photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
its been documented that when PUNK ROCK migrated from the initial late 1970s HOLLYWOOD scene south to ORANGE COUNTY, that the scene became less artsy and inclusive and more REACTIONARY and VIOLENT. the music turned essentially into a soundtrack to the interactive slam dancing in the crowd which replaced the pogoing of before. once bored jocks and the irrepressibly unruly (skinheads, white power, etc.) infiltrated the scene did things truly DEGENERATE with the SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PUNK ROCK and the local authorities.
the documentary CLOCKWORK ORANGE COUNTY (ENDURANCE PICTURES, 2012) recounts this transition through the history of the legendary HUNTINGTON BEACH venue THE CUCKOO'S NEST as told by its owner JERRY ROACH and members of local bands T.S.O.L., BLACK FLAG, THE CIRCLE JERKS, AGENT ORANGE, THE ADOLESCENTS, THE CROWD and THE VANDALS and notable fans like SKATEBOARDING legends STEVE OLSON and DUANE PETERS. what transpires is a narrative of bored SUBURBAN, disaffected youth looking for an outlet to burn off some steam that comes from being a product of such a culturally and socially conservative enclave. HARDCORE was a reaction to that tired social milieu as well as the REAGAN ADMINISTRATION and coalesced into one hell of a youth phenomena.
i grew up in ORANGE COUNTY until my family left in 6th grade and to tell you the truth, we never looked back. i remember telling my basketball coach that i was moving to AFRICA and his wife thought that such was a state. seriously. that is the level of naivete and ignorance that was endemic in that environment some 10-15 years after the events that transpire in this film. to say that these kids were raised in a protective cocoon is not hyperbole. ORANGE COUNTY is an inward-facing community that historically is a bastion for regressive REPUBLICAN politics and social conservatism. this film basically allows a view of how such a closed system reacts badly to a new burgeoning YOUTH CULTURE. as they do with all other aspects of foreign influence, they didnt react well. in fact they shut that shit down.
in some ways the HUNTINGTON BEACH scene presented is a microcosm of AMERICAN politics writ large. decades later the contents of this documentary do not feel all that much removed from the unrepentant racist and blatant xenophobic ethos of the TRUMP ADMINISTRATION and MAGA world. it feels like our current chaos incarnate. just saying.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
REALITY 86'D (WE GOT POWER FILMS, 1991) is a documentary parceled together from footage of the last 1986 tour conducted by legendary HARDCORE band BLACK FLAG in support of their final experimental IN MY HEAD (SST, 1985) record. it showcases the final touring lineup of HENRY ROLLINS, GREG GINN, C'EL REVUELTA and ANTHONY MARTINEZ as they make their way around the country playing small venues and dealing with uppity local POLICE, belligerent FANS and deceitful CONCERT PROMOTERS. in many ways this film feels like the documentary version of the ROLLINS' memoir GET IN THE VAN (review linked HERE) which similarly chronicles his touring career with BLACK FLAG and the immense PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL toll that came with that experience.
given the SPARTAN, self-made, DIY nature of the band and the HARDCORE movement in general, what really strikes me about this film is how UNGLAMOROUS touring life was during this period for an INDEPENDENT band. obviously BLACK FLAG were the early pioneers that blazed the trail, establishing the very UNDERGROUND network of VENUES, BACKYARDS, BASEMENTS and VFW halls that made up the independent TOURING CIRCUIT that later PUNK-influenced ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands of the next decade would commercially benefit from. its a real gift to see how MUNDANE and AWFUL it is to watch a bunch of anemic vegans carting in their own speakers and equipment to shitty venues and then drive the bus to the next town. just the act of watching it feels EXHAUSTING.
and that may be the point. this film really stands as a document of what PUNK ROCK and HARDCORE once was in its infancy. you get the sense that what was lost in terms of creature comforts back in the day was made up for handsomely with a begrudging, hard-earned sense of CAMARADERIE, which is ironic given that this film is essentially a documentation of the breakup of a POWERFUL and massively INFLUENTIAL band.
