Saturday, December 03, 2005

Germs 2005

I’ve been getting alot of inquiries lately about the Germs. People are interested not only in stories about Darby, but in hearing my opinion about the movie, What We Do Is Secret, that is being made about the band. They are also interested in the subsequent formation of the New Germs, as the band fronted by actor Shane West has been called on the internet.

I’ve had a hard time answering some of the questions. I know that the three remaining principle members of the band have been involved with and/or consulted about the movie, so I expect that most of it will be accurate and portray the band in the way they wish to be portrayed.

I also think it speaks very highly of Shane West that the remaining members of the band would want to reunite and play as the Germs with him as lead singer. I haven't had a chance to catch them yet. I don’t think there is any doubt that the band will be well-rehearsed, sound good and do a great show. But I suspect that is not what people want to know. There is a question that I feel many of you are trying to ask but have not done so far. The question is, can a band that stood for something at a certain point in time have the same relevance today?

That question goes further than asking about the Germs. There are many people performing today who were around when punk in Los Angeles was in its infancy. My favorite band, The Weirdos, still plays. They are still wonderful. I go see them every chance I get, but do their performances mean the same thing that they did 30 years ago? No. Not only is the band line-up different today, but the music is older. We’re all much older, and punk itself is nearly 30 years old.

The first time you step onto an airplane may be a new and exciting experience for you, but it’s not the same as the first time someone climbed into an airplane in the early 1900s. Air travel is part of our culture; there is little mystery and magic left of what once must have seemed an incredible experience. Even if you’ve never been on a plane yourself, you’ve seen planes flying overhead and you know people who have been on them, they are part of everyday life. Punk rock as a cultural movement has come to that point. It is part of everyday life. Some of you have grown up with a punk rock soundtrack because your parents or older siblings were listening to it. Punk music and ideology is in a different stage of its life. Which is not to say that punk isn’t relevant or valuable, just that it isn’t what it was. It has been changed, perfected, expanded upon and reinvented by some, and of course commercialized and exploited by others.

I’m sorry to say this, but if you didn’t see the Germs, or Weirdos, or Screamers, or Bags in the late ‘70s, you will never be able to have that experience. You may see reunions of some of those bands, and they may sound great, and you may even think to yourself, “this is what it was like”, but don’t fool yourself. If you want that experience, you would do better to go see a new band, one that is creating something all their own, one that can’t trace its roots back 30 years, one which is true to the spirit in which punk was born.

32 comments:

Jenny Lens said...

I turned down seeing the Germs tonight cos I'm in a work mode. Coincidence Alice posted this on the 25th Anniversary of the last Germs show? I too have been fielding emails and various conversations via phone and in person about the Germs.

Leave it to Alice to astutely express this issue with poetry and insight. As usual, Alice's writing comforts me and traverses parallel thoughts of mine.

NO ONE can experience what punk was. It wasn't just hanging out with a small group of people, creating art and music that changed our culture.

As Alice so astutely inferred, part of what we experienced WERE OUR OWN CREATIONS. We manifested our nightmares and fever dreams and that kind of "experience" is life-changing.

Early true punk was a reflection of its TIME. PUNK IS POLITICAL. You can't get behind the music if you don't pay attention to politics, society, and culture. You've got to rage against the machine that is making punk so popular because we warned and warned of c-h-a-n-g-e-s, in an angrier voice than Dylan and Bowie.

Those machines that enslave us, take away hard-won rights, media who lie to us, hiding the truth about our corrupt politicians and big business. Punk is an ethos of under-dogs and our ranks are swelling as things get worse and creativity commercialized and co-opted.

Break down some barriers and use art and music to do it! Don't be so apathetic or busy. Say something, and make some of it relevant to our life and times.

You'll get one step closer to feeling what we felt. Maybe. But you will get one step closer to who you are. And that is what punk has been about since day one. "My sins my own, they belong to me." Take responsibility for your life and your music and scene.

Re Germs film criticism and questions: why don't we wait til the film is out? I read a current script and one from a decade ago. I must reserve judgment til we are in the theater.

