Category: la punk

“The Decline of Western Civilization” 1980. Slash Records. Today, November 7th, is Alice Bag’s birthday (b. Alicia Armendariz, 1958) and the only recording we have of her and her band, The Bags/Alice Bag Band, is on this soundtrack from the film directed by Penelope Spheeris which documented the ‘79-’80 LA punk scene. Quite recently I read Alice Bag’s autobiography Violence Girl (from Feral House publishing) and it was a can’t-put-it-down read. She was an integral part of the LA music scene, starting off as a super-fan of David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Elton John before starting her own band and hanging out with members of the Germs, The Weirdos, etc. She spends a short chapter describing her experience with the recording of the track (“Gluttony”) for Decline of Western Civilization: “The filming of the performance was an ordeal. It was supposed to be a live show, but because several bands were being filmed and there were five bands on the bill, it became a marathon. Fights broke out backstage as people tried to change the order of performance. In a small are overflowing with testosterone, I was the only woman and nobody was fucking with me…We were nearly out of steam even before we went on. The show had gone on far too long. The film crew was packing up equipment, members of the audience looked spent and it was hard to get excited about playing, but we went out and tried to revive the night. I knew it wasn’t our best show, but it wasn’t our worst, either.”

The soundtrack features several other prominent LA punk bands (all filmed at various locations and dates from December 1979 through May 1980). There’s a great version of “White Minority” by Black Flag, a messy version of “Manimal” by the Germs (are there any versions of any Germs live songs that aren’t messy?) and X play a really excellent set that includes “Beyond and Back,” “Johny Hit and Run Paulene” and “We’re Desperate.” Circle Jerks have four songs (the best “Back Against the Wall”) and Fear have three including “I Don’t Care About You,” “I Love Livin’ In the City” and “Fear Anthem.” There’s also a song by Catholic Discipline (“Underground Babylon”) but I never really heard much by them beyond this record and don’t care for that track. 

The Germs “Live at The Starwood Dec. 3, 1980″ 2019. Today, September 26th, would have been Darby Crash’s 61st birthday (b. Jan Paul Beahm, 1958). This limited edition (1,970 copies) on white and blue marbled vinyl is the first time The Germs’ final concert has been issued in its entirety on vinyl (it was released on CD by Rhino Records in 2010). Included in the double-LP set is a reproduction of the concert flyer and a 4 page fanzine replica.

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As an avid Germs collector, I have several tracks from this Starwood concert that appeared on other records: on Lion’s Share (bootleg, date unknown, Ghost ‘O Darb Records) and What We Do Is Secret (1981 and 2018 Slash Records) but it’s really cool to have the whole concert in one spot, even if it’s a hot mess of a show (most of the Germs shows were from what I’ve read).  It’s purported to be one of their best, even though “Darby, as usual, rarely managed to sing into the microphone. It was a night of tinny wild, one-chord riffs, drums coming in with all the subtle finesse of a set of tom-toms kicked down a flight of stairs, and Crash howling, howling with all the–rage isn’t the word–the torment of a six-month-old baby plucked too soon from the breast, and he mumbles, screams, swallows his words…until, finally, with a hiccup, he runs out of air.” (Jonathan Gold) 

The concert was a “reunion” show of sorts: the last show they performed before the Starwood gig was about a year earlier at The Fleetwood in Redondo Beach. According the Run Out Groove’s website (the label that produced this LP), “Crash contacted [Pat] Smear about doing a ‘reunion’ show to put punk in perspective for the punks on the scene. Smear has said that Crash told him privately that he only wanted to earn money for heroin with which to commit suicide. On December 3, 1980, an over-sold Starwood hosted a final show of the reunited Germs. At one point, Crash told the audience “we did this show so you new people could see what it was like when we were around. You’re not going to see it again.” Crash was correct – he committed suicide by intentional heroin overdose four days later. From the fanzine included on this release, “Even in the hot damp and the slippery fluids of The Starwood that night, you had to ask yourself when you were going to have the chance to see The Germs again. The correct answer, as it turns out, was never. As everybody in Los Angeles knows by now, Darby fixed himself a hotshot on Sunday, December 7, 1980, and got hand-stamped for that great Starwood in the sky, where the beer is free and the pills glitter like candy, and followers line up around the block to have Germs burns administered by the great man himself. Of course, even there, scroungy, little Germs heaven is forever in the shadow of the splendid marble edifice inhabited by John Lennon, who was shot the very next day, and who immediately wiped Darby Crash out of the minds of everybody but the misfits who were at the party in the first place.” 

