(COURTESY OF MARKKU)
Stiv Bators was born on 22nd of October 1949 in Youngstown, Ohio, USA. He died on 3rd of June 1990 in Paris, France at the age of 40.
Stiv Bators and his friends, guitarist Jimmy Zero and bassist Jeff Magnum, were looking for musicians in Cleveland, Ohio in 1975. They were huge fans of Iggy Pop and wanted to play Iggy covers and have fun. At the same time guitarist Cheetah Chrome and drummer Johnny Blitz had a band called Rocket From The Tombs together with David Thomas and Peter Laughner (Thomas and Laughner later formed Pere Ubu) but it was a bit too arty for Chrome and Blitz. Rocket From The Tombs broke up and Bators, Zero & Magnum met Chrome & Blitz in the summer 1975 and together they formed a new band.
Calling themselves Frankenstein, they did their first gig that Halloween. Frankenstein did only four gigs in Cleveland and made one demo-EP titled "Eve Of The Dead Boys" with three songs - "Sonic Reducer", "High Tension Wire" and "Down In Flames". It was hard to find gigs in Cleveland's conservative clubs and they broke up frustrated after three months.
In Easter 1976 Stiv was invited to New York by The Heartbreakers guitarist Johnny Thunders (ex-member of the New York Dolls). Stiv liked the New York atmosphere so much that after returning to Cleveland he wanted to go back with the rest of the Frankensteins.
The band was now called the Dead Boys, taking the name from their Frankenstein song "Down In Flames" ( "Dead boy, running scared"). They relocated to New York in July 1976 and their first CBGB's appearance in August was secured on their behalf by Joey Ramone ( The Ramones), who had met them earlier in Youngstown, Ohio. Impressed with Stiv's outlandish and raucous behaviour, Ramone had a hunch that their music would be as impressive as Stiv's personality.
The original Dead Boys line-up was Stiv Bators (vocals), Cheetah Chrome (guitar), Jimmy Zero (guitar), Johnny Blitz (drums) and Jeff Magnum (bass).
The Dead Boys started to hang around - and play - at CBGB's. They were opening for The Damned on three nights and every critic agreed that this relatively unknown band from the Midwest blew the English punk rockers right off the stage. Soon the Dead Boys met Seymour Stein from Sire Records. Stein had recently signed The Ramones and was now so impressed about the Dead Boys that he signed them to Sire in January 1977. At that point Hilly Kristal - the owner of CBGB's - arranged Jim Sliman to look after the band and soon Sliman found himself being their tour manager - although they were not touring!
The Dead Boys were known as a really wild live-act. They abandoned all artistic pretensions, their motto was: "Fuck art, let's rock!". They also reflected the frustrated feelings of kids in those days. The kids followed the band because they were something fresh in the American music scene, they looked new and sounded new.
Often overlooked in chronicles of the New York punk scene, the Dead Boys were one of the most controversial bands playing at CBGB's between 1976 and 1979. They were part of the American punk rock scene together with the bands like The Ramones, Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers and Television. Having absorbed what had already happened in England ( The Sex Pistols and The Damned) and the USA ( the Stooges), the Dead Boys took it a dozen steps further, uncovering new levels of violence, nihilism, masochism and vulgarity. Their gigs were brash, aggressive, threatening and, above all, outrageously provocative. Their legacy is perhaps summarized by the much-covered punk anthem, "Sonic Reducer", most famously revived live in the 1990's by Pearl Jam.
the Dead Boys' first album, "Young Loud And Snotty" was released in 1977. It was one of the earliest punk albums released on a US label and still is maybe one of America's rawest rock records. The album - which was recorded in four days - was produced by Genya Ravan, who made it loud and raw. She encapsulated the anarchic, pile-driving, punk rock sound. The title was perfect punk poetry, and every track offered a slap in the face.
At the end of 1977 the Dead Boys made a successful tour in England with The Damned. After coming back to US in December they started making demos in Ohio for their next album which was recorded in Miami at the Criteria Studios and titled as "We Have Come For Your Children". It was released in 1978 and after that the Dead Boys did a four month tour in US.
The album was produced by the late Felix Pappalardi (ex-member of Mountain) but the band and Pappalardi couldn't get along - he didn't know how to produce this type of rock'n'roll. The album has inferior sound when compared to the first album, but equally strong playing. There were many great songs like "3rd Generation Nation", "(I Don't Wanna Be No) Catholic Boy" and "Ain't It Fun", the latter co-written by guitarist Cheetah Chrome and Cleveland legend Peter Laughner - and later covered by Guns N' Roses featuring Michael Monroe on vocals on 1993 GNR album "The Spaghetti Incident".
