So a good friend put me onto this teewee channel I didn’t know about before, not having even turned the danged thing on in about three years or so: Tubi, which has a damned near miraculous cornucopia of documentaries chronicling the rise of the first-wave punk rock bands of the late 70s. Now, I’m finding it impossible to turn the dang thing off.
For those not previously into this sort of thing, that’s one of my all-time faves, a Brit punk outfit yclept the Damned, slashing ‘n’ burning their way through one of their classic tunes*, “New Rose.” Their Tubi doc is called The Damned—Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead, and it is filled to brimming with some mighty toothsome stuff.
There’s a crap-ton of these things available on the Tubi channel, featuring bands from the Ramones to the Dead Boys to Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers to…well, you name it, they got it, pretty much. Here’s a latter-day version of “Neat Neat Neat” from 2009. See if that bassist doesn’t look a mite familiar to ya’s.
Yeppers, that there would indeed be the god-like Lemmy Kilmister, who stepped in to tour and record with the Damned for a spell after OG (Original Guitarist) Brian James had left the band and Captain Sensible had moved over from bass to guitar. As much as I’ve always loved the Damned, from back in 77 up until right this very minute, I never knew that Lemmy had filled in with ’em as bassist, a tidbit I gleaned from the documentary.
An additional nugget of fascinating Damned lore: the original-original guitarist (well, kinda-sorta) was Chrissie Hynde, who would go on to great fame with a little combo called the Pretenders. According to Ms Hynde herself, she had three rehearsals with the embryonic punk icons, after which “they never got back in touch with me, I don’t know why.” Ahh, but I do: not to put TOO fine a point on it, but Chrissie never was anything much to brag about as a lead guitarist; after the band had gotten James into the slot—who IS a good lead git-fiddlist, and very much so—the lads had no real use for Miss Hynde anymore.
A pretty comprehensive record of the Damned’s long and storied career is perusable here; it reads like a who’s-who of OG punk rockers from the UK, and encompasses pretty much the whole history of first-wave punkdom across the Pond.
Another Tubi documentary I’m very much looking forward to viewing covers one Stiv Bators and his band, the forever-notorious Dead Boys. These guys are another of my perennial faves; they actually played the old Milestone Club in Charlotte in, oh, 79 or thereabouts, maybe? To my undying regret, I missed that show thanks to what felt to me at the time as if it might turn out to be a fatal case of the Green Apple Strut, dammit.
I later heard that Bators had indeed performed one of his signature stage moves that night: he would wind his way-long mic cable around his neck three or four times, toss the rest up over a beam or rafter or whatever else was handy and looked to be sturdy enough to bear his weight (which couldn’t have been much more than a buck-twenty or so, the skinny little git), then pull up the slack until he was literally hanging himself by the neck from the ceiling several feet off the stage. Which, with the creaky, decrepit old Milestone, was an act of profoundest faith, believe you me.
Tragically, Bators died in 1990 after being clobbered by an errant taxicab in the streets of Paris. Somewhere around here I should still have a photo I clipped from Creem or Circus or some other one of several 70s rock and roll mags I devoured as sustenance for the soul back in my wayward youth, featuring Bators with his pre-Dead Boys band: a Mark 1-Mod 0 Longhair, Boots, ‘n’ Spandex agglomeration hailing from Stiv’s own home-base of Cleveland, calling themselves Frankenstein. As a preview of what was coming, that pic was about as off as off can possibly get. My own sudden artistic swerve from the comparatively sedate metal/hard-rock byway and into the punk fast-lane was every bit as aggressive and extreme as Stiv’s was.
Here’s a blast of some typical Dead Boys mayhem, from 1977 at the hallowed CBGBs.
Those were the days, my friends.
* NOTE: I originally had an early live clip of “Neat Neat Neat” in this space, but decided to swap it out for “New Rose” since I definitely wanted to include the “Neat Neat Neat” with Lemmy in it, and didn’t see the point of having two versions of the same dang song up there.