Where have all the punk-rock children gone?
Don Bolles, the former drummer of Los Angeles’ first and foremost punk band, The Germs, knows where they are.
“Most of them are dead or in mental hospitals or very successful businessmen.”
Like country music, Bolles says, punk never really died. It just turned into what he terms “poser garbage.”
“Go down Hollywood Boulevard today and you’ll see 50 mohawks with leather jackets with their favorite band on the back, and these are young kids,” he says. “But it’s nothing. Only The Germs rule, and I’m not saying that because I was the drummer. I knew it long before I even met (the other band members).”
Nearly 16 years since their inception, The Germs have maintained a hard-core following in the punk world. Singer-songwriter Darby Crash died of a heroin overdose in 1980 at age 22, but his stunning lyrics continue to incite a new generation of punkers.
If you don’t know of their history, you will now: Germs guitarist Pat Smear is now part of Nirvana’s touring band (and it sounds like it could lead to a permanent gig), and Slash/Warner has released a definitive compilation, “Germs (MIA) The Complete Anthology,” in honor of the label’s first signing in 1979.
It has Bolles in a nostalgic mood.
“The time was as wild as it can get. Next to the L.A. riots, it was anarchy and lots of fun,” he says of 1977, when The Germs first developed a reputation for outrageous performances and public misconduct. “There’s so many things that went on, it’s a blur.
“I do remember one night we played at the Roosevelt Hotel ballroom. How we got that gig, I’ll never know. Anyway, Darby tended to wear spiky wristbands, and he would go nuts, bouncing all around.
“This ballroom was surrounded by mirrors on the walls. He was bouncing from one wall to the next, knocking off the mirrors, and there were shards all over the place.”
Bolles holds a deep respect for Crash’s role in punk history, lauding his sense of lyrical abstraction, even though the two had a falling out in ’79 and Crash left for England for a brief solo career.
“I was in another band during and after The Germs,” Bolles says. “We tended to wear mini-skirts with spiked heels and makeup. Darby didn’t appreciate seeing a member of his band playing in a mini-skirt performing onstage.”
Bolles has stayed with music in various forms over the years, stopped doing drugs and never fails to tout The Germs’ spot in rock history.
To all the youth growing up on Nirvana, he would say: “Go out and buy the Germs CD and see what was going on before your parents even had sex. It was a different time.
“It’s a lot easier now to be Nirvana or to be punk rock. In fact, it’s almost required if you’re a young subversive to do some really aggressive, abrasive music. But back then, it was unheard of.”
BWF (before we forget): “Forming,” released in late ’77 on What? Records, is considered L.A.’s first punk record. … The Germs’ debut album, “G.I.,” was the first released by Slash and was produced by Joan Jett. … Bolles says Nirvana “got a great deal” by hooking up with Smear. “He turned down offers to join the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More before this. At the time, I told him, ‘Why not do it?’ He said, ‘They’re not big enough.’ A week later, Nirvana calls … can you believe that?”
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