intensity, anger, power and oomph from the first album, you’d best just play Young, Loud and Snotty again.  Indeed part of the less aggressive sound can be blamed on the production but the other part of the problem lies with band itself.  The first of these problems is that Stiv Bators doesn’t sound nearly as pissed off as he did on the first album.  Sure he has a punky slur but he sounds a little to comfortable and laid back.  The second problem unfortunately lies in some of the songs.

But, let me stress that, in spite being less aggressive, We Have Come for Your Children is still a good album, chock fulla killer riffs and hooks that, for the most part, measure up to those on the first album.  In fact “3rd Generation Nation”, “(I Don’t Wanna Be No) Catholic Boy”, “Flamethrower Love” and “Dead and Alive” could easily fit on Young, Loud and Snotty with their middle, upper tempo, punky hard rock.  And I don’t care what Cheetah Chrome says about the Kim Fowley penned “Big City”; it’s a good, medium tempo, glammy, punk tune.

Also, just like the first album, We Have Come… has two ballads; the creepy as all hell, David Berkowitz epic “Son of Sam” (for which I still think Spike Lee dropped the ball for not including in his movie) and the bleak and depressing album closing tail of drug induced meltdown “Ain’t It Fun.”  Interesting thing about the latter song: It was initially co-written by Peter Laughner back when he and Chrome were in Rocket From The Tombs together and, when I asked Cheetah Chrome at a book signing if the song was essentially an anti-drug song, he said it wasn’t.  This surprised me because when a song says, “ain’t it fun when you’re always on the run/ain’t it fun when your friends despise what you’ve become/ain’t it fun when you get so high that you just can’t come”, the answer is, “no, it ain’t fun at all.”  Yet, according to Chrome, there was nothing anti-drug about Peter Laughner.

But the real culprit of the album, the songs that are undoubtedly going for a more power pop approach are “I Won’t Look Back”, “Tell Me” and “Calling on You.”  And sure, that’s just three songs out of 10 but the effect is very noticeable; nicely sung, happy pop choruses and, in the case of “Calling on You”, a happy lead guitar line.  These aren’t bad songs but they definitely point to the approach on Stiv Bators’ post-Dead Boys power pop solo album, Disconnected.  What’s really strange though is that “Tell Me” is a punked up cover of the sappy Stones ballad.

Even the lyrics are tame by comparison.  Oh sure, “Ain’t It Fun” uses the word “cunt” and “Catholic Boy” has that line where he goes, “I wanna beat my meat right in the street” but that’s about as bad as it gets.  The rest of the lyrics deal with being an outcast and the rough and tumble city lifestyle and “3rd Generation Nation” is about the closest they came to a political song (“the better world you tried to build exploded in your face”).  But one song that really confuses me is “Calling on You.”  I could easily just read it as a song about a guy hanging out somewhere, not digging the scene, missing a special person (Cheetah Chrome thinking of Gida Gash maybe?) but, am I crazy to see spiritual overtones in these lyrics?  You tell me:

“You shining in the sky
Faster than the naked eye
I’m calling calling calling on you

Things here got outta hand
Take me back to the promised land
I’m calling calling calling on you”

Now that ain’t young, loud or snotty!

Night of the Living Dead Boys – Bomp! – 1981

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By 1979 the Dead Boys were dead in the water.  Sire records didn’t want anything to do with them anymore since their records failed to capture the youth of America but, for some strange reason, they wanted them to record a live album.  In a last ditch attempt to stick it to the man, Stiv Bators gave them the ol’ middle finger by performing the entire show off mic, rendering the recording unusable.

Two years later, after he released Disconnected and around the time he was going to join Lords of the New Church, Bators dubbed all of his vocals onto the live performance resulting in the first of several posthumously released Dead Boys live albums.

