Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Postpunk, Truthiness and Living in a Time of Fiction . . .

Every day I wrote reams and reams of emails, rarely posting them. I recently met Joe Carducci, formerly with SST Records. He is reviving the late Naomi Peterson’s hardcore punk photo archive. I’ve shared tips on organizing, scanning, etc as well as leads when someone comes to me for hardcore shots. Joe wrote a loving tribute to Naomi that really resonated with me. I'm doing all I can to help. It would be a tragedy if both her archive and mine were lost to history, because we documented such important early bands and times.

I always engage in lively thoughts about punk and how others perceive it versus those who were actually there or the devoted fans. If only the people who write, the book authors, CD liner notes, the magazines, etc would actually ASK AND LISTEN to those who were there, not just the "usual suspects." They don’t give a damn what many of us in the trenches think or remember or DID.

Here’s an exert from today’s thoughts about “Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984” by Simon Reynolds. Joe told me the American publisher [Penguin Books] DROPPED the section on SST Records, which was included in his British version.

"three chapters got dropped by his American publisher, not him. They didn't drop the San Francisco chapter oddly enough. I thought LA always outranked SF, but not in NYC today somehow."

SF punk scene more important/relevant than LA? God save us all. Mabuhay v. Masque/Whisky/Starwood/Roxy/Orpheum/Baces Hall et al! Avengers, Nuns and Dead Kennedys v. X, Screamers, Germs, Weirdos, Bags; then hardcore Black Flag, Middle Class, Circle Jerks; roots/rockabilly from Ray Campi and Blasters; art bands like Monitor, Extremes, Human Hands and let's not forget Claude "Kick Boy" Bessy's Catholic Discipline w/Phranc and so on.

There is NO comparison and I don't say that cos I'm from LA.

I LOVED the Nuns and Penelope Huston and the Avengers are still going strong. I shot the Ramones, Patti, Clash, Iggy and LA bands in SF (after seeing them in LA first). But if you have to pick ONE city over the other to best represent punk and whatever postpunk is, for sheer numbers of legendary bands who influenced others and are still beloved, it's ludicrous to choose SF over LA.

Those kinds of irrational choices make any thesis less credible when not backed up by facts.

There is NO sense of TRUTHFUL history. As I wrote Joe, quoting film-maker Michael Moore at the Oscars® a few years ago: “We live in a time of fiction.”

Makes me ill, explains why it's been so hard to get my pix published . . . 30 years of this shit.

I saved a review by Jim Windolf of Simon's book earlier this month from I was DISGUSTED with it. The premise is: punk ended with the Pistols and everything after it is post-punk. The book doesn't mention X or the Clash:

"But the Clash doesn't make Reynolds's postpunk list. Neither do similar acts of the era, like the Jam, the Police, X, Elvis Costello and Blondie, all of whom began by making raw music only to end up turning out more sophisticated fare tinged with soul, funk, reggae, disco, hip-hop or Latin touches."

What a piece of bullshit. X is based in part on American roots, whether Hank Williams, Woodie Guthrie, the Weavers, Leadbelly, Patsy Cline, Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash or should I go on? Throw in some Ferlinghetti and Bukowski, Raymond Chandler, Theda Bara/Lousie Brooks (Exene and I share a love of silent films) and of course FILM NOIR.

There is simply no group who represented, as the Blasters sang, "American Music," in a way that was more ground-breaking than X. Considering Exene is from Illinois to Florida to LA; John Maryland to LA; Billy Iowa to LA; and DJ, like myself, from LA, the only thing missing is the northern east coast or NY sensibility.

But they blended music from so many genres to describe what was, in many, but not ALL their songs: LA. I always saw them as more universal than LA-centric: city living, plus political comments common to both liberal New Yorkers and Angelenos, or other large metropolitan, educated cities. And of course, the human condition, relationships between men and women, success and failure, with enough references to American culture to ensure their music is truly classic and timeless.

They are to music what West's "Day of the Locust" is to Hollywood: beneath the glitter is the real glitter, and a lot of grit.