I've studied movie-making since before many fans were born. It isn't fair to anyone involved in the movie to have all this speculation. It's unprofessional.

We ought to say thank goodness this movie is being made. Will it do the scene justice? Give them a chance, then take sides, as so many of you are dyin' to do. But for now, back down, they are doing their best. Even if you don't agree with their interpretation of best, give 'em a chance.

Regi Mentle has been calling me. He mentioned he wants to write about Darby and the Germs, and I second it! Alice, you remember Donnie Rose (RIP, od'd), Tony the Tiger (RIP, but I forgot what Cherie the Penguin told me was cause of death, they actually married for awhile!), John Valium (where is he?? Dying to talk to him, what a gas. He used to tell me the details of Darby's life -- him and Regi. How I loved hanging with those two while we all shot speed or ingested various other drugs together. Oh la la!

Regi's still in prison, but if anyone wants more details, write me! And I've been in touch with Gerber and Jena. I think Jena will be at the show. Gerber is so very ill. Such a bright, funny, woman. The movie won't be telling these stories -- Pleasant ain't in it!

And that's why I'm working on my photos/archive. Cos if we don't tell these stories --Alice and the women in her interviews, and the men (gotta have the men!), then film-makers and other story tellers do not tell our stories. Not all of them. We have lots of stories to be told.

So go out and live your stories. And read ours too, as inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Alice. Your history of airplanes metaphor was a great way to explain the feeling of being at early punk shows and how it can't possibly be replicated, yet without being obnoxious and elitist.

On one hand, it tickles me that year after year I see fresh new punk kids, but it also makes me very sad that they aren't doing something new because that was the magic of it.

Laura

bobby j said...

Very well put, Mrs. Bag.

Seeing the Sex Pistols several years ago at the Greek was more odd than it was exciting. 11 year old kids with black leather GBH and CRASS jackets were dancing in their seats, but most of the people were older farts like myself. The Pistols were amazing though, playing a nice tight set interlaced with Johnny's humorous banter between songs.

When I read about the recent Germs reunion a the Olympic I thought it was a typo!

Coloniel Kurtz said...

I agree with the answer you posed to the question "can a band that stood for something at a certain point in time have the same relevance today?" Bands such as, The Bags, The Weridos and The Germs have lost their freshness and novelty over the years. However, none of these bands have lost their influence on contemporary music. In fact, the impact on contemporary music by the Hollywood/LA Punk Scene is greatly underestimated(Without, The Germs, there would be no Husker Du, no Nirvana, no Blink 182.).

fueltank said...

The obvious point is that punk was much more than a finger-in-the-eye of convention and great music; the real point is that it has taken 30 years for it to mature into a well-rounded political position.

Something dismissed as mere fashon has endured and evolved, and can be found woven into the fabric of any and every one who is standing up and saying "Wait a minute'. The really delicious aspect of punk is that you can no longer look at someone and call them 'a punk' because of how they dress; you only get a sense of someone's punk by their words, deeds and actions. It shines through.

I see it in the voices of kids who ask questions that no kid asked when I was growing up, when they answer themselves in an articulate and informed way. Do-it-for-yourself has become a normative part of our environment; the punk of the 70's was the first assault on the corporate hegemony that is today continuing in the blogs and podcasts and file-sharing that are changing the way we know our world. Where once it was radical to step outside of the 'machine', today it isn't even a question. You just do it.

Don't look for the legacy of punk to be dressed down in safety pins and torn stockings; look for it in the voices that are changing the world we live in.

None of your damn business said...

Back when I was a "punk", we had to wear cardboard boots cause there weren't no leather to be had! The snow froze our toes and the cold made my spike droop down to my shoulders. And we liked it! I played drums on two bails of hay cause there weren't no a drums to play! And I liked it! I was a real punk with my hay and my cardboard and my safety pins made outta momma's old rags. My drummin' sticks were the bones of a dead cat. Our fans didn't pogo, they shivered! In the cold! In the barn where we played! I played in a band called the Feed Sacks. We was the best there ever was or ever will be and you young'uns can just eat my manure! Weren't no politics involved cause the the Good Lord was all we needed and all we had when the blizzards came and kilt us all in the summer of ought six. You filly flappers, silly hosers, figgle floppers. Anarchy in the pig pen! I'm late for bingo and I don't care!