id consider REALITY 86'D required viewing. definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in the 1980s HARDCORE and INDIE ROCK scenes that paved the way for 1990s ALTERNATIVE ROCK. compelling stuff.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
i came across this three-part series THE ART OF PUNK which examines the contributions of visual artists RAYMOND PETTIBON, WINSTON SMITH and the duo of DAVE KING/GENE VAUCHER and their iconic graphic work with HARDCORE PUNK bands BLACK FLAG, DEAD KENNEDYS and CRASS respectively. this online series was produced almost a decade ago for an installation at MOCA (MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART, LOS ANGELES).
i think the art associated with the AMERICAN and BRITISH HARDCORE scenes that sprung up in the 1980s after the initial wave of PUNK ROCK had subsided really took the DIY ethic to heart and ran with it. this was reflected in the raw intensity of the music, but also the iconic graphic work went into its presentation. obviously the brazenly political collage work of WINSTON SMITH was something that became part of the lexicon of flyers and fanzines alike. the fact that his work maintains a cohesive yet caustic edge this many years later really is a testament to its quality. the simple yet effective "DK" logo he created for DEAD KENNEDYS is likewise an iconic piece of graphic design that has been drawn on innumerable toilet stalls at venues over the years. too many for me to count.
likewise the ink drawings of RAYMOND PETTIBON are absolutely unflinching and brutal. with an economy of movement, he is able to inflict maximum impact on his targets, which are often figures of power and corruption, both in public and on the domestic front. the logo he devised for his brother's band, BLACK FLAG, is now effectively AMERICAN folk art, given the repetition with which it has now been tattooed on HARDCORE fans throughout the intervening decades. what his interview shows is the depth of the humor in his work, which is sorely overlooked to date.
in DAVE KING and GEE VAUCHER you are presented with a symbol that is rooted in the branding lexicon of tribal identification and corporate power. CRASS is such a complex, high-concept outfit with profoundly radical political leanings that make its adoption of the visual vocabulary a subversion in and of itself. with the CRASS symbol you are shown a sense of art steeped in intention and symbolism, which is the mark of any great art.
anyway, THE ART OF PUNK is well worth your time whether or not you have any interest in PUNK ROCK per se. it is a series rooted in the deep power of images, a concept that thoroughly transcends any musical affiliation or tradition. if anything the work these artists produce make you think and by extension complicate the consumption of the music, which is something i find endlessly fascinating.
photo by nacrowe
much like the previously reviewed UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN: A PERSONAL HISTORY OF L.A. PUNK (linked HERE) KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE: PUNK ROCK IN POSTSUBURBAN CALIFORNIA (UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS, 2011) by DEWAR MACLEOD deals with the LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK scene that began primarily around HOLLYWOOD in the late 70s and then quickly proliferated to the surrounding suburbs and statewide thereafter in quick succession.
whereas UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN is by design an oral history by participants of the original scene with some HARDCORE musicians sprinkled in, MACLEOD's take on the subject is of a more academic, anthropological variety including economic, media criticism and social historical insights. unlike UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN, he analyzes both scenes, those being the original LOS ANGELES scene and the fragmented suburban scenes it spawned, with equal critical attention and weight.
in UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN there is the presentation of HARDCORE as the bastardization of the original scene which was described as diverse and inclusive of various art and minority communities. the almost exclusively WHITE MALE kids that made up the HARDCORE scene in the suburbs where abrasive, boorish and exceedingly violent and their music was a sped-up, dumbed down, sonically conservative variant. that was general criticism of such from that book.
MACLEOD here presents HARDCORE instead as a progression of an art form by kids who grew up within communities that by definition had no center, no core, no essence as they were part of the seemingly infinite suburban sprawl. their communities were defined by shopping centers and shallow consumerism. HARDCORE and its community was both a rejection of that complacency and a brutal, primal return to a cultural of year zero, L.A PUNK that preceded it included. these were not sophisticated art kids that jumped on PUNK as a means of expression as the original scene originated in the wake of the example of the SEX PISTOLS and the BRITISH variant's social and stylistic concerns, which were mimicked. HARDCORE, as MACLEOD argues, was the manifestation of a generation of kids raised in the suburbs with seemingly no locust of control over their surroundings, it was this dislocation, this imbalance that led them collectively to seek out HARDCORE in its extremities as a public sublimating ritual for control. that was what i gathered from this book regarding the violence that grew out of HARDCORE with the transition from BRITISH inspired "pogoing" to "slam dancing" behavior.