Loud, angry, thoughtful, poetic, a great beat you can dance to. If he bothered to read the lyrics and listen to the music. That's basic punk 101.

I am SO tired of hearing these two things: punk ended with the Pistols and the LA scene fell apart cos Darby killed himself. Oh please, that era/scene cannot be summed up and dismissed that easily. Like any art or cultural movement, it was like a fleeting comet that lit up the sky, influenced so many, then mutated into something else.

I won't waste my time reading that book. Cos apparently, with all his research, Simon, like so many others, just regurgitated what others wrote. Seems like he either dismissed or was surprised the actual participants who didn't know what he meant by "postpunk."

Well, just cos others wrote about it doesn't make it a fact. It's whatever the MUSICIANS and FANS deem it to be, not the god damned critics who only wish they could be so clever and accepted on stage, so they make up terms. AND IGNORE SOME VITAL VOICES WHO HELPED MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Like "DIY." Show me when/where that phrase was used before Rhino coined it for their seminal punk releases over a decade ago (my photos on cover for LA and other sections of those releases). It certainly never entered my mind when taking photos or contributing to non-paying fanzines in the late '70's.

Of course we all should be grateful for all Rhino has done to resurrect punk, but damnit, now DIY is a phrase used to describe the early scene. Punk was and is far more than just "doing it yourself." That's what any artist does. The phrase obliterates the SUBSTANCE behind what we did.

So many come up to me and say they are punk cos they are DIY. No, they are artists, and nothing wrong with that. Punk is political and so much more.

And that is what Joe and I and others are up against. Arrogant assholes and their publishers, movie writers/directors (not all, but enough to drive one to thoughts of murder because of the crap they lay out as truth), etc who weren't in the thick of it, weren't at the Masque or Mabuhay or CBGB's or wherever they hung out in England, so they have to put their spin on it.

People want to know why I don’t get more of my photos “out there.” It’s not for lack of trying. The MSM (mainstream media) is more into other scenes and still willing to dismiss LA. Of course, LA press and music industry personnel haven’t been much help the past 30 years either. It’s really up to the fans and those who were there.

That said, back to work. Today is a lovely day, windy and clear skies. I have to drive 74 miles round trip to a free dentist, all I can afford. But I am SO grateful, finally getting some teeth filled. It’s much better than living in fear that my neglected teeth will cause real damage that will interfere with my work. I thank Cherie Currie for her help with the wonderful dental clinic. [Cherie, Runaways, her solo career, and now a successful artist].

The dentist calls me "his bastion of sanity." He deals with society's cast-offs, those too poor for any kind of medical coverage. I always surprise people at free clinics, cos it's obvious I went to college and have skills and brains, but not the ability to hold down a job. As Dr. Pete calls me: "a bohemian." He asked it I ever worried about money. I laughed and said "all the time." But that doesn't stop me!

It’s so ironic that the people I have the best relationships with now aren’t the bands I helped so long ago, but others who recognize my work. Yes, I bitch about how so many still ignore the vital stories, photos, music and people from that era. But there are so many wonderful things happening in recognition of my photos – due to working at it -- that anything anyone else does can’t really hurt the scene. Cos the truth is out there, if you can handle it.

Fight the good fight. I often feel like Sysiphous, pushing that rock up the hill. But I'm not alone . . . and one day LA will be accepted as equally important as NY and England. That's my mission in life. Let the photos, stories and the music be all the evidence any thinking and feeling person needs.

The truthiness of it all!! [thanks to Steve Colbert and Arianna Huffington for turning me onto that concept -- "feeling" is more truthful/valid than facts or history, which might contradict the "feeling" truth. I don't have time nor space to detail, so look it up on Wikipedia.]


Blogger Andrew said...

"Fight the good fight," indeed, Jenny!

I admire you for what you're doing, and for pursuing your vision to get LA punk the recognition it deserves.

I posted something about your post over at bloggedy blog.

1:00 PM  

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