Monday, April 25, 2016

Punk Rock Defies History

Movies like this are invaluable. You can't really go to a large American city and not find the remnants of a punk scene. Los Angeles had one of the most important scenes in all of punk--more important than New York City, in my opinion:

Forty years would seem to be plenty of time to canvass and document the history of punk rock, but as is the case with any genre, there are always some narrative holes that need filling. New York City and London dominate much of the discussion about punk’s nascent years, so much so that even the most casual music fans likely have some understanding of CBGB, The Clash, the Talking Heads, and other big-picture genre talking points. Those are important conversational pillars, of course, but there’s plenty of ground to cover between the two cities.

Los Angeles, for one, cultivated its own hugely influential punk rock scene. If New York and England helped lay the foundation for punk’s first wave, L.A. had a large hand in building the subculture that’s kept the genre going through the years. This is the story Tom DeSavia and X singer-bassist John Doe tell in Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History Of L.A. Punk. Culled from the personal remembrances of roughly a dozen of the city’s most prized punk-rock figures, the book digs deep into the ugly, dangerous, but nonetheless fraternal nature of the burgeoning L.A. punk scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s. From Hollywood over to East L.A. and south to San Pedro and Huntington Beach, Under The Big Black Sun covers the scene’s considerable sprawl, from the sketchy clubs and apartment dwellings to the bands and the drug and booze-fueled chaos that followed them.

The punk scene in Los Angeles was related in large part to the development of SST and hardcore music--something that probably deserves its own separate documentary. In the pre-internet days, labels like SST survived largely because they sent out their catalog as a printed insert with the records and cassettes they sold. Remember looking through those things? How else were you going to get punk records if you lived in the middle of nowhere? Amazing times.

This is definitely worth checking out. But, remember--no one will ever agree on anything with regards to punk music and how it came to be. It's like chasing a ghost, which is an absolutely useless endeavor because ghosts don't exist.

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