While Pere Ubu and other Ohio cousins were offering only cerebral dissonance, the 1977 punk explosion visited Cleveland in the form of the Pagans. Picking up where the departed (for NYC) Dead Boys left off, the Pagans were younger, louder and, if not as snotty, better in other ways. Led by raspy-voiced Mike Hudson, this slam-dunk garage quartet produced a small stack of classic singles: “Not Now No Way,” “Street Where Nobody Lives” and “What’s This Shit Called Love” (later covered by the Meatmen) are all down and dirty, glorious three-chord excursions into the filth and the fury.
The Pagans broke up in late ’79 without ever issuing an album. The band’s first longplayer (informally known as The Pink Album was in large part the result of a 1983 reunion gig (only Hudson and guitarist Tommy Gunn are holdovers from the old days), pressed as a limited-edition (500 copies) live LP. The sound quality of The Pagans isn’t horrible and the rawness is true to the band’s essential spirit, but the performances of the group’s best tunes are sorely deficient.
Buried Alive compiles seven of the Pagans’ eight original single sides, adding ten outtakes of the same late-’70s vintage, including the grubbiest version of Jagger/Richards’ “Heart of Stone” imaginable. The Pagans’ unrefined attitude saturates the entire first-rate collection.
Buried Alive sparked more reunions and a spate of touring. One such gig — a November 1986 date at Minneapolis’ 7th St. Entry — resulted in a second concert LP. With six new songs (like “She’s a Cadaver and I Gotta Have Her”), Live–The Godlike Power of the Pagans is far better than the ’83 live disc (original bassist Tim Allee is back in the lineup), but still doesn’t reach the godlike power of the band’s studio work.
Street Where Nobody Lives mostly rehashes the same recordings as Buried Alive. In November 1989, the Pagans opened for the reunited Buzzcocks in Cleveland.
In 2008, Hudson (whose non-rock life for many years has been as a newspaper reporter) published a riveting, rattling and detailed autobiography called Diary of a Punk: Life and Death in the Pagans. Full of death-defying tales, angry Cleveland brio and self-inflected disasters, it’s truly as punk as the band — which has continued to exist on and off in some form — ever was.