PUNK: Lonesome American Memoirs

18. Durant Mob Rules

Working in a record store put me at the center of a second generation of punk rockers. As early as I got started, I really missed the beginning. I didn’t want to miss anything, but I just wasn’t there. Still, my ideas of punk rock were cross dressing, gender bending, sarcastic, art student, political junkies who said “I don’t care” and “fuck you” but meant “I care so much I am about to explode.”

The kids that followed were different. When they said “faggot” it meant they were going to kick the shit out of you, and had no sense of themselves. It meant that they were not sure about their sexuality, but they had no interest in exploring it. It meant that it was more comfortable to self-destruct, to beat the living shit out of someone, than to be even the least bit self-reflexive. My people, indeed.

A group of girls appeared first. Toni and Rachel were twins. They appeared in the record store one day in green trench coats with new wave buttons on them. Toni had cut her hair, but Rachel still had long, thick, Native American hair down to her waist. They were light, and happy. I made fun of them, and told them what was punk, and what wasn’t. I had their attention. They were not offended by my criticism in the least. I liked them immediately.

They brought friends along. Carol, a tough and smart young woman who had closely cropped hair, broad shoulders and didn’t say much. Eileen, who wore thick glasses, and laughed a lot, Cathy S. could have been Carol’s older sister, Gilly, Sarah, and a few more. They liked to drink beer. They really liked to drink beer.

Their boyfriends and their friends soon followed. Johnny Puke, Turner, Tim, Victor, Sam, and Pat. Guys were funny because they each had a best friend, someone they arrived with. The friend was always a little wrong. They’d have a mullet, or they hadn’t had the same sort of background that the real punk kid had and were just tagging along. The friends would try to hang around, but they quickly slipped away. They just couldn’t keep up with our decline.

I liked to shoot speed and coke. I liked to shoot smack. But I would always try to sip whiskey. I would keep a bottle on me and just spend all day staying a little bit drunk. I wanted to feel that way all the time. I didn’t want to slosh myself into a bucket like those kids could. If I lost control again, I knew that something bad would happen. So I tried to maintain. The best I cold do was not go with them when they went off to score a case of beer and drink it at the tennis courts. That didn’t last very long, and soon I joined them in the march down Telegraph, toward Oakland, to the tennis courts where we’d sit and drink.

This was a wonderful time for punk rock. It was a second renaissance which had little, or nothing to do with the New York and UK punk rock from the nineteen seventies. Bands began to form with a new sound. DOA Coined the expression ‘Hardcore’ and Black Flag got another singer. The Dead Kennedys rose up out of the Mission along with the Lewd, Code of Honor, Bad Posture, Social Unrest, and even Flipper managed to reinvent themselves from the band everyone left before they went on to a band that everyone loved. From Southern California came a whole new sound. The Circle Jerks, Agent Orange, The Adolescents, and Social Distortion. LA had come along way from their new waver roots. But I still thought the Zeros were the best band from Los Angeles. M.D.C. moved up to San Francisco and brought copies of their single “John Wayne was a Nazi” with them. They took up residence in the abandoned Ham’s brewery and renamed it “the Vats.” From the east coast we got wind of the straight edge movement and really enjoyed bands like Minor Threat. Even though only a few years had passed, this new injection of energy and raw anger made bands like The Cramps, The Damned, and The Sex Pistols seem old, like dinosaurs. They weren’t playing the new, faster, and much more violent sound of nineteen eighty-one. That was the past, and the past was gone.

The arts also caught an updraft from this new crowd of young people. A couple of guys named Tim and Jeff who had been doing a radio show on KPFA called Maximum Rock’N’Roll started producing a magazine. Ripper came up out of San Jose, and PPG! Started a magazine called Decline. We weren’t pumping out painters and fashion designers like the seventies had at the art institute, but we were writing, taking pictures, starting bands, playing shows, and making records. It was a very good time.

