Posts Tagged ‘Cheetah Chrome’

I’m a big fan of Jeff Dahl, The Angry Samoans, Powertrip and a few other early 80’s So Cal HC bands. I only ever listen to punk bands that have integrity or roots – or both. LA’s False Alarm qualify on both counts, and one listen to this split 7” attests in uncertain terms that they are the real deal. False Alarm existed for a short couple of years back in 82/83, then regrouped again some 15 years later. Fat Mike (later of NOFX) was in an early incarnation of the band. Enough history. This split 7” (with another LA band Youth Gone Mad) was released a couple of years ago on the bands own label and it’s well worth the effort to track down a copy. False Alarm offer up ‘Tell Me Who I Am’, a brooding yet melodic tune that is archetypal punk rock and reminded me a lot of Peter Laughner and Cheetah Chrome’s classic ‘Ain’t It Fun’. The fact that Cheetah plays lead guitar on this tune is really the icing on the cake. Cheetah’s playing and his tone in particular is so solid and distinctive. This song wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Dead Boys ‘We Have Come For Your Children’ LP and is as good as anything you’ll hear nowadays that falls under the ‘punk’ banner. There’s a raw, unpolished quality here that makes this tune an out and out old school punk rock classic. Raspy and real vocals too. Cheetah thinks a lot of these guys too, and as well as playing on one of their previous CDs has stated, “I really think they are a great band in the Social Distortion vein, with intelligent lyrics written by guys who have lived the hell they sing about. They have more heart and talent than anybody I’ve heard in a long, long, time.” The flip side features a tune by LA’s Youth Gone Mad called ‘Frogman From Mars’ which, whilst not as immediate as the False Alarm tune, is not that dissimilar. The guitars are distorted nicely and tuned down and set to an almost swing beat. With it’s humorous lyrical content it kicks major ass. You could do a hell of a lot worse than hipping yourself to False Alarm. Check out the bands MySpace page here or email Brent here and he’ll tell you where you can buy the record or the bands other stuff. 10 out of 10. Buy some REAL punk rock kids.

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Rock n Roll War promo poster, Volume 1 and Volume 2

It’s hard to believe that 10 years have gone since the release of the Rock n Roll War compilation CD’s. Prior to Rockbrat, back then, Cowboy Col was operating Vicious Kitten Records, an independent record label whose mission was to fight the war against the jive. I had the idea of releasing a compilation album and did a short list of bands I wanted and things just took off from there. Vicious Kitten Records, and the Vicious Kitten Zine before that, developed a good reputation, and most bands were happy to be involved. The idea was to make it a solid balls-to-the-wall comp, and it achieved that. I wanted to show case some of the best Australian bands to an international market – and similarly get some of those international bands some exposure in Australia.   The first volume of ‘Rock n Roll War’ had such quality bands on it as the Dictators, Sylvain Sylvain from the New York  Dolls, the Hitmen DTK,  Deniz Tek and Chris Masuak of Radio Birdman, Jeff Dahl, Pete Wells of Rose Tattoo, Nikki Sudden, The Trash Brats, Asteroid B-612, Brother Brick etc.  This first volume of Rock n Roll War sold well, and following its success I decided to branch out into the USA and try and develop greater inroads there. Vicious Kitten USA was born and was co ordinated by Rick Blaze out of Boston. The second volume of Rock ‘n’ Roll War was the only release on Vicious Kitten USA and it came out in October, 2001. A CD release party was held for this album in Boston, and artists who appeared included Mike Thimren (who used to play with Johnny Thunders for five years, on and off, between 83-88) the Ballbusters and Kevin K.  Rock n roll War volume 2 was dedicated to Johnny Heff of The Bullys, a New York City firefighter who lost his life on September 11. There is a great Bully’s track on the comp called ‘New York City Man’. Johnny Thunders and the Ballbusters also do a live version of ‘In Cold Blood’. There are songs by Nikki Sudden, Dave Kusworth from the Jacobites, Walter Lure, the Streetwalkin Cheetahs, Kevin K, Freddy Lynxx, The Golden Arms, Dave Cuneo and Jeff Crane from the Ballbusters, Mike Thimren, the Detox Darlings. Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys was gracious enough to provide a tune called ‘The Morning’s Gonna Come, which he recorded specifically for Rock n Roll War 2. Other artists on this 2nd volume included the Cartridge Family from NYC who featured Donna from the Cycle Sluts From Hell, two Italian bands, one called The Valentines and the other called Loose. It was a very strong and impressive line up. The intent was to do release a third compilation CD, but the funds were not there.  These were a lot of work to put together, but looking back, some killer bands were released on these two comps.  These compilations occasionally turn up on eBay. Go discover.

