Reviews

Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk, by John Doe with Tom DeSavia and Friends (Da Capo Press, 2016)

The underground punk scene of the late '70s and early '80s in the Los Angeles area birthed such influential bands as Black Flag, Germs, and The Bags. Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk is a new book that offers a firsthand account of the scene penned by two men who were part of the movement: X bassist/vocalist John Doe, and music industry veteran Tom DeSavia.

I know some of you are thinking to yourselves, "I already own We Got the Neutron Bomb and Please Kill Me, so I'm covered," but let me tell you that Under the Big Black Sun is worth its list price based on the delicious trivia offered in its pages alone. Not only do the authors dig deep into the eclectic musical side of the early L.A. punk wave, but they also do a wonderful job of illustrating the various backgrounds that the musicians and other key figures in the scene came from. These were misfits that found each other, despite—in some cases—their very different upbringings. Doe's candid storytelling style lends a warts-and-all perspective that complements the subject at hand.

Presented as a series of essays, Under the Big Black Sun also includes entries from Henry Rollins (Black Flag), Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey (The Go-Go's), Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L.), and a slew of other L.A. punk players. One of those people is Chris Desjardins of The Flesheaters—a band I had heard of before, but never actually heard. Getting insight from him and some of the other lesser-known punk musicians (at least to people like me) adds another compelling layer to the book.

What I look for in a music scene-driven book is to be able to walk away from the reading experience with a balanced view of its early history, and Under the Big Black Sun did exactly that.

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