It was as the lead singer and driving force of the Dead Boys, however, that Bators helped pioneer the punk rock sound, look and attitude. Bators and the Dead Boys were featured in the independent punk rock films Punking Out (1978), Live at CBGB's (1977) and Crash 'n' Burn (1977). Around the same time, the band became a popular staple at CBGB's, the now-legendary music club in New York City's East Village.
Following the demise of the Dead Boys in 1979, Bators began a tumultuous relationship with Bomp! Records and its president, Greg Shaw. According to Shaw: "[W]hat he craved most was to escape the fetters of his Dead Boy image and win respect as a singer of contemporary pop rock. . . . In other words, he wanted to be 'the thinking punk's Eric Carmen.' To this end, and usually with first-wave punk rock veterans in tow, he recorded several singles (many of which were unreleased) and a fine LP, Disconnected, which was released in 1980. A retrospective album released in 1994, L.A. L.A. documented Bators' efforts as a pop-punk singer.
After England's Sham 69 broke up, Bators, now re-located in London, formed the Wanderers with members of the band by the end of the year. This under-appreciated band came up with an anomaly for punk rock, a concept album, called Only Lovers Left Alive (released in May 1981), along with two singles.
Bators formed The Lords of the New Church later in 1981 with Brian James of The Damned and Dave Tregunna of Sham 69. (Bators and Tregunna had also been in the Wanderers together). The Lords became notorious for their live shows. A devotee of Iggy Pop, Bator had developed a fearless reputation in his Dead Boys days and continued such antics with The Lords, the most famous being the time he reportedly hanged himself during a show. Bator's stunt went awry and he was pronounced clinically dead for several minutes. Nonetheless, Bator survived and The Lords recorded two more successful albums.
Later, the punk vocalist gained additional exposure through more mainstream film. In 1981, Bators co-starred in the satirical John Waters film, Polyester. Seven years later, Bators made a memorable cameo appearance as "Dick Slammer", lead singer of "The Blender Children", in the offbeat comedy, Tapeheads, starring John Cusack and Tim Robbins.
The Lords of the New Church broke up in 1988 when Bators injured his back and guitarist Brian James secretly began advertising for a replacement singer. When Bators found out James played the encore of the band's final show donning a T-shirt with James' newspaper ad printed across the front, he then proceeded to fire the remaining members on-stage.
However, in the director's commentary of the film "Polyester," in which Bators starred, John Waters, in relating Bators death, stated that Bator's girlfriend had snorted his ashes.
Ironically, Stiv was the only one of the 3 "Whores of Babylon" (and fellow heroin users) who didn't die from a heroin overdose. Both Johnny Thunders and Dee Dee Ramone died of a heroin overdose; Johnny in New Orleans, less than a year after Stiv, and Dee Dee, shortly after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Demolition 23 dedicated a song titled "Dead Time Stories" (written by Michael Monroe, formerly of Hanoi Rocks and Jude Wilder) to Bators on the band's 1994 album called Demolition 23. The lyrics of the song contain several references to Bators and his music.
Use Your Illusion I (US & UK #2) and Use Your Illusion II (US & UK #1) by Guns N' Roses both ended their liner notes with the quote, "Ain't It Fun, - Stiv Bators". The band later released their cover version of The Dead Boys' Ain't It Fun as a single to promote their cover album The Spaghetti Incident?. The cover was also included on their successful "Greatest Hits" release.
The Bators, a band from Montreal is named in tribute of Stiv Bators, who's one of their favorite artists.