Monday, October 06, 2008

Punk Juxtapositions on the Sunset Strip

darby for robot BW

When people ask me what my day job is, I often jokingly say, "I am a professional punk rocker," and I say that because I spend a bit of time each day bringing you the memories of a punk rock day gone by. Such as this particular date from my past... October 6, 1977. My day job back then was being a college student, but I worked part time at the Whisky a Go Go... even back then, I was a professional punk rocker!

On this date in punk rock history, The Germs, The Dickies and The Zippers played the Whisky a Go Go. That's Darby Crash pictured above, now immortalized by Hollywood actor Shane West in Rodger Grossman's labor of love, the motion picture entitled What We Do Is Secret, which is making its way across American movie screens as you read this.

Leonard of the Dickies
Leonard Graves Phillips of the Dickies

Even back then, six months into their existence, The Germs were an LA punk rock force to be reckoned with. However, a band traveling to LA from the UK for the first time grabbed everyone's attention the following two nights.

weller whisky small

The Jam, the powerful 3-piece punk band made their LA debut with a Polydor label-mate opening their show; Johnny Cougar. Yeah. That's right. He was slick and he had a sort of hit record back then ("I Need a Lover") but he was all wrong for the Jam crowd. Of course, years later, he'd go back to his real name - Mellencamp, and drop the slick pop for some homeland/heartland message music with which he would go on to do some good for the independent American farmer (I cannot slag him for that)... but in 1977, he was anathema.

kid congo at jam SMALL

Still, we Jam fans braved his polished pop presence and crowded around the foot of the stage. You can see the highlighted person in the photo above is a young Kid Congo Powers, known back then as Brian Tristan. The Jam ploughed through their set with the same lightning speed and ferocity as our own Ramones, barely stopping the music just for small talk.

Punk rockers in LA were eager for every UK punk band that came to the States. Like any phenomenon that was new and fresh, punk rock from the UK was live music gold to those of us who spent months and months reading about our new anti-heroes and listening to their records. Seeing them in the flesh in such an intimate venue was a special treat. I understood how Beatles fans felt when they screamed louder than the music. They just couldn't believe their idols were right there - in front of them, close enough to touch. For us, The Jam were nearly as Mod as the Beatles - with their naff, neat hair cuts, two tone shoes and Paul Weller's choice of guitar - like John and George... this Paul played a Rickenbacker (but Bruce Foxton played a Rickenbacker bass, not a Hofner, like the other Paul - McCartney).

Needless to say, The Jam left us wanting more of them.

They were back six months later. And The Dickies, who were in the audience the nights The Jam played, and on the stage the nights before, got to share the stage with The Jam in April 1978!

WEB jam marquee

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