My teeth just fell out, pick 'em for me you slender, young, bootle bopple! If I had my prostate I'd pee down your back! You ain't no punk like me (available soon!).

Dad Feedsack

Robert Robbins said...

I've been a fan of punk rock for years but I've only listened to NYC and UK punk bands. I never even heard of LA punk until recently so it is all new to me. Today I watched The Germs DVD "Media Blitz". Darby Crash sings like a drunken frat boy! I could not believe how terrible this punk rock legend was as a performer, just dreadful. No wonder The Germs were considered a joke band. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the spectacle of a disaster like Sid Vicious but it is pure showbiz phoniness to praise The Germs. Don Bolles later played for 45 Grave, a group that I do like. Dinah Cancer's maniacal laugh on "Party Time" is classic.

Anonymous said...

thanks to Dad Feedsack for the much needed laugh I got this morning.
Thanks to Alice for this great website and sharing her views with all if us.
Thank God for Punk...

Jenny Lens said...

Robert Robbins, you are EXACTLY the reason I'm working so hard on my archive. It's inconsolable to me that LA has been so left out! LA was AMAZING between 1976-1980.

We put on great shows, parties, but left a few self-produced recordings. If you knew how hard we tried to publicize -- I worked very hard on behalf of most of the early LA bands and for no money and rarely credit. Bands tried to get signed. But the powers-that-be decided if Punk, whatever it was, and they were very confused about punk, didn't take off in NY, they weren't putting money into LA. It's as simple as that. They put their money into disco. That was going to last forever; punk was a bad trend to their way of doing things. [got that right!]

The music industry refused to gamble/invest in LA bands. Thank goodness so many pressed their own records. But imagine the Weirdos on Sire, summer of 1977! Sire passed and what a loss! No Screamers, early X (prior ro Ray's productions), Bags, Avengers (SF), Zeros, Dils and more, but work calls me and I always write too much anyway. But there's so much to share.

So spread the word about this site, and mine, jennylens.net, so others are turned onto LA. We've only just begun!

Anonymous said...

Fuck Nostalgia!!

darkside777 said...

Nice comment! What a silly thing to say.

If we didn't start what we did back in 76-77 in LA, LA would of been left off the map and then you wouldn't have your Blink-182 & Green Day...

Jenny Lens said...

"Fuck Nostalgia!! "? I guess that means let's not ever watch "The Wizard of Oz" or "Gone with the Wind" cos those came out in 1939, and why bother with "Star Wars," the original "Frankenstein" or "Dracula" or "Psycho"? Why bother to look at a Van Gogh or "the Last Supper"? Why do recordings from the Beatles and Elvis and Johnny Cash continue to sell?

Because ART IS TIMELESS. It has NOTHING to do with living in the past. It's grabbing art/music/enlightenment/fun whatever wherever and whenever. Art keeps many of us alive.

We can't please all the people all the time. Who wants to convert those who put such negative thoughts out there? I don't need your approval. My life is full and ALIVE.

My photos are being exhibited at Subliminal Projects starting Dec 10. People BEG me to show more photos more often. Cos seeing them so small on the net is nothing like seeing 11 x 14 and 16 x 20s! I've got several SERIOUS BIG book offers, more shows, gotta expand my sites, etc. Why?

You think my fans are all living in the past? They have lives but appreciate/curious about what we created. My pix show LA, NY, England and SF bands, on and off-stage, collaborating and having FUN together.

The more photos seen and the more music heard, the more people get into it. More people than anyone realizes.

And yes, I do it for myself. Cos looking at these photos blow me away. So many talented people and so many stories that people want to see and hear. And TIMELESS photos.

If you choose not to enjoy the fruits of our labor then and now, fine. Why don't you find blogs that suit your sensibility? Why waste your time reading what we all write?

Or do you think it's punk to slog people? Whatever. I don't give a damn what you think. And you don't care what I think. So what.

BriteYellowGun said...

