If you’re aren’t familiar with the early ’80s hardcore punk scene in California, then two things must happen now:
1. Punch yourself in the face for sucking.
2. Go here and listen. Listen hard.
Now, you are ready to read some of my disjointed ramblings about of We Got Power: Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California. The book has amazetastic photographs as well as essays from giants like Rollins, Keith Morris, and Pat Fear.
This book gets a bazillion points for the brilliant photography of David Markey and Jordan Schwartz, the duo behind the We Got Power fanzine in the early ’80s. I love some of the descriptions of the photos too: “Unknown plants and punkers still life #23” and “Civil Dismay? Or Social Dismay? Both were real bands” are two personal favorites. The book also includes full-color reprints of all of the We Got Power zines from ’81-’83.
The articles are hit or miss. Obvs I’m obsessed with the Mike Watt one (only because I have a weird undying love for the Watt, though) but I have to say, the intro essay by Rollins fell short. I wish it hadn’t, because like pretty much everyone, I’m a Rollins fan. On the other hand though, I seriously can’t get behind most drug stories. We ALL know the guy who thinks it makes him super interesting that he has a “crazy” story about his “trip” (usually they’re more generic than crazy) and he pretends that he doesn’t think it’s cool (’cause you know, he’s morally above that and totally sXe now or whatev), but of course he hopes everyone hanging on his story thinks he’s the coolest dude ever.
My dear friend Claire coined (or at least communicated to me) a label for these drug-story-telling guys: leftist machos. They’re fratty and douchey and want you to think they’re awesome, but they’re not bros because they’re also liberal and “punk rock.” From reading through this book, I feel like a lot of the early hardcore scene may have been comprised of leftist machos. But then, I wasn’t even alive during that time, so what do I know? The Reagan days are just a creepy mystery to me.
As anyone who knows me would expect, my favorite anecdote was by Janet Housden of Red Cross, and it involves her violently lashing out on (classic leftist macho) Tony Alva at a Weirdos show. Housden admits to being “very, very drunk” pretty much all the time in those days, and tells a story that resulted in her hitting Alva over the top of the head with an empty vodka bottle. Legit. She reflects on the incident, saying, “Perhaps the moral of the story is: Punk rock was the devil’s music, and it made nice teenagers bludgeon each other, so maybe it’s a good thing that it’s all corporate and lame now, so kids will just buy shoes instead committing felonious assaults.” Housden concludes though: “Nah, that’s definitely not it…”
Another interesting thing about this book is that it gives some sense of the overlap between the early ’80s hardcore scene and some of my favorite LA punk acts of the ’70s/’80s who def didn’t fit into the “hardcore” category, like 45 Grave, the Weirdos, Gun Club, and Mood of Defiance. For the record, I fucking love this book. It looks fantastic atop my dresser and I like showing it to friends who come over. David Markey and Sin 34 are the serious shit.
But if I had to sum up what this book/scene is missing in just two words: Castration Squad.
Buy We Got Power, or if you’re not convinced, read a better review.