Iconic punk guitarist Cheetah Chrome (born Gene O’Connor) spent many years as a rather wild cat, crowned by a shock of red hair and known for his street smarts, musical talents, and taste for indulgence. In the mid-70s in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, Chrome helped architect the sound of punk with the seminal rock band Rocket From the Tombs (along with David Thomas and Peter Laughner, who would later form Pere Ubu) before harnessing the band’s aggression into a new project with Rocket drummer Johnny Blitz and frontman Stiv Bators. Eventually, the group—now a five piece dubbed the Dead Boys—relocated to New York. As they became a fixture on the CBGB stage (club owner Hilly Kristal even became their manager) it became apparent that no one could touch the Cleveland transplants when it came to antisocial tendencies, nihilism, or ferocity. The Dead Boys’ scathing rock ‘n’ roll—heavily influenced by groups like Alice Cooper, the MC5, and the New York Dolls—turned the notion that punks couldn’t actually play their instruments on its head, and the members’ debauchery, both onstage and off, became legendary in its own right.
While the Dead Boys’ magnetism was undeniable, their crudeness and extremism put them at odds with, well… a lot of folks, but especially those at their label, Sire Records. Rather than build on the excitement generated by their 1977 debut album, Young, Loud, and Snotty, Sire pressured them to “soften” their act for their follow-up, We Have Come For Your Children, a process that added plenty of nails to the coffin for the Dead Boys’ soon-after demise. Even when punk eventually did hit the mainstream (as Chrome predicted it would) the Dead Boys remained too tough to repackage for mass consumption.