I love discovering obscure punk rock gems that are actually good enough to warrant repeated listens, and “Only Death is Fatal” by Garbo’s Celluloid Heroes fits that description perfectly. This song is, among other things, the quintessential punk rock “diamond in the rough”.
I first heard it back in the early 1990’s. The song appeared on a mysterious punk rock mix tape I’d been gifted that had no track listing or liner notes – its only identifiable features were the words “PUNK” in all caps next to a safety-pinned punk rocker’s headshot, and a logo that said “Dark Star” – all of which were photocopied onto hot pink paper tucked neatly into the cassette case. The entire mix tape was full of obscure punk bands that I will unpack in future posts.
Very little is known about Garbo’s Celluloid Heroes, and information about the band is sparse. I managed to dig up a punk music catalogue entry for the band that contains some intriguing data about their recorded output and past concert dates, but links to the resources that the catalogue cites as sources are broken.
I also managed to find a compilation of rare punk rock that I’d never heard of before called England Belongs to Me (Perhaps they lifted the name from the Cock Sparrer song of the same name?) that “Only Death is Fatal” appears on, alongside some other great obscure punk stuff.
Last but not least in this dive into Garbo’s Celluloid Heroes, we’ve got at least two Discogs entries for the band that shed a little bit of light on their history. I’ve learned that the single “Only Death is Fatal” b/w “Will You Come to My Funeral?” was released by at least two different record labels and with 2 different sets of cover art:
Garbo’s Celluloid Heroes – Only Death Is Fatal (Gira Records, Portugal, 1980 – front cover)
Garbo’s Celluloid Heroes – Only Death Is Fatal (Gira Records, Portugal, 1980 – back cover)
It looks like the 1980 release on Gira records is a re-release, because the original release is from 1978 in the U.K.:
Garbo’s Celluloid Heroes – Only Death Is Fatal (Big Bear Records, United Kingdom, 1978 – front cover)
Garbo’s Celluloid Heroes – Only Death Is Fatal (Big Bear Records, United Kingdom, 1978 – back cover)
Now that is some classic D.I.Y. punk cover art right there. All you need is some paper and a working photocopier!
Ok, one last detail before we get into the actual music – it seems that there’s a bandcamp record label called Immaculate Obscurity that is re-releasing obscure punk rock songs on cassette, including this one. I’m not entirely sure if what they’re doing is legal or not, or if the original artists are being paid royalties for sales, so use your best judgement (or ask the seller) about it should you decide to make a purchase.
Alright, that’s enough talk. I hope you enjoy Garbo’s Celluloid Heroes – Only Death is Fatal, I sure did!
If any of you discover more information about this obscure punk band that you’d like to share with me, go ahead and shoot me an email! I’d love to learn more about this band’s history and music, and will gladly update this article with whatever new info I come across.