Dead Kennedys


After forming in 1978, the Dead Kennedys merged revolutionary merged revolutionary with hardcore punk music, and in the process, became one of the defining bands of hardcore punk. Often, they were more notable for their political anecdotes than music, as seen in songs like “Holiday in Cambodia” and “I am the Owl.” The band released their first album- Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables- in 1979.

In January, I saw Dead Kennedys lead singer, Jello Biafra perform at The Observatory. Here’s Jello singing “Too Drunk to Fuck” with The Reverend Horton Heat


And here’s a video of “Police Truck” from the 1987 album, Give Me Convenience of Give Me Death.



With outrageously vulgar lyrics and a belligerent stage presence, Fear joined the marginal hardcore punk scene in L.A. From the time they formed in 1977, it didn’t take long for Fear to be recognized among local punk fans. Fronted by lead singer, Lee Ving, Fear became known for their wild antics on and off stage and provoking audiences with anarchist, misogynist messages- found in songs like “The Trouble with Women” and “Let’s Have a War.”

In 1981, Fear released their first album, The Record. Shortly after its release, the band gave a notorious performance on Saturday Night Live, which ultimately ended with Fear being banned from the studio.

Continue reading “Fear”

Black Coffee, Black Flag, & Henry Rollins

Coming from Hermosa Beach, CA, Black Flag formed in 1976. With cynical angst and musical experimentation, this band redefined punk with a new hardcore sound. The original lineup included Greg Ginn on guitar, Chuck Dukowski on bass, drummer Brian Migdol, and vocalist Kieth Morris. But, not long after releasing their first EP– Nervous Breakdown– Morris went off to form the Circle Jerks and Migdol also disbanded. In 1981, Black Flag recruited Henry Rollins as their new lead singer.

Although the band only stayed together for a decade, they pioneered post-punk, which influenced other bands like the Minutemen, Dead Kennedys and others. After the band disbanded in 1986, Rollins went on to form The Rollins Band and pursue spoken word. Continue reading “Black Coffee, Black Flag, & Henry Rollins”

The Decline of Western Civilization

A Documentary on Punk Music

Different from the scene in NYC, if only because of geographic location, Penelope Spheeris’ Decline of Western Civilization documents LA punk in California. With footage from bands, including X, FEAR, and others, this film dissects the punk bands and culture in LA.

X: Under the Big Black Sun

“I came to L.A. in ’76… I wanted to do something with music…. this place was decent for that, for making something of yourself” says John Doe, lead singer of X. Coming from Baltimore, Doe formed punk band– X a year later, in 1977. Alongside band members Exene Cervanka, Billy Zoom, and D.J. Bonebrake, Doe helped establish the band around the ever-growing punk scene.

By 1980, X released their first album, Los Angeles. With songs like “Under the Big Black Sun,” “See How We Are,” and “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts,” this band has definitely made a name for themselves with a massive fan base in Southern California. Last May, I had the chance to see X play with The Blasters and Los Lobos. Also, John Doe wrote Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk, which came out last year. It’s a great novel, I definitely recommend reading it. Continue reading “X: Under the Big Black Sun”


Known for witty lyrics fueled by caffeine, food, and girls, The Descendents joined the L.A. punk scene in 1977. The band originally had three members, but added Milo Aukerman on vocals in 1981. A year went by before the Descendents released their debut LP, Milo Goes to College, which included “Bikeage” and “Suburban Home.” But the album title proved to be no joke, as Aukerman went to study, and later earn a PhD in, biochemistry at UCSD.

Aukerman’s leave marked the first hiatus for the Descendents and drummer, Bill Stevenson, joined Black Flag. In 1985, the band re-grouped and released I Don’t Want to Grow Up. Over the years, the Descendents have gone on several more breaks and have issued more albums, like their latest- Hypercaffium Spazzinate– which came out last year.

Here is a video of the Descendents performing “Everything Sucks” at the 2015 It’s Not Dead Fest



Mike Ness and Social Distortion

April 3rd marks the 55th birthday of SoCal punk rocker, Mike Ness. As the front man for Social Distortion, Ness’ bad boy persona and raw talent has made the group a huge success.

Formed in 1979, Social Distortion emerged into the L.A. punk scene from Fullerton, CA. Their debut album, Mommy’s Little Monster, was released in 1982. Although it’s not the most popular album, it was a great starting point for the group. What I enjoy most about Social Distortion is that Ness incorporates, and boldly uses, his own experiences as song-writing material. Sure, a multitude of singers and songwriters do the same thing, but with Ness, the story feels real and unmasked. The song, “Another State of Mind” and “Hour of Darkness” focuses on Ness’ drug abuse. Continue reading “Mike Ness and Social Distortion”