Stiv: No Regrets, No Compromise

by Pete Crigler

stiv-noregrets_150Well, if this isn’t one of the more interesting rock docs I’ve seen lately. Stiv Bators, frontman for the Dead Boys and Lords Of The New Church, was one of the more charismatic musicians of the initial punk era before becoming a goth wannabe doing covers of Madonna songs. With this film, more focus is placed on Stiv as a person more than Stiv as a singer. Unable to fully license Dead Boys and Lords music, the film has to find another angle to make things interesting. And for the most part, it works.

Drawing on interviews with Jimmy Zero from the Dead Boys and numerous members of the New Church and various friends, Stiv is presented as a good boy from Ohio who discovers, amongst others, Iggy Pop and realizes there is more to life. The Dead Boys was one of the first wave of punk bands to get signed to a major. Through interviews, their wild ride through the major label turnstile is presented with all the highs and lows. Their story was ultimately no different than any other punk band, but the way they ultimately imploded is fascinating.

Learning about his solo record and his band with the members of Sham 69 was great because it was info that I didn’t know about. Talking with the surviving members of Lords Of The New Church minus guitarist Brian James about their formation and ultimate unravelling is probably the best part of this film. Listen to a song like “Dance With Me” to get a good feeling of what the Lords was really like. Stiv’s personality came out more in the birth of the Lords because his bandmates got to see his mischievous side as well as a depressive streak that may have sabotaged their career.

When Stiv died in 1990, he was hit by a car in Paris and walked away from the accident thinking nothing was wrong. He died later that day from massive internal damage. The most shocking scene of the film comes with his memorial service where several bandmates confess that they snorted some of his ashes! I was completely taken aback and surprised by that; I have to say I haven’t seen or heard anything like that in a film in quite a while.

In the end, the lack of real music is a real hinderance to the film, but overall, Stiv’s personality really shines through and you realize what a punk visionary we really lost.

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