I moved, or more appropriately had military orders, to Camp Pendleton in 1982. This southern California Marine Corps base was my chance to experience the world whereThe Doors had lived and played in. Instead Oceanside, California and Los Angles were in full punk swing, and The Doors were a cultural has been. Safety pins, giant mohawks, and kids trading patches were the in thing. Weekend mornings one would find plenty of passed out punks on the beaches since Southern California lacked the squatter buildings of the UK and the cheap grungy apartments of New York City. My experience with punk before going west was from the New York area that made it to Cleveland radio and pulp rock magazines– Lou Reed, Patti Smith, The New York Dolls, The Ramones, and The Dead Boys.
L.A. Punk was something entirely different from the New York scene, and I will admit it took me a long time to recognize it as something other than a distraction to rock music (with the notable exception of The Dead Kennedys). John Doe of “X” edits a history of the LA Punk Music using musicians and players of the scene. Some people bands are still active like Henry Rollins and Social Distortion. Others were the commercial high point of the movement like the GoGos. Most, however, were people that moved from band to band or simply bands that had their moments and passed on but leaving their mark. The use of first-hand accounts recreate the era better than a history and include that personal feeling that is often lost in editing. LA Punk is often overshadowed by the rise of 80s metal and good times rock of bands like Van Halen. The decadence of the 80s overtook the anti-establishment of the punk movement. Punk, too, was more interested in the message than being commercially viable. The economy silenced the message and viability limited radio exposure. It did create a ruckus in its run.
John Doe and Tom DeSavia create the first-hand history on par with Leggs McNeil’s Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. Very well done.