Tough. Rowdy. Snotty. Dirty and rude. They were all of it.
In late '70s New York City, the short-lived Dead Boys helped give birth to punk rock alongside early icons of the genre. Four decades later, two of the original members, guitarist Cheetah Chrome and drummer Johnny Blitz have reformed for a reunion tour with the addition of new bandmates. They hit The Jinx on July 6 with local support from Shoplifters and Jeff Two-Names and the Born Agains.
At the behest of Joey Ramone, Dead Boys left their native city of Cleveland in 1976 and moved to New York City. They initially formed when Chrome (born Gene O’Connor) and Blitz’s (born Johnny Madansky) Cleveland protopunk band Rocket from the Tombs split up. Chrome and Blitz recruited singer Stiv Bators (Steven Bators) and called the new band Frankenstein, which later became Dead Boys when they moved to New York.
Dead Boys would become a staple at the legendary nightclub CBGB’s, playing alongside acts like the Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, and Television. They released their debut album, “Young Loud and Snotty,” in 1977, alongside benchmark punk albums like Ramones' “Rocket To Russia” and “Leave Home,” The Sex Pistols’ “Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols,” The Clash’s “The Clash,” and The Damned’s “Damned Damned Damned."
The album’s opening song, “Sonic Reducer,” has become a punk rock standard.
In those days, Dead Boys were widely known for their rowdy behavior. Bators often cut himself during live performances. Profanity and general debauchery were mainstay behaviors. Blitz was seriously injured in 1978 after a brawl with a street gang landed him in the hospital with 17 stab wounds to his chest. During a benefit show at CBGB’s, John Belushi filled in on drums, and Ramones and Blondie played as well.
The band recorded a second album, “We Have Come For Your Children,” which was released on Sire Records in 1978. But disagreements about the album and band’s sound eventually led to Dead Boys dissolving the next year.
The original lineup reunited in the 1980s for several shows. Bators died in a car accident in France in 1990. Last year, Chrome and Blitz reunited for a few shows in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Dead Boys debut album. The brief reunion, however, has led to a more permanent reformation of the group.
“Me and Johnny were touring in my band,” Chrome told Do Savannah. “The solo project. Guys in the band said we should do something for the 40th anniversary. I was trying to think of something to do. We got Johnny on board, then it sort of snowballed from there. We were excited to do a tour, or tours. This is like our third one. So it’s not really a single tour. It’s like Bob Dylan’s endless tour.”
Part of the reunion’s success has come because of the addition of Jake Haut on vocals and Ricky Rat on bass. The two were originally in the Dead Boys tribute band, the Undead Boys, when Chrome and Blitz saw a performance online and were impressed with Haut’s handling of Bators’ original vocals.
“Jake’s been great,” Chrome told Do Savannah. “Everybody’s been great. The band now is probably better live than the band was originally. Hard to say.”
Dead Boys re-recorded their first album, which was released as the band’s third studio album last year, “Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40,” on Plowboy Records.
“It was fun,” Chrome said of the album. “It was nice to be able to go in there with a little bit of studio experience. To get sounds we like, instead of sounds we were going to get stuck with. First time, we had terrible equipment.”
This won’t be Chrome’s first trip to Savannah. In 2012, Chrome was in town for the filming of “CBGB.” The movie chronicles club owner Hilly Kristal’s (Alan Rickman) role in the early days of punk rock. Rupert Grint, most known for his role as Ron Weasley in the "Harry Potter" film series, portrayed Chrome in "CBGB." Rickman also had a recurring role in the "Potter" films.
“Rupert did a great job,” Chrome said. “Snape did a good job as Hilly — I always call him Snape. My son and I were big into those movie characters for a long time. Then all of the sudden — my son was 6 at the time — we watch all the 'Harry Potter' movies. He said, 'I get to meet Snape. Oh yeah, but his name is Alan Rickman.' All of the sudden he became a real person. That was cool.”