The US tour was the beginning of the end for the band. They ran out of money and Stiv, Jimmy and Johnny were sent back to Cleveland. They all got together for the one last time in New York for the live album at CBGB's, which fulfilled their final obligations to Sire Records. However, Sire couldn't ever release that album because Stiv purposely sang off-microphone to make sure Sire would be unable to release the album without his help. Later, in 1981 the album was released by Bomp Records under the name of "Night Of The Living Dead Boys" after Stiv had redone the vocals again. The album included one new song, "Detention Home" which was written by Jimmy Zero. Actually, that song was already recorded once in the studio for the second Dead Boys album but was left off by the producer Felix Pappalardi.
The final shock for the band was the stabbing of their drummer Johnny Blitz. He was sent to intensive care in critical condition and was nearly killed of his wounds. At the same time Blitz laying at the hospital, Sire Records decided not to renew their contract and the band finally called it quits in 1979. After that they did a few re-union gigs with various of line-ups and in 1987 they got together and recorded an EP. Some of those re-union gigs have been recorded and released later, usually by Bomp Records.
the Dead Boys will be remembered and revered for two great albums, some demented live performances and a unique frontman. Modern thrash bands owe them a particular debt of gratitude and their young, fresh aggression can still be seen as quintessentially punk rock.
In July 1997 Bomp Records released the rough mixes of the first Dead Boys album entitled "Younger, Louder & Snottier" and probably they will release a previously unreleased live recording. They are also trying to get the rights for the second album "We Have Come For Your Children" (which is really rare nowadays), possibly remixing it with Cheetah Chrome.
Solo career - "Disconnected" album
After Dead Boys fell apart in March 1979, Stiv did a few demos in Cleveland with Frank Secich (ex- Blue Ash guitarist) - a guy who he grew up with in Youngstown - and in April 1979 they moved to Los Angeles. Stiv's main reason for moving to L.A. was to get rid off his image as the Dead Boys front man. He wanted to be respected as a singer and musician and he had a strong vision of the music he wanted to make next.
After Dead Boys broke up and Sid Vicious (bass player of Sex Pistols) died Stiv was a little depressed at that time. The depression came out as a song called "The Last Year" which really differs a lot from Dead Boys material. He recorded also another song - "It's Cold Outside" - which was one of his favourites from the 1960's and was originally performed by the Choir in 1967.
In L.A. Stiv met Greg Shaw who was - and still is - the leader of Bomp Records. Seeking to escape from the punk stereotype into more challenging music, Stiv signed to Bomp Records largely because of Bomp's powerpop image (with which he was in complete accord), giving the label some of its most enduringly groovy sounds.
The first single ( "The Last Year / It's Cold Outside") was released in May '79 and it got quite good reviews. That success encouraged Stiv and Bomp to continue their collaboration. So Stiv and Secich went back to Youngstown to work on new ideas. They recorded a demo "I Stand Accused" which was originally performed by The Glories but because Elvis Costello did his own version of that same song at the same time Stiv decided not to release it.
At one night in January 1980 Stiv had a spontaneous jam session at Paradise Studios with Kim Fowley (ex- Runaways), Jimmy Pursey (ex-lead singer of Sham 69) and other local musicians. They recorded three songs - "L.A. L.A." (which was a rewriting of Richard Berry's "Louie, Louie"), "Tropicana Blues" and "Factory Boy". Those songs were left unreleased until Bomp Record released them on "L.A. L.A." collection in 1992. That session was the first time when Stiv and Pursey met and they immediately found out that they had a lot in common. That connection led one year later to the fact that Pursey called Stiv to England where he joined The Wanderers and made one great album with them.
The rest of the year 1980 was devoted to writing and recording the album "Disconnected" which was produced by Thom Wilson. Just like the single, the album departed from Dead Boys' sonic attack. It is a tremendous album of melodic rock tunes. Playing down his outrageous side, Stiv's first solo record maintains an dynamic punk persona while replacing garage-punk with thoughtful music that owes power pop a sizable debt.
Stiv had definitely found a new direction for his music with Secich. His band on that album included Frank Secich (bass), David Quinton (drums) and Georgie Harrison (guitar) and with that line-up they did some gigs in L.A. "Disconnected" was the only official solo album Stiv ever completed.
In 1981 Stiv appeared in John Waters comedy called "Polyester". His character was "Bo-Bo Belsinger" - a boyfriend of Divine's (" Francine Fishpaw") daughter.
After the release of "Disconnected" Stiv quit the band and moved to England where he formed The Wanderers with ex- Sham 69 guys Dave Parson and Dave Treganna.
