Buyer Beware: I've never been that big a fan of punk. I grew up more of a metal guy, though I've owned albums by the Circle Jerks, Bad Brains, and The Pricks. Those bands are about as far as my flirtation with punk has ever gone.
Buyer Beware #2: This book isn't so much "a book" as a series of non-chronological interviews. As such there's not much point in dissecting it. What follow below are merely some impressions.
In the Beginning there was Bowie...
And Bowie is/was GREAT. I'm not sorry I missed L.A.'s short-loved glam scene, but I am glad to hear that someone in the States had one. Up here in Seattle they were in thrall to the likes of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
There's nothing wrong with either of those two (awesome) bands, but variety is good!
Iggy Pop was also an influence...
And I've got to say that I've never been a big fan. Some of his stuff I like, but on the whole I never really understood the power he exercises over the popular imagination. Lou Reed, another of Bowie's associates, has always been more my thing.
After glam died (or, by some accounts, went into hybernation...) around the mid 70s, the L.A. punk scene sprouted up in its place. One of the earliest local precursors to punk was a band called Sparks.
But if you've bothered to listen to the above clip, you're probably wondering what's so punk about Sparks. New Wave, maybe. But punk?
However it happened, Sparks led to bands like The Germs.
And the Runaways.
And you might recognize the song "Cherry Bomb" from the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack.
Oh, and I forgot Devo. Their L.A. cred is more ambiguous, but they were also part of that scene for a time.
If the chronology of the above bands seems "off," it's because some were signed later than others. The Runaways were an earlier, more manufactured effort. Devo found success a lot faster. X and The Germs were floating around for YEARS before they produced anything other than singles.
There were also The Go-Go's, but I have the feeling that their earlier punk stuff was vastly different from the kind of music they did after they were signed.
Black Randy was also a big deal.
But of course a lot of that stuff was too arty, and not aggressive enough for the kids in the suburbs, so they had to invent Black Flag.
And the Descendents.
But by that time the scene had moved away from Los Angeles, and "punk" in most people's minds had become associated with skateboarding, white supremacy, and violence.
The Circle Jerks appeared after Black Flag concerts got too aggro for even Black Flag.
"I've got the world... up my ass!" Great stuff.
Unfortunately (?) it wasn't enough to save the scene, which died its inevitable death due to a combination of New Wave and heroin.
So it just goes to show, everything is cool until people start doing heroin. Make a note of it, my friends. If we can all remain just slightly more vigilant, we can keep H from destroying the next musical fad!
...or can we?