This playlist comes from a reviewer who had mixed feelings about the book: “I read this book twice. The first time, I hated it, and so I decided to write a scathing review and share my hatred with the internet! Except to do that, I had to read it again, and the second time, I actually liked it.”
I could pull out just the good stuff: “… I buy it; MacLeod’s argument is sound and well-presented. … it’s actually quite lively and well-written for a history book … It also delivers on the job of putting LA punk into larger cultural context and tying together disparate threads of the movement (the music, DIY culture, the politics, the rejection of consumerism, violence, etc), but if you’re not looking for an academic text, you should find something else to read. If you are, however, you could do a lot worse than this book. …” Ultimately, her critique boils down to: “Moar Mike Ness!” Well I can’t argue with that. You can read the whole review by Pamela Zerbinos here.
She did put together a nice audio selection. And since she stole a bunch of my words (the quotes below are all from the book, well-chosen to go with each song), I am going to steal right back and use her playlist.
The Runaways (Los Angeles) | The Runaways | 1977
A band of teenage girls led by Joan Jett, the Runaways were more than just a gimmick. Behind the jailbait, cherrybomb façade, they played real rock ‘n’ roll, not all of it inspired, but enough of it damn near perfect. Real, live rock ‘n’ roll, with some nod toward creativity, was still an all-too-rare commodity in a town where rock clubs booked only cover bands.
The Germs (Los Angeles) | Lexicon Devil (7″ EP) | 1978
The Germs prepared for the show not by rehearsing (as they had yet to actually practice any songs) but by drinking Andre Cold Duck pink champagne and eating Quaaludes. When the show began, the band wrapped Bobby in licorice and smeared him with peanut butter as he paced the stage. Pat Smear “wrenched out bone-crunching noise” on his guitar. Lorna Doom occasionally slapped at the bass while swigging champagne. Very little music was made, but noise and spectacle were. Allegedly the police were summoned, the Germs were kicked offstage, and a legend was launched.
Out of Vogue
Middle Class | Out of Vogue (7″ EP) | 1978
By the summer of 1978, they were making converts, as this Slash review attests: “These guys looked normal. Like high school normal. Like chemistry class normal. Like writing a paper in the library normal. How come they sounded like twisted metal air raids and dynamite fumes? I was shocked. If you look like that, you’re not supposed to sound like that. Yet it was obvious: the mob was pogoing with genuine furor, the aggression meter was in the red zone, this was certified punk fever grade triple-A beware of imitations. I’ve seen fast bands but these unknown run with the best.”
Black Flag (Hermosa Beach) | Everything Went Black | 1982*
Black Flag neither condemned the violence surrounding them, nor articulated a defense of their own position. Their silence signaled not simply an acceptance of the violence, but a specific political stance that reflected their social environment and time. By claiming that they hated authority, they could refuse to assume it. They used the black flag as a symbol of anarchy to free themselves from the leadership position of the rock star. But their music and performance was designed to make something happen. Antipolice songs like “Revenge” and “Police Story” and lyrics like “I’ve got no values / nothing to say / I’ve got no values / might as well blow you away” confirmed their violent image. But the band did not defend their audience either. In fact, by the time Rollins joined as the fourth and final lead singer in mid-1981, the band was aiming its assault as much as its own audience as at the world outside.
[*] Everything Went Black is a compilation album of songs featuring pre-Rollins vocalists; ‘Revenge’ was kicking around since the initial Keith Morris days of the band and was often performed, but wasn’t released until ’82. Morris quit in ’79, hence this song’s earlier placement in my chronology than the date would seem to indicate.
Get Off the Air
Angry Samoans (Los Angeles) | Inside My Brain | 1980
[Rodney Bingenheimer] was as much vilified as celebrated throughout the scene. He was accused simultaneously of ignoring LA bands and of raking in the dough from LA punk. He denied the charges continually, arguing, “…I’m doing the best I can do, it’s only two hours. They say I should play LA bands — they don’t have records, how do you play invisible records? …” He was not even paid for the privilege of taking to the airwaves once a week. But some resented Rodney’s attitude and “power,” as the Angry Samoans expressed in the nasty “Get Off the Air”: “you pathetic male groupie / you don’t impress me / get off the air, you fuckin’ square / you’re just a jerk as far as i can see.”
X (Los Angeles) | Los Angeles | 1980
“Maybe one of the most hardcore bands of the area, [X] offer[s] the most straightforward no bullshit punk noise I’ve heard in a while,” the Slash critic wrote. “X are uncompromising and uneasy listening, routine they are not. The punks know. Too bad for the others.”
Kids of the Black Hole
The Adolescents (Fullerton) | The Adolescents | 1981
Like the earlier Hollywood punks who had lived and partied at the Canterbury Apartments and the Masque … hardcore punks attempted to find alternative homes and communities. The Better Youth Organization (BYO) was based in Hollywood’s “Skinhead Manor” — “a place where kids from all over Southern California met & exchanged ideas.” … Mike Ness of the band Social Distortion made his apartment in Fullerton available as a crash pad and party spot, as immortalized in the Social Distortion song “Playpen,” as well as in the Adolescents’ “Kids of the Black Hole.”
Boys in the Brigade
Youth Brigade (Los Angeles) | Sound & Fury | 1982
One way for the punks to take power was to walk down the streets in packs or (occasionally) organized gangs. The tactic was defensive, in the sense of always being ready to defend against violent attacks by so-called rednecks or jocks; but beyond the military tactical analogy, the other tactics had to do with identity with taking space in order to create a self and a community, to be the “Boys in the Brigade,” as the Youth Brigade sang.
Suicidal Tendencies (Venice) | Suicidal Tendencies | 1983
Possibly the most famous hardcore song of the era, the Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized,” tells the story of two parents who put their son in a mental hospital because, in the parents’ words, “we’re afraid you’re gonna hurt somebody / we’re afraid you’re gonna hurt yourself.” … The song works musically as an anthem and lyrically as a rallying cry — along the same lines as the Who’s “My Generation,” but individualist. How to interpret the song is open to the listener, maybe even more so than most songs. You can cry, you can break things, or you can laugh. It is impossible to know if the singer is serious.