Ten years older, louder and snottier: “Return Of The Living Dead Boys: Halloween Night 1986″

By on October 12, 2017

Nearly thirty-one years ago, a re-animated version of NYC’s legendary Dead Boys — featuring the original lineup of Stiv Bators, Cheetah Chrome, Jimmy Zero, Jeff Magnum and Johnny Blitz — commanded the stage at the Ritz, a cavernous East Village venue, playing a memorable set which was later released as Return of the Living Dead Boys: Halloween Night 1986.

We’ve got that nearly hour-long concert — billed as “A Halloween Spectacular: The 10th Anniversary Reunion of the Dead Boys” — streaming for our subscribers over on Night Flight Plus!


They’re introduced by their long-time friend and fan, Joey Ramone, who had urged the band to relocated to NYC from their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, in 1975.

A bit over ten years later, on Halloween night in ’86, the Dead Boys — led by goth-ly pale Stiv Bators, clad in black leather, including elbow-length gloves and leather suspenders, and wearing a German WWII officer’s hat — tear into their anthemic “Sonic Reducer,” which brings up a steady stream of punks who stage dive back into the crowd (one of them wearing a Reagan mask) just like the riotous old days.


Bators is quick to remind everyone that they were part of NYC’s original punk wave ten years earlier:

“You know what there was ten years ago?,” he says. “There was disco… we kicked the SHIT out of it.”

Since it is Halloween, Bators also pulls on a werewolf mask, and he and a roadie also dive into the audience, where Bators has some of his clothes torn away.

That gives the shirtless frontman the opportunity to do his famous “weenie-tuck” onstage.


Although you’ll no doubt notice that the visual quality and camerawork isn’t great (it was shot with an 80s-era consumer-grade camcorder by someone in the back of the room), we think you’ll still enjoy seeing the Dead Boys revisit seventeen of their tunes, including a couple of covers:

“Sonic Reducer,” “All This and More,” “Caught With The Meat In Your Mouth,” “Calling On You,” “I Won’t Look Back,” “What Love Is,” “I Need Lunch,” “Ain’t Nothin’ to Do,” “Down in Flames,” “Son of Sam,” “Detention Home,” “3rd Generation Nation,” “Tell Me” (Rolling Stones cover), “Search and Destroy” (Stooges cover) “Flame Thrower Love,” and two encore numbers: “High Tension Wire,” and a reprise of “Sonic Reducer.”


Read more about the Dead Boys below.


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Back in the day,Trouser Press wrote that the Dead Boys “earned their lasting international reputation by out-punking everyone else on [New York’s] Bowery circuit,” and by “uncovering new levels of violence, nihilism, masochism, and vulgarity.”

These five midwestern misfits — Stiv Bators (aka Steve Bator), Cheetah Chrome (aka Gene O’Connor), Johnny Blitz (aka John Madansky), Jeff Magnum (aka Jeffrey Halmagy), and Jimmy Zero (William Wilden) — didn’t arrive in NYC from Cleveland, Ohio, until the fall of ’76, though, clawing their way through the crowds to the stages at CBGBs (the club’s owner, Hilly Kristal, became their manager) and other NY punk haunts.


Even though they’d shown up a bit late to the party, the Dead Boys still managed to find a way to leave their mark on the NYC punk scene with a spate of memorable three-chord rockers and a couple of full-length albums, beginning, in the fall of ’77, with Young, Loud and Snotty, released on Sire Records (home to the Ramones, Talking Heads, Richard Hell and the Voidoids and others).


Soon, their gigs were attracting all the NYC celebs, and they befriended John Belushi, but sadly the Dead Boys turned down an opportunity to play on TV’s ” Saturday Night Live.”

They toured the UK, supporting the Damned, and the U.S., opening for Iggy Pop (a huge influence on Bators’ stage antics).

Still, they struggled in the studio whilst recording their more power-poppy second album, 1978’s We Have Come for Your Children (it featured “Ain’t It Fun,” later covered by Guns n’ Roses).


In 1979, the Dead Boys — who were never critics darlings and rarely got any airplay — were finally laid to rest.

Stiv Bators almost immediately went solo, recording for Bomp! Records, and he later founded Lords of the New Church with Brian James, ex-Damned guitarist (check out our previous post about that band’s “Russian Roulette” video here).

It was during a break in the action with the Lords that Bators had decided to revive the Dead Boys for this Halloween show and a handful of additional east coast gigs, including this Halloween show, which Chrome has described as one of the band’s most chaotic.


Guitarist Cheetah Chrome, writing in his 2010 memoir Cheetah Chrome: A Dead Boy’s Tale: From the Front Lines of Punk Rock, remembers how the show came about this way:

“Things were really sucking in Boston when I got a call from Stiv in 1986. Did I want to do some Dead Boys shows in New York, maybe a tour to follow? A guy named Chris Williamson had take over booking the Ritz, a huge venue in Manhattan, and he wanted us to do a Halloween show.”


In addition to playing a handful of shows, they also decided to record a new single, “All the Way Down (Poison Lady)” b/w “The Nights are So Long, which today Chrome disavows (he says he won’t even sign a copy of the single when a fan presents it for an autograph, and he’s even snapped a few singles in half as well).

In his memoirs, Chrome says that the single “put the final stamp on my official hatred/distrust of the music business and anyone involved in it.”

Watch Return of the Living Dead Boys: Halloween Night 1986 and other live concerts, over on Night Flight Plus.


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.