Formed in 1981, the Lords of the New Church had a formidable intercontinental punk rock pedigree. Singer Stiv Bators and guitarist Brian James were founding members of Cleveland's Dead Boys and London's the Damned, respectively, both successful and influential punk pioneers. (Note: Much like Keith Richard(s), Stiv spelled his surname both with and without a terminal "s" at various points in his career. Throughout his time with the Lords, however, he was billed as Bators.) Bassist Dave Tregunna and drummer Nick Turner were veterans of Sham 69 and the Barracudas, which were less seminal but still well-known. But while the Lords' music had elements of punk, it was more melodic, better-produced, and played with a higher degree of professionalism. This alienated some of the hardcore punk audience, but brought the Lords a much wider and more diverse fan base.
The genesis of the Lords was in 1980 when Bators and James, having split from their previous bands, renewed an aqcuaintance that began when the Dead Boys opened for the Damned on CBGB dates and an English tour. The two experimented for a time with different rhythm sections, rehearsing briefly with ex-Generation X bassist Tony James and ex-Clash drummer Terry Chimes (how's that for a punk rock supergroup?). A lineup of Bators, James, Tregunna, and Damned drummer Rat Scabies played a single 1980 gig as the "Dead Damned Sham Band." But by the time the Lords' self-titled debut album appeared in 1982, Turner had replaced Scabies to form the lineup that would remain fixed throughout the band's most productive years.
Though the album was well-received, the Lords became more notorious for their live shows, or more specifically for Bators's crazed abandon as a performer. A devotee of Iggy Pop, Bators had in his Dead Boys days developed a reputation for being unafraid to risk his life in pursuit of rock & roll glory. He suffered innumerable on-stage injuries during his career, the most famous being the time he reportedly nearly hung himself during a Lords show. As the story goes, a favorite stunt of Bators' where he looped the mic cord around his neck went awry, resulting in his being clinically dead for several minutes. Nonetheless, Bators survived to record two more successful albums with the Lords, 1983's Is Nothing Sacred? and 1984's The Method to Our Madness. After this, though, the Lords appeared to lose their creative impetus.
They continued to record sporadically including an amusing single where they violated Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and two excellent new tracks for the best-of Killer Lords, but by 1985, the Lords had slowly begun to disintegrate. Tregunna left, was replaced for a time by Grant Fleming, and then returned. A second guitarist, Alistair Simmons, was added and then sacked. Turner quit and was replaced by Danny Fury. After 1988, Bators back injury led James to advertise for a replacement singer -- a temporary one, he claimed -- the Lords split acrimoniously, but not before Bators played the encore of his last show wearing a T-shirt that bore an enlargement of James' newspaper ad. Possibilities of any future Lords reunions were quashed when Bators died in 1990 of injuries sustained when he was struck by a car in the streets of Paris. ~ Bill Cassel