Do You Believe in Magyk? - Stiv Bator (Easy Action)
This is the last musical will and testament of Stiv Bator. Let’s talk about who’s not on this album.
Dee Dee Ramone and Johnny Thunders had convened at Stiv’s Paris flat in 1990 to work up a supergroup, The Whores of Babylon, with the ex-Dead Boys frontman. Contrary to widespread belief, neither of them made it onto the album.
By the time Bator went into the studio, Dee Dee had flown the coop and fled to New York City, leaving a pile of Thunders’ slashed clothes and a trashed guitar in his wake after a fight whose root cause was (surprise, surprise) drugs. Johnny fronted up to one day of recording but evidently someone deemed his track unuseable.
The nine songs Stiv and a crack band put to tape originally surfaced as “The Last Race” in 2004. It was the last thing recorded by Bator, who by then had dropped the ’s’ from his surname because numerology had convinced him it was bad news. Unluckily, he was hit by a taxi soon after and died in his sleep after refusing to go to hospital. Keeping the ’s’ probably wouldn’t have saved him.
This is a great rock-powerpop album. Stiv’s vocal is on the money. The 2004 version overdubbed unnecessary synth lines and since the original 24-track tapes are lost, they’re still there. Kris Dollimore (The Godfathers and The Damned) and Neal Whitmore add guitar crunch with a glam edge. Cheetah wouldn’t like it but this will be a must-have record for fans of Stiv’s Bomp albums where he proved himself a powerpop exponent extraordinaire.
Dee Dee did leave one of his best songs behind in “Poison Heart”. This version isn’t so much as advance on the Ramones’ version on “Mondo Bizzaro” as a different and poppier take. Vocally, Bator makes it his own.
There are three more covers - “You Must Be A Witch”, a crunchy “I Ain’t Got Nobody” and a lightweight “Good Lovin’” - that are fun but are outweighed by the originals. “Two Hearts”, apparently a Lords of the New Church outtake, is soaked in raunch with Dollimore and Whitmore all over it. “Yesterdays” is a bare bones blues that shows Bator’s vocal to best effect.
The Tony James-penned “Do You Believe in Magyk?” adds a deft touch with some insistent guitar and would have surely been on radio with a little more polishing and some promotional push. There were plans for Bob Clearmountain to do post-production but they were dashed by Stiv’s demise.
Being an Easy Action release it doesn’t end there. The companion disc is a 1988 NYC show by Bators and his then band, The Evil Boys.
Not leaning heavily on his Dead Boys legacy (only “3rd Generation Nation” and “Sonic Reducer” make it) and it’s a superb recording full of guitar raunch. The lively set is laced with Stiv’s sense of humour. “Evil Boy”, “Not That Way Anymore” and a great “It’s Cold Outside” jump out.
There’s a faltering version of “Magyk” that Stiv bills as his upcoming single (even though it hadn’t yet been recorded) that’s very much a work in progress.
The packaging is the usual Easy Action standard and Nona Antonia’s liners put the album in perfect context.