with HARDCORE in a SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA context you also have to be aware of the sensationalism behind its portrayal at the time by the media. cops at shows became a regular occurrence after the inexplicable 1979 ELKS LODGE MASSACRE, a show played by first-wave L.A PUNK bands like THE PLUGZ, THE WEIRDOS, THE SKULLS and THE DICKIES among others that was famous infiltrated by plainclothes police and resulted in a mini-riot and the public beatings of PUNK kids. after that event and the media attention that followed, the scene in LOS ANGELES was viewed as volatile and senselessly violent, which only drove those types of people to future shows, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. thereafter the scene ceded control to the masses.
one other thing that interested me about this book was MACLEOD's sociological read of the early scene which included various participants, cliques and independent zine writers/editors all attempting to define the scene to no avail. when i think of NYC where PUNK originated i think of closed, defined, claustrophobic spaces, both physical and spiritual. PUNK was a burst of energy and a claim to identity rooted in this perceived hostile environment. with LOS ANGELES, you dont have that sense of enclosing space like in NYC. but what you do have is the sense of the painful vacuous, vapid nature of the middle AMERICAN mindset, which i would argue is just as reductive and spiritually exhaustive.
interesting book that presents lots of interesting reads on a scene that no-doubt has had ripple effects on modern AMERICAN culture beyond the HARDCORE scene of the 1980s. definitely worth seeking out.
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO that examines over 40 years of LOS ANGELES PUNK ROCK!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
photo manipulation by nacrowe
PUNK: ATTITUDE (3DD PRODUCTIONS, 2005) by legendary DJ / MUSICIAN / DIRECTOR and original PUNK ROCK scenester DON LETTS is probably the most comprehensive documentary about the beginnings and evolution of PUNK ROCK, both stateside and in ENGLAND. it includes an exhaustive yet entirely impressive cast of participants, many now deceased, whose insights provide an appreciation for the wide array of interests and backgrounds that led to the formation of the genre. this includes, but not limited to, musicians such as JOHN CALE (THE VELVET UNDERGROUND), JELLO BIAFRA (THE DEAD KENNEDYS), MARTIN REV (SUICIDE), CHRISSIE HYNDE (THE PRETENDERS), DAVID JOHANSEN, SYLVAIN SYLVAIN & ARTHUR KANE (THE NEW YORK DOLLS), MICK JONES & PAUL SIMON (THE CLASH), DARYL JENIFER (BAD BRAINS), POLY STYRENE (X-RAY SPEX), HENRY ROLLINS (BLACK FLAG), WAYNE KRAMER (MC5), PAT SMEAR (THE GERMS), SIOUXSIE SIOUX (SIOUXSIE SIOUX & THE BANSHEES), TOMMY RAMONE (THE RAMONES), CAPTAIN SENSIBLE (THE DAMNED), ARI UP (THE SLITS), STEVE JONES & GLEN MATLOCK (THE SEX PISTOLS), THURSTON MOORE (SONIC YOUTH), K.K. BARRETT (THE SCREAMERS), RAY CAPO (YOUTH OF TODAY), GLENN BRANCA (THEORETICAL GIRLS), KEITH MORRIS (BLACK FLAG / CIRCLE JERKS), ROGER MIRET (AGNOSTIC FRONT), PETE SHELLEY & HOWARD DEVOTO (THE BUZZCOCKS), DEE POP (THE BUSH TETRAS), ALICE BAG (THE BAGS), RICHARD MANITOBA (THE DICTATORS), JAMES CHANCE (JAMES CHANCE & THE CONTORTIONS) and film director JIM JARMUSCH, CBGBs owner HILLY KRISTAL and various managers, writers, artists and photographers.
