In November Domino Records release 'Black Hole'
a compilation celebrating the first wave of California
Punk that caught on between 1976 and 1980.
This compilation contains ideas, anti-establishment
rants, sharp comments about the world, attempts at transcendence
and plenty of savage wit. Featuring The Dead Kennedys,
The Germs and The Zeros, the collection of tracks on
this album sound as random and impromptu as the day
they were recorded.
The tracklist and album notes have been compiled by
celebrated 'pop-culturist' Jon Savage. His book England’s
Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock (1993) won
the Ralph J. Gleason Book Award and his film and television
credits include the BAFTA award-winning documentary
The Brian Epstein Story (1998) and Joy Division
(2007), a history of group, time and place.
Here's Crud's brief history of some of the characters
The Germs – Los Angeles (1977-1980)
band’s guitarist Pat Smear later found fame playing
alongside Dave Grohl in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters.
The fortunes of its singer, Darby Crash fared less well,
the neither-too-fast-or-too slow punk musician dying
of an intentional drug overdose in 1980. That’s suicide
by any other name. Crash and The Germs are the subject
of the 2007 biopic film ‘What We Do Is Secret’.
The Screamers - Los Angeles (1975-81)
Not really a punk band at all (and not really from Los
Angeles), but a queerly gothic new wave synth band that
possessed violins, electric pianos and a highly developed
theatrical sensibility (although not necessarily in
that order). But even if their music wasn’t ‘punk’ exactly,
the band’s joyful rejection of the industry was about
as punk as it could get; Screamers being the first band
without a recording contract to headline the Roxy on
Sunset Boulevard. Although influencing later bands like
The Dead Kennedys, The Screamers never made one official
record. How punk is that?
The Avengers – San Francisco (1977-1979)
The Avengers opened for the Sex Pistols in San Francisco
at their final show at Winterland, which led to Sex
Pistols guitarist Steve Jones producing a recording
session for the band. The band’s singer, Penelope Houston
collaborated with Howard Devoto on his post-Magazine
projects. Whilst Greg Ingraham was perhaps too skilled
a guitarist for any of this to last, ‘We Are The One’
serves up the fizzy, fuzzy logic of punk at its most
accessible. And least hoarse. They were not Jesus (Christ).
They were not fascist. They were not communist. They
were the one. And then they discovered folk music.
The Randoms – Los Angeles (1977)
Worth a mention if only because they were one of the
first bands to sign to Dangerhouse Records, the spiritual
home of Black Hole punk. In 1977, Dangerhouse released
‘A B C D’ – the debut single by The Randoms. This was
their only release. The band’s bass player, John Doe
went onto form X. Fat hooks with a fairly straight rock
n roll, garage vibe.
Black Randy and the Metrosquad – Los Angeles
The band must rank as one of the more genuinely interesting
curios of the punk and post-punk era, as witty as they
were offensive and as serious as they were absurd. Brits
might look for parallels in bands like The Cardiacs
and early Bowie Records but to the best of my recollection,
Bowie did songs about spacemen and gnomes and not black
or gay pride - or sperm banks for that matter. Early
guest vocalists included Jane Wiedlin and Belinda Carlisle.
Black Randy (who was white) died of a HIV related illness
before AIDs was even fashionable. How punk is that?
The Urinals – Los Angeles (1978-1983)
The band started off as a joke and things never really
progressed from there. Minimalist doesn’t even come
into it, emaciated might fare better. If value for money
was your concern, then forget it as the band’s signature
two-chord, two-finger, two-minute sound did little test
anyone’s patience, but did provide a cover for some
spirited intellectualism. When they’d finally learned
their instruments the band shared bills in LA with the
likes of The Go Gos. Punk just got poetic.
The Dead Kennedys – San Francisco (1978-1986)
There can’t have been many of these bands to threaten
the UK’s Top of the Pops, but the band’s single, ‘Too
Drunk To Fuck’ did just that in May 1981, peaking (rather
worryingly) at #31 in the charts. If it had shot one
place higher it would have earned a mention, striking
fear into heart of veterans like Tommy Vance and likely
as not killing Gary Davies. Especially critical of the
Reagan Administration and fond of stirring up shit with
Penis Landscapes. In fact George Bush senior who had
famously derided Reagan’s economic solutions as 'voodoo
economics' used the bands' song, 'You're Such A Fake'
when running against Reagan for the Republican presidential
nomination in 1980. Or was it 'Too Spaced Out on Alzheimer's
to Fuck'? I can never quite remember.
'JON SAVAGE PRESENTS 'BLACK HOLE' CALIFORNIAN PUNK
1977-1980...' OUT NOVEMBER 15TH 2010
Alan Sargeant for Crud Magazine 2010©