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Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs Paperback – April 15, 2002
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From Library Journal
Since his heroin overdose in 1980, Darby Crash has become a symbol of punk irreverence, but his posthumous fame has tended to overshadow the seminal work of the punk band he fronted, the Germs. Mullen (who coauthored We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk), along with ex-Germs drummer Bolles and writer Parfrey, quickly deconstructs the myth of Crash (n Jan Paul Beahm) to reveal an embattled and confused soul who struggled with drug use and his homosexuality. Featuring raw quotations from Crash's peers in the burgeoning 1970s West Coast punk scene, the book offers both positive and negative views of the singer and the scene that raised him. Crash's fans were known for their cultish reverence, and Crash himself is shown to be a self-conscious misfit who used psychological ploys to enlist followers. It is unlikely that this book will reach a wide audience and thus imbue Crash's legacy with more humanity and, in turn, the Germs with more respectability, but it does strengthen the growing literature on American punk music. Recommended for popular music collections, especially as a complement to We Got the Neutron Bomb, which covers similar ground and whose oral history format this book replicates. Robert Morast, "Argus Leader," Sioux Falls, SD
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This intense oral history traces the life of a rock icon so enigmatic that few knew he was gay. The Germs had released only one album, G.I., before their leader, Darby Crash (ne Paul Beahm), 22, OD'd in a suicide pact (the other participant survived). His death, covered in detail here, just enhanced the Germs' cachet as protopunks. The book's compilers--Germs drummer Don