It was Slits legend Ari Up’s death last week, at only 48 years old, that really drove it home: punk may have been born less than 35 years ago, but its icons have already begun to die out. (In fact, a good number didn’t make it as far as the mid-’80s.) So, because Halloween is almost here, and since Tony Wilson’s headstone was just recently unveiled, we present a spooky, freaky, 10-site tour of memorials to punk and post-punk icons, from Darby Crash to John Peel to Kurt Cobain. Since many of these figures tended to embrace the morbid and macabre, we’d like to think they’d come along for the ride.
Tony Wilson A visionary music lover who, over the years, ran his own TV show, venue, and record label, Wilson died too young in 2007, at only 57 years old. Peter Saville and Ben Kelly’s headstone was just recently placed in Lancashire, England’s Southern Cemetery, and it features the following quote from — what else? — Mrs. G Linnaeus Banks’s 1876 novel The Manchester Man:
Mutability is the epitaph of words Change alone is changeless People drop out of the history of life as of a land though their work and their influence remains
Wilson’s casket, meanwhile, was engraved with the catalog number FAC 501 — making it Factory Records’s final release.
John Peel Another immutable force on British music, and probably the best radio DJ of all time, John Peel died in 2004 and was buried at St. Andrew’s Church in Suffolk, England. According to his wishes, his wife had his headstone engraved with the quote, “Teenage dreams so hard to beat,” the perfect final line from a man who embodied eternal youth. It comes, of course, from Peel’s all-time favorite song, “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones.
Joey Ramone If you didn’t know before, you know now: Joey Ramone was Jewish, and his real name was Jeff Hyman. Those wishing to pay their tributes (and, judging from the photo, many do) can find his grave at Hillside Cemetery in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. New Yorkers can also worship at his local altar, Joey Ramone Place, the official name given to the intersection at Bowery and East 2nd St., where CBGB’s used to be. Is anyone surprised that his is the most often stolen of all street signs in the city?
Nancy Spungen Another punk-rock Jew who met an untimely (not to mention gory) end in New York City, 20-year-old Nancy Spungen died of a single stab wound at the Hotel Chelsea in 1978. Her infamous boyfriend, Sid Vicious, may or may not have killed her. Although it’s not much to look at, her gravestone still attracts visitors to King David Memorial Park, the Northeast Philadelphia Jewish cemetery where Spungen is buried.
Johnny Thunders “It took a city like New Orleans to kill a man like Johnny Thunders,” sang the Murder City Devils on a song named after their tragic hero. And it’s true: the New York Dolls guitar player and Heartbreakers frontman died in 1991, at St. Peter House Hotel in the French Quarter, under mysterious circumstances. While police assumed his was a drug-related death, friends claimed he hadn’t touched heroin in quite a while and was murdered. Now, his body rests with little fanfare in a Flushing, Queens family plot.
GG Allin Dead before his 40th birthday, to the surprise of no one, punk provocateur GG Allin was famous for broaching taboo subject, eating shit (yes, literally), and beating up on fans. His short life, which also included rape and torture charges, ended on June 28, 1993, when Allin overdosed on heroin after a wild, drug-fueled night in his friends’ Manhattan home. His funeral was a fittingly raucous event, and he was buried in a leather jacket and jockstrap, with a bottle of Jim Beam. Allin’s grave is in Littleton, New Hampshire, at Saint Rose Cemetery. Fans enjoy pooping on it, to the utter disgust of his mother, Arleta.
Darby Crash The Germs would not have existed without Darby Crash, a pioneer of L.A. punk who died too young at only 22 years old. A history of depression and struggles with his own sexual identity contributed to Crash’s heroin-related suicide in 1980. Fans can pay their respects at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, CA.
Ian Curtis It’s easy to lament that Ian Curtis died at only 23 years old, with so many creative years ahead of him. But at least he left us with two perfect albums and an icon that obsesses music fans to this day. Curtis hanged himself shortly before Joy Division was supposed to leave for an American tour, after watching a Werner Herzog movie and listening to Iggy Pop. He is buried in England’s Macclesfield Cemetery, although his gravestone was stolen a few years ago. It was replaced with a more basic model a few weeks later, but what’s most important is that both version bear the title of his most memorable song, “Love Will Tear Us Apart.”
Kurt Cobain If you go searching for Kurt Cobain’s grave, you won’t find it. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in the Wishkah River. But there is a notable memorial to Cobain in Viretta Park, near his last home in Seattle. A simple park bench, covered in fans’ graffiti, remains as a monument to the Nirvana frontman.
Malcolm McLaren Punk has died innumerable deaths, but that didn’t stop the sting of Sex Pistols impresario Malcolm McLaren’s mesothelioma-related demise this April. At least the man who brought anarchy (and bondage pants!) to the UK arranged to be remembered in a fittingly ridiculous manner. First of all, his funeral was absolutely bonkers, involving a double decker bus, coffin bearing the slogan “too fast to live, too young to die,” and procession of freaks. His grave, with carved-wood headstone that really says it all, is in north London’s Highgate Cemetery.