Thursday, October 09, 2008
Did Punk Rock Have a John Lennon?
Darby Crash, The Germs
October 9 is well known as the birthdate of John Lennon (and also Sean Ono Lennon). The former Beatle would have been 68 years old had he not been killed at the age of 40 outside his home in New York City on the night of December 8, 1980.
The previous day, December 7, a very young man, just 22 years old, died too. Jan Paul Beahm, known to the world of punk rock as Darby Crash committed suicide by intentionally over-dosing on heroin.
In a culture where people are always looking at correspondences to describe like phenomena, we find that in music, there is always "The New Bob Dylan," a veritable curse to the promising young folk singers labeled as such. In the rock n roll genre, I have heard several references to another rock n roll suicide, Kurt Cobain, as the John Lennon for his time. But its the only one I've heard.
John Lennon was the first to say of the Beatles that they're "only a rock n roll band," and at the end of the day, they are. They were an innovative and influential rock n roll band upon whom many teenagers and young adults hung their hopes and made into inadvertent role models and avatars for post-war youth culture. And perhaps that's where the correspondence between John Lennon and Kurt Cobain begins and ends.
When I think of songwriters and bands in punk rock who were innovative and influential... those upon whom many teenagers and young adults made into inadvertent role models and avatars of their culture... the Germs do come to mind, for better or worse.
And then there were the Ramones, who might be considered the Beatles of punk rock. In the Ramones, there was a member for every kind of character trait... Johnny, the conservative field marshall type, Joey, the loveable face of the band, the icon, Dee Dee, the creative well-meaning fuck up, and the sole surviving member of the original Ramones, Tommy, the hard-working, straight edge creative timekeeper and producer.
There are a lot of great songs in the punk rock canon, but to me, the evergreen songs of an era were all penned by Dee Dee Ramone. Even though on the records, the songwriting was credited to the band as a whole, it was indeed Dee Dee who came up with most of the lyrics we hold dear today. And for his "Teenage Lobotomy," my closest friends and I are ever thankful, for it gave us our own punk rock legacy.
Like John Lennon, Dee Dee wrote prose and fiction; check out his memoirs. Legend of a Rock Star, A Memoir: The Last Testament of Dee Dee Ramone.
at 11:25 AM