Addicted To Noise Senior Writer Gil Kaufman reports :
Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome remembers the sessions for the Cleveland punk band's pug ugly 1977 debut, Young, Loud & Snotty like they were just yesterday. At least he thinks he does. He's pretty sure he was there, but sometimes it's hard to say.
"That was the first time any of us were ever in a studio," said the excitable Chrome from his home in Nashville. Chrome was reminiscing about the Boys -- the band he and drummer Johnny Blitz, both former members of Cleveland's Rocket from the Tombs, formed in 1976 -- on the occasion of the release of Younger, Louder & Snottier (Bomp), a track-for-track re-hash of their debut culled from the (very) rough mixes of those legendary sessions.
"We got in there and did the album in four days at Electric Lady (in New York)," he said. "At night we would all just walk around New York, because we'd just quit our jobs in Cleveland and moved there to get the album done."
The mixes on the album are indeed louder and snottier than the original versions. The Boys' only "hit," the still powerful "Sonic Reducer," is rawer and uglier, while more juvenile songs such as "Hey Little Girl," "I Need Lunch" and "Ain't Nothin' To Do," sound much more like Cheetah said he wanted them to sound at first: That is louder and, um, louder still.
"We were all real drunk, and taking Tuinals and speed while we made the record," Chrome said about the atmosphere in the studio. "We'd take the speed to record, then the Tuinals to stop twitching so we could play our instruments. We didn't have any groupies hanging around, just these big, hairy Hell's Angels drinking beer all day."
Chrome said the group -- "just snotty goobers from Cleveland" -- got into several verbal sparring matches with producer Genya Ravan, who kept insisting the boys "turn it down."
"Genya guided us through and really brought out the best in us. For someone who didn't even know us before the sessions, she really did a great job," the guitarist said about the songs that ended up on their 1977 debut for Sire Records.
Chrome claimed the rougher mixes on the new Bomp collection, devoid of the Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound Ravan found in the group's rudimentary thrashings ("she found melodies where there weren't supposed to be melodies, where we didn't want them"), are a result of unheralded studio wiz Bob Clearmountain.
"Bob was our bass player on those sessions," Chrome said of Clearmountain (who has since become acclaimed as the studio whiz major stars like Bruce Springsteen use to mix their albums).
"You're talking about ex-gang members in a punk band and our aspiration was to be like the Stooges," said Chrome. "Genya brought out a lot of heart. But when we listened to the record, with our 21-year-old kids' point of view, we were pissed off because it wasn't loud enough."
Although Chrome said he is now thankful that Ravan was there to set the band straight, he nevertheless added that once the album was done and everyone had left to go to a party at CBGB's in Greenwich Village, taking with them the "speed, Tuinals, cases of beers and Hell's Angels," he, singer Stiv Bators and Clearmountain, went into the studio and did some of their own re-engineering.
"We stuck around because Bob wanted to play with the board and the engineer sat us down and let us blast a totally egotistical mix of the record. Bob was a budding engineer then and he was fooling around just like us," Chrome said of the sonically-challenged results.
Chrome, who just finished work on a solo album, Ricanstruction (produced by Ravan) for CBGB's owner Hilly Kristal's label, said, if anything, these mixes are "just more bullshit." He likens them to cutting the fat off a steak. And "this is the fat," he added.