Night of the Living Dead Boys contains five songs from Young, Loud and Snotty, six from We Have Come for Your Children and a new song called “Detention Home”, which seems indicative that, if the Dead Boys did release a third album, it might very well have had a more melodic, 60s-ish, garagy sound.

The sound on the record is fantastic with the guitars are reverbed and loud but I wish Bators put a little more energy into his performance; I suppose that’s par for the course since his vocals were recorded in a studio over an already existing live track.  Undeniably the We Have Come for Your Children songs like “I Won’t Look Back”, “Son of Sam” and “Tell Me” sound a bit tougher in the live setting even if it isn’t totally fitting for the group’s snotty image to sing, “come back to me baby, come back to my heart.”  There are also few mistakes and flat notes every now and then, especially on a particularly sloppy performance of “Sonic Reducer.”

Other points of interest include Bators’ cute little one liners and asides such as the classy “you hungry?” before playing “Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth”, “every kid’s dream is to be a Dead Boy!” before “All This and More”, “this was written by a friend of ours, Peter Laughner. You know that we’re all gonna die young” before “Ain’t It Fun”, the tasteful “this is for Davey” at the beginning of “Son of Sam”, the not so nice announcement “we’re not doing this for you.  We’re doing this because we’re getting paid” before starting “Sonic Reducer” and especially the trilled R, Johnny Rotten homage, “rrright now!” at the beginning of “I Won’t Look Back.”

Also Bators replaces the “hippie” in the “gonna beat up the next hippie” I see line from “Ain’t Nothin’ to Do” in both occurrences to “punk” and “skinhead” but what’s up with the “gettin’ real sick of Jews”?  Did it just sounds like that because of his slurred singing or was that some sort of joke or, worse yet, an attack on Seimor Stein?

I’m not gonna think too deeply into it.

“The Nights Are So Long”/ “All the Way Down (Poison Lady)” 7″ – Relativity – 1987

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If you see Cheetah Chrome walking down the street and you hand him your copy of this here 7″ single in hopes that he’ll sign it, prepare to have it handed back to you in two pieces.

Apparently, whoever released it, did so without the group’s full consent, using unfinished scratch tracks for the final product.

The “The Nights Are So Long” b/w “All the Way Down (Poison Lady)” single is the only record the Dead Boys released when they reunited in 1986.  The band had done reunion gigs a number of times before but, in 1986, they made a full attempt at reforming in hopes of relaunching their career.

Well, it didn’t happen and the group would only perform together on a few other occasions before Stiv Bators would go to France in hopes of forming a punk super group called the Whores of Babylon with Johnny Thunders and Dee Dee Ramone but, instead, would end up dead from getting hit by a car and refusing to go to the emergency room.

Both the a and b sides are perfectly okay power pop tunes that resemble the lighter moments on We Have Come for Your Children with side two being a teensy bit faster.  The drum sound is also a bit reverbed since it was recorded in the 80s and the guitars don’t sound very loud but, basically these are not the tough punk songs you would imagine coming from the band pictured on the sleeve.  In fact, “All the Way Down (Poison Lady)” sounds more like a Dictators power pop song (maybe “16 Forever”) than a Dead Boys one.

I read that Jeff Magnum quit shortly after and the band performed a number of shows as a four piece sans bass guitar just like they did in their early CBGBs days.

CBGB (2013)

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Complete and utter shit.  I had already read the reviews and seen the trailer so I wasn’t surprised that this movie was going to suck.  I just watched it to see how bad it stunk and I was not  disappointed.  It did not even come close to rising above the absolute wretchedness which I had expected.  What’s sad is that CHEETAH CHROME WAS INVOLVED!!!  It’s mind boggling to me that a former participant on the CBGB scene could be involved in such a piss poor travesty and allow himself to be portrayed as a complete buffoon.  Chrome is a smart dude!  He’s well spoken and reads a lot and certainly must have been aware of how the actor portrayed him as a completely moronic thug.