They did two singles and one fine "Only Lovers Left Alive" album. Although it was undertaken as a Sham 69 record (with Stiv replacing singer Jimmy Pursey), contracts prevented it to be released under the Sham 69 name and that's one reason for the fact that the album attracted almost no attention. The Wanderers didn't get the recognition they should have had and their singles and the album are very hard to find nowadays.
But the album deserved a better fate. The record's legible rock with a strong political bent brings together loads of influences that had never been present in either faction's background, and synthesizes a varied, well-produced angry assault that's more radical in stance than music. Stiv got the inspiration for the album from Dr. Beter's Audio Tapes, which are part of the American political history. The songs tell a dark continuous story which ends up in very hopeless vision of our future (1 "The Dawn Is Dead, There'll Be No Tomorrow"). This album is one of the greatest works Stiv ever made and it is being released on CD for the first time in April 2000. Watch for details.
The Lords Of The New Church
After The Wanderers broke up in 1981, Stiv formed The Lords Of The New Church with Dave Treganna on bass, Brian James on guitar (ex- Damned) and Nick Turner on drums (ex- Barracudas). At the very beginning the band was called The Damned Dead Sham Band with Stiv on vocals, James on guitar, Treganna on bass and Rat Scabies (from the Damned) on drums. The did an one-off gig in Clarendon, London in 1980. Later, Scabies was replaced by Turner. The Lords combined 1970's punk with 1980's apocalyptics to create an original sound. With the Lords Stiv finally got the well-earned success in Europe and also in the US.
Lords made three albums. The first one was self-titled as "Lords Of The New Church" (released in 1982) and it has an intense dark power with songs like "New Church", "Russian Roulette" and "Open Your Eyes". In 1983 The Lords released their second LP entitled "Is Nothing Sacred?". The best known songs from that album are "Dance With Me", "Black Girl/White Girl" and a cover version of Grass Roots' venerable "Live For Today". The last studio album "The Method To Our Madness" (released in 1984) is maybe the most popular Lords record with the songs like "Murder Style", the title song "Method To My Madness" (featuring a funny spoken interjection by Illegal Records owner Miles Copeland) and a great ballad "When Blood Runs Cold".
In 1986 I.R.S. Records released a Lords compilation. "The Killer Lords" includes not only remixes of essential album tracks but a hysterically nasty mugging of Madonna's "Like A Virgin" (produced by Michael Monroe), a solid and straight reading of CCR's "Hey Tonight" (produced by Little Steven) and Tim Smith's (ex- Advert) "Lord's Prayer". There has also been several Lords live albums in the late 1980's. I.R.S. Records released "Live At The Spit" in 1988 (recorded during the first US tour in 1982) and the German record company Perfect Beat also released a couple of live albums.
Stiv had very wild gigs also with The Lords and once he almost died on stage. Since the times of Dead Boys he used to "hang" himself by climbing up to the lightstand of the stage and tie the microphone wire around his neck.. He was small and light so he could easily hold himself up with the other hand, but to the audience it seemed that he was hanging on the "rope". Once on a Lords gig in 1983 his hand was sweaty and it slipped from the stand and the microphone wire tightened around his neck. One of the roadies noticed that everything wasn't alright when Stiv started to turn blue. The roadies went to get him back down on stage and he was sent to a hospital where, after regaining consciousness, he was informed that he had been clinically dead for a couple of minutes.
Stiv was a little disappointed because he couldn't remember what it felt like to be dead. In later interviews he would be quoted as wondering: "1 Once you've actually died on stage..., I mean, how do you top that?"
Lords line-up varied during the last years. Treganna left the band in 1987 and Grant Flemming took his place and in 1988 Turner was replaced by Danny Fury.
The Lords Of The New Church broke up in 1988. Stiv had hurt his back very badly in Spain by jumping off the stage and was resting at his home in France. The other members of The Lords were in London and they were offered a gig where they could get a lot of money and they asked Stiv if he could do the gig, but he didn't say yes or no because of his back. So, the rest of the Lords guys put an ad in the newspaper as an anonymous band looking for a lead singer - of course they hadn't told Stiv. Somehow they thought that they could be The Lords Of The New Church without The Lord!
