Do you know the Boston punk band La Peste? Maybe you know their signature song, ‘Better Off Dead.’ Maybe you know the track without knowing it (Death From Above 1979 did a cover of Better Off Dead on their 2005 Vice Records CD Romance Bloody Romance).
La Peste were a late first-wave trio from Boston that took the early jangle of The Jam, but replaced the Mod affectations with punk attitude. They could have almost been seen as a precursor to The Wipers. Like all the best bands throughout time, every member was a crucial ingredient with a distinct contribution. One of the amazing thengs about La Peste is that a band that only put out one 7inch could have left behind such a vast legacy.
Boston Groupie News did an interview with Jan Crocker about this DVD. In it he says that he is working on a DVD for the second incarnation of the band, La Peste V2.0, when Ian Kalinosky replaced Peter Dayton as the frontman lead vocalist/guitarist. That period is a lot more pop-oriented than the original lineup. La Peste V2.0 had the track ‘Lease on Life’ on a Modern Methods LP compilation (Modern Method was Newbury Comics’ first record label). ‘Lease on Life’ holds up as one of the best La Peste tracks. Smasheasy released a CD of La Peste V2.0 that is well worth buying.
The two members that persisted throughout were Mark Andreasson (aka Mark Karl) and Roger Tripp. Sadly, Roger was killed on New Years Eve in 1993 when his car collided with a drunk driver. Mark Andreasson is still a Boston resident where he runs an environmental graphics firm. Roger played like Kieth Moon, and had high pitched background vocals like Roger Meadows-Taylor of Queen (well, not THAT high pitched…).
Peter Dayton had a rough-edged voice and guitar style that brought personality to every La Peste song he played, raising them above the bar of punk rock proliferation. I never met him and don’t know why he left the band, but the first I heard of La Peste was as the band Peter played in before releasing his ‘Skin Tight’ 12inch. Around 2000, Smasheasy released a CD called ‘Peter Dayton’ which had demos from 1980-82. Responding to one somewhat lackluster review, Peter said “you need to review the real music I made before skinny ties and keyboards ruined everything.” This statement implies he disliked the V2.0 version of the band, which was skinny ties personified. He pointed to the Dionysus CD Better Off La Peste. Dionysus also reissued the sole La Peste 7inch Better Off Dead b/w Black.
It is amazing that this band, that only released one single, still has so many followers around the world. Take a look at the La Peste fan club page on Facebook and you will see contributions from all over, all equally passionate. But all the info above is easily findable in the Cloud without relevation. Here is the story of my interest in La Peste.
I grew up in Long Island NY. In my teens, before and after playing in the glitter band Crystal Fox with toughies from Seldon, I played with Craig Kutner and Martin Street in Mr. Ramen & the Good Computers, and later, The Subjects. After college, Craig moved up to Boston. Coming back to visit once, he brought the Peter Dayton 12inch ‘Skin Tight’ and played it for me. Craig started playing with Roger Tripp in Stickball. Stickball exemplified the incestuous nature of Boston bands, comprising a post-Unnatural Axe Richie Parsons and Frank Dehler, and adding Kurt Henry.
My first contact with Mark Andreasson was at the company he and Craig founded, where I worked when I first moved to Boston in 1982. Mark was a fellow bass player, and was very likeable. I heard stories that he had drilled his bass into a wall to symbolize the end of his connection to music, and that image stayed with me for years, coming to mind a decade later when as a DJ at WHRB Morgan Andrews taught me “If you love a band, you’ve got to destroy it,” referring to my sadness that Mark Erdody’s band Kudgel had called it quits. While that lesson seems crazy, I reflected on how The Jam had broken up at their peak, and I thought of Mark’s successful break from music, with his bass drilled into a wall.
Still at WHRB, in 1994 I did a La Peste Orgy. WHRB has a long-running tradition of airing marathon single artist/label/scene radio shows between semesters. They are kind of like individual DJ’s thesis’. I did 8 hour Orgies on Lydia Lunch, Wayne County, Willy Alexander and (as part of the Rock of Scotland Orgy), Josef K. For the La Peste Orgy, I was joined my Mark Andreasson, who agreed to return to the music he had left behind as a tribute to his recently departed friend and drummer Roger Tripp, senselessly killed by a drunk driver on New Year’s Eve. The Orgy was the first time I was aware of just how many tapes were out there containing really good La Peste Material.
In 2000, while playing a La Peste song on my WZBC show Gulls Window Circus, I received a call from someone who had the originals of many of the tapes I had received as cassettes during the Orgy. In a Deep Throat styled clandestine meeting, I was to meet him in a park in Brookline to get three CDRs of the tapes. I was not to say his name if I played them on air, and it was all a little scary and shady. The CDRs were fantastic, and eventually as time moved on, he worked out agreements with all involved, and this material became the basis for the Dionysus CD and an Italian LP Better Off Dead on Italian label Rave Up Records. I still have never seen that LP. The identity of this Deep Throat? Jordan Krantz, of Maine punk band Big Meat Hammer. Every La Peste fan owes him an incredible debt for releasing this material to the wild.
About the DVD, Jan Crocker said “I worked on this on and off for the better part of a year and I’m really happy with the results. I think it really captures the energy of the band and of the time.” You can get the DVD content and ordering information here. There are also sample video clips. The DVD features a full show filmed in Boston 1979, Six Additional Videos, and the Audio_Pix Gallery containing another six clips. Twenty videos total with the following songs:
- Don’t Want to Die in My Sleep Tonight
- Please Love Sex
- Whites of Your Eyes
- I Don’t know Right from Wrong
- Better Off Dead
- Acid Test
- Color Scheme
- Kill Me Now
- Spy Master
- You’re Too Cute
- Hold on to Love
- Kindness Invites Abuse
- Let Me Sleep
- Pop Rock Polls
- Skin tight