Formed in Livonia while many of the members were still students at Bishop Borgess High School in nearby Redford, The Denizens were one of the first and key bands on the Bookie’s Club 870 scene. The group had been playing at several other bars before the scene developed around Bookie’s starting in the spring of 1978. Drummer Mike Murphy said the band originally started in 1977 and played their first shows at a school, a rental hall, and the Cabaret Theater.

The Denizens would catch the attention of Legs McNeil of Punk magazine in New York who worked to produce some recordings of the band. The process of McNeil’s management, who Murphy said only wanted to deal with guitarist Rob Sullivan for all matters related to business, added strain to the band which called it quits around 1980. Just before the band ended, Murphy started playing in a new version of The Pigs, known as the Rushlow-King Combo, and then The Boners. Later, in the 1980s, Murphy would come out from behind the kit to become a frontman – singing in the well-regarded band the Hysteric Narcotics.

Three of the original recordings by The Denizens were issued as a 7-inch in 2004 on the Young Soul Rebels label owned by Dave Buick & Dion Fischer (of The Go).

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7 thoughts on “The Denizens

  1. The very first show I ever saw at Bookies was the Deadboys. It was on a Monday night! The Sillies played before the Deadboys and opening were the Denizens. I loved them. I mostly remember their manic version of Route 66. And I knew this was now my place when one of the guitarist, John or Rob wasn’t there when the show started and came in halfway because he had to work. Of course this was announced to everyone so everyone could make fun of him:) Also the DJ Scott Campbell? was making insane crazy announcements which also endeared me to the whole scene. This was right at the end of 18 year olds being able to legally drink. But that was coming to an end so the announcements were to the effect that some of the younger patrons and staff would have to go back to selling hash etc. I just loved it.

    1. John Sullivan is my dad. Reading about this stuff is in resibke to me. We all live in Columbus, OH now.

    2. My brother and I were “roadies” that night for the Denizens, being pretty young myself I got to hang back stage for the show. A night I’ll never forget. Sat and talked to Cheetah Chrome and Stiv.

  2. John Sullivan is my dad. Reading about this stuff is beyond interesting to me. We all live in Columbus, OH now.

  3. I met Timmy back in June 1978 and married him in June 1982. The Denizens were great although being in love with a kid band member was overwhelming at times! I remember a couple of shows in particular. When they opened for Iggy at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor. When they played at a bar in Ann Arbor with The Romantics. When Elvis Costello was playing in Detroit and went to Bookies after his show and saw some of the local talent. It was quite a scene! I was talking to my son, Matt Butler, about “punk” vs. “new wave” and I remembered the Face the 80’s documentary and that’s how I came to this site. Can I find that recording somewhere?

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