“Dead Boys: Live! at CBGB 1977″: Stiv Bators & band are caught with the meat in their mouths

By on March 26, 2019

Dead Boys: Live! at CBGB 1977 — shot by Rod Swenson at the legendary Lower East Side club CBGBs — captures the band at their absolute zenith performing “Sonic Reducer,” “All This and More,” “Not Anymore,” “Revenge,” “Flame Thrower Love,” “I Need Lunch,” “Ain’t Nothin’ to Do,” “What Love Is,” “High Tension Wire” and their blistering cover of the Stooges‘ “Search & Destroy.”

Watch this vintage live show — shot in color by Swenson’s three camera crew at the request of CBGB club owner Hilly Kristal — on Night Flight Plus.

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Rod Swenson — the ultra-radical NYC-born conceptual artist — was known by several pseudonyms in the NYC underground art & music community.

Some knew him as “Captain Kink,” the proprietor of Captain Kink’s Sex Fantasy Theatre, a surreal experimental erotic theater located in Times Square, where performance artists/nude dancers acted out scripted sex fantasies.

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Swenson — a fine arts-degreed sculptor, who created vacuum-formed hot-molded art pieces in his studio during the daytime — also used the pseudonym “Butch Star.”

In the evenings, he regularly dropped by CBGBs, where for several years during the mid-’70s he shot concert videos for several bands, including the Ramones, Blondie, and Dead Boys.

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Producers from the CBS primetime magazine-style series “60 Minutes” had contacted Kristal because they wanted to include CBGB footage in their segment about NYC’s burgeoning punk scene.

Since Kristal was the Dead Boys’ manager, he made sure that Swenson shot some of the best footage of the Dead Boys that you’re likely ever going to see and hear.

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Their thirty-minute, ten song performance kicks off with the band being introduced by the great Ronald Binder (more about him below) before they launch into “Sonic Reducer.”

We get a good look at Stiv Bators — he’s wearing a white sport coat, leather pants and sneakers at the start — and can clearly see the crowd remains right up front and in his face for most of the show.

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They’re acting fairly well-behaved during the show, too, which is somewhat remarkable for a punk gig, even after Bators ditches the jacket and we see there are three circular slices of baloney Scotch-taped to his chest.

Bators eventually proceeds to blow snot into into one of the slices before he folds it over and chomps down (talk about “getting caught with the meat in your mouth”).

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By late ’77, Swenson had started working with Wendy O’ Williams and the Plasmatics, and he spent the next ten years focused on them (read more about Swenson and Wendy O’ Williams here).

Read more about the Dead Boys below.

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Introducing the Dead Boys, as he did many times circa ’76 and ’77, was Ronald Binder, a CBGBs scenester and longtime #1 fan of Blue Öyster Cult, who he considered the world’s greatest rock band.

Binder ended up working for BÖC, co-writing a few songs. He writes about some of his incredible adventures in a blog titled “Almost Infamous: Tales from the Blue Öyster Cult Underground,” published on Hot Rails UK.

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In 1976, Binder says he paid a professional photographer friend to take photos of him wearing his wrestling character’s costume (he’d wanted to work with the WWF as a manager).

He later sent these same photos to PUNK fanzine, who published one of them calling Binder their “Punk of the Month” (the photo was featured in two consecutive issues).

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Ronald Binder, PUNK‘s “Punk of the Month

Binder’s connection to Dead Boys came along in ’77, when he had gone to CBGBs to see them play (he calls the band “Cleveland’s answer to the Sex Pistols”).

Stiv Bators, discovering that Binder was PUNK‘s “Punk of the Month,” brought Binder onstage to introduce them and later Binder even joined them, screaming into the mic during “Down in Flames,” a track from their debut album, Young, Loud and Snotty, recorded at Electric Lady Studios on W. Eighth Street in NYC.

Cleveland, Ohio’s Dead Boys — Stiv Bators, Cheetah Chrome, Jimmy Zero, Johnny Blitz and Jeff Magnum — eventually imploded only three years and two albums after they’d begun with a bang, the combined casualty of substance abuse and self-destructive impulses.

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We’re not entirely sure that the “60 Minutes” packaged punk segment ever aired Swenson’s footage, but in 2004, Swenson was contacted by Hilly Kristal and our content partner, Music Video Distributors (MVD), who wanted to release their entire set as a DVD, remastered and restored and given a 5.1 channel surround mix.

We also recommend that you check out the DVD’s extras (go buy a copy!), which include 1977 interviews with the band along with newer interviews with guitarist Cheetah Chrome and Hilly Kristal (who has since passed away), as well as other incidentals, including an interesting Sire Records promotional clip, during which the Dead Boys are called “the most powerful form of rock ritual since ‘Beatlemania’.”

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On the back of the DVD, Swenson is quoted as saying:

“When I look at these tapes, nearly 30 years after shooting them, I can remember thinking the Dead Boys, at least for some brief period of time, were the greatest rock band on Earth. I still feel that way. I’m really glad that we shot these tapes, hung on to them, and were able to restore them sufficiently, so that others today — in a world that seems more and more comprised of formula and poseur bands — can share this experience and see instead what the real deal was about… the incredible, phenomenal, Dead Boys.”

Watch Dead Boys: Live! at CBGB 1977 on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.