PUNK ROCK IN LA
"If everybody had a ocean
Across the U.S.A.
Then everybody'd be surfin'
They'd be wearin' their baggies
Jarachi sandals too
Bushy, bushy blond hairdos
Surf is still "up" in California but there is a "New
Wave." When the sun goes down on Sunset Strip they come out. They're
lined up in front of the Whiskey or the Starwood to see the Runaways,
The Wierdos, The Germs, The Damned, The Screamers or Backstage Pass.
They're dressed in black, tight pants, pointed shoes, second hand leopard
skin, covered in safety pins or wrapped up in tape. They're trying hard
to look ugly. "We're into life -life is ugly." L.A. "Punks," they 're
loud, they misbehave, they get violent -Generation Gap 1977, Hollywood
The scene revolves around the bands and their performances.
Three bands stand out. The Wierdos, Backstage Pass and the Screamers.
The Whiskey is packed: "Ladies and Gentlemen, The
Wierdos."' In front of the stage they start yelling and jumping up and
down their arms raised in the Wierdo salute (three fingers raised like
a W), The Wierdos come onstage covered with chains, badges, buttons
and just about anything else you could imagine all over their torn clothing.
Nicki Beat, the drummer, has a huge black eye (its make up but it looks
real under the lights. Their music is really loud and powerful. Each
song sounds pretty much the same but nobody cares. There IS violence
in the air but it doesn't seem too serious. People aren't pissed off
at each other but pissed off in general and this is the way they express
it. The Wierdos songs mirror this frustration. Why Do You Exist. A Life
Of Clime. Scream Baby Scream. Destroy All Music.
"I'm gonna kick in the radio
I'm gonna bomb the record store
I say destroy all music
I say you just can't use it"
Backstage Pass is an all girl band with one boy: the
drummer. They look like groupies, they are groupies. They sing about
being groupies. Their music is more like straight heavy rock and roll.
They're not "Punks," but definitely part of the New Wave.
The Screamers are the most unique, exciting and original
of the LA punk bands. Tomata and Tommy Gear are the stars. Instead of
guitars they use piano, synthesizer, drums and a rhythm arranger to
create a sound that has few comparisons in pop music. Eno and Nino Rota
(music for Fellini's films) seem the only possible influences. Tomata,
the lead singer, dances wildly about the stage like a marionette from
Their songs speak eloquently but directly to their
peers. Peer Pressure, Punish or be Damned and Magazine Love:
"You don't love me
you love magazines.
Those glossy pages
they go to your head
You like to turn them
alone In your bed."
The Screamers are real showmen and their act is much
more varied than most of the other punk bands. They can be heavy or
funny even in the same song. Tomata introduces I'm Going Steady With
Twiggy: "This is a song about a dead girl."
"I've had a faceful of
don't do nothin' for me
was a teenage crasher.
I'm going steady with Twiggy."
provides an outlet for all those teenagers who hate surf, sun and life.
It's wild and even dangerous but coming of age always has been. The
Wierdos song Teenage says it all.
"First came the Stoneage
Then came the Bronze age
Then came the Atomic Age
Now It's the Teenage. Go:
I wanna car, I wanna girl
Don't wanna work,
don't wanna go to school
Leave me alone
I don't care about you
I don't care about you
'Cuz I'm teenage and I'm young
And I'm strong and I'm wild
And I'm teenage."