Song of the Week – Better off Dead, La Peste


In the late 70s – early 80s the best place to see and hear rock ’n roll in Boston was basement club The Rathskeller – known as The Rat, for short. For those of you who were never in Boston back in those days, The Rat in Kenmore Square was Boston’s equivalent to New York’s CBGB’s.

Not only did The Rat have great music, it was also home to the ground floor rib joint called the Hoodoo Barbeque. The Hoodoo was relocated to The Rat after its predecessor, The Rainbow Rib Room (at the corner of Mass Ave and Newbury St), closed. Chef James Ryan had a recipe for the best ribs and barbeque sauce I’ve ever tasted and the onion rings were out of this world. They were cooked by comedy sitcom writer/producer Eddie Gorodetsky who was then a student at Emerson College and entertained his customers with his humor, cracking wise while performing his fry cook duties. Both spots had fantastic, eclectic juke boxes with records by everyone from The Clash to Tom Waits to John Coltrane.

But I digress.

The radio station I was a DJ at (WZBC) was transitioning at the time. We were quick to pick up on the US and British punk/new wave music of the day – before the big Boston commercial stations, WBCN and WCOZ. We also played the music of a lot of local bands, doing our best (with only 1000 watts) to help break them. Human Sexual Response was a favorite at ZBC. If you’ve never heard them, check out their first album, Fig. 14, on Spotify as Fig. 15. Or better yet, try to find a live performance on YouTube. They were really performance artists, so the visuals were as important as the music.

The song I’ve chosen for today’s SotW is by La Peste – one of the local scene’s most notorious punk rock bands that appeared frequently at The Rat.

“Better off Dead” is also a straight ahead punk rock record – three in-your-face chords and angry, abrasive lyrics about a daughter having under aged sex that the parents can’t do anything about.

The band was a trio fronted by Peter Dayton. Their recorded output was very slight but “Better off Dead” alone is good enough to keep their memory alive. Dayton is now a fine artist based in Long Island.

This is just one example of the vibrant local rock scene in late 70s Boston.

Enjoy… until next week.

2 thoughts on “Song of the Week – Better off Dead, La Peste

  1. The long-closed (but threatening to be renovated and reopened) Americus Hotel in downtown Allentown hosted an out-of-nowhere weekend of punk rock on June 23rd and June 24th, 1979. The Damned played Saturday night, the 23rd, the Ramones, Sunday, the 24th and both nights La Peste opened. A popular (and pretty much the only) area punk rock radio show played “Better Off Dead” regularly and I just sold my copy last year along with my other vinyl when I badly needed the cash. I even caught a La Peste drum stick one of those nights.

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