late 1970’s, Sire Records tried to reinvent itself as the American label for
punk rock and new wave, signing a slew of bands that bounced between CBGBs and
Max’s Kansas City,
including The Ramones and The Talking Heads. At the suggestion of CBGB owner Hilly
Kristal, the label also snapped up The Dead Boys (who were conveniently being
managed by Kristal at the time).
Ramones and The Talking Heads went on to sell millions of albums and quickly
cemented their reputations as founding groups of the American punk rock sound,
The Dead Boys were relegated mostly to footnote status.
Since their founding in Cleveland,
it appears as if the Dead Boys were always destined to be the Rodney
Dangerfield of punk rock. They had the chops, but never really got the respect
or credit they deserved for their role serving on the front lines of the New York punk scene. They
shared stages, groupies and drugs with The Ramones, but never quite got the
amount of fame that their buddies achieved.
The Dead Boys are finally getting some of the credit they
deserve, thanks to the memoir by founding guitarist Cheetah Chrome.
In his book, Chrome does a great job of throwing in just
enough about his childhood – growing up poor in Cleveland, raised by a
supportive single mom – to add context to the group, but not enough to bore the
reader (like most musician’s autobiographies). Chrome spends the bulk of the
book discussing his time in Rocket From the Tombs, one of Ohio’s first great punk rock bands, and
finally the Dead Boys.
Chrome is honest about his alcohol and drug use, and more
than a little defensive about getting kicked out of the band, but that’s to be
expected. He also shares plenty of stories about the ‘70s music scene at CBGB’s
and Max’s Kansas City and run-ins with Johnny Rotten (annoying at first, but a
decent enough guy on a second meeting), Sid Vicious (funny, when he was awake
and away from Nancy Spungen) and Patti Smith (not Chrome’s favorite person).
The Dead Boys have finally gotten the acknowledgement they
deserve for their role in the early days of punk rock… too bad it had to be
from one of their own.
Read an excerpt from
Chrome’s book in the current issue of BLURT.