But Stiv had a way of knowing everything and he found out about that devious little plan by his so called friends. He called the band and told them he would do the gig in England but played dumb about the ad. The band couldn't refuse so they did the whole gig. Meanwhile, Stiv had reproduced the ad from Melody Maker and had it blown up in big letters on T-shirts. They played the set and before the encore Stiv showed the shirts to the other guys and asked them to put them on. They were totally shocked by Stiv's discovery of their plan. Anyway, they went back to stage to do the encore and Stiv said to microphone "1 Hey Brian, who's the new lead singer for The Lords Of The New Church?" "1 You are Stiv, right?" answered James and all the other Lords in front of the audience. "1 No. Sorry. I'm not. You're fired. And so are you. And you. You're all fired! Bye!" So Stiv left the stage and the band was left there standing like idiots with their T-shirts on. Stiv had prepared everything ahead of time and had a cab waiting just outside the club. That was the end of The Lords Of The New Church.
The Last Years
While still in Lords, Stiv made some demos on his own which didn't feel right for The Lords especially when the band didn't get along anymore. He played that tape - titled "Dreams And Desires" - to Greg Shaw and they talked about making another solo album for Bomp Records. The Lords had a deal with Illegal Records but they were no more interested in Stiv's new projects. It seemed that Stiv was ready for a change once again. He moved to L.A. and went to studio to record new material. But what actually happened was that he ended up making two cover versions - "Story In Your Eyes" originally by Moody Blues and "Have Love Will Travel" by Sonics. The sessions took a very long period of time and Stiv did new mixes over and over again. Finally they got something done and the result can be found at 12" single released in 1986. There wasn't a new Stiv Bators solo album after those sessions but Shaw and Stiv agreed to keep the idea alive.
The year was 1987 when Stiv recorded for Bomp Records next time. He only had time to record two songs which were "I'm No More" and "Gudbuy T'Jayne" (originally by Slade). After the sessions Stiv had to move back to France to conttinue with The Lords. The original master tapes of this recording were stolen by the assistant engineer, but some versions of those songs can be heard on "L.A. L.A." album which is a collection of Stiv's demos and singles. In 1987 Stiv also joined the re-formed Dead Boys for a single and a couple of live shows and in 1988 he sang on the 1 Lyres single " Here's A Heart".
In 1988 Stiv did backup vocals on the Full Time Men LP "Your Face My Fist". In that same year he also appeared in a movie called "Tapeheads", which was directed by Bill Fishman (starring Tim Robbins and John Cusack). Stiv played the part of a punk rock singer "Dick Slammer" and he also did one song on the soundtrack of that movie. The song was titled "Mr. MX-7" and the band was Stiv Bator & The Zeros.
Stiv lived his last years in Paris, France. He did gigs with The Lords but after the band broke up in 1988 he moved temporarily to New York and formed a new solo band, did a live album called "Live At The Limelight" and came back to Europe. He teamed up with Alan Lee (ex- UK Subs) on guitar, bass & drum programming and Vom (from 1 Dr. And The Medics). They did a new demo with three songs: "No Compromise, No Regrets", "V For Vendetta", "I Will Stay" and "Lords Of The Dead". On September 1, 1989 Stiv, Lee (on guitar), Vom (on bass) and Bryn Merrick (on bass) did the only gig with that line-up at The Opera On The Green in Shepherd's Bush, London. You might find a video tape of that show somewhere.
Stiv went back to Paris and a local record company, Bondage Records put up the money for a recording session in Paris, in order for Stiv to put down some demo tracks and to record his second solo album. The songs the band was working on included some of Stiv's finest stuff like "Magyk", "Yesterdays (Will Find You)", "Nobody", "Two Hearts" and a Dee Dee Ramone composition "Poison Heart". The musicians in these sessions were Stephen Richie on drums, Neal X (ex- Sigue Sigue Sputnik) on guitar, Tony James (ex- Generation X and S. S. Sputnik) on bass and Kris Dollimore (ex- Godfathers) on guitar. Originally it was planned to only record two or three tracks but the chemistry had such essential kick that they ended up recording more.
Sadly the new Stiv Bator never saw the daylight because of Stiv's accidental and premature death. Those unfinished sessions were not meant to be released but nevertheless Bondage Records put out a CD in 1996 "The Last Race" with eight of the songs. Stiv wasn't happy about his vocals and he would have wanted to re-done them. Also the Bondage CD is mixed in totally different way. At some point after in the 1990's Stiv's wife Caroline was about to release the songs in a good way but so far nothing has happened. We can only hope the best.
On Last Race CD Johnny Thunders and Dee Dee Ramone are listed for playing guitar and bass on those sessions but they didn't play at all in those sessions. There was an argue between Dee Dee and Johnny before the first chord had been struck and Dee Dee left back to New York and Johnny followed him very soon.
In June 1990, while standing on a sidewalk in Paris, Stiv was hit by a car. He walked away from the accident, because he was immune by then to suffering pain, but later died in his sleep at home.