The Dead Boys live DVD, and Cheetah Chrome’s autobiography

So I went to Japan in December, my friend Matt gave me Cheetah Chrome’s autobiography, since he knows I like reading rock autobiographies. Thanks, Matt! Then, when Matt and a bunch of friends were bouncing around some Kobe music shops and I came across the Dead Boys Live! at CBGB 1977 DVD I knew that fate had intervened and I bought it. So now I can catch up on my Dead Boys!!!



Cheetah Chrome, A Dead Boy’s Tale, by Cheetah Chrome – I’ve read a bunch of rock autobiographies, and this is one of the better ones. Cheetah, despite being a bad rock ‘n’ roll burnout, seems to have the memory of a nun, because he gets very detailed about his childhood, his teenage years, and his years as a falling-down drunk guitar genius with The Dead Boys at their height. Wow!

A lot of the details from this book also come out in Please Kill Me as well – the beatings, the ODs, the rock and punk alliances and famous NYC anecdotes – but it’s nice to hear them in Cheetah’s words, including subtleties like how he didn’t get along with Patti Smith or her entourage, and other points. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, the bastard son of an older single mom (she was 40 when CC was born, compared to someone like Axl Rose, whose mom was 16 when he was born) and blessed with bright orange hair and the name Eugene probably wasn’t easy. Sure he has a genius IQ (like Axl Rose) and a great knack for music, and adding in the support of a great and understanding (albeit racist) mom things probably could have been worse.

Great story how he tricked his first bassist into joining his group… by convincing him the aspiring guitarist that he really needed to trade his guitar in for a bass. The first song they played was “The Little Black Egg” by The Nightcrawlers (which sounds like “The Crying Game”).

Those earlier episodes are interesting because they show the method to his commitment to getting a band together, and how he went about it (a lot of other books gloss over these details, especially the “method” part).

Again, there’s that zeitgeist thing that you get when you read rock autobiographies and they talk about the musical inspirations of their era:

I don’t think that I listened to anything but the Stooges and the Velvets until the Stones’ Let It Bleed came out later that year.

Wow… those were the days!

Cheetah Chrome talks about loving Mott The Hoople, and how Bowie saved that band by writing “All The Young Dudes” for them (sadly, this is the only Mott The Hoople song that I know – I need to look more into them, given that CC likes them better even than Bowie). There’s a funny anecdote about how CC finally got to meet his idol, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, but then pissed him off by drunkenly flirting with Ian’s daughter! It even got written up in Creem magazine!! Great stories about CC getting in fights in school, confronting cops who were beating people up, CC living on the wrong side of the law, trying out new drugs, smoking (continuously until 2005), selling drugs at one point, drinking booze, tormenting his poor mother (who, bless her soul, always supported him).

The book is full of great anecdotes, like the time that one of the band guys dared CC to pull Mark Mothersbaugh’s jockey shorts down when he came out in his shorts and Booji Boy mask during Devo’s performance of “Jocko Homo”, risking the ire of the hopping bunny rabbit fans that were Devo’s early devoted following.

Booji Boy began the “Are we not men? We are Devo!” chant, and the fan club was in full bunny rabbit overdrive, hopping for all they were worth. Then I leaned forward and pulled Booji Boy’s shorts down around his ankles. It was hilarious, at least to me and Fuji, and we were laughing our asses off.

The next thing I knew, we were being kicked and punched by the entire bunch of bunny-hopping nerds, who had suddenly turned into vicious, killer wolverine nerds in a split second. They weren’t really landing any good punches or kicks, but they were clobbering us with little wussie ones. We looked at each other and I yelled, “Down!” We both dropped to our knees and began crawling out toward the bar, getting kicked a couple of times, but making a good escape.

When we stood up at the bar, we realized that they hadn’t even noticed we were gone, and were still kicking and punching each other! I looked over and spotted the other Dead Boys, who were in hysterics watching the whole thing. We stood there laughing, watching this until the song was finished and things calmed down.

The next song was the only one I liked at that time, “Mongoloid,” during which Booji Boy honored me by singing “Cheetah is a mongoloid.”

In the spring of 1977, the band began looking for gigs outside of New York City, and they looked towards Toronto. “Toronto became one of our best cities, and it’s still one of my favorite places to play. When we reunited in late 1979, it was the first place we played, even before New York.” He also said “the punk scene in Toronto rivaled the one in New York, with bands like the Viletones, Teenage Head and the Diodes, and we shared a stage with each of them at some point.” At one gig they were showered in hundreds of dollars of Canadian currency, no one knows why. Stranger things kept happening in Toronto, such as “partying a bit with Phil Lynott and Brian Robertson from Thin Lizzy, who were recording in town and came to the show”. Wow!

