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Lost Photographs Celebrate Cleveland Punk Icons the Dead Boys’ Formative Year

What: Dead Boys 1977: The Lost Photographs of Dave Treat Book Launch Party

When: 6:00 – 9:00 pm; Friday September 29, 2017

Where: Blue Arrow Records (16001 Waterloo Rd. Cleveland OH 44110)

 

The impermanence of a digital photograph has always bothered me. Maybe you delete whatever camera phone images manage to make it to IG by the next morning with a delayed sense of humility or a brooding realization of how inconsequential they actually are. However important they seem in the moment, our ability to consume images so quickly without anything but immediate social currency attached to them cheapens even our most personal memories.

But in 1977, a moment captured on film was there to stay. It may never be seen by anyone but the eye behind the viewfinder without first becoming a negative and then a photograph, it may not achieve any fame or fortune unless printed by a newspaper or magazine, but you chose the exposure, the camera, the film just for that singular purpose of conscious documentation.

That was the case for many of Dave Treat’s photographs of Stiv Bators, a neighbor and friend of the developing art student living on Giel Avenue in Lakewood, OH. Many of the photos he took of Stiv and the other misfit members of his band were never seen by the general public until published in Dead Boys 1977: The Lost Photographs of Dave Treat this past July.

In fact, Treat almost threw out the negatives as he was doing some spring-cleaning two years ago, but after a conversation with art historian Brittany Hudak at Blue Arrow Records, he decided to let the images he shot for a portraiture project in college see the light, or in this case, an enlarger. Bryon Miller of Gallery 160, a then-neighbor to Blue Arrow, agreed to print the photographs to hang on display, first at his now-closed art space and then as an exhibition at Lethal Amounts Gallery in Los Angeles.

Next door to the L.A. opening of Stiv: 1976, Lost Photographs of Stiv Bators and The Dead Boys in 2015, a raucous party was taking place at a bar where Cheetah Chrome, the original guitarist, performed a Dead Boys set to a packed house. “The exhibition catalog sold out and everyone was just completely stoked on it,” says editor and designer of the new book, Ron Kretsch.

Treat’s photos are not only a vehicle for fans of the early punks to get close to the Dead Boys, but are important for Clevelanders looking to reimagine many of the intimate scenes pictured amidst landmarks and architecture that’s all too familiar. Hudak describes Stiv and the Dead Boys in her essay “On Becoming” (republished in the 2017 book from the original exhibition catalog) as in transition from young and naïve hometown hooligans to legendary figures immortalized in CBGB history during these moments.

The book is broken up into three parts. The first contains band photos that Treat shot on a sunny day in desolate downtown Cleveland. “They needed photos. They’d be traveling to New York, they were friends with The Ramones and the Dolls. They had been getting gigs at Max’s and CB’s already at this point. […] They were in New York so much I’m sure people thought they lived there,” Kretsch tells the story in his own words.

Prompted by Rock Scene magazine, Bators enlisted Treat to help them take a picture to run in the publication with a tight, four-day turnaround. Only one photo, which was later used as the inspiration for the album cover of Young, Loud, and Snotty was ever printed out of the 22 photographs of the band and its individual members included from that specific day.

“This is all Prospect Avenue!” exclaims Kretsch, pointing at the innards of the hardback. “That’s what it looked like in the mid-70’s. When I was a little kid my parents would kind of take me downtown, and that meant Euclid Avenue between the Terminal Tower and the Woolworth’s. […] That was the entire city, the only place you’d see living human beings. You notice, this is the middle of the afternoon and there are no other humans in these photos. You don’t even see a [moving] car. That was Cleveland in 1977, totally crumbling.“

The photographs are paired with memories from Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz (drums) that read like a scene from a movie. Two old friends looking through an album of photographs and interjecting on what was happening or what someone was thinking at a certain moment in time. The book makes no claims of being a complete oral history of the Dead Boys, but instead satisfies a curiosity for voyeuristic fans or strangers alike.

Beyond the story of the Dead Boy’s impending fame, or even Stiv Bators’ untimely end in 1990, something about these photographs was compelling enough to three separate Clevelanders for them to make sure the images didn’t get thrown back into a shoebox or exist solely as a scan on a hard drive. The excitement of unearthing untouched negatives from forty years ago and making gelatin silver prints of them in an old school darkroom, then scanning those to create the book and an exhibition, has kept the project continually evolving since its inception.

On Friday, September 29th from 6 to 9 p.m. the team will return to Blue Arrow Records for a book launch party to coincide with Cheetah Chrome’s 40th Anniversary of the Dead Boys’ Fall tour. The book will be available for purchase, while WCSB’s John Neely and editor/ Dangerous Minds’ Ron Kretsch will DJ Cleveland punk classics with Dave Treat present for signings. Limited edition Dead Boys shirts, posters, and pins will be raffled off and a special appearance by Johnny Blitz is in the books. Check out all of the information and stay up to date on new announcements here.

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Rachel Hunt

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