But let me start from the beginning.  I wasn’t there.  I didn’t witness the first ever Ramones performance where each member played a different song, angrily stormed offstage and came back to play “Blitzkrieg Bop”; one of those legendary performances where the people in attendance had no idea that they were witnessing history being made.  But I’ve read Please Kill Me along with a ton of other literature on this topic and I’ve seen plenty of live footage from the era and, for chrissakes, I listen to all of these bands!!!

CBGB the movie is total VH1-style, biopic nonsense.  A few key scenes were underlined and recreated as stylistically bankrupt as possible (unless you consider crude comic book panel transitions a “style”).  But what do you expect from a film made by the same guy who directed Houseguest? A clever, post-modern docu-drama in the style of 24 Hour Party People?!!!!!

Like I said, I read Please Kill Me so I knew exactly what scenes they were recreating; the aforementioned inauspicious inaugural Ramones performance, Stiv Bators from the Dead Boys receiving oral sex onstage, Legs McNeil, John Holmstrom and Mary Harron interviewing Lou Reed for the first issue of Punk and Johnny Blitz’s stabbing among others.

And there you have it; the key stories behind the CBGB club excepting early performances from a bunch of other bands that were left out for practical reasons (I understand there might not have been room for Devo, the Cramps, the Misfits or the Damned but where the hell are Johnny Thunders and Heartbreakers or the Dictators in all of this?)… but the execution is a complete and utter joke.  The only one that actually, kind of works is the Talking Heads one.  They actually do look like the early Talking Heads but that only lasts for a couple minutes.  The Ramones in the movie are completely laughable.  Joey, who most considered typically cool, sounds like Woody Allen!!!  He sounds like a neurotic, New York Jew and not like a too-cool-for-school rock ‘n’ roll guy.  Apparently Linda Ramone, wife to deceased Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone, approved one Ramones song to be in the movie but… instead, for some reason, they use a Joey Ramone solo recording.

The rest of the performances stink; actors that kinda sorta resemble Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, the Dead Boys (pre-Jeff Magnum who, for some reason, never appears in the movie(?!)), Television (with a pudgie Richard Hell(?!)) and the Police (who inexplicably “save” the club at the end (?!)) poorly mime to studio recordings of some of the greatest songs ever written.  The movie is also full of blatant, easily avoidable mistakes; there were stickers all over the wall for bands who hadn’t even played there yet, Patti Smith performs “Because the Night” two years before it even came out and basically the Dead Boys’ entire story arc is a complete insult to the group, which I’ll save for the next paragraph.

I’m surprised Cheetah Chrome says anything positive about the movie since the Dead Boys are treated like Hilly Kristal’s big mistake.  The movie only shows the Dead Boys’ public persona as a group of Midwest, white trash thugs where, in actuality, they were smart, charming and polite people!  The actor who plays Stiv looks like Parry Farrel and does a bunch of stupid, overly-exaggerated “punk” poses and the Cheetah character keeps making nimrod, little kid, “nyeah, nyeah” faces while looking completely incapable of holding a guitar.  If you watch any Dead Boys TV performances, it’s obvious they’re tight musicians who have quite a bit of charisma onstage.  None of this is shown in the movie.

They do show the onstage blowjob and Cheetah Chrome shows Young, Loud and Snotty producer Genya Raven his pubes.  This is important stuff, ya know.  And they do show people shooting dope in the CBGB bathroom and guys giving each other head, which did happen, I guess.  And they do show some dramatic scenes between Hilly (Allen Rickman) and his daughter Lisa (Ashley Greene) and how Hilly can’t handle money and was involved with some shady bikers and some other vaguely historical shit or something.  But who cares?  There is so much awesome early footage available of every single one of these performers on youtube that the only reason to watch this is to see how much of it they get wrong.  Oh and the guy who played Iggy Pop is too tall.

But, if you want to see for yourself, here it is on youtube.  Save yourself a trip to the theater or DVD rental and watch it here while you can: