A brief snippet of a conversation that took place in Guidance class, Spring 1986, Franklin High School, Highland Park, CA:
Cute Disco Girl (looking at my clothing): What kind of music do you listen to?
Me: Me? I’ll listen to almost anything. Mostly I listen to punk rock though.
Cute Disco Girl’s Boyfriend: Punk rock sucks, man.
Me: (Roll my eyes, thinking, “Here we go again”)
Cute Disco Girl: I’ve never heard punk rock.
Cute Disco Girl’s Boyfriend: Yeah, me neither.
Me (looking incredulously at the boyfriend): Well, then, how the fuck can you say you don’t like it if you’ve never ever heard it?
Cute Disco Girl’s Boyfriend (sits back, smug): Maybe I haven’t heard it, but I know I don’t like it.
I’ve had variants of this conversation too many times to count over the years with people much smarter than that eraser-headed dipshit, folks who should’ve marveled at the breadth of diverse sounds that had developed from punk in such a relatively brief period, and the myriad of doors it opened to other cool sounds, “reggae, gamelan, classical, norteño, blues, I could go on all day. Punk wasn’t just a musical style to me, it was an appellation for the way I’d been my whole life, “the perennial outsider with the slightly off-kilter fashion sense, the messy hair, the weird musical taste (while the other kids in elementary school were grooving on Steve Miller and the Commodores, I was engaging in heated discussions with my cousin about whether or not Space Ace was really an alien, if Devo were robots and if The Nuge could really play guitar so fast his hands would become invisible), and had an incessant need to question everything he was told.
My father, from whom I’m certain my adoration music directly stems, HATED punk rock. Outrage from some half-heard lyrical snippet or an EP’s cover art would result in shouting matches, posters and flyers being ripped from bedroom walls and what records I’d amassed up to that point being tossed out into the garbage cans. This happened often and, considering it was coming from an artist and gang counselor who’d made a career out of trying to understand kids and thought of himself as open-minded, was frustrating as hell. How could he not see the “art” in all of it, from the homemade clothes (no Hot Topic then, so clothes were decorated with spraypaint, markers, food coloring and, in one instance, cow’s blood left over from a hunk of steak my mom cooked for dinner) to the sonic dissonance to the various visuals employed? No amount of explaining would make him see why it was so important to me.
Until one day he decided to go into our room when we were at school, plop a record onto the turntable and listento it, and he finally got it, “the humor, the sarcasm, the challenging of staid thinking, the artistic push against barriers and, yes, the being offensive for offensiveness’ sake. Soon after, the bands he’d especially loathed, “X and Fear, “he was a bona fide fan of, he became supportive of the attempts at artistic expression of me and the clutch of friends I was hanging with at the time, and he even attended an eastside backyard punk party or two. He learned to respect my judgment and, to his dying day, would shout, “Let’s have a war and blame it on the middle class!” and thought Fear was hilarious.
As for Mr. Disco Boyfriend, I imagine he never wised up, and I hope Disco Girl dumped him for a dude with “BITE ME” shaved into the side of his head, and his kids ended up in powerviolence bands.
Here’s part two of a partial soundtrack for too many nights of damaging my hearing and my liver.
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RAZORCAKE PODCAST #230
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Void, “Who Are You” (split LP with Faith, Dischord)
Agent Orange, “Everything Turns Grey” (Living in Darkness, Posh Boy)
Rudimentary Peni, “Love is Not” (Death Church LP, Corpus Christi)
Septic Death, “Hardware” (Now that I Have the Attention…. LP, Pusmort)
Husker Du, “First of the Last Calls” (Metal Circus EP, SST)
David Bowie, “Life on Mars” (Hunky Dory, RCA)
Stepmothers, “If I were You” (Self-titled EP, Posh Boy)
100 Flowers, “Dyslexia” (100 Years of Pulchritude, Rhino)
Mentally Ill, “Padded Cell” (Gacy’s Place: The Undiscovered Corpses, Alternative Tentacles)
Minutemen, “Jesus & Tequila” (Double Nickels on the Dime, SST)
PIL, “Religion I” (First Issue, Virgin)
Crass, “So What” (Feeding of the Five Thousand, Crass)
Chron Gen, “Breaking Down” (Eastern Front 2 comp, Enigma)
Jimmy Cliff, “The Harder They Come” (Reggae Greats LP, Mango)
Steel Pulse, “Ku Klux Klan” (Ultimate Collection, Hip-O)
Gun Club, “Sex Beat” (Fire of Love, Slash)
Blasters, “No Other Girl” (Self-titled, Slash)
Cramps, “Some New Kind of Kick” (Bad Music for Bad People, IRS)
MIA, “Boredom is the Reason” (Lost Boys, Alternative Tentacles)
Bauhaus, “All We Ever Wanted was Everything” (The Sky’s Gone Out, Beggar’s Banquet)