A little while back, I picked up the hotly touted "Autobiography" by Morrissey -- albeit the American version, which purportedly finds some salacious passages regarding Moz's forays into homosexuality excised, quite mysteriously. While richly written, it's often somewhat impenetrable (paragraph breaks are few and far between). So, as a breather, I recently picked up a copy of James Greene Jr.'s "This Music Leaves Stains" whilst killing time before a haircut at Shakespeare & Co. Billing itself as "the complete story of The Misfits," I may have had my doubts (as Greene himself admits, a few of the band members refused to participate), but being that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool fan of the band, I couldn't say no to it.
Given that Greene himself is several years my junior, I presumptuously figured his book would be somewhat threadbare on credible facts, as how could someone who was born in 1979 (as the author's Facebook page asserts) really be of any authority on matters that transpired before his birth? Disregarding my initial blinkered, agist generalizing, I am very happy to report that Greene's done an amazing job. I'm only halfway through, but "This Music Leaves Stains" is a great, thorough, entertaining and illuminating read, rife with curious minutia. If you're a fan of the The Misifts, you really owe it to yourself to check it out.
Quite early on, though, Greene rolls out an anecdote that I have to confess I'd never heard before, and it's one that addresses a question that I'd always wondered about. Read on...
Back in 2010, some readers might remember an entry I posted about John Lennon's tenure in Manhattan. While, yes, it's well documented that the former Beatle (above as captured by the great Allan Tannebaum) was deeply enamored of New York City, details always seemed pretty sparse on the particulars. Right, who wouldn't love living in the friggin' Dakota, but what else? Where in the city did John like hanging out? Did he have a favorite pizza place? Was he a regular at Zabar's? Did he peruse texts at The Strand? What was his favorite dive bar? As I wrote back then...
I gather John and Yoko were largely sequestered away in that historic apartment for most of their time, rearing little Sean, but what about Manhattan did John really dig when he did step out the door (especially given his cited affinity for "steppin' out")? Did John ever catch Television or The Ramones at CBGB? What did he think about New York's burgeoning punk rock scene? Did he hang out at Max's Kansas City?
Well, in discussing the tenure of guitarist Bobby Steele in the ranks of the Misfits (that's him up top on the right with the guitar, he later of the Undead, and a die-hard East Villager), Greene writes of an incident in 1979....
Slightly more embarrassing was [Bobby] Steele's interaction with John Lennon at the Mudd Club five months later -- soused beyond belief, the Beatle-worshiping Steele inadvertently vomited all over his hero's feet just seconds after introducing himself.
I'm sure there's more anecdotal evidence to illuminate this particular tale, or is it ultimately just some fanciful rock n' roll lore? Either way, I'm so curious as to the particulars. According to this stately rundown of Misfits gigs, the band never actually played at the Mudd Club (although The Undead did -- see below), which unfortunately dispels my initial projection that Lennon had gone to the venue to check them out. Chances are more likely that the former Beatle and the shortly-to-be-ex Misfit (soon to be replaced by Jerry Only's burly little brother Doyle on guitar) were both out clubbin', and fate fleetingly put them messily together in the same room that frequently played host to the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Byrne and Lydia Lunch down the grimy path of Courtlandt Alley at 77 White Street.
About a year later, Bobby Steele would form The Undead (with future Cop Shoot Cop bassist Chris "Jack Natz" Nantz) in October of 1980, the same month Doyle would take over for Steele in the Misfits. Two months after that, John Lennon would be shot outside the entrance to the Dakota on West 72nd Street and Central Park West. The Mudd Club would stay open until 1983, the same year the Glen Danzig-led incarnation of the Misfits would acrimoniously flame out.
Here in 2014, Bobby Steele is presumably still living in the East Village, and still plays live. After reforming in 1995 without Glen Danzig, the Misfits carry on today. Glen Danzig continues to front Danzig, and frequently brings Doyle onstage to celebrate the Misfits' past (this is arguably as close to a full-scale reunion of the Misfits as one is likely to see). The building at 77 White Street that formerly housed the Mudd Club is now a pricey condominium. John Lennon, meanwhile, remains dead.
In any case, do pick up James Greene Jr.'s "This Music Leaves Stains," and check out its accompanying Tumblr.
ADDENDUM: So shortly after publishing this entry here, I posted it over on Facebook, where my comrade Tim Broun of Stupefaction looped in fabled Mudd Club doorman Richard Boch. Shortly aftewards, Mr. Boch himself weighed in on the proceedings, proclaiming....
This is total fabrication. Urban legend. There's even a version where the 'puked on shoes' belonged to Andy Warhol.
..so, take that as you will. I suspected it sounded too good to be totally true. Have you heard this story (or variations thereof?)
And since this post involves Bobby Steele and New York City, it's another fine excuse to dust off this favorite clip, finding our Bobby limping around early 80's Manhattan and brandishing a switchblade, ...as one does.
As I mentioned back on this post, it's not unlikely to spot Bobby Steele still strolling around the East Village. I've spoken with him a couple of times, and he's always incredibly gracious and chatty. We connected on Facebook for a while, however, and I learned that he's somewhat surpringly a raging Republican of the conspiracy-theorizing variety. Here he is more recently ... playing at a benefit for the New Jersey Tea Party. I wonder what the Tea Partiers thought of Steele's old school horror punk?