Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk

John Doe, with Tom DeSavia and friends. Da Capo, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-306-82408-1
Doe, frontman for X, has gathered the testimonies of punk’s progenitors in L.A., a scene only rivaled by those of New York and London for fecundity and influence. Twenty-four chapters draw on the accounts of Mike Watt (the Minutemen), Jane Wiedlin (the Go-Gos), El Vez (aka Robert Lopez), and others to follow the genesis of punk beginning with glam, garage, and early punk abroad. Focused around the Masque club and the Canterbury Apartments, a few hundred outcasts exploited the low-rent environs of Hollywood and downtown L.A. to live in semi-communal squalor and make rock new again. The punk scene ultimately became fragmented by way of heroin, death, and migration to major labels, with the final blow coming from the brutal intrusion of Orange County musicians (“OC kids”) who didn’t share punk artists’ art-school inclinations or gender ambiguity but embraced their confrontational rage to create hardcore metal. Chapters by older artists and members of the East L.A. contingent demonstrate punk’s broad appeal. Even the despised OC kids get a say through Jack Grisham (TSOL), whose response to the original punks’ contempt for the newcomers, while self-aggrandizing, is both savage and eloquent. In an essay on photographers and other visual artists, Doe’s co-editor, talent scout DeSavia, traces an influence that transcended sound. L.A. punk’s unique aesthetic, heir to Raymond Chandler and Joan Didion, is filtered through “exhaust fumes, rumble, muscle and smoking tires” to reveal the darkness behind the sunglasses. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
Compact Disc - 978-1-5247-0362-2
Ebook - 978-0-306-82409-8
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