i think one strong suit of this documentary is its ability to elucidate the long line of influence that followed one band to another over time. how bands like THE DOORS influenced THE STOOGES who influenced THE SEX PISTOLS and BLACK FLAG and NIRVANA and so on. in essence you see how bands such as THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, SUICIDE, THE DEAD KENNEDYS, PATTI SMITH, THE DAMNED and THE RAMONES (among many others) are all linked and part of a greater movement towards challenging, complicating, questioning and, in turn, revitalizing the form of ROCK AND ROLL.
examples provided included the concurrent POST PUNK and NO WAVE that came about after the first wave of PUNK ROCK. both took the ethos of originality and freedom and applied such to the music, creating new takes on song structures and experimented with expanded palette of instruments.
the HARDCORE scene of the 1980s was the opposite of such in that songs got condensed and sped up even faster. scenes that began with first wave PUNK adherents more interested in art and originality were taken over by HARDCORE bands that were largely aggressive and violent. part of that anger was political at the REAGAN administration as well as a feeling that their lives were set to be disrupted by economic uncertainty. that scene begat the ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene of the 1990s, or as JELLO BIAFRA puts it "punk inspired rock bands." as the 1990s dragged on you get bands like KORN and LIMP BIZKIT with their dumbed down break down sections and shocking lack of social consciousness.
there was nothing revelatory about this documentary, but it serves as a welcome definitive statement about a genre for anyone new or interested in the place of PUNK ROCK in music history. it really gets at the core idea of the genre in spite of its many permutations: that being the value being an individual. finding your voice, whatever that may be, and speaking your truth vociferously with an almost disregard for the opposition. thats a healthy sentiment for anyone to learn.
my only gripe with this film is that they spends way too much time talking about THE CLASH and JOE STRUMMER, but that is my own personal bias making itself apparent. i still find that band, despite their influence, to be full of themselves. just my opinion.
parodies by nacrowe
easily one of my favorite DEER GOD RADIO shows since its inception, this episode dedicated to 1980s HARDCORE is a topic i have further explored in book reviews for the likes of GET IN THE VAN (HENRY ROLLINS), MY DAMAGE (KEITH MORRIS) and UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN (JOHN DOE) as well as other related episodes concerning the concurrent scene in INDIE ROCK as well as '77 FIRST-WAVE PUNK ROCK, NEW YORK HARDCORE, POST-HARDCORE, and later 90s ALTERNATIVE ROCK.
it is seemingly the topic that will never die and continues to be of interest to me, largely because it was the palette cleanser that served to further distill PUNK ROCK to its absolute core essentials, of which we have been building back up around ever since. it is the foundation for any decent ROCK music that has sprung up in its wake.
so check out this show that originally aired around CHRISTMAS 2018. hasn't gotten old yet.
photo & text by nacrowe
it has been said that the lasting cultural impact of 1980s HARDCORE was the touring circuit they networked one city at a time. this circuit of VFW halls, LIONS CLUBS and basements across the nation was the common proving ground for INDIE bands of that same era and underground ALTERNATIVE bands of the 90s. this self-published printing (now long out of print) of his tour journal finds BLACK FLAG frontman HENRY ROLLINS in GET IN THE VAN ( 2.13.61, 1995) giving the reader a first-hand account of the hardship and endurance it took to get out the message.
in ROLLINS we see a guy that knows his place. he appreciates his good fortune in being asked to join his favorite band at a moment when they sought to reshuffle roles within the band. one theme carried on throughout journal is this theme of isolation and alienation from the straight world he so passionately wished to escape from. the longer he is on the road, the more severe that estrangement becomes, for his former peers (exception being friend IAN MCKAYE) can't appreciate his position. they see a rock star on tour where his actual reality is sleeping in vans, moving equipment, fighting skinheads, fighting concert promoters, lack of food, lack of sleep and lack of money. on top of that they are blazing through under-appreciated markets that don't have a frame of reference for their version of PUNK ROCK quite yet. they are very much the pioneers that got scalped to borrow horrible offensive and culturally antiquated turn of phrase.
