The car-owning residents of Cleveland must have breathed a sigh of relief after the band relocated to the Big Apple in
the Summer of '76. The Dead Boys were a pornographic K.O., impeccable purveyors of dirty doggy style punk. As a
Dead Boy, Stiv was an irregular Dennis The Menace, with a hair do of the consistency of starched mohair. It would
have been easier to stereotype him as a malevolent wrecker, rather than the offbeat, amiable character that he was. A
fact, that strangely enough, did on occasion upset those odd audience masochists who prefer abuse to an autograph,
according to his long time partner, Carroll Ayche-Bator: "During Dead Boys days, fans were sometimes disappointed
when they met him back stage, because he was such a nice person, he always said his fans were let dawn because he
didn't spit in their face or tell them to fuck off"
AIthough The Dead Boys had parted company by the late Summer of '78, the band were never fully renounced, they
just took very long intermissions between occasional reunions.
By Nina Antonio
Stiv Bators a man whose name reads like an anagram,
managed a rare feat of creative reincarnation, within the
span of what was to be a sadly curtailed life time.
He made his debut on October 22 1949, in Cleveland,
An only child, born into a fittingly nomadic family heritage - his mother
Pennsylvanian/ Dutch, his father descended from Czechoslavakian
Gypsies. (Stiv is the Czechoslavakian equivalent of Steven). Twelve
years of Catholic school was enough to sew the seeds of Stiv's later
irreligious interpretations: the cross and the switchblade imagery, not
forgetting the classic Stiv crucified artwork from the first Lords of The
New Church single, were part of the recurring theme even more
perverse than Madonna's sex and rosary fixations.
He managed to avoid the draft - the physique of a malnourished imp does not a soldier Boy make, before going on to
form a local band, Mother Goose. An apparently Alice Cooper influenced combo, of whom a silent 8mm reel is still in
existence. Already armed with his own particular brand of night creature vocabulary, next came Frankenstein who
appropriately played their first gig on Halloween. Frankenstein reanimated into The Dead Boys, when they were
given their first New York booking. Money was tight back then in the 5 dollar a gig league, and they kept their expenses
to a minimum, making a necessity out of auto-theft, each time they had to drive to N.Y.
DEATH VALLEY DAYS: EARLY '79
Pursuing his usual disordered fortunes, Stiv flew out to LA, where he had secured a solo deal with Bomp, and came to
roost in The Valley near the old Manson family ranch. He also did some gigs with an Ohio band, The Rubber City
Rebels, alongside Dead Boys' guitarist, Cheetah Chrome. 1980 found Stiv in the starring role of neighbourhood
threat, Bo Bo Bolinski, in Polyester; trash - gourmet, John Waters scratch and sniff movie between promoting The Stiv
Bator's Band and starting work on a new project, with the remains of Sham 69. The Wanderers played their
inauguration gig at The Lyceum, UK in March '81. They released one album and two singles and true to the vagabond
nature of their name, split not long after.
ANIMAL MAGIC: THE LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH
Bators had first met co-founding 'Lord, Brian James, in 1977, when The Damned and The Dead Boys had shared
the same bill at CBGB's. Even back then, they had vague designs for a future affair. Their baptismal gig as The New
Church Boys was a support slot to The Members at the Marquee, London in the Spring of '81. The Boy's tipped
their standing to Lords and proved themselves to be a real bad pack. Coven and gang, The Lords Of The New
Church were a perfect rock and roll excommunication with Stiv up front, a skinny witch in hallovveen attire, possessing
an off the wall range in vocal skills - from serial killer psychosis to deviant lover. And a sticky-penchant for twirling
chewing gum around his microphone. Bator's emergence as a Lord was recounted by Carroll, as seen from the view
point of an old friend, Joey Ramone.
Joey was talking about The Ramones, how they are doing better now, in a way, than they have ever done but they
have to do the same thing over and over, and Joey said to Stiv,
"I don't know many people who have been able to have a second career, start over, do something different and
By this point, Bators had obviously achieved a certain cult status, but the art of true cult is rarely lucrative and doesn't
often prey on good fortune - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart went to a paupers grave.
Carroll: "For Stiv success wasn't okay, money wise. He always got fucked but he was successful to the extent that
he could record when he wanted to, he could tour. We had enough to live on, it wasn't amazing...he always got
fucked on the royalty thing." Why? "Because he signed stupid contracts. I think Stiv is like most performers, wants
to be loved, wants to believe most people love him. With Illegal (Illegal Records, to whom the Lords were signed)
everything looked rosey but clauses in the contract werent respected and we were suing for that" (They won the
final part of the lawsuit but were unable to find the £17,500 necessary for the final part).
Why did the Lords split up? "It's a long story. When I met Stiv he was really fucked up and unreliable, there was
stuff with his divorce, stuff with the band that didn't go right, he was just generally unhappy. Anyway, there was tour
in Spain and Stiv fell off stage and fractured a bone at the base of his spine. He couldn't go back on stage for two
months and that was a lot of money lost. Stiv had to rest and we were in France. In the meantime, the band
advertised for a singer. I don't think they believed the Doctors report. Stiv always forgave absolutely everybody - we
were on speaking terms with the Lords before the accident. Stiv was really happy to be doing something else."
