New England Music Scrapbook
La Peste

A POWER TRIO IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD, La Peste [was] one of the more abrasive and musically advanced of Boston's original wave of late-'70s punk bands, and they made one of the first great punk singles ("Better Off Dead," still covered these days by Kustomized) to come out of this town.

-- Brett Milano, Boston Phoenix, January 14, 2000

La Peste got started when Mark Andreasson, Peter Dayton, and Roger Tripp were in school and living in the same rooming house. They wanted to form a band, but none of them really knew how to play. The three rounded up some instruments and practiced together. Their first performance before an audience was at a Boston University student cafeteria. "We just set up and plugged in," said Andreasson. "It was absolute garbage. But it was great garbage."

Late in April 1978, La Peste won the First Annual Spring Rock 'n' Roll Festival at the Inn Square Men's Bar (Ladies Invited). It was the Rumble in all but its name. Their debut single, "Better Off Dead" b/w "Black" (45, Black, 1978), dates from the same year. In the summer of 1979, they were finalists in the first official WBCN Rock and Roll Rumble.

La Peste (CD, Matador, 1996) is a welcome release. The disc mixes studio recordings with live performances at the Rat from the time of the 1979 Rumble. "Better Off Dead," which is included, was a substantial local hit. The live stuff is a good deal grungier than the studio tracks. The concert tapes are not modern, state-of-the-art recordings; but the sound is a lot better than I would have ever dared to expect.

The original members of La Peste seem to have been of two minds. Most of their material and performances on the Matador Records disc come across as their own take on the punk rock of the late 1970s. In addition to "Better Off Dead," titles include "Don't Wanna Die in My Sleep Tonite" and "Kill Me Now." The lyrics tend to reflect a dark view--e.g., "What's the use, when all my kindness invites abuse." Yet the Matador disc has tracks, such as "Black," "Color Scheme," "Hold on to Love," and "Let Me Sleep" that come much closer to rock's mainstream.

Around the time of the 1979 WBCN Rock 'n' Roll Rumble, the story was going around that Peter Dayton would be leaving the group to try his hand at a solo career. A few days later, it was acknowledged that these rumors were true.

Now, at one time Andreasson, Dayton, and Tripp considered adding a fourth member to the band. Ian Stevens auditioned but was turned down because his guitar playing was thought to be too similar to Dayton's. When Stevens auditioned again--this time to replace Peter Dayton--he must have seemed an obvious choice.


In December at Cantones, the new lineup of La Peste played its first show. They were performing mostly new material, and it was months before they brought back even "Better Off Dead." "Moscow Radio," a new song, earned the band much attention. Dayton's voice was missed, but auditions for a replacement singer had not been productive. Each member of the second lineup contributed vocals; and they took up a new style, evidently with Andreasson and Stevens often singing in unison while Tripp added harmony. This is the band that contributed "Army of Apathy" and "Lease on Life" to the classic Modern Method compilation, A Wicked Good Time (LP, Modern Method, 1981).

In 1981, replacement singer/guitarist Ian Stevens said, "We're not into that 'No Future, No Hope' thing. It's actually the very opposite of that."

The articles on hand about La Peste are not numerous. The last contemporary piece--as is the case with many acts--quotes a band member, in June 1981, as denying breakup rumors. But break up they did.

-- Alan Lewis, revised December 26, 2000


It was sad to learn that Roger Tripp died in a car crash on New Year's Eve, 1993, while driving home from work. In addition to La Peste, Tripp was a member of Unnatural Axe. He was survived by his wife and two sons. The Matador Records compilation is dedicated to his memory.

Copyright © 2001 by Alan Lewis.
All rights reserved.

This early article surfaced long after I posted our La Peste profile:

This is Boston's finest new hard rock band. Period. La Peste (the name is culled from the Albert Camus novel of the same name) is a trio: Peter Dayton plays guitar and sings; Mark Karl plays bass; Roger Tripp is the drummer. They play loud, expressive rock music at its minimalist best, with enough melodic hooks to keep one dancing all night. (It consistently draws the biggest dance crowd of the local bands.) Its words and music are frigidly terse, but seldom monotonous. The lyrics concern hope, endurance, fear, survival, because the musicians are essentially moody, well-educated, art-oriented young men (Dayton and Karl met at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts without trust funds or royalties to keep them eating). But don't be sold soft. La Peste doesn't have a wall of sound--it's more like a barbed wire fence. The lyrics can be disturbing, only because they reveal the underside of an artist's life. They are not obscene. Yes, some of La Peste's songs are called "Don't Wanna Die (in My Sleep Tonight)," "Better Off Dead" and "Johnny Is a Rocket." Don't let it dissuade you from seeing the group. It's provoking, toughly-chorded and full of imagination.

-- Thomas Sabulis, Boston Globe, February 22, 1979


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