So who is Kevin K, and why would you buy this book? Kevin K is a Florida based rock ‘n’ roller who for 30 + years has been playing street punk, NYC style rock ‘n’ roll. He counted Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan and Syl Sylvain from the New York Dolls as his peers and friends, as well as just about every other New York based rocker from the late 70’s onwards. Sure, he hasn’t sold hundreds of thousands of albums, no he’s never played Madison Square Garden (though he must have walked passed it a thousand times). No he isn’t a household name (though he is in my house). But he has written literally hundreds of underappreciated songs since the late 70’s, recorded 30 odd albums, and tenaciously niched out a career for himself by creating distinct, melodic and inspired rock ‘n’ roll – music that matters. If you are a fan of Johnny Thunders, The Dolls, The Dead Boys, Ramones, Iggy or punk rock in general, you will no doubt enjoy reading this book as it’s littered with great, real life stories that features all those guys. Yet this is more than a rock ‘n’ roll book. This is a human interest story about a life well travelled. It details his life as a boy and his youth growing up in Buffalo, high school, getting into rock n roll, living in NYC in the 1980s and 90’s as a musician struggling to make it with all the craziness that city had to offer at that time. There are many interesting stories in here. He came so close to ‘making it’ that he could almost taste it, yet he never signed that major label deal or had a video on MTV. He just kept plugging away, year after year, making new albums and touring in support of them. NYC, Detroit, LA, Japan, Germany, Poland, France, Spain. There’s great stories of the road from all those countries. There’s stories about living in NYC next to Iggy Pop, encounters with GG Allin and The Ramones, playing the clubs and moving to Hollywood. There’s stories about the death of his brother Alan (whose music was also way underappreciated), hanging out with Johnny Thunders and Cheetah Chrome, drugs, St. Mark’s Place, Jennifer Love Hewitt and much much more. It’s 2011 and the Ramones are long gone. CBGB’s has gone. Rock ‘n’ rolls glory days are gone. Despite it all, Kevin K has just kept on keeping on. I have been hipped to his music for 16 years now. For those of us in the know, this guy’s music has always been special. In an age when rock ‘n’ roll is manufactured, contrived, disposable and lacking in authenticity, the need for Kevin K rock n roll is greater than ever. This guy has more rock n roll credential than an army of Avril Lavignes. He is the last of his kind. Get this book now and discover what I’ve known for a long time now – Kevin K rock ‘n’ roll is the best there is.   

 At only $14 this is a MUST! But it online at Amazon here

Tune in to hear an exclusive interview with legendary Kevin K that was recorded on September 3, 2010. Cowboy Col talks to Kevin about all his new releases including the autobiography, his just released double DVD and current studio album ‘Joey & Me’. Listen here

The Rockbrat has just finished reading former Dead Boys guitar slinger Cheetah Chrome’s autobiography ‘ A Dead Boy’s Tale’ by Legs McNeil and it threw me back to October, 1996 when the Rockbrat and Cowboy Col were hanging out in NYC buying records and seeing bands. Here’s a gig ad from the now defunct yet iconic punk rock venue CBGB’s from Wednesday, October 6, 1996, with Cheetah first on the bill. God knows how many times he played CB’s over a 20 years period. It wasnt long after this that he relocated to Tennessee, so I’m lucky to have seen Cheetah at that point in time.

