Dead Boys 1977: Lost Photos, Lost Youth, Gone Cleveland
But a time capsule of a book comes out this week, and whether you are interested in the history of punk rock, in bands before they were famous, or the history of Cleveland, or the way things go for young art school photographers, it’s worth a look. Dead Boys 1977 compiles never-before-published photos of the band before they were famous, including one that served as the concept for the cover of their 1977 debut album, Young, Loud and Snotty.” More importantly, it includes dozens that show Stiv Bators and band mates as yet un-touched by fame.
As the book’s editor and designer Ron Kretsch originally reported on Dangerous Minds back in 2015, “In 1976, Dave Treat, a student at the now defunct Cooper School of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, lived in a Lakewood apartment building that also hoveled the members of a rock band that had just re-christened itself from Frankenstein to the Dead Boys. As he was both the nearest accessible art student who owned a camera and a close friend to singer Stiv Bators, Treat was recruited to shoot publicity photos of the band . . .” The negatives ended up in a proverbial attic for almost 40 years.
CAN Journal has a couple of personal connections to this book. Its editor and designer Ron Kretsch is a friend and my former colleague at the Cleveland Free Times and Scene. And CAN writer / communications whiz, and art historian Brittany Mariel Hudak is a contributor to the book. Indeed, she helped organize the original exhibit of the photos at Bryon Miller’s now defunct Gallery 160 on Waterloo. An expanded version of that exhibit subsequently travelled to LA for a gallery show there, thanks to a chance connection with Blondie drummer Clem Burke.
Treat’s almost famous photo, which became the concept for the cover of Young, Loud, and Snotty, posed the band between two brick buildings, with the courses of brick leading like lines to the vanishing point—only rather than vanishing, they crashed into the band. You can tell Treat’s original from the re-made photo by another photographer because in the original there are only four members of the band, and they had long hair. By the time the album was in production, they had added a bassist, cut their hair, and developed “Young, Loud, and Snotty”stage personnas.
However, it’s all the other photos in the book that reveal the developing, un-jaded personalities of Stiv Bators and the band. As Hudak wrote, “They offer a rare glimpse into the private life of a young man on the brink of something, with a marked sense of unfettered opportunities and grand plans.”
There’s also evidence of a Cleveland that’s revelatory of the way things were in the ’70s. In one photo, they are gathered in the middle of Prospect Avenue in what seems to be the middle of the afternoon—gathered long enough to relax and pose and capture a photo without any interruption by passing cars.
Dead Boys 1977 comes out 40 years after the release of the band’s debut album—nearly half a century, just in case you didn’t feel old enough. Salon has already named it one of “30 must read music books of Fall 2017.” To get your copy, get to Blue Arrow Records (16001 Waterloo Road) from 6 to 9 pm Friday. Rumor has it Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz is going to be there.