IN THE SHADOWS OF PARIS
In September 1989 Stiv played a one off, Return of The Living Dead Boys gig at The Opera on The Green, in
London's Shepherds Bush, with a band comprising of Bryn Merick from The Damned, on bass, ex UK Sub Alan
Lee on guitar and former 'Medics' drummer, Vom. Naturally the
set was made up of Dead Boys tunes, plus some new material, amongst them, the notable 'No Compromise, No
Regrets'. You could describe the event as the answer to most bootleggers prayers. As the evening drew to a
close, Stiv and the boys were joined by Thee Hypnotics for a finale of 'Sonic Reducer' and 'All This And More'.
Stiv returned to Paris (a treacherous city of people who favour black leather and sing in rock bands) where he
and Carroll had set up quirky domesticity, with their two cats, Satan and Dumbfuck. By the beginning of April,
1990, Stiv's Something Else finally got underway. A local record company, Bondage, put up the money for a
weeks recording session at the EMI studios in Paris, in order for Stiv to put down some demo tracks. For this
purpose, he enlisted Dee Dee Ramone (bass) and The Brotherlands' Kris Dollimore (guitar) and Vom (drums).
Johnny Thunders guested on two tracks and Neal X (former SS Sputnik) was brought in to engineer.
In accordance with the laws of chaos, before the first chord had been struck, Dee Dee Ramone had apparently
flipped out in Stiv's apartment and had to fly back home to New York. Neal X deputised. Originally it was planned
to only record two or three tracks, however the chemistry had such essential kick, they laid down six songs.
'Magic', a Tony James/Bators collaboration, Dee Dee Ramone's searchingly reflective 'Poison Heart', 'Witch',
penned by an early '60s garage band, a version of The Young Rascals' Good Lovin', 'Two Hearts, an out-take
from a Lords album and 'Ain't got Nobody' by The Tombstones, a San Francisco punk band. Stiv had intended
to take the demos to America, with a view to getting a deal and setting up a more permanent band, although
several US dates had been planned with the nucleus of the studio line up - they had hoped to play The Whiskey in
Los Angeles on the fourth of July.
Tragically, Stiv was never to realise any of these events. In early June
1990, he was hit by a car and died the following day. There is a plaque
for Stiv in Pere Lachaise, (the most celebrated and aesthetic of all
European cemeteries), not far from 'where he used to visit Jim Morrisons
hippy bespangled shrine. Stiv Bators was an uncompromising,
charming soul, who laid hands on rock and roll and raised it to his own
specifications. He leaves behind a dark wonderland of slutty panache
and causally divine compositions. A loopy legend - with respect.
Carroll: "It's so fucking unfair to go at a time when everything was so
perfect, he was so proud of the record, things were so wonderful
between us." If you were to ask Carroll to describe herself, she would
quite simply and without exaggeration, reply that her life has been
shattered. What is holding her together is her utter determination to
complete the work that Stiv began, trying to negotiate the best possible
deal for a release of the Paris sessions. The proposed album will
probably also contain some Lords tracks that only came out in France.
Carroll: "I feel confident that I know exactly what Stiv wanted for the album, I know all the details, for the sound,
for everything. There are two things he would have done, one of them would have been either to work with a big
producer but he's not around to direct it, so I would never take that chance, the other would have been to work
with people like Chris (Stein) or Joey Ramone, he got along with them; they wouldn't betray the sound, they knew
Stiv well enough. There are a couple of songs on the album that are a lot more accessible to a bigger public, its a
great album, the six songs anyway, he sang better on this than he ever sang before - Magic reflected exactly what
Stiv was about at the time. It's a very magic, mystic song, and that is what Stiv was really aiming for.
I do think there is more chance of anything happening in New York, than in London. Labels have more money in
America, at least I can expect a bit of money for his parents and a bit of money for the musicians. I would almost
be ready to sign for no money, if I knew all the money was to be put in to the promotion. I care more about that,
with promotion it could do well. To tell the truth, the more I have to go around and see labels, the more admire Stiv
'cos it's so disheartening. In a way, I found strength I never knew I had, because I never needed it before. Stiv
would do all the rounds of the labels. Now I have to do it. I never knew I had that much determination, its very
important to get that album out but I'm not that desperate that I'll sign anything. I would really betray Stiv if I didn't
finish that work."
A special thank you to everyone who helped out - Carroll Ayache Bator, for her participation and interview. Kris
Dollimore, Vorn and Neal X for the Paris sessions info, Doreen Boyd and Gene October at IRS. And David
Arnoff for consideration and photographs. - NINA ANTONIA (1991)
(FIRST PUBLISHED IN BRITISH MAGAZINE SPIRAL SCRATCH #11 JUNE 1991 from the DC Collection)
Since this article was published Stiv's final recordings found themselves on the 'Last Race' CD
released on Bondage Records in 1996.
For a full Stiv Bators discography go here... http://stiv-bators.tripod.com/