When Stiv Bators died, America lost one of it’s punk pioneers, and the world was deprived of one of the finest purveyors of punk rock ever. When Guns n Roses released ‘Ain’t It Fun’ from their ‘The Spaghetti Incident’ album of a couple of years ago, a friend enthusiastically tried to convince me that with this awesome tune, Guns n Roses were back in form. I had to politely remind him that this song was a cover of a Dead Boys number, and a rather lame version at that. I’d rather have Stiv sing it thankyou very much. While Pearl Jam now play ‘Sonic Reducer’ in their set, I wonder just how many kids realise that this is in fact another Dead Boys tune. I wonder what Stiv would make of all the fuss over Pearl Jam, looking down from rock n roll heaven. Stiv was born on 22 October 1949 in Cleveland, Ohio. An only child born to a mother of Pennsylvanian / Dutch heritage, whilst his father descended from Czechoslovakian gypsies (Stiv in Czech means Steven). In his late teens Stiv managed to avoid the draft (possessing the physique of a malnourished imp), and went on to form a local band Mother Goose, an Alice Cooper influenced combo with Stiv going by the stage name of ‘Steve Machine’. Stiv spent a brief period of time fronting another Cleveland outfit, Rocket From The Tombs around early 1975, and it was from this band that a lot of the Dead Boys material such as ‘Ain’t It fun’ and ‘Sonic Reducer’ were penned. 
The Rockets eventually splintered into two camps, Pere Ubu, and Frankenstein. By now, Stiv was already armed with his own particular brand of night creature vocabulary, and formed Frankenstein who appropriately played their first gig on Halloween 1975. Frankenstein proved quite popular during their brief time in Cleveland, playing covers of Kiss, Alice Cooper, Mott The Hoople and a smattering of songs plucked from the corpse of Rocket From The Tombs. However they found their prospects becoming extremely limited in Cleveland, playing covers to an audience unaware of the demise of glitter rock. When Bators attended a Ramones gig in Youngstown, Ohio he convinced the Ramones to secure them a gig at CBGB’s, and thus it was that  as the newly formed ‘Dead Boys’ they made their debut at CBGB’s on 25 July 1976. They abandoned their flirtation with the glitter / Brit rock aspects of Frankenstein, and essentially became a hard rock version of Rocket From The Tombs. They still included some raucous covers, including Iggy’s ‘Search and Destroy’. 
When the Dead Boys first appeared on the scene they came across as looking very right wing, wearing Nazi uniforms and the like, yet it seemed they lacked a certain pop sensibility. What they did have going for them though, was an energetic Iggy-like vocalist, and what they lacked in original inspired music was compensated for by Bators’ outrageous stage antics. The Dead Boys were a pornographic knock out, impeccable purveyors of dirty punk, and as a Dead Boy it would be easy to stereotype Stiv as a malevolent wrecker, rather than the off beat, amiable character he was. By mid ’78 the Dead Boys had parted company, leaving us with two classic punk albums, ‘Young, Loud and Snotty’ and ‘We Have Come For Your Children’. From one of the occasional reunions spawned ‘The Night Of The Living Dead Boys’ album, which was recorded live at CBGB’s in March 1979. Stiv soon ended up in L.A where he secured a solo deal with BOMP!, and also did some gigs with an Ohio band called the Rubber City Rebels, alongside Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome. He split his time divided between The Stiv Bators Band, who released the ‘Disconnected’ album in 1980, and his other project, The Wanderers (who featured ex members of Sham 69). The Wanderers debuted at the London Lyceum in March ’81, released one album ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ and a couple of singles, and true to their name split not long after. Bators had first met Brian James of The Damned in 1977, when they had shared the same bill as the Dead boys at CBGB’s. Even back then they had vague plans for a future collaboration, and in the spring of ’81 as the New Church Boys they debuted at the Marquee in London. After a name change to the Lords Of The New Church, they proved themselves a real bad pack. the Lords were a perfect rock n roll vehicle for Stiv, who up front was a skinny witch in Halloween attire, possessing an off the wall range in vocal skills – from serial killer psychosis to deviant lover. 
However after numerous contractual disputes and ensuing lawsuits, coupled with a divorce and a nasty fall from a stage in Spain which resulted in spinal fractures, Stiv decided to take leave for the moment and returned to Paris where he favoured a more domestic lifestyle. Yet thoughts of a rock n roll retirement did not sit comfortably with the nomad of punk, and after a yet another Dead Boys reunion at The Opera On The Green in London’s Shepherds Bush, Stiv soon had another project underway called ‘Something Else’. By April 1990, assembled alongside Stiv in a Paris studio were Dee Dee Ramone and guesting on guitar, Johnny Thunders. However even before the first chord was struck, Dee Dee Ramone had apparently flipped out in Stiv’s apartment and flew back to New York. Six killer tracks were laid down and Stiv enthused about taking the demos to America, with a view to setting up a more permanent band. one gig was already pencilled in for The Whiskey in L.A on July 4, 1990. Tragically, Stiv was never to realise any of these events. In early June he was hit by a car and died the following day. He now rests in a Paris cemetery. 
Stiv Bators was an uncompromising soul who laid his hands on rock n roll and raised it to his own specifications. He leaves behind a dark wonderland of slutty panache and casually divine compositions. Even before his death Stiv had attained a certain cult status, but the art of true cult is rarely lucrative, and like Mozart before him, Stiv went to a paupers grave.

Note: Article originally appeared in Vicious Kitten Fanzine – 1995

September can’t come soon enough for the Rockbrat as two of our oldest pals have releases out that are considered must haves. Kevin K has a double DVD out on 21 September called’ The Successful Loser’, and it has solid distrubituion in the States. This twin DVD set will chronicle Kevin’s life in both NY and then in Europe. With a slick production via our old friends at Circumstantial Records, this is one we cant wait for. Head to CD Universe and pre-order your copy now. September 15 also sees the release of Cheetah Chrome’s long awaited biography ‘A Dead Boy’s Tale: From the Front Lines of Punk Rock’. At 368 pages long, this one is also considered essential. In 2001 Cheetah was kind enough to contribute a song he wrote called ‘The Morning’s Gonna Come’ to the second installment in Vicious Kitten Records ‘Rock n Roll War’ compilation CDs. This CD is long out pf print, and as such that song has never seen release anywhere else. Only now is he starting to get the credit he deserves. Hopefully the sales of his book and Kevin’s DVD will be big, and will see them both get some long overdue financial recognition.

Mr Cheetah Chrome

Who: Cheetah Chrome
Where: CBGB’s, New York City – 2 October 1996


It was by pure co-incidence that Cheetah Chrome was gigging in NYC whilst I was marooned there back in 1996 (from memory we were killing time before heading to Philly for a Kiss re-union show) . So on a stinking hot Wednesday night, I head down to CBCB’s and witness a punk rock icon. Cheetah has ‘that’ guitar sound which only a few others possess, and he was great that night. I didn’t snap too many photo’s, but I quite like this one displayed here. Afterwards, I have him a copy of our fanzine which he seemed to dig. A great gig. A great night. A truly great guitar player.