Following up on a post from last week, I came across another clip from Footage Farm from their "Greenwich Village 1970s" series. You might remember that I was all excited last time, as this seemingly random bit of archival film contained vintage footage of The Cramps practicing at CBGB. This time, I immediately recognized the face in the thumbnail and got newly excited, but here's Footage Farm's typically clinical description:
CU & zoom back from singer in punk band at CBGB (with sound). VS band playing. Lead singer w/ open black shirt; then shirtless w/ scar across chest. Very dramatic aggressive performance. Shot of open pants & groin of lead singer. Lead singer lies down & pours something on his body, wrapping cords around his neck, pretending to hang himself. Much shouting. Audience shots. VS Backstage w/ band. Someone asks how they feel about Jimmy Carter.
Even if the thumbnail image doesn't give it away, that description should. This is, of course, an enjoyably ribald set by The Dead Boys, finding Stiv Bators, Cheetah Chrome, Jimmy Zero, Jeff Magnum and Johnny Blitz in suitably feral form. Unfortunately, you only get sizable-albeit-not-especially-high-fidelity chunks of "Sonic Reducer" and "All This & More," as the rest of the set is comprised of frustratingly brief snippets. I assume the idea was to capture the antics of the gestating punk scene, and the Dead Boys do more than deliver, in that capacity.
I'm not sure when I first heard the music of the Dead Boys, but I do have a vivid memory of being in a car somewhere in Lower Manhattan, as a child, and seeing their moniker scrawled ominously across the brick façade of a derelict building, like some scene out of "The Warriors." Shortly after that, I remember my preternaturally cool grade-school friend Zach (the first kid to get into all things punk, having introduced our little gaggle to the joys of the Ramones and the Jim Carrol Band) clutching one of the band's LPs as if it were some top-secret weapon of mass destruction. Inspired by same, I remember forking over five bucks for a cut-out-bin copy of Night of the Living Dead Boys, the band's posthumous sorta-live document, after which Bators joined the comparatively restrained Lords of the New Church, a frowny ensemble that largely provided the score to the lop-sided John Hughes opus that was my high school experience.
Reportedly doctored in the studio for maximum impact -- as opposed to filigree-laden finesse -- Night of the Living Dead Boys is a feast of feedback and chaos, peppered with profanity, piercing screams and a clutch of not-ready-for-Casey-Kasem classics like "Son of Sam," "Caught With the Meat In Your Mouth" and "I Need Lunch"… an indelicate little ditty which was purportedly about the obliging Dead Boys acolyte who became Lydia Lunch. My personal favorite on the album was the opening number, "Detention Home," which, to my mind, belied guitarist Cheetah Chrome's slovenly demeanor, discreetly revealing him to be a more versatile player than one might expect.
In any case, while the sound and continuity might be patchy, this clip below is an otherwise priceless rendering of the Dead Boys during their pummeling prime.
Today, of course, Stiv Bators, has been dead for a sobering 28 years, after being struck by a car in Paris and dying from internal injuries. I haven't a clue what became of Jimmy Zero and Jeff Magnum, but Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz formed a new version of the Dead Boys and somewhat needlessly re-recorded the band's studio debut, Young, Loud & Snotty last year.
CBGB, meanwhile, is now a John Varvatos boutique for exceptionally silly people with too much disposable income and not a lot of imagination.
`Twas not always thus…
More on the Dead Boys on Flaming Pablum...