The band was always messing around, and there’s a great Neil Diamond gag – when they both shared the Holiday Inn and Neil (“Mr Diamond”) and his entourage pissed them off with a lot of grandstanding; at the end of the Dead Boys’ show they announced to the crowd that there’d be an after-gig party… and gave directions to Neil’s floor; hilarity ensued as thousands of punks showed up on Neil Diamond’s floor looking for fun.

It also got pretty raunchy on tour:

Stiv and this girl he had picked up invited me to go with them to a club where she worked. This girl was not much to look at – a really curly blonde sort of afro deal, bright red lipstick, beady eyes, acne. But Stiv had had about fifteen shots of Amaretto, his drink of choice for getting plastered, so he hadn’t noticed, and she had money and a bunch of coke, so we thought what the hell. At some point she got named the “Whistle Pig” by the rest of us.

I talked Stiv and his girl into join back to the hotel. I jumped in the shower to give them some privacy, and when I came out, I was greeted by the spectacle of Bators, naked except for his T-shirt and socks, pumping frantically away on this girl, who had her legs back somewhere around her ears and was making noises I can’t describe.

Having nowhere else to go, I did a few lines, poured some Rebel Yell, and settled into bed with the TV on and a magazine, trying to block out the event taking place about four feet away. It wasn’t easy. Then there was a knock at the door, and it was Zero, who was just seeing what we were up to. I pointed over my shoulder and Jimmy’s eyes lit up, so he grabbed a beer and sat on the end of my bed to watch Stiv have sex with this beast. This was fun for a little while – we gave him suggestions and critiqued his style, applauded his better moves – but sex can be pretty lame if you’re not the one having it.

I was just about to suggest we get out of there when Stiv pulled out of the chick, leaped up with this enormous hard-on, and whirled around and began thrashing things. He grabbed a lamp and threw it; he picked up a chair and tried to put it through the window, but it wouldn’t break. He ran over and pulled the nightstand off of the wall it was bolted to, then knocked over the table, and for the finale he wrestled the TV (which was about twice his size) off its mount on the dresser and onto the floor, with whatever program was on blaring the whole time. Then he whirled around again, stood back from the end of his bed, still with this enormous hard-on, and did a perfect swan dive back onto the Whistle Pig, who let out a scream I felt sure would get us evicted and arrested. They went right back to where they had been, not missing a stroke.


Then there was the time they took a fire hose into the elevator with them and went down a few stories till it stopped, another time CC tied all the doors to each other with fishing wire, or the time they attempted to learn how many towels could be flushed down the toilet before it backed up; or the million other pranks they pulled, like Stiv Bators pissing on the ice cubes in the ice cube machine (of other floors than the one they stayed on… maybe).

At times you wonder why his memory is so accurate on certain occasions: “We had time for a short nap before the limo came to pick us up and take us to some record store on Hollywood Boulevard for an in-store appearance.” I wonder what was so memorable about that particular nap!

Eventually, Cheetah’s book moves out of his “goofy punk action” to his “casually hanging out with celebrities action” (and somewhere along the line graduating from “heavy drinking and pill popping” to “regularly using the hardest drugs). “One night when we were playing at CB’s, I was introduced to Lou Reed. We got on fine, and I sat at a table in the back talking with him and his bass player, Moose.” Lou wanted to produce the Dead Boys second album, and Cheetah was keen on it, but they got someone that didn’t do them justice. Too bad (even though “Ain’t It Fun” is a great song, and that is on the second album, how bad can it be?!?!?!). Cheetah gets into a lot of crazy stories about life in Miami as they were recording that album.

The lounge at {our studio] Criteria was very cushy, and when I walked in the first time to grab a Heineken, the first person I saw was Andy Gibb standing there smoking a joint. He sort of began to hide it, until he realised I wasn’t whoever it was he didn’t want to see it. He smiled and offered me the joint, so I took a hit and we introduced ourselves. Stiv came in a bit later, and his eyes got wide seeing me and the teen heart throb sitting on the couch, smoking and laughing like old friends.

Andy became my regular smoking buddy while we were there. He was a really good guy, even though he was on a short leash between his brothers and their manager Robert Stigwood. When we did some photos with them after the album was done, Andy tried on Stiv’s leather and commented on how he ‘wished Mr Stigwood would let me get one.’

