Pagans, Dead Boys and Madonna (yes, that one)

Back when the Dead Boys were in their snotty prime, the band would often take a break from things in New York City and head west to play some shows back home in Ohio. Usually those stops would include the Cleveland Agora and the Tomorrow Club. On January 8, 1978 the Dead Boys helped setup an “All-Star” Punk-A-Thon at the Tomorrow Club featuring Cleveland’s yet-to-be legendary Pagans as well as Detroit’s Pigs and Traitors. The show was probably thrown together to capitalize on the media hype surrounding the Sex Pistols U.S. tour which was going on at that time. In fact, the Sex Pistols were supposed to play the Cleveland Agora on Jan. 1, but visa issues delayed their entry into the United States and the band had to settle for a bizarre tour of the Deep South.

Mike Hudson, lead singer of the Pagans and also a notable journalist, jotted down his memories of that Youngstown gig in his excellent 2008 autobiography Diary of a Punk. According to him one Madonna Louise Ciccone was also hanging around that night.

The Tomorrow Club was a huge old theater, run down but still elegant. The bill consisted of the Dead Boys, us and two Detroit bands, the Pigs and the Traitors. Madonna, then just some mousy looking girl from Michigan, was there as the girlfriend of one of the guys in the Detroit bands. Felix Pappalardi was getting ready to produce the Dead Boys second LP, and was hanging around the dressing rooms making a nuisance of himself. It was obvious he just didn’t get it. Mick was just amazed. Here he had just joined the band two days earlier and now he found himself playing a joint that would easily hold 1,000 people.

One of the tech guys from the club came backstage and told me he wanted to meet our soundman and lighting technician. I told him we didn’t have any and he was incredulous. Seeing the look on his face, the Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz laughed.

“You wanted punk rock,” he told the guy.

We only played about 15 minutes, seven or eight really fast numbers. Mick was the ideal lead guitarist for us. He’s the same height as Tim — around 6′ 3″ — so having them on either side of me really made for a cool appearance. I used to call them my bookends. Also, while not yet the great musician he would develop into, he could play the bar chords and short solos our relatively unsophisticated songs demanded. The other thing about the show was our interaction with our audience. Al McGinty, who’d come along for the ride, was down front, up to his usual hijinks, and a mini-riot erupted. Chairs were thrown at and by us, resulting in damage that would cut significantly into our $150 guarantee.

As usual, the Dead Boys were fantastic that night. I’ve said before that Stiv Bators was the greatest rock’n’roll frontman I’ve ever seen, and he was also a really sweet guy. After the show he introduced me to his elderly parents, who lived in Youngstown. His real name was Steve, but they were from the old country and pronounced it the way he spelled it.

And another note on the Traitors…Don Was, who would go on to become a famous producer of albums by acts such as the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Bob Dylan, was the lead singer in that band.

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