Alice, you're right about never being able to recreate that experience. It's what makes me curious about the Germs movie. I have NEVER seen anything that even remotely depicted what punk was back then so I hold a lot of reservations about whether or not this movie can rise to the challenge. Then again, based on where I live now, I may never find out! Anyway, it's about time that someone attempted to explore/document the history of something that has endured for 30 plus years and had such a major influence on the music that's around today. I loved the NY punk stuff but honestly, it's the LA punk scene of the 70's and early 80's that has shaped and influenced today's punk to a much greater extent.

Jasper Focker Jr. said...

I didn’t see the Germs, or Weirdos, or Screamers, or Bags in the late ‘70s. A friend has told me for years the same thing that you say.

To name only a few, some who rang my bell:

Karla Bonoff
Laura Nyro
John Cafferty
Jackson Browne
Henry Lee Summer
The Breaks (Suzanne Jerome Taylor, yummy)
John Prine
Sprinsteen
Cat Stevens
Neil Young
Steely Dan

I suspect you're getting nausiated about now.

I drank Wild Turkey on the rocks, double-bumped into morning, screwed like a machine during the waning years of the Sexual Revolution, did a little acid and a little coke and a few Quaaludes for good measure, but pretty much missed the Punk Rock thing.

While the L.A. Punk movement was happening, I was up in the Ozark Mountains chasing two-legged deer.

mjp said...

Oh come on...Fuck nostalgia! is the most punk rock comment here!

Alice Bag said...

Yeah, well that comment would be punk if it was directed at someone who was actually nostalgic. I agree that nostalgia is not a pretty thing, but there is a difference between documenting something and yearning to return to it. I don't think anyone here is living in the past, or wishing they were back at the Masque. We just want to tell our own stories in our own words.

The guy who admits that he was chasing "two legged deer" in the Ozarks get my vote for most punk rock comment because he clearly doesn't give a shit what any of us think!

joel said...

The bands may not mean the same thing they did back then but they could inspire people just as much if not more. Music, in my opinion, is never archaic. The people that were at the Masque were obviously inspired by music that came before the 70's. I look at this music in a similar way. I woudn't dare try to "recreate" it, but thats no reason why I can't enjoy the noise that comes out of the radio when that needle hits the plastic. Fortunately the Hollywood scene was so unique it broke the mold when it came to punk. Unfortunately because it always lived up to its reputation, even to this day, it's memory is faded like the paint on the walls. Thus kids like me have no idead what really happened. I cant hate them cause they don't know, I couldn't help it I had to know more and more, and I still don't know. I am glad Alice, and Brendan, and everyone is trying to fix that. I don't think kids today look at punk and associate it with the Masque and the hollywood scene. They've never even heard of it. I think in most other scenes from back then there is not much to recreate. I think that is why you see so many kids today shouting "PUNK" and leaving a bad taste in your mouths. They aren't associating themselves with the Hollywood scene. They don't see it as being as unique as those who were there know it to be. They just are'nt able to grasp the connotations in their actions. On the other hand if they all knew I doubt most of them would care. It's still important to pass down information from one generation to the next though. Fuck nostalgia?? FUCK YOU, man, Im trying to find out everything I can. Sounds to me like if you knew the truth you would find out youve been living a lie. I know you don't think it means the same as it did, but it means everything to me. Its all inspired me to do more than I could have ever anticipated. So please don't stop spreading the word.

Nicole Panter said...

Alice,
I've been reading your very incisive commentary and agree completely -- it's precisely one of the reasons there's no hint of me in the bio-pic. As the band's manager, I played a huge part in the growth and development of the band and in the Germs story and the idea of attempting to recreate/replicate that story just seems counter to everything punk rock (well my punk rock anyway) was about, hence my repeated refusal to be involved in any of this.
It's interesting how, in order to sell this bill of goods, the history of my involvement with the band is being rewritten by those who know better -- part of the nature of revisionist history is that uncooperative central characters are diminished and cooperative characters who were originally at the periperhy become central characters. That aside, Darby is dead (for 25 years last week) and Don, Lorna and Pat are pushing 50. Shane West is a TV actor for god's sake. The Germs were a moment in time that is over, and all the re-creations in Hollywood won't bring it back (or even come close). It's one thing when a band continues to grow as a musical entity, but none of these fast-buck punk reunions (such as the sex pistols) showcase any new material -- they are inert and static approximations of something that used to exist but doesn't anymore. Like it or not, any show billed as a "Germs" show isn't one until Darby rises from his resting place in Holy Cross.

