Before The Dead Boys were the Dead Boys, they were the oh so glamorous ‘Frankenstein’

The line from Rocket From the Tombs to punk rock is one of the shortest and straightest that can be drawn. RFTT were a boisterously aggressive, unruly, and weird band of Velvet Underground devotees that appeared in the early ‘70s. When they broke up in 1975, their singer and guitarist formed the long running art-punk ensemble Pere Ubu (who, by the way, have a wonderful new LP coming out this month), and the drummer and other guitarist teamed up with a scrawny sparkplug of an Iggy-inspired frontman called Stiv Bators to form the raunchy, scummy, guttural ur-punks the Dead Boys.

But tellings of that well-known history typically omit an amusing detour. Before they moved to NYC, changed their name to the Dead Boys, and went down in history, Bators and company briefly took the form of the glammy, fuzzed out Frankenstein. Almost nothing survives of them, but what does found its way to an EP back in the mid-‘90s. Eve of the Dead Boys contains early recordings of three songs that would end up on the Dead Boys’ immortal debut Young Loud and Snotty. A short and illuminating piece by Jack Rabid on AllMusic sheds some light on the recording’s history:

The great Tim Sommer once played a tape of Cleveland quintet Frankenstein (who would later become the Dead Boys) on his WNYU “Noise the Show” punk radio show in 1981. It was three fascinating songs they recorded two years later when the same five members moved to New York for the first Dead Boys’ LP, Young Loud and Snotty. It was super raw, supremely garagey, and great. I always wondered if I would ever hear it again. Years later, it’s a great little artifact, with liner notes from Dead Boys’ bassist, Jeff Magnum. This live-to-two-track document, recorded in the loft of the legendary Rocket From the Tombs, the pre-Pere Ubu group they also had roots in, and remixed for release, is slightly submerged, but the performance is delightfully dirty and the playing crackles like a big, burning log. Best of all, since these versions of “Sonic Reducer,” “High Tension Wire,” and “Down in Flames” weren’t altered after the group moved to New York and got into the brand-new, thriving punk scene, this wild, wild, wild sound proves they were not bandwagon-jumpers. Instead, like Pere Ubu, they were true mid-‘70s “bad old days” pre-punk rock revolutionaries, the genuine heirs to MC5, Stooges, and tough ‘60s garage.

Despite the audio fidelity, the three songs on the EP seriously rip. Compare the early version of “High Tension Wire” to the canonical LP version:

”Hight Tension Wire” by Frankenstein

”Hight Tension Wire” by the Dead Boys

If you’d like an astonishing look at a seriously glammed-out Dead Boys, these photos of Frankenstein were posted on the Cash From Chaos Tumblr over the weekend. Bators’ stockings-as-pants move surely raised some audience hackles, to whatever degree an audience was actually present.



Previously on Dangerous Minds
Young, loud, certainly snotty: the Dead Boys in 1977
Stiv Bators, pop crooner
Dead Boy Cheetah Chrome’s ‘Sonic Reducer’ guitar lesson

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Stiv Bators, pop crooner

The late Stiv Bators is equally well known for his leadership stints in pioneering rust belt punks The Dead Boys and trans-oceanic glam/goths Lords of the New Church, but in between those bands, Bators briefly attempted a career as a pop singer, more or less in the “Paisley Underground” vein.

Was every L.A. rocker issued a Rickenbacker back then?

That effort began in 1979, when he recorded a remake of the garage-pop gem “It’s Cold Outside” as a single for Bomp Records. This choice may have been an overt nod to Bators’ Northeast Ohio roots - the song was written and originally recorded by The Choir, a precociously popular band of Cleveland teenagers who would go on to form the much more successful Raspberries in 1970. Check out Bators’ version and compare with the original.

Stiv Bators - “It’s Cold Outside”

The Choir - “It’s Cold Outside”

Stiv positively nailed the song, did he not? The sound is as far from The Dead Boys’ tuneless glory as it is from the Lords’ preening Batcaveisms, but still, he was really great at it. This poppier phase, though brief, lasted long enough for him to make the album Disconnected, also on Bomp. Though it leans a hair more towards punk rawness than the single’s overtly jangly pop-psych, Bators continued to prove his mettle as an interpreter of garage classics with a fantastic cover of the Electric Prunes’ “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night.”

