My First Time With the Dictators
(And They Were Not Gentle With Me)
September 19, 1978. A summer of scouring the Phoenix concert listings finally yielded the Holy Grail: The almighty Dictators were going to be making their debut at the Paradise on Sept. 19. Darest I go? I had chickened out earlier in the year, when the band made its Boston debut with a couple of stealth gigs at the Rat, but those were on Mondays and Tuesdays, which were no-gos for a working slob such as myself. No excuses this time — it was a Friday, and I was THERE!!
The Paradise at the time was still brand-spanking new, and had the cachet of being Boston’s premier new music venue. What a bummer to get inside, and find out that A. Dancing was not only discouraged but could get you tossed, and 2. The tables and chairs were actually nailed to the floor, so if you didn’t get a chair facing the stage, then you were in for an evening of neck-strain. It didn’t matter to me. These were the Dictators. I would have endured standing on my head if that’s what it took to see them.
After an OK opening set by Thundertrain, who were one part Dolls mixed with two parts Aerosmith, the boys hit the boards to thunderous applause and ripped into “What It Is.” My immediate thoughts were “THAT’S Manitoba?!? He’s so skinny and short!” and “How come Scott is louder than Ross?”
HDM wasted no time before he was dissing Boston fans and sports teams, proclaiming NYC’s superiority to Bostin in every category. Thank God the gig wasn’t two weeks later, after the Bucky Bleepin’ Dent debacle at Fenway, or else we would have never heard the end of it.
Manitoba also displayed excellent sartorial taste, as he sported a homemade T-shirt with a caricature of his head atop Mr. Potato-Head’s body. That was a shirt that they really should have marketed. Another missed opportunity.