The other Gibb brothers wandered in periodically, as they were at the peak of their Saturday Night Fever fame and owned one of the studios at Criteria for their own personal use. They were really pretty cool, very down to earth and friendly. I had always loved their early stuff, so I didn’t hold their disco success against them as long as I didn’t have to hear any of it. Maurice and Robin in particular had some good stories about the 1960s. They were curious about our stuff and would stop in to say hello and listen to us a bit practically every night.

The Dead Boys and the Bee Gees! Surreal!! But Cheetah shows a propensity to hang out with all sorts of interesting people, most of whom you wouldn’t associate with punk rock. That’s just the kinda guy he is (although he does seem to hate Meatloaf, for some reason – hey, Meatloaf’s okay, isn’t he?). Of course, John Belushi also became one of his great friends, even to the point of slamming him against the wall and telling him to quit heroin; CC is always kind and respectful to Belushi, but fairly wry when he notes that Belushi himself died of a heroin and cocaine overdose.

Cheetah takes time to agonize over the casual murder of a beloved guinea pig, an incident that was described in Please Kill Me. Jeez, man, it was just a guinea pig!

Interesting recounting of New York encounters with Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen and hanging out with them and all of the anarchy in their messed-up lives. He also talks of playing in Ronnie Spector’s band, and hanging out with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in Electric Lady studio (Jagger was in his full beard phase and looked like Grizzly Adams, CC passed him in the hall without even recognising him, ha ha…). He eventually became a drug buddy of Anita Pallenberg and spent a lot of time at her squalid mansion on Long Island. There are also great stories of playing in Nico’s band! She ripped him off, but he doesn’t hold it against her.

I find it funny just how often rockers mention the film Spinal Tap in their autobiographies, and Cheetah doesn’t let us down:

We had a real spinal Tap moment getting over to the club before the first show. Geoff told us that we were supposed to take the elevator to the basement, where there would be signs guiding us to a door that came out backstage next to our dressing rooms. We ran through it once in the afternoon the day before the show and it was easy enough, but after some beers and a few lines, it was a maze. We had brought our guitars without cases, and we wandered in circles, just like in the movie, until finally someone opened the door from the club side and came looking for us.

A hilarious admission from Mr Punk Rock and his trip to Disneyland.

After standing in line forever to get in, and managing to get past a giant Minnie Mouse trying to hug me without killing it, we proceeded to go on every ride in the place, and I have to admit I had a fucking great time!

He liked, it, that is, except for two things: Space Mountain (scared the hell out of him) and the It’s A Small World ride that is a well-known shrine to kitsch and bad taste.

When I recovered from [Space Mountain], we went on to Pirates of the Caribbean, the Submarine Voyage (where, I swear to God, Bators farted as soon as we were trapped, pissing off everyone on board), and onto the dreaded It’s A Small World.

It was dark by now and I was tired, and after about five minutes of that damned song, I was ready to kill everyone in the place and then myself. I fantasized about running amok, kicking little Chinese and Romanian dolls in their little native costumes everywhere, stomping on little Dutch people, tearing the heads off of tiny Polynesians and burning their hooches, and then finding wherever that fucking song was coming from and blowing it up real good! After endless verses and many bad jokes that I’m sure scared the parents in the cars behind us, we stopped by the gift shop where Stiv bought me a Mickey Mouse spoon to cook my dope in, and then we went home. I heard that goddamn song in my head for the next three days. The horror…

There’s a funny anecdote about the Dead Boys playing with their fill-in guitarist George Cabaniss after CC had quit the band. “I went to see the Dead Boys when they did a show near the city and was appalled to see this George guy wearing a flannel shirt onstage.” He says this without irony, or mentioning grunge at all!

And, like so many others, CC has a good Kenneth Anger anecdote:

One weekend Kenneth Anger came out and brought copies of the films Lucifer Rising and Invocation Of My Demon Brother, among others. He was a really cool guy, and I really liked him, but I sort of pissed him off when we were watching one of the movies. There was a scene of him walking around a candle like three hundred times in fast motion wearing a wizard costume of some sort. It was hilarious and I couldn’t help but crack up. He shot me a look that had me worried about getting carried off by Succubi or something, but we talked later and I apologized, explaining I just hadn’t expected the wizard’s suit.

He sent me a few strange things in the mail, like bizarre bondage books, some involving enemas and water sports. He also came to a gig at Max’s one night with Anita.

A lot of the book is centered around the death of Stiv Bators – it’s the episode that opens the book, and it is the ghost hanging over the last part of the book.

