The music, the vermin, the disturbing bathrooms - Rocker celebrates the filth and the fury of the seminal club!
From 1974 to 1997 Boston’s Rathskellar – aka “The Rat” – was a rock and roll institution. A launching pad for some of the most important new wave, punk, and alternative rockers if its day, it’s dank basement stage played host to The Pixies, The Ramones, The Damned, Blondie, The Fall, Robyn Hitchcock, as well as local luminaries including Mission of Burma, The Lyres, ‘Til Tuesday, The Neighborhoods, and more. Although the storied Kenmore Square space closed 19 years ago, its legend lives on through the memories of patrons who encountered not just their rock and roll heroes, but also wild drunken debauchery, seemingly on a weekly basis, all in the name of a great night out.
The recollections below have been sourced from a variety of former employees, patrons, bouncers and musicians who lived to tell the tale. At this point, they may be all hearsay (disclaimer! don’t sue us!), but as they say on the X-Files: We want to believe.
Thanks again to the folks who contributed their memories to this list. Every nightclub has a great story, this just a taste of the Rat’s.
- The Fleshtones were introduced by a homeless dude they found outside, and he led their parade onto the stage banging a garbage can. They bought him beers all night too! Great guys, I still follow them! – Tom Beaudet
- There was the night the stage collapsed at a Human Sexual Response show, and the one where a giant rat that crawled out from under the stage at an Atlantics show,… Whenever we played there we got dressed in our cars so that we wouldn’t get cockroaches in our clothes. – Valentino Herrera
- A customer decided to grab Kerry’s (an awesome waitress) boobs, and she knocked him out with one punch. She came over to me after, and asked me to throw him out when he came to. – Rick Bunker
- I was seeing LOA… a very large man (6’3, maybe 350 lbs) was receiving a hand favor from a very small skinhead (5’1″ 140 lbs). When I looked over and noticed what was happening, the large man (without skipping a beat) reached into his pocket, brought out a $5 and asked me to grab him a rat brew… he said to keep the change. I shrugged, bought 3; one for the large man, one for the short skin and one for myself… they both thanked me and kept right on going. – Scott Neary
- Sometime during the summer of 1997: Sitting on the back steps after my band’s set (Blanket Party), I was taking a couple puffs from my asthma inhaler. A bouncer briefly mistook it for a crack pipe and told me, “We don’t allow that here!” – Brandon Miller
- Every night was different. But for me the strangest thing was the expression on my girlfriend’s face the first time she was there. She went into the men’s room by mistake. Urinals cracked and pee everywhere. Toilet clogged. Horrible. I was yelling “No!! On the left!!!” But of course the music was too loud. She looked like she’d seen her great grandma’s rotting corpse – Joel Feingold
- Here’s a quick Rat story. One night I’m down there with the band TRACKS and they’re opening up for The Ramones. As soon as the set ends, Lorri Doll heads for the dressing room (the original dressing room at the street end of the club) to towel off sweat and the door is closed and somehow locked. On the door is this piece of paper which reads “The Ramone Dressing Room.” Lorri takes a nutty and starts kicking the door yelling “Open up the fucking door assholes!” Nothing happens for another 10 or 15 minutes until The Ramones decide to leave the dressing room and head to the stage. The Ramones start to play, and she says “FUCK these assholes! Who the FUCK do they think they are?”, then she pulls the main power switch which was right there on the dressing room wall! This immediately cut all sound and lights, putting the Rat into complete darkness except of a couple of small emergency light fixtures! It took the bouncers a few minutes to figure out what was going on. But once they did, Lorri was carried up the front stairs and shown the front door, all the time kicking and screaming “Fuck those assholes!” Nobody hurt her; what were they going to do? Beat up a girl? Lorri was then “permanently barred” from the Rat, but I was back in there mixing sound for the band, including Lorri, just 3 weeks later. – Jack “Stinky” Donahue
- (Noted Rat regular) April came into the dressing room, we (Human Sexual Response) were about to go on and she (?) was pissed off because the place was packed (of course we were thrilled) then she (?) squatted and pissed in the trash can. “Thanks” she said, and then left. – Windle Davis