Pat Ivers and Emily Armstrong are sifting through their voluminous archive of punk-era concert footage as it’s digitized for the Downtown Collection at N.Y.U.’s Fales Library. Here’s this week’s trip down memory lane, starting with a word form Jeff Magnum, bassist for the Dead Boys.
I was working in a record store, it was horrible. Farmers would come in demanding John Denver, or say, “Do you have that record they play on the radio…” But at least there was Rocket From the Tombs. They were the only good band in Cleveland in the early 1970s, and I went to see ’em play a lot! I heard they were breaking up but they were playing one last gig (Bators and Cheetah were gonna start a new band). I went to that last gig and I walked up to Cheetah, who I never met, and told him, “I’m the bass player yer lookin’ for!” That new band was called Frankenstein (Bators, Cheetah, Blitz, Zero, and me).” [In 1976, the band left for New York without Magnum, and booked a gig at CBGBs. They came back for him, and returned to the city as the Dead Boys.] We went on this 20-hour car ride, the whole time them telling me how great it will all be, that they had a place and that we would be playing at the greatest club in the world. I got to the club and said, “What a shit-hole.” But it became our living room. We were there every night and when we played, we kicked ass.— Jeff Magnum
The Dead Boys held a special status at CBGBs. They were managed by the club’s owner, Hilly Krystal, and played there more than any other band.
We loved the Dead Boys. They were the ultimate American punk band, the one that could go up against the Sex Pistols and prove what a NYC band could do.
This October 1977 performance was the first Armstrong-Ivers collaboration in the Nightclubbing series we produced together. Some of the old Metropolis Video guys did camera and Charlie Martin, the extraordinary soundman at CBGBs, provided us with a separate audio mix.
They did two sets that night: the first set and the drunk set. Today’s video clips are “I Need Lunch” from the first set and “Down In Flames” from the second set.
“I Need Lunch” was written by Stiv Bators and Jimmy Zero for Lydia Lunch. Stiv met Lydia on St. Marks Place when she was a 15-year-old runaway from Rochester, N.Y. When Lydia returned to her home upstate, she and Stiv kept their relationship going by becoming pen pals. Really. She, of course, returned to the city and formed Teenage Jesus and the Jerks.
These days, when you watch “The Voice” or “American Idol” and see the kids perform, every move seems choreographed, every nuance planned, and artifice seems to be the goal. One of the real joys of the Dead Boys was their spontaneity. Of course, they practiced. But you never knew exactly what was going to happen when Stiv Bators, Cheetah Chrome, Jimmy Zero, Jeff Magnum and Johnny Blitz took the stage. And yes, when you watch Stiv slam himself with the microphone stand during “Lunch,” he really is hurting himself. There was no faking with the Dead Boys. It was the emotion of the moment.
The second-set encore, “Down In Flames” ends with the Dead Boys destroying their equipment. Fans (including a very young Xcessive, later to play with Richard Hell and the Voidoids) gleefully pick over the remains. Merv, the beloved bouncer at CBGBs, carries a passed-out girl from the club. A great end to a great show. I’m pretty sure they hadn’t planned it.
The post was originally published at The Local East Village.