Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Favorite Punk Records - Sonic Reducer - Dead Boys
"Sonic Reducer" has got to be one of the greatest punk rock records ever by one of the greatest punk rock bands ever, The Dead Boys. OK, OK – if you are a pedant, I’ll give you that it is a cover of a Frankenstein song, but they’re the same band.
Thanks to Joey Ramone, The Dead Boys, from Cleveland got themselves gigs at NYC's legendary bowery nightspot, CBGB and a manager in CB's proprietor, Hilly Kristal. Some of my fondest memories are of Ramones/Dead Boys shows…and even after the Dead Boys split up, Ramones, supported by whatever band Stiv fronted.
If the Ramones are punk rock's Beatles, then the Dead Boys are punk's Rolling Stones. Two sides of the pop/rock coin and in spite of the marketed "competition," the best of friends (and a note of thanks right here to Clem Burke aka Elvis Ramone, for noting the Ramones/Beatles analogy).
Clem Burke wearing his Ramones love for all to see
Anyway, I bring up the Beatles/Stones thing because if you didn't live through it, someone needs to remind you…the Beatles were OK with some parents, but the Rolling Stones were never allowed to be played when Mom & Dad were in ear-shot. No! The Beatles covered a show tune!! ("Till There Was You" from The Music Man) and sang love songs in dulcet tones… somehow, that won parents over even though they had long hair and a dry British sense of humor…(but the Jesus remark destroyed all that, but let's not go there right now). The Stones sang about sex, sex, sex: spending the night together, about sexual frustration ("Satisfaction") and drugs.
Jimmy Zero, the Dead Boys' heartthrob
I think if you were 12 when punk rock happened, you could get away with playing a Ramones record at home – with songs like "Rock n Roll High School" and "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend," your parents might think they were OK and retro, and if they were Trivial Pursuit level Beatles fans, they'd know the Ramones got their name from one of Paul McCartney's fake names… you would have listened to "Fifty Third and Third" or "Carbona Not Glue" with your headphones on just like in my day when we listened to the 1966 and later Beatles albums with headphones. But there was no way you could have listened to one minute of the Dead Boys…or even mention their name or their song titles around Mom & Dad if you were an adolescent in 1977. Luckily, I was in college. All I had to deal with musically was being able to drown out the guy down the hall listening to "Free Bird" (isn't there always one of those?) "Sonic Reducer" sounds great loud and wins all stereo wars.
So, why is "Sonic Reducer" so great? The urgent eighth-note guitar/bass intro, just bordering on metal (we called it "hard rock" back then), and the bashing drums that open the song were an assault of the highest punk order. And then the lyrics: "I don't need anyone, don't need no mom and dad…" great way to start off a punk rock song. Hit the nihilism and the teenage rebellion in the first line.
Dead Boys really knew how to destroy a stage
This "CBGB product" was produced by a lady - Genya Ravan, of Goldie & the Gingerbreads fame. You really need to read up on her and her remarkable career, so click her name and go!
You can see from the scan of the sleeve that "Sonic Reducer" was the A-side and "Down in Flames" was the b-side. But look closely at the scan of the disk…this is a DJ copy of the record, with "Sonic Reducer" on both sides – one side mono, the other side stereo. Stiv told me way back in 1978 that it was worth $40 on the collector market back then (of course, he could have made it all up, too). Not that I'm ever gonna sell it, but I thought it was a pretty funny thing for him to have said. Maybe he wanted me to sell it and split the money with him? Now that sounds like a Stiv Bators tactic…