Kids seemed to crawl into Berkeley and San Francisco from everywhere. New faces every day would appear in familiar groups. Shows grew quickly from a couple hundred people, at the most, to well over a thousand. No one was doing the stranglehold or the pogo any more. The new response to a band’s sound was to slam dance. Slam dancing was, at first, just the natural fighting that would break out when a bunch of homophobic guys got together and absorbed all that energy from the band that was playing. It used to be that you would just kind of stand there and shake your leg back and forth until you weren’t insecure anymore and you’d let go, start dancing. And dancing meant that you would leap up and down, or grab your friends and push and shove. If someone fell down, you stuck out your hand and helped them up. It wasn’t about fighting. We were responding to the music. But the pit, as it’s come to be known, was the modern puck rock dance floor.

The band would be playing on a stage. There would be some muscle head with a bleached flat top standing in the middle with his shirt off. A school of darker characters would be swimming around this guy in one direction, and there would be a few bruisers fighting against the stream. And then the rest of the audience would still be doing the old punk rock shove toward the stage. The pit would ebb and flow from an oval to a kidney shaped space. When the crowd shoved hard, and the people in the pit got too close together, fighting would break out.

To spice things up a little bit, someone got the idea that jumping off the stage into the pit might be fun. I don’t remember who did it first, but one night at the On Broadway some little guy came running across the stage, bouncer behind him. He got to the edge of the stage and just leapt out over the audience and came crashing down into the crowd. It was pretty fucking cool. That night everyone who was anyone gave stage diving a try.

The only time I ever tried it I was wearing my jackboots and about fifteen pounds of chain. I ran toward the stage and just kinda threw my feet up in front of me. I watched as the crowd below me backed out of the way. I landed on this old guy with glasses. He was hurt. I helped him up and he took a swing at me. He was pissed. I decided that athletics and punk rock combined were for the trendy new school, and not for me.

Athletics is a good word. These new punks were beer swilling, flat top sporting, muscle people with skateboards. This was something I hadn’t expected. The new kids arriving on the scene weren’t spiking their hair and wearing boots, they were shaving their heads and wearing Van’s. The uniform changed from a leather motorcycle jacket and a heroin habit, to a plaid shirt tied around your waist and a beer belly.

Stephanie was someone I was really into. She wore ‘love’s baby soft’ but was punk as fuck. I was flipped over her. She got these swollen little breasts and a tiny belly from drinking quarts of Mickey’s and Rainier Ale. I thought she was adorable. But after a summer of beer drinking and messing around, her belly stuck out past her smallish breasts, and she didn’t fit into her pants anymore. Girls who drink too much beer get really cute for a minute. And then they get really sad. The only thing worse than a drunk girl is an angry drunk girl.

When I realized that the stereotype had changed I resisted. I contributed a fifteen-minute segment on Maximum Rock’N’Roll called Real Punk. I would play Negative Trend, The Screamers, The Avengers, The Dils, The Weirdos, and bands that had forged the punk scene in the post major label days of the seventies. I started a band and we played slow, thick punk rock music. No one joined my protest. I gave up.

By the spring of nineteen eighty-two I was back to shooting heroin and spending all day unconscious. Punk rock was now crowded by the jocks and fatheaded homophobic guys I had gotten into punk rock to get the hell away from. The promise of lifting up a housewife’s smock and displaying rotten ovaries, lies, and excess for some artistic and positive reason was long gone. I suppose I could look back and admit that my contribution only sped up the process. I was a stupid kid. I didn’t understand, I just thought it was cool. I couldn’t wait to shoot up, or try whatever drugs you were taking. I went to art openings and jeered. I didn’t have to understand. I was a walking catharsis. An example of the symptoms, not an architect of the revolution. And I was only fortunate enough to have seen the tail end of a movement that gave concept rock and an artistic form so complex that it no longer communicated to anyone the finger.

The Durant Mob Ruled. This new look, long spikey hair held up with gelatin for shows but worn down the rest of the time, was the new look. If you were in the least bit feminine you had it coming to you. If you were new, you had to show some kind of respect to those who came before you. If you didn’t you had six girls on your ass. They’d just assume slap you one, before saying hello. It was the only way that this swarm of anger and self-hatred could possibly go. There was no voice of self-examination. Anyone who started questioning the violence got left behind.

Social Distortion ‘1945’


Table of contents
Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19, Chapter 20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23, Chapter 24
Musicology, Errata