The Dead Boys are an American punk rock band from Cleveland, Ohio. The band was among the first wave of early punk bands, and was known as one of the rowdiest and most violent punk groups of the era. The Dead Boys were initially active from 1976 to 1979, briefly reuniting in 1986, and then later again in 2004 and 2005 for the first time without their frontman Stiv Bators, who had died in 1990. In September 2017, founding members Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz reunited the band with a new lineup for a 40th anniversary tour along with a new album, Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40, a re-recording of their debut album.
Formation and 1970s punk rock era
The Dead Boys evolved out of the band Rocket From The Tombs and were originally called Frankenstein. When the band members relocated to New York City in July 1976, they adopted the Dead Boys moniker which came from the RFTT song "Down In Flames". They are sometimes credited with founding the U.S. hardcore punk movement, although this question is open to dispute among hardcore fans.
Moving to New York City at the encouragement of Joey Ramone, the Ramones' lead singer, the Dead Boys quickly gained notoriety for their outrageous live performances. Lewd gestures and profanity were the norm. On more than one occasion, lead singer Stiv Bators slashed his stomach with his mic stand. Such antics reportedly discouraged the development of a mainstream rock following despite the relative breadth of their material beyond pure punk. They frequently played at the rock club CBGB and in 1977 they released their debut album, Young, Loud and Snotty, produced by Genya Ravan. Their song "Sonic Reducer" is often regarded as one of the classics of the punk genre, with AllMusic calling it "one of punk's great anthems."
Sire Records pressured the group to change their look and sound to appeal more to the U.S. mainstream (which had yet to embrace punk on the level seen in the UK) and this contributed to Dead Boys breaking up in 1979. Several 1979 performances were featured in the 1980 film, D.O.A.. A few months after the breakup the band had to reunite to record a live album and thus fulfill their contractual obligations. To exact revenge on the label, Bators purposely sang off mic and the resulting recording was unusable. When the material eventually surfaced on Bomp! Records, Bators had re-recorded the vocals in a studio.
In 1978 Johnny Blitz and a group of his friends got into an altercation on Second Avenue in Manhattan which led to Blitz being stabbed in the chest approximately 17 times. While he was recovering in the hospital a benefit was held for him, at which the Dead Boys performed without him, with John Belushi filling in for him on drums.
Bators' subsequent career
Bators recorded a solo album, Disconnected, on Line Records. Bators later formed Lords of the New Church with Brian James from The Damned and Dave Tregunna from Sham 69. They released several albums on IRS Records, including the keyboard-laden hit single "Open Your Eyes" and a cover of "Like a Virgin".
Chrome's subsequent career
After the Dead Boys dissolved, Cheetah Chrome played around New York City (mostly at Max's Kansas City) doing shows with The Stilettos, as well as his own band Cheetah Chrome and the Casualties. He recorded a single for ORK Records, "Still Wanna Die" / "Take Me Home", recorded with Atlantic Records co-founder Herb Abramson. Shortly thereafter, he played on Ronnie Spector's debut solo album Siren. He appeared on several recordings during the 1980s, and rejoined the Dead Boys for their ill-fated reunions of the late 1980s.
In 2003, after the release of The Day the Earth Met the Rocket from the Tombs, Chrome reformed Rocket From The Tombs with David Thomas, Craig Bell, with Steve Mehlman (Pere Ubu) on drums and Richard Lloyd (Television) replacing the late Peter Laughner. This reincarnation of the group toured in 2003 and 2006.
In summer 2003 they entered the studio to record some of the band's old material for the first time. The recordings were released as Rocket Redux (SmogVeil). In 2005, the members of Rocket From The Tombs flew to Germany to headline one night (The Buzzcocks headlined the other) of the International Punk Kongress in Kassel; then, in 2006, they reconvened in Cleveland, Ohio to write material for a new record. This material became the single "I Sell Soul"/"Romeo and Juliet", released in 2010, and the full-length album Barfly, released in 2011.
In September 2010 Cheetah Chrome: A Dead Boy's Tale From The Front Lines Of Punk Rock was published. At the end of a week-long Rocket From The Tomb tour in December 2011, Chrome announced to the band that he had decided to stop touring extensively after 2012. He currently works for Plowboy Records in Nashville, TN, mainly in production and promotion.
Reformation, death of Bators, 40th Anniversary Tour
The Dead Boys reformed for several gigs in the 1980s. They re-released their first album as Younger, Louder and Snottier in 1989, mastered from a cassette tape of rough mixes, attributed to a young Bob Clearmountain, a studio assistant at the time.
In June 1990, Bators died in France due to injuries sustained after having been hit by a taxi. In September 2004, the remaining members of the band re-formed for a one-off gig in Cleveland. In 2005, they played a benefit show for CBGB and another reunion show on Halloween.
On April 25, 2017, Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz played St Catherine Ontario Canada as a tribute to the 40th Anniversary of Young, Loud and Snotty. The band played the record in its entirety.
Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz announced in July 2017 that they would be reuniting The Dead Boys to celebrate the 40th anniversary Young, Loud and Snotty with their first major tour in 38 years. The tour kicked off on September 7, 2017 in Dallas, TX and will conclude on October 31, 2017 in Brooklyn, NY. On September 8, 2017, Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40 was released. The album is a re-recording of their debut album and the first album by the Dead Boys in 39 years. Along with Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz, the tour and album will feature Jason Kottwitz on guitar, Detroit punk legend Ricky Rat on bass and vocalist Jake Hout from 'zombie' Dead Boys tribute band, the Undead Boys. Chrome said of the tour "With the 40th anniversary of the Dead Boys on the horizon and a solid band that could interpret and deliver the performance and sound needed to maintain the authenticity of the Dead Boys, I reached out to Johnny Blitz about an anniversary tour and he said yes and we began the journey of what would become Still Snotty. I've been singing the Dead Boys songs myself for 20 years because I couldn't find another singer I trusted enough to hand it to. The first gig with Jake, it was like, 'You got it, man!' I think Stiv would be very proud of our choice."A photobook, Dead Boys 1977: The Lost Photographs of Dave Treat, will also be released on September 29, 2017.
In 2013, an American made motion picture titled CBGB was released to theaters. Bators is portrayed by actor Justin Bartha, best known for his roles in The Hangover films and the National Treasure films, while Rupert Grint, best known for his work in the Harry Potter film series as Ron Weasley, plays Cheetah Chrome.
Cheetah Chrome (Gene O'Connor) – lead guitar
Johnny Blitz (John Madansky) – drums
Jason Kottwitz - Guitar
Ricky Rat - Bass
Jake Hout - Vocals
Stiv Bators (Steve Bator) – vocals
Jimmy Zero (William Wilden) – rhythm guitar
Jeff Magnum (Jeff Halmagy) – bass