Hellin and I, two women who had hugely important roles in the fate of the band are not represented in the bio-pic -- how much of the "true story" can it be telling?

I've turned down decent money to tell the story of my involvement with the Germs and will continue to do so -- again, it seems counter to everything *my* punk rock stood for and at the risk of sounding stupidly idealistic at an advanced age, my philosophical beliefs are still pretty close to what they were in 1977. Which is not such a bad thing.
Keep speaking the truth sister!
xox Nicole Panter (manager of the Germs, 1977-80

Martha said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Nicole Panter although Pat Smear is a nice guy (I don't know Lorna... I'll pass on my thoughts about Don Bolles... lol.....)... Thank you for posting that. I want to see Jasper Focker Jr. and Dad Feedsack on a double bill, myself, DAMNIT!!! Now, THAT is REAL punk rock!!! :D ;) Thank you. :)

*** Martha ***

Anonymous said...

bravo nicole for your honest views!

Anonymous said...

In regards to Regi still in prison since 1979~ I don't understand why? yes, he killed a man , I am not negating that fact, but there are many others who have commited the same or simalar crimes, and have been released on parole.
They are letting the Reagan/ Lennon ( I can't remeber off hand which one- they all look the same) shooter out of the mental hospital on visits to his parents! WTF! all political , since he is now a good little born again asshole, and they want to proove thier faith to the(m)asses.

Anyway~I wish I knew on what basis they continue to deny him a second chance. I think they made an example out of him due to the newness of the punk movement, and the hype of the Sid and Nancy murder.

He dosen't mention much. I know they scrutinize his behavior, and all corospondance (?) he recieves. I think he shows a good head on his shoulders from his letters, but I am not a professional.
I am not afraid of him- he isn't some serial killer, and I think I can trust him. He would just need refrences, employment, and to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

Maybe I should just stop writing him, but then again they allready know he knows me....

Arkansas Hoosier said...

I'm sure someone will stone me for making this Un-punk comment; but Alice's eyes are fucking gorgeous and makes the hair on my arms stand up straight like Arkansas wheat fields with their tiny little hair arms held high over their tiny little hair heads, swaying back and forth, doing The Wave, as my blue jeans grow a mountain.

I wish I knew what punk was, I really do. Van Morrison, I know about...making blue berry pancakes for my beautiful stepdaughter, I know about; but punk passed me by.

Arkansas Hoosier said...

OK, now I'm know my ass is grass for my previous post, after reading Alice's bio and watching the touching ninety second video.

Now I want to know more about Alice.

Now I want to hear some punk music but don't know where to park my ear.

Any suggestions?

kitten said...

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Arkansas Hoosier said...

OK, I'm not covered with punk yet, but I'm trying. I like most of what I've listened to by Slightly Stoopid.

I'm sitting here listening to IT NEVER ENTERED MY MIND, by MILES DAVIS.

It makes the hair on my neck do push ups; and they run in place and do jumping jacks and then their eyes roll into the back of their heads as they melt into the sunset quietly.

I can do anything while listening to that song.

Eat, fuck, run on a treadmill or hypnotize myself.

P.S. Hi Alice. Wink.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I heard that the Germs had re formed from Regi Mentle.
Regi and I have been friends since 1990. We were introduced to ecah otehr by a publisher friend, Drew Blood, one of the Riverside kids.
Drew died in 1998 from an AIDS related illness. The Germs were his apotheosis, he created the famous History in cuttings series, and must be remembered for keeping the Germs alive at a time when they were not cult, and were only a wish in the mind of Roger Grossman for a movie.

I get what Alice said about bands that come back..And also that the experience is not the same, even though the licks may be correct, and, the experience may be as studied live. I personally hated the idea that the Dead Kenendys came back, wanting to freeze the moment in time as my 15 year old self. Would I be 15 again? No !
Would the 40 + A few me today want to repeat the lessons life had in store of 29 odd years ago? No and Irrelevant really.

