photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
with PUNK ROCK there are so many people credited with getting the initiating the genre, everyone from THE STOOGES and THE MC5 to the NEW YORK DOLLS, THE RAMONES and even THE DICTATORS. the documentary STIV: NO COMPROMISE, NO REGRETS (CHIP BAKER FILMS, 2019) takes a look at STIV BATORS, frontman of what is in all likelihood is the first PUNK band THE DEAD BOYS (as well as later outfits like SHAM 69 one-off THE WANDERERS and the GOTH-tinged LORDS OF THE NEW CHURCH). and its a sad truth that unlike his contemporaries in IGGY POP, DAVID JOHANSEN and JOEY RAMONE and later acolytes like that of JOHN LYDON, JOE STRUMMER and DAVE VANIAN, BATORS is a relative unknown. at least he was to me.
so that is essentially the raison d'être for this film, it is a sort loving effort by former band members, crew and friends to resuscitate his legacy and public profile. what is sad is that despite some archival interview footage of JOEY RAMONE speaking about his former peer, there is little in the way of interview footage by major players, which is a shame. it sort of limits the appeal of what is otherwise a more than competently constructed film which examines his rise out of rural OHIO to starting bands in CLEVELAND and ultimately infiltrating the nascent downtown CBGB's scene in NYC with a vengeance in the mid 1970s. in fact, HILLY KRISTAL (owner of CBGB's) bankrolled their debut and managed them after seeing them play his club. unfortunately that moment was the peak of their career and larger cultural relevance. the band fell apart after a few more disastrous efforts in which they were mismatched with producers unsure of what to do with them or their sound. subsequent efforts were interesting but BATORS seemed to be chasing trends (60s PSYCHEDELIA, 80s POST PUNK) rather than setting. his absurd and tragic death in PARIS seemed a fitting marker to someone steeped in ROCK N ROLL cliches (again following in the footsteps of JIM MORRISON a generation before him).
after watching the documentary i am no closer to understanding why BATORS was a seminal figure in the history of PUNK. not to be cruel, but outside of his niche of devoted cult followers, there doesnt seem to be any real consensus surrounding the nature of his brilliance. i am more than a little baffled as to why this film was released knowing that there wasnt any high profile testimonials/aspersions regarding his legacy.
maybe his relative unknown public profile is right where it should be. i dont know the answer to that. maybe somebody with weight on the subject could tell me because everything ive read in countless books on PUNK ROCK mention THE DEAD BOYS as a footnote to the lasting impact of other later bands in that same scene, i.e. THE RAMONES. i am still interested in the subject, but in my estimation this documentary, however well-intentioned and edited, was half-baked and could have used more credible participants.