I’m too young and too suburban to’ve had any first-hand contact with that original, legendary late-70′s Hollywood punk rock stuff. And like many of you, when I finally did discover it’s joys/wonders . . . man, it was the 80′s. The Masque-heyday looooong over, and seemingly (at that point, anyway) sealed forevermore in a back-alley Hollywood grave. But that didn’t stop me from seeking out all I could from that original ’77-’79 crew, no siree. Nor from following alot of what flowed from them open Blvd. wounds throughout the Reagan-and-beyond eras. So: I’m gonna give you my two cents regarding the music of the Hollywood punker set. My tastes may not be yours, but they are informed by a 1/4 century of serious, retrospective consideration of such things.
1. Best PLUGZ effort: Better Luck LP (Fatima Records, ’81). Honest to god I’ve never understood folks that think their first LP is better. Yeah, the 1st is the more, uh, “punk” . . . but fuck me if this ain’t the richer slice of Hollywood dive bar rockin’. The songs are unforgettable, the stratocaster jangle/snare pop is all their own, and Steve Berlin’s sax makes this near enuf the missing link between THE FLESH EATERS A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die and LOS LOBOS How Will the Wolf Survive? LPs. Plus Gary Panter’s cover art is just the best. If THE CRUZADOS had sounded half this good, maybe Tito Lariva would now be a household name.
2. Best LEGAL WEAPON effort: Your Weapon LP (Arsenal Records, ’82). Fuck Death of Innocence – that ADOLESCENT rhythm section ain’t got nuthin on this line-up. Future SEA HAG Adam Maples drumming is way inspired, Brian H.’s gtr was improving by leaps and bounds, and GOD what a voice Kat Arthur had – she was Texacala Jones by way of Stevie Nicks (this is not an insult!). Kat always sounded older and more world-weary than any of her contemporaries – see her vocal on the great “Caught in the Reign”. The moment this rec captures is so comfortable in it’s incorporation of the then-emerging LA hard/glam rock thang into Hollywood punk, it just kills me. And really, later L.W. stuff isn’t as bad as you punkers might wanna believe – though I admit the material wasn’t ever anywhere near up to this level again.
3. Best FLESH EATERS effort: Hard Road to Follow LP (Upsetter Records, ’83). Here’s what I wrote about em a few years ago:
Tattered, worse-for-wear Hollywood outcasts sputter though split lips and lost dreams on this, the last “real” FLESH EATERS LP. This has that drunk-long-after-everybody-else-has-sobered-up relationship to things that less articulate guys like the LEAVING TRAINS would decide to build careers around a bit later. Singer & lyricist Chris D. disowned this record for years after, and no wonder: it’s a depressingly dark journey through a claustrophobic wasteland of alcohol-fueled romantic despair and eerie paranoia. But the FLESH EATERS’ Alice Cooperish hard rock was loosening up in all manner of cool ways at this point. You get more guitar breaks (matched, it would seem, by a 3-fold increase in the number of words Chris would cram into each song), the addition of cowgirl Jill Jordan’s attractively off-key whine (what ever happened to her?), and a cool cover of Al Green’s “Rhymes” pointing to roads eventually explored in full by D.’s DIVINE HORSEMEN. At the time, a lot of knownothings asked why they had persevered after Slash had ditched em earlier that year. I, for one, am glad they did.
I still stand by that, although the Atavistic CD reissue (with crucial bonus tracks) is the way to go for maximum brain burn.
4. Best WALL OF VOODOO effort: Seven Days in Sammystown LP (I.R.S. Records, ’85). I’m gonna get heretical on your ass and claim this rec, their 1st with Andy Prieboy singing, edges out all other competition. I love the early records too, but a) this was their most consistent collection of songs, b) Andy’s hypomanic warble beats Stan’s nasally croonspeak everyday of the year, and c) here, Marc Moreland’s gtr is flying it’s V straight to my newwavey hearty-heart. Hell, this band always revolved around Marc’s inspiration anyway; check out his later bitchen work with PRETTY & TWISTED, DEPARTMENT OF CROOKS, and MARC MORELAND’S MESS for further proof of that man’s unheralded genius. And for those that are interested, Andy’s included lots of barely-veiled, embarrassingly funny stories from this period in his great novel The Psycho-Ex Game, co-written with Merrill Markoe.
5. Best ALLEY CATS effort – “Nothing Means Nothing Anymore” 7-inch 45 (Dangerhouse Records, ’78). Sometimes trad wisdom gets it right. I’ve repeatedly tried to “rediscover” their later, heroin-informed LPs that came out on those bogue major-label funded imprints. But I always come back to this, their very first waxing. What an amazing, laughing-hyena singer Mr. Randy Stodola once was! He was a South Bay dude just like Mike Watt of THE MINUTEMEN. But unlike THE MINUTEMEN, THE ALLEY CATS regularly passed as Hollywood cats. How’d that work?!? Whatever, this song is a barn-burner of apocalyptic proportions, and one that has helped me get through a number of heavy, near-total meltdowns. Now I’m gonna go make nothing mean nothing again tonite, once more.
So what, you wanted me to blab about THE DILS, THE GUN CLUB, THE WEIRDOS, the almighty GERMS and the too-sexy Mr. ALEX GIBSON of BPEOPLE? Yeah I’ll gets there when I gets there, bub. Gimme time.