The songs The Germs performed were mostly ones that appear on their sole studio LP G.I., like “Manimal,” “Richie Dagger’s Crime,” “Media Blitz,” “Communist Eyes” and “Lexicon Devil,” but other, slightly rarer songs were played as well like “Forming” (a live-Germs staple), “Our Way,” “My Tunnel” (originally on the 1980 soundtrack to Cruising) and a cover of PiL’s “Public Image.” You can listen to the concert in its entirety here.

Germs “Rock N’Rule (Live at the Masque Reunion Christmas Party 1979″ 1979/1986. XES Records. Today, September 26th, would have been Darby Crash’s 60th birthday (b. Jan Paul Beahm, 1958, d. 1980). This album is a live recording of a concert at the Whisky A-Go-Go soon after the release of their classic album G.I. and, after leading off with Crash wailing “Waitress, we’re the Germs. We want beer,” launches into several tracks from that album including “Let’s Pretend,” “Communist Eyes,” “Media Blitz,” “Manimal” and two of my all-time favorite Germs songs “Richie Dagger’s Crime” and “Lexicon Devil.” 

The liner notes on the back cover of Rock N’Rule consist of a fairly extensive essay by Geza X who is notable for producing the Germs’ “Lexicon Devil” single as well as other punk classics like Dead Kennedy’s “Holiday in Cambodia” and Black Flag’s “Six Pack;” he also played in The Bags and The Deadbeats. From Geza X’s notes: “Darby knew he was going to die young. He used to look straight at me with those hypno-coil eyes of his and say ‘I’m gonna kill myself in five years.’ When I said I wished he wouldn’t talk like that, he would answer ‘Bowie says we only got five more years.’ Those were the early days and he was really into Bowie. Five years later, perhaps to the day, he was dead. A suicide at twenty-two. He was found under a sign that said ‘Here lies Darby Crash…’ with an arrow pointing at his head….The thing in your hands is a very memorable 1979 Christmas Party at the Whisky-A-Go-Go. It’s only luck that I recorded it, on a four-track, because it was a rare Masque reunion. It was a really psychotic show, packed to the gills, and the Germs literally tore the house down, as usual. Don [Bolles, Germs’ drummer] was two hours late because he had been arrested, the audience was about to riot from being cooped up and waiting, and the owner of the Whisky was hiding in his office, shaking. The Germs had to stop a few songs because there was so much commotion on stage – you can hear bottles breaking. Darby and I got into an argument towards the end of their set; I was supposed to go on next, everything was running late, and he didn’t want to give up the stage. As a result, I would up singing the first couple bars of their encore “Shutdown.” The club shut the lights off, thinking it would shut everyone up, but noooo…a fan set the stage on fire, one of the bouncers tried to grab him, Pat Smear smashed him a good one with his guitar, the bouncers tried to jump Pat backstage, Pat escaped, came back and whacked him with a broken beer bottle – I suppose it was a riot!” 

Fear “*uck Christmas” b/w “(Bleep) Christmas” 1982. Slash Records. Yesterday’s holiday vinyl spin was the coolest from the Vault collection (Jon Spencer), today’s is the shortest (and most provocative). “Fuck Christmas” clocks in at 44 seconds, the B-side is the same, just with lots of harsh electronic BEEPS instead of fucks. Fear recorded the track during the session for their first album The Record and it was added years later as a bonus track to the CD reissue. Phil Cramer, Fear’s lead guitarist at the time, wrote the song and Lee Ving stamps his berating drill-sergeantish and often offensive vocals onto the holiday classic.

Don’t despair,
just because it’s Christmas.
Children, they’re
all so gay at Christmas.

All the children on the street
hope they get something good to eat.

But for me it’s not so great.

Fuck Christmas! [x10]