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Issue Date: May 2008 Issue

Punk Talk

Rachel Szuch
The founder of one of Cleveland’s original punk bands, Mike Hudson tells all in his new book, “Diary of a Punk: Life and Death in the Pagans.” He paints a vivid picture of a rebellious band with a sound that was ahead of its time. The Pagans broke up in 1979, after just two years together, but found a fresh generation of fans with the 2001 reissue of their first full-length release, “The Pink Album.” “It was like a vindication,” says Hudson. “We always felt that what we were doing was good and important.”

Who was your favorite band to perform with?
Locally, The Dead Boys for sure. They were just great. But the biggest thrill was getting to play with The Ramones. I’m 52 years old and I still think that they were the greatest American band ever. Their first album changed everything — it was the first punk album. So, that was just way cool.

What did you get out of writing the book?

I got to settle a lot of old scores. I think that it was an important thing to document, the people who were there. It’s a funny thing, if you listen to people talk now, everyone went to see Rocket from the Tombs. They never had an audience bigger than 50 people and only played like 10 shows the whole time that they were in existence. I think it’s important that someone who was actually there at least made a stab at what it was like.

What was your favorite place to play in Cleveland?
Pirate’s Cove in the Flats. People were afraid to go down there, so if you had a band and you were willing to go down there to play, they’d be happy to have you. Everybody played down there — Devo, The Dead Boys, The Police — any band that came to Cleveland and wasn’t already a big hit.

What do you hope the legacy of the Pagans is?
I get the biggest kick when a kid band from Japan or Finland or Spain will send us a record where they did one of our songs, and there are about 30 of those now. There are some other kids that came up and they’re picking that up in Japan. And they do the lyrics phonetically, so they screw them all up! That’s the legacy — it’s just rock ’n’ roll.

“Diary of a Punk: Life and Death in the Pagans” is available at Mac’s Backs, This Way Out, Visible Voice Books and Talk

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