Monday, January 01, 2007
Proud to be an LA Punk Rocker
Of all the punk bands that hailed from Los Angeles, The Germs more than any other have attracted the most attention over the last couple years. They are the subject of at least two feature films in post-production at this very moment - one narrative, the other documentary - and are never excluded from the variety of punk rock survey films, writings and analyses.
Taking photos of The Germs at the earliest of their practices was as easy and natural for me to do as breathing. So, 30 years later, when the gritty image of the band on the cover of their 7" single on What?Records, "Forming" that I photographed (for no reason beyond our friendship) is acknowledged as a symbol and even an icon of Los Angeles Punk Rock, I feel both ridiculously proud of having had the good luck to have been born at the right place and time and proud of all of Los Angeles's contributions to punk rock.
California has been given short shrift in the past couple years that punk rock has enjoyed a hyper awareness in the press. Sure, London and New York gave birth to the Sex Pistols and Ramones respectively (and both bands were acknowledged by the most mainstream of brick and mortar institutions, The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame), but Los Angeles gave the world The Germs, X, Screamers, Bags, Go Go's, Black Randy, Alley Cats, Minutemen, The Weirdos, The Dickies, 45 Grave, Redd Kross, The Eyes, The Runaways, Gun Club, The Skulls, Flesheaters, F-Word, The Last, Pandoras, Slash Magazine, The Masque, Bomp, Rhino and countless other bands, clubs, record stores/labels that made a serious mark on the landscape of pop culture.
Of course, Los Angeles IS the landscape of popular culture - always has been. The main industry here, because of the year-round sunshine is movies and television. Audiences are tough here. You have to be phenomenal to make an impression. Because there already was a "California Sound," marked by the beautiful and clean harmonies of bands ranging from the Mamas and Papas, Byrds and Beach Boys in the 60s to the Eagles and their family tree in the 70s, a new genre of loud, brash/thrash and trashy screaming, wailing and yelling punk rock bands had a lot to prove.
How did they prove it? By being themselves. Of course, rock n roll music is totally derivative, and punk rockers drew from a fantastic legacy from the previous generation (Stooges, MC5 and a slew of trashy garage bands before them), but each band that you've heard of certainly had a certain je ne sais quoi or charisma that earned them their boldfaced name.
With the Germs, there was Darby Crash's keen interest in existentialism and how he translated that into punk rock.
Before he was Darby Crash, Paul Beahm called himself Bobby Pyn which to me always indicated just how connected he was to his own image and its marketing, just like Johnny Rotten was. His first stage outfits were covered with safety pins - the universal icon of punk rock; its ubiquitous fashion accessory.
LA punks took care of their own. Runaways guitarist Joan Jett produced the Germs album, GI. In the photo below, Darby Crash and Lorna Doom are on the far right of the frame.
Was there an LA punk scene worth making noise about? Yes - and it goes way beyond what you think you know (unless you were here). It seems that lots of it simply took place in parking lots and alleys (LA's Rainbow, Licorice Pizza, the Masque, behind the Tropicana, etc) just hanging out, like Lorna Doom is captured doing below, in the parking lot behind Licorice Pizza.
There are so many stories to tell about LA Punk Rock, and the ones that are out there on video and film and in books are only the tip of the iceberg. Now that punk IS 30 by all accounts, brace yourself for an wonderful onslaught of even more of the grit and glory.
Happy New Year.
Become Punk Turn 30's friend on myspace and see RARE, BONUS GERMS PICTURES in the corresponding myspace blog.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BILLY MILLER
Norton Records Rules!
thank you Windy for taking this pic of Billy & me. I cherish it.