We did Stiv’s memorial at the COntinental Divide (now the Continental), which was a long, sad evening during which Johnny Thunders and I were so fucked up it was absolutely pitiful. I barely remember that night and cringe a bit when I see the video of it on YouTube. Christ, I’m glad I don’t take drugs anymore.

Overall the book is a great read with a lot of interesting moments. Cheetah Chrome is a pretty good writer and storyteller, and you do get a sense that he’s hit all of the bases.



Dead Boys – Live! at CBGB 1977 – A great document, originally recorded in 1977 for prime time TV, the recording was revisited in 2004 and released with a few extras. The footage shows the band floodlit and in full swing, rocking outrageously, although the main antics are limited to lead singer Stiv Bators, going through his calculated monkey boy antics, and Cheetah Chrome, snarling and prancing in lead guitar mode. At the end, drummer Johnny Blitz spazzes and kicks the drums away from him, bowling them over.

Stiv’s antics are pretty gross, and in some cases pointless. He removes his ugly white coat (to reveal a black cutoff shirt and red necktie) and throws it into the audience, he blows his nose on a bloody snotrag and then eats it, he pours a beer down his pants, he dribbles a mouthful of beer (while rubbing his throat to “ejaculation”), he sticks a piece of gum on the floor and then stands up so that it forms a line to the ground, he spazzes and arches and stretches and rolls all over the floor. Nice.

The quality of the video is pretty good, but in parts it all breaks down (like in “Revenge”, which is all dark, and gives us plenty of shots of Stiv’s elbow, or nothing, and “High Tension Wire”, where the footage is messed up with lots of freezes of blackouts – it’s also chopped off early); there are also a few recycled scenes, like one of Cheetah that makes it look like he’s nodding out on smack (but more likely he’s in a guitar ecstasy). “Flame Thrower Love” is an awesomely great rock song – I’d never heard it before, but I’m in love!! “I Need Lunch” is a great, somewhat poppy song, and the band finishes with “Search And Destroy”, which given the response of the crowd (and of viewers like me, watching it nearly 40 years after it was filmed) sort of only serves to demonstrate that The Stooges wrote much more powerful songs than the Dead Boys did.

Given that the footage can be seen on YouTube, the extras are definitely good enough to make this worth buying just for their sake (you will also be able to pump it through a good DVD sound system). There are six minutes of interviews with the whole band, plus an unnamed roadie, that are pretty awesome. We get to see how bad Johnny Zero’s skin was, but also how articulate he is about the philosophy of “today’s punks”. Stiv is a bit more out there, although he tries to justify his anarchism by saying “what we’re doing is helping” by giving people indoor places to vent their anger by breaking bottles, or watching a band do something similar. Drummer Johnny Zero has great, well-attended hair for a punk. “If it’s still going a year from now I’ll be happy.” According to an unnamed roadie “I believe they’ll be the number one new wave band.” There’s a great 8-minute 2004 interview with a bald Cheetah Chrome where he puts things into perspective, talking about how good the band was, and how there was no one better… except maybe the Ramones (give credit where credit is due). Regrets? “I wish we’d been around longer to make sure that Limp Bizzkit didn’t exist, but well [sighs] … they do.” Will there be a Dead Boys reunion? “There”ll only be one more reunion, and it’s not going to be on this planet.” He also plugs the Sensational Alex Harvey Band as his first real musical and punk inspiration (in his book he mentions that “Meeting [Alex Harvey] was one of my high points, and I still carry one of his guitar picks in my wallet for luck.”). There’s a 10 minute interview with Hilly Kristel, their manager, and the owner of CBGBs, who talks for 10 minutes about the band, how they came to him, what they were on the scene, how they self-destructed due to drugs, and how very polite they had been at first. A nice 30-second promo for the band’s second US tour that uses footage from the show. A bizarre 7-minute performance of the Steel Tips (who are they?), doing some sort of performance piece – a fat greaser, a little school girl, a guy with firecrackers in his shirt that pretends he’s just been assassinated in a drive-by shooting, and a Zappa-esque falling-down guy singing. totally weird. Nearly two minutes of comments from the director, who just goes on about how wonderful they were, and then two minutes of camera shot from the drummer’s point of view as the band goes through “Sonic Reducer” (although it’s the music to “All This And More” that is playing. Something’s not right here…

Oddly enough, Cheetah Chrome doesn’t mention this event in his book…

If you want to watch just the concert part of it, here it is!

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