I did see a picture of the Germs sitting on the sofa, and it does really look like them, Don is glazed and possesses a funny hat, previously it was always big head of hair, and Lorna and Pat still smile the smile of the truly innocent....I kind of realised that the ripped young guy on the end of the sofa was the person who now occupies the role of Singer... Irrelevant? I am not sure, would I go and see them given half a chance in London? Yes I think so, would I laugh, cry, and feel that I was at my own private show? Would I want to run in the streets yelling to the World to wake up and realsie who just played? Yes, would I then wake up the following day in a dead drunk realising that I have been another mid life punk dupe? Having fallen for another product? Maybe.

Is punk relevant? Well, I seem to remember the theorists asking that question of whatever scene they were creating in 1978...Is punk dead? I remember the graffitti in London during 1977...

Is it all just rock n rOLL? I remember from 1976, and punks' initial Marxist self analysis....

The fact is that it is all disposable, its all temporary expression, is all building for today, and burning the road to tommorow...Do I car the Germs have reformed? Deeply, Strange Notes still chills my spine and challenges my Cerebral cortex, but was it ever meant to be deep, part of a World Plan hatched by Darby, the Machiavelli of LA's garage punk underground? No, and you know it was like all un self conscious primitive art, art now for arts sake...Hell, they didnt even know it was art, and thats' where Alice Armendariz Bag has it correct, Art like that cannot be duplicated, the moment is passed, what we have here is nostalgia, and nostalgia can be fun....
Please feel free to e mail me..



Al Slammer

in the United Kingdom
e mail - rubyandkaitlin@btinternet.com

Anonymous said...

Give me some names and songs of punk that will give me a great introduction and sampling that will make me like punk.

If not, I'll have to continue listening to Tom Waits, Van Morrison, and we don't want that, do we?

greene_cherie said...

Hi, it's Cherie the Penguin.O.K....first things first/Tony is not dead! He is alive and well living in Chicago.A Germs reunion? LOL What a farce!You know it can't be done.People who put down the L.A. scene are just jealous cuz they weren't there.Who the hell cares if it's validated or not? We know what it was and man we had a blast!Too bad we had to lose some people in the doing though.

antoinette said...

was dissapointed by the "germs" movie...and sad i had to tell poor Regi Mentle that his character wanders through a scene based on his "ketamine" story in the "lexicon devil" book, letting Darby go out while taking a mystery shot, while he stands by, watching & shaking his head at "that crazy darby" as chris pontius, wandering around dressed in a devil's costume, steals Regi's line about the mystery drug being "ketamine, the stuff that fags use for that big daddy ass fuckin'"...Regi said "wow...that really disturbs me, to be portrayed as someone who would just stand there & watch as a dear friend of mine fell out from an overdose, is just wrong!" he was dissapointed, too...and very hurt!...he was very close with darby, & lived in darby's bedroom with him & donnie rose...the movie is so innacurate, it's stunning...considering they had quite an accurate referrence tool in the "lexicon devil" book...it's just a big commercial for the new germs to rake in the cash from dumb young kids & nostalgic old farts...really dissapointing, & very very sad...poor Regi!!

Bailey McCann said...

I wish it wasn't so. There's no movement anymore. There isn't anything to rage against or stand for. There are hardly shows worth going to anymore. Nothing breaks ground.

I absolutely adore your blog/flickr and am in love with and jealous of your past.

Anonymous said...

Hooo sh*t...I just found this during a flu/Nyquil/Zoloft traipse of the Net...as if I found a big, cardboard box of porn in a vacant lot...my only (other) comment: Bailey McCann - be careful with jealously from someone else's past (yes, I'm guilty, too). Tomorrow ("future") do something ("present") wild...you might even make someone else jealous of your own past, but, if nothing else, you'll blown your own mind (yes, I'm guilty, too).

TT

Anonymous said...

It sucks how Punk has become an everyday part of everyone's lives here, now the shock value is pretty much gone.