Stiv Bators - “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night”

The entire album is worth a listen. Much of it was written by Blue Ash refugee Frank Secich, and it comprises some of Bators’ most accessible work, including great tracks like “A Million Miles Away” (not the contemporary Plimsouls song) and “I Wanna Forget You (Just The Way You Are).” And while you’re listening, get a load of this review of the LP comparing Bators to Tom Petty!

Stiv Bators, Disconnected, full LP
Bonus: enjoy “Stiv-TV,” a wonderful full-length interview from 1986.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Dead Boy: Stiv Bators talks about his onstage near-death-experience (and love), 1988
07:22 am


Stiv Bators
Lords of the New Church

After Bators injured his back, Lords of The New Church guitarist Brian James secretly put out an ad for a new singer. When Stiv found the ad, conflicting sources say that either Stiv or James wrote it verbatim on a t-shirt and wore it onstage for a gig. For the encore, Stiv fired the entire band.
Stiv talking about when he actually died for a minute after a routine performative self-strangulation went awry (don’t you hate it when that happens?). If he hadn’t pissed himself, alerting bandmates and crew members that something had gone wrong, he might not have lived.

As Bators (who will be portrayed in the CBGB movie by this guy) is carried into the backstage area after a Lords of The New Church show, he is a complete physical wreck, barely able to stand. He’s revived by a security guard and his girlfriend, who he openly adores. An incredibly sweet guy by most accounts (as you can see in this interview with Brooke Shields, or this heart-wrenching eulogy from Iggy Pop), Bators was also clearly a romantic, professing his love in the most naked and emphatic way.



Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
TV anarchy: Stiv Bators and Brooke Shields together on Manhattan cable in the mid-70s

As punk rock was throbbing in the clubs downtown, Manhattan cable TV was experiencing its own kind of anarchy. D.I.Y programs from cats like Efrom Allen were offering some demented and surreal stuff to get us energized before hitting the clubs or to soften the crash as we wound down from a night on the Bowery. The coaxial pipeline was sending signals into our decrepit little apartments that were raw, spontaneous and often exhilarating, punk rock’s cathode equivalent.

In this episode of The Efrom Allen Show (1978?), a 12-year-old Brooke Shields does a fashion shoot with Stiv Bators while discussing her career with the wisdom of an ancient soul. Stiv seems to enjoy just going along for the ride.

Efrom, a Realtor these days, should try to clean this video up and release it, along with his footage of The Ramones and Marilyn Chambers, on DVD. This is pop culture history and there’s so little of Manhattan cable programming available for viewing. Someone should do a book on this wild era when the TV eye was bloodshot and beautiful.

Part two after the jump….

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Iggy Pop’s emotional condolences to the parents of Stiv Bators
04:03 pm


Iggy Pop
Stiv Bators

Edward Colver's photo of Stiv
Edward Colver’s photo of Stiv
When I think of Iggy and Stiv together, I might think of their mutual penchant for self-mutilation and animalistic performances. That it was supposed to have been Stiv who passed Iggy that famous jar of Skippy. Or maybe I think of midwestern punk and my heart swells with vulgar, snotty pride. At the very least, I think of their unbelievable drug stories I read about in Cheetah Chrome’s book. What I tend to forget is that they were friends and colleagues. It’s an unsettlingly earnest moment to watch, but when you get past the creeping threat of voyeurism one tends to feel at such a naked display of emotion, the warmth and sincerity of the eulogy is one of the most loving moments in punk rock.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Stiv Bators interview from 1986: Confessions of a Catholic boy
06:22 pm


Stiv Bators
VidMag Television

Lapsed Catholic Stiv Bators with Brooke Shields.
A must-see interview with Stiv Bators which aired in March of 1986 on Cleveland’s longest running cable music show, VidMag Television.

Danny Reed of Syl Sylvain & the Teardrops is the interviewer and his casual and open style results in something less like an interview and more like a chat between two friends. As an ex-Catholic boy, I am particularly empathetic with Bator and Reed’s Catholic school recollections.

Stiv is very candid, sexually explicit, politically incorrect and totally entertaining - a close-up look at one of punk rock’s sweetest bad boys.

Video kicks off with about 45 seconds of silent footage of The Lords Of The New Church before getting into the interview.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Wonderful punk and post-punk era photographs by David Arnoff

Stiv Bators, 1980
David Arnoff‘s post-punk era photography appeared in the NME, Melody Maker, Trouser Press, N.Y. Rocker and many other publications. The Cleveland-born, but London-based photographer and disc jockey’s work captures iconic bad boys and girls, relaxed and at their most playful. Arnoff is currently readying his photographs for a book and is looking for a publisher. I asked him a few questions over email:

Tara: Tell me about the Stiv Bators shot.

David Arnoff: I was hanging around with Stiv and his post-Dead Boys band in their hotel—pretty sure it was the Sunset Marquis—and we decided to do some shots of him on his own. He’d been messing about with a new air pistol, so we brought that along and just stepped out into the hall, after which it occured to him to maybe go back in the room and put some shoes on, but I said not to bother.  We started out doing some rather silly and predictable 007-type poses before he chose to just sit on the floor and look disturbed. I always thought the stripey socks made him look even more so.

Nick Cave, 1983
Tara: You worked with Nick Cave several times. He seems like a guy very concerned about his image, yet playful, too. What’s he like as a subject or collaborator?

David Arnoff: Nick is very easy and unaffected to work with. That shot with Harpo is the result of what started out as another cancelled session at the Tropicana Motel. He apologized for being up all night and indicated all the empty bottles on the TV as evidence, but was perfectly happy for me to carry on regardless even though he was not looking his best. The only downside was he was trying in vain to play “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” not really knowing the chords and the guitar was painfully out of tune.  Not an enjoyable aural experience. He was quite happy with the photos though.

Jeffrey Lee Pierce, 1983
Tara: Maybe it was the era, but several of the people you shot were junkies. Any “colorful” anecdotes about the likes of Cave, Jeffery Lee Pierce, Nico or Johnny Thunders?

David Arnoff: Far be it for me to say whether or not any of these people were actually junkies, but it’s funny you should mention Nick and Jeffrey together because I did squeeze all three of us into my little Volvo p1800 to go score on the street—Normandy, I think, around 3rd or somewhere. We then went back to my place in Hollywood, where Jeffrey became convinced they’d been ripped off. But Nick seemed more than happy with his purchase. Afterwards we went to that lesbian-run Mexican place near the Starwood. Nick tried to remember what he’d had previously and proceeded to attempt to describe what he wanted it to the baffled staff. I think they just gave up and sold him a burrito.

More with David Arnoff and his photographs after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Very close to salvation’: Birthday boy punk-daddy Stiv Bators vs. the Rev. Dr. Hands

Steven John Bator (a.k.a.  Stiv Bators) and his Dead Boys blammoed out of the post-steel paradise of Cleveland and landed in New York’s East Village to help jump-start the punk movement in the bowels of clubs like CBGBs. Soon after the Boys broke up in 1979, Bators formed the post –punk supergroup Lords of the New Church with the Damned’s Brian James and Sham 69’s Dave Tregunna.

That was the band Bators was riding in 1983 when L.A. artist Jeffrey Vallance—who’d scored a miraculous gig as a host of MTV’s underground music showcase (yeah, something like that actually once appeared on MTV!!) The Cutting Edge—grabbed him to “debate” the head of the Southland’s Last Chance Rescue Mission, whose name happened to be, yes, the Reverend Dr. Hands.

As you’ll see, Bators took the path of least resistance, but this segment stands as a fun, somewhat campy artifact of the other side of the Reagan ‘80s. Seven years later, Bators will have become a literal dead boy at 41 after getting hit by a taxi in Paris.

He would have turned 61 years old today.

Bonus clip after the jump: the Dead Boys give CBGB’s the “Sonic Reducer” in ‘77…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment