An Urban Legend Debunked: BossToneS Frontman Recalls A Wild Night With The Cramps At Boston's Channel Club

Dicky Barrett crowd surfing at The Rat in Boston in the '80s. (Courtesy Phil-in-Phlash)
Dicky Barrett crowd surfing at The Rat in Boston in the '80s. (Courtesy Phil-in-Phlash)

It's not often that you see a rock ‘n’ roll singer punch out a fan during a concert. That's probably why a couple of punches one night in Boston almost 40 years ago led to an urban legend about how the kid who would grow up to become The Mighty Mighty BossToneS' frontman was smacked off stage.

But let's start from the beginning.

Back in the early '80s, the Cleveland-bred/New York-based band The Cramps were playing one night at a club called The Channel in South Boston. It was the hardcore punk era — the heyday of slam dancing, stage crashing and stage diving.

The Cramps — fronted by rangy, shirtless singer Lux Interior and his sexy, diffident wife, guitarist Poison Ivy — played a genre they invented: psychobilly — a deliriously rough mix of psychedelic music and rockabilly. They wrote original songs and unearthed long-buried garage rock nuggets from the ‘60s. Their highly charged stage show was one of barely controlled chaos.

More than a few fans scrambled past security, jumped up on the stage, danced maniacally for a bit and leapt off. Lux Interior — wearing red pumps and leather trousers — was not happy about fans invading his stage space. He made it clear: Don’t come up here.

One kid made it up twice, dancing for a moment and then scampering off like a cockroach exposed to light. Lux Interior had warned him. The third time the kid was not so quick and the singer nailed him with a left-right combo and the kid went down.

"I punched the guy and then I thought, 'Wait, don't do this,’ ” Lux Interior told me after the gig. “But [stage diving] doesn't happen too much anymore. Hopefully, that will go away someday.” (It did.)

For years, rumors circulated, first in fanzines and then online, that the punched-out stage diver was a young Dicky Barrett, who later came to fame as the lead singer of The Mighty Mighty BossToneS. It became a punk rock urban legend.

“I was singled out as the problem,” Barrett tells me last week, as he's preparing for a Worcester show with the BossToneS on Saturday, Aug. 25. He says he was up on that stage, but the kid Lux Interior punched was not him.

“There were a couple of stupid things I did and that was stupid," says Barrett. "But here’s the thing, it was the hardcore Boston scene. I was a guy that was there and witnessed it.”

Barrett says he was part of “a handful” of hardcore kids who went to shows at spots like the long-gone Media Workshop and Gallery East, which hosted hardcore shows. At the time, he was attending Norwood High School and singing in the punk band Impact Unit.

Here's a video from the same era as the incident in question of The Cramps playing at The Channel in Boston, so you could get a sense of the vibe at those shows: 

Barrett remembers how he used to act at those gigs — thrashing about, slam dancing. There was one incident that Jerry Lehane, lead singer of The Dogmatics, recalls a time in the early ‘80s when Barrett, who’d also sung in the punk band Cheapskates, was at a Dogmatics show at the now-shuttered T.T. the Bear’s Place in Cambridge. The Dogmatics were covering Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” and Barrett was loudly heckling them by sing-shouting, “Who’ll stop Lehane?” from the floor. Lehane says he and bandmate Peter O’Halloran stopped the show to leave the stage, pick Barrett up, and remove him from the club.

Barrett talks about how he and his hardcore punk pals behaved at gigs in general: “It was not thrashing, it was not moshing, it was slam dancing, a brand-new thing and it involved guys our age that wanted to bang each other around. All of us traveled together and that is what we wanted to do.”

So, they decided to bring the gang to The Cramps show. “Sometimes there was some crossover [from hardcore] and we loved The Cramps,” says Barrett. “This is what we did, when the music got going. All we wanted to do was dive and dive and dive and what happened on the floor wasn’t all that interesting to us. Everything was different and the aggressive way we went at it, with our engineer boots on and spikes, what happened was we had all of it going on. We got on that stage and then we’d do some epic dive. But with The Cramps, you’re diving on people who really don’t want to be dived on and they’re like 'What the f--- is this? I wanna see "Goo Goo Muck" I don’t want someone jumping on my pompadour.' And Lux and Ivy weren’t into it.”

Although Barrett was not the recipient of Lux Interior's punches, it was only fate that saved him from injury. Before that infamous altercation, Barrett jumped up on the stage and "Lux grabbed at me. I pulled away from him and Ivy takes a swing at me with her huge hollow body guitar, which misses me. I had to get the f--- off the stage. Lux never got a hand on me and Ivy missed me - she was swinging to take me down - but in the words of the great Misfits song ‘All f------  hell broke loose’ at that point.”

Now, the 54-year-old Barrett, ever-dapper in his BossToneS suit says, admits “I was an a----- at that show. With perspective, if I met that young little bastard I would’ve rooted for Ivy.”


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Jim Sullivan Music Writer
Jim Sullivan writes about rock 'n' roll and other music for WBUR.



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