Thursday, June 23, 2005

"Lexicon Devil" and "Neutron Bomb": essential punk reading

Hey, I don't know how to show part of a blog and a link to show the rest of it. So if anyone can walk me through it, fine, otherwise, get over it. I have stories to tell and they are long. You wanna know about punk? Read on:

I've been re-reading these books as part of my research and because I've changed since I first read them. I contributed photos to these books, but as usual, was not told who would be covered, nor which events. It's amazing to read about parties and shows and realize I shot most everything and everyone mentioned in these books. I didn't know that when I first read them, because I'm only now organizing and ID'ing my archive.

I'm surprised more people know my photos from "We Got the Neutron Bomb" because "Lexicon Devil" is a perfect companion piece and not just for hard-core Germs fans. I can't say which book is better because neither accurately covers all that went on in LA punk – would take about 1500 pages to barely touch the surface! "Neutron Bomb" skims several bands and some of punk's early roots whereas "Lexicon Devil" explores the very dark, scary, dangerous aspects of punk centered around the Masque, Canterbury, Black Randy, and of course, Darby Crash, the Germs and their circle of "Germettes." But "Neutron Bomb" attributes manufactured quotes to people, which I've repeatedly read and stated I was totally misquoted. The words don't match the personalities of the people, which is one of the reasons "Lexicon Devil" is more dynamic and energetic.

We often say and read hard-core started in the South Bay and Orange County, when more young men took over the audience. As Allan MacDonell wrote in "Lexicon Devil": "Man, early punk in LA was a rough, hardcore street-hustlin' scene." Words right outta my mouth! Early punk as in 1976!! !977!!

I vividly remember the Canterbury exactly as related in "Lexicon Devil" and for that reason, I avoided it. Remember, I was a working photographer and didn't have time to hang out all that much. I carried expensive equipment that was stolen and broken by punks, and the Canterbury was disgusting. My only visit (that I remember) to the Canterbury was to the first apartment, Shannon and Alison's. I remember taking shots of Shannon in front of her mirror, applying layers of makeup, although I haven't stumbled across the negs or slides.The building had the smell and look of decay, the filth and stench of bodily fluids, piles of clothes, dirty dishes that conflicted with my need for orderliness and cleanliness needed to create. But my lifestyle was scary and dangerous, hanging out with very unsavory drug dealers (think David Lynch's "Blue Velvet"), pimps, thieves, hustlers, sex workers, and that's just some of my acquaintances and pals!

I needed to live somewhere with a modicum of security to protect my photos, camera/darkroom equipment, books, and possessions -- much of which disappeared while living la vida punk. I shared a house on Lookout Mountain, off of Laurel Canyon, with a speed freak queen into black magic late in 1979-1980 while shooting tons of speed. But I hadn't fallen off the cliff earlier during the Canterbury's days/nights in 1977-1978. I was still working so hard on my photos. I couldn't live in such a communal atmosphere as the Canterbury without my photos being stolen. People ripped me off all the time just by visiting my apartment or breaking into a film lab and taking my on-stage Clash shots. I was robbed at gun-point by a punk in my apartment. Guess I couldn't avoid trouble, but the Canterbury would have been suicidal for me. I preferred a slower death by speed.

When I read about the Canterbury or Joan Jett's party/wake when Sid Vicious died, the quotes and stories sound transported back to that realm. My archivist/musician pal, David Jones, provided the authors of "Neutron Bomb" quotes that were attributed to others. No, you won't see David Jones' name credited as a contributor, oops! I've heard so many "Neutron Bomb's" stories with more detail from him, so it wasn't as illuminating, although an essential bare-bones intro to LA punk for those of you without access to his vast research.

"Lexicon Devil" is more compelling because it utilizes so many different voices whereas "Neutron Bomb" feels like a small handful of people analyzing rather than relating some of the more sordid details. Therein lies the difference and need for both books. I was disgusted at some of my fellow punks – the destruction, defacing, thefts, violence towards people and property. Only destroy something if you've got something better to create. Destruction cos that's "what the evening called for" is pretty heavy and nihilistic. Being at the receiving end of some of the malicious things said and done by so many in those books, I had to deal with a lot of pain and unresolved issues to delve back into my archive. You think it was all glamorous and easy?

I posted a May 23rd blog entitled "What's Punk Today?" I said someone who rents spaces, promotes, and DJs says he's punk cos he's doing it himself (with some friends). Punk was far more than doing it yourself. It's kinda like using the phrase "new wave" to make punk palatable. "DIY" is a phrase coined in the mid-1990's to sell punk. Reading "Lexicon Devil" will or should tell everyone who loves punk that we lived on the edge in every sense of the word.

I have never publicly shared how I made money to pay my rent, keep film in my camera, put gas in my car, pay for postage to send photos out. I'm not going to until I check out the statute of limitations on certain things. You think I'm kidding? I could have been hauled off to prison or murdered and was robbed at gun point and I over-dosed once and am lucky to be alive. Me, a nice Jewish girl with a MFA in Design, art exhibits and teaching college under my belt. I risked it all.

So why bother? Cos it's the most exciting thing that happened the last quarter century of the last millennium. Cos we changed culture, not just music, but art, fashion, graphics, entertainment as we know it. Because I won't let others hold me back or keep me down. It was too much fun, too many great shows and parties. Because someone has to do it. Vicki Tischler-Blue, Runaways bassist and film-maker extraordinaire ("Edgeplay") said "others are motivated, but I have the drive." I gotta remember that cos man, this is tough, hard work. A true labor of love.

Go read those books and my website, blogs, and everything you can if you really wanna know. Don't believe anything or everything you read. So many stories still to be told!

What have you done today? Did you use the net to write to your congress people, letters to the editors, organizing to take back our country from the robber barons who are taking us all down if you keep sitting on your asses? Do something! Or you will have no future and truly be desperate. It can get worse if you don't do something. And it's more than putting on your own show. That's a good beginning, but do more.

Vicki reiterated something I truly believe: you've got to give back to that which gives to you. She was so giving in her time, thoughts and support. I was stunned she remembered seeing me and we both saw Patti Smith at the Roxy, January, 1976. We both saw Patti at the Golden Bear, where she first laid eyes on Joan Jett, not knowing within 2 years they'd be in the Runaways together. And who knew that on November 11, 1976 I'd take Patti's fave live shots. Damn, I always write so much. Now it's your turn.

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