Before the terms Goth Rock, Death Rock or Horror Punk were popular, 45 Grave were spreading their eerie horror-movie-punk sounds around the scene. Based in Southern California, their heyday was 1979-1985 and I remember seeing them countless times, always thinking they were going to “make it big” due to their theatrical, larger-than-life stage show. This was not common in the stripped-down, DIY punk scene. While I had more of an affinity with the sociopolitical side of punk, teenage Bill couldn’t resist Dinah Cancer covered in blood with smeared makeup, fishnet stockings and black leather. What teenage boy could? Other bands had a similarly dark, theatrical approach to punk rock (Bauhaus, Siousxie And The Banshees, etc.), but 45 Grave took it to the next level (6 feet under). I never imagined that this strange sub-genre of punk rock would have the impact it has, flourishing and thriving for almost three decades.
Their biggest commercial success came when the video for “Evil” got rotation on MTV in the early 80s. Their song “Party Time” was also featured in the soundtrack of “Return Of The Living Dead,” the 1985 punk-themed sequel to zombie-classic “Night of the Living Dead.”
Here’s a video of them performing the song “Evil” live on the public access TV show “New Wave Theater” in 1980.
The band broke up in 1985 and there were a couple reunions, one in the late 80s and one in the early 2000s. In 2010, Dinah Cancer teamed up with legendary LA punk guitarist Frank Agnew (T.S.O.L., Social Distortion, Adolescents), to head the latest charge up Boot Hill. Some purists may criticize this current incarnation of the band but I would say that if you have Frank Agnew in a band from this era, it’s probably going to sound authentic. All reports say that this lineup comes closest to the band’s original, signature horror-punk sound. Dinah Cancer herself has stated that she is trying to keep the original spirit alive for their older fans while simultaneously exposing it to new fans.