When I read John Doe and Tom DeSavia’s first book, Under The Big Black Sun, I thought it was going to be a John Doe autobiography, and was pretty bummed that the book was a collection of chapters written by everyone from Jane Wiedlin to Henry Rollins on the early years of Los Angeles punk rock, with seemingly minimal input from Doe. Now that time has passed I’m fine with the book not being as Doe/X-focused as I wanted it to be and can appreciate it for the breadth of stories and experiences it contained.
Three years later, Doe and co-author Tom DeSavia, are back with another book, using the same format, this time focused on what came next for Los Angeles’ punk rockers from 1982-1987. As with the prior volume, the point is once again to show that there was no “one story of punk”; rather it was a loose conglomerate of people making intense art fueled by their own intense lifestyles. Again, the stories run the gamut of experiences, from The Go-Gos (represented by chapters from Jane Weidlin and Charlotte Caffey) losing their minds in a haze of drugs and insecurities on the road to world domination, to Keith Morris (Black Flag/Circle Jerks) couch-surfing and developing a system of sneaking into clubs in a desperate attempt to keep the party going as long as possible. This time out the authors extend beyond the world of music, with chapters from Sheppard Fairey, Allison Anders, Tim Robbins and Tony Hawk all showing how the original germ of punk’s influence was starting to spread out of the clubs and into other disciplines.
It’s an exciting read, with a variety of interesting voices getting to tell their side of the story. My only complaint this time out is with a spelling mistake in Charlotte Caffey’s chapter (the band is “The Rezillos”, not “The Rizzillos”) – in a book on punk history, someone should have caught that.