ROLLINS attitude throughout is one of defiance. he talks about hating his audience, his bandmates and the straight world in general. his misanthropy seems rooted in a deep-seated internal fortitude to bear any burden, carry any cross for his band. what seems interesting in retrospect is how much he has transitioned since the myopia of his early 20s, when much of these entries were written. he is the very embodiment now of adventurousness, traveling tirelessly and choosing to use any of his various platforms (spoken-word albums, documentaries, podcasts, tv shows) to promote the understanding of culture across borders and inclusivity. it is basically the opposite trajectory of MORRISSEY, once the embodiment of transgressive gender politics and now just a sad mouthpiece for the extreme-right in ENGLAND (sighhh). as someone who traveled a lot growing up as a THIRD CULTURE KID, i definite sympathize with his misanthropy and retreat into himself when confounded with radical change and senseless violence during what amounts to his formative years. its comforting to know he transcended such self-destructive ideations.
one of my favorite aspects of this book is the friction between AMERICAN HARDCORE bands and their BRITISH counterparts. at the time it had only been a handful of years, but the chasm culturally between these two cousins was pretty wide and ROLLINS spares no quarter in taking on what he considered shitty bands that couldn't play their instruments. i take this as a grain of salt given the fact BLACK FLAG were the tip of the spear for a new more potent wave of PUNK ROCK and for them there was a definite "us vs. the world" mentality, but it is interesting nonetheless on purely sociological grounds.
the journal is a bit hard to get through and is quite repetitive but at its most potent you get a real sense of the absurdity of touring life, fan adoration and the unique hardships of being a trailblazer. true, ROLLINS was the 4th singer of BLACK FLAG, but none of the others toured like his version of the band, which makes them the de facto committed to popular memory.
photo & text by nacrowe
i always found it interesting with movements, whether they be artistic, social or cultural, are entities constantly in flux with new blood constantly reevaluating, interpreting and contextualizing what came before into a new modern amalgamation/expression.
PUNK ROCK is such an artistic/social/cultural phenomena whose innate value and very definition is forever a controversial topic to its many participants and stakeholders. personally, that discussion has long bored me (dating back to high school) and it is refreshing to know that KEITH MORRIS, iconic frontman of 80s HARDCORE legends BLACK FLAG and CIRCLE JERKS, felt much the same as well.
KEITH MORRIS makes a point in his memoir MY DAMAGE: THE STORY OF A PUNK ROCK SURVIVOR (DA CAPO, 2016) to elucidate upon why he got into music (i.e. passion and personal expression) and how such a foundation has maintained itself over his career as an under-appreciated (in my opinion) cultural force.
it always happens that underground bands like THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, THE STOOGES and THE SEX PISTOLS all had cultural influences that far outweighed their record sales and BLACK FLAG was no different. their ability to refine and harden PUNK's edge into a more potent, punishing musical variant has influenced bands far outside the PUNK community. i'd argue modern METAL music is indebted as much to BLACK FLAG in its ethos and attitude as it is to the doomed riffage of BLACK SABBATH. again, my opinion.
one aspect that caught my eye about MORRIS was the energy and genuinely altruistic (to the point of naivete) he put into the community of artists in southern california, irrespective of genre or scene. for every anecdote dealing with members of THE ANGRY SAMOANS, SOCIAL DISTORTION, CRO-MAGS or THE ADOLESCENTS, there are others with members of RATT, VAN HALEN or THE RAVEONETTES.
to me PUNK ROCK is almost a religion and its not surprising that core, unassailable members of its royalty are by no means interested in the "punk police" bullshit that well-intentioned fans, and in some case other peers, hoist on the public. he really makes a point that this idea that to be a true appreciator of PUNK ROCK you need to wipe away all that came before is sad, pathetic and just wrong. in his career this came full circle with the formation of OFF! where his younger bandmates had many outside influences that didn't coincide with his. to him it was an opportunity and the idea of a bands as a democracy (both artistically and financially) is something that has been constant in his post-BLACK FLAG career.
growing up i got tired of PUNK ROCK fans that just shat on everything else. it just seemed so counterproductive and stunting on a human level to have up barriers like that. its nice to know part of the underground cultural vanguard of the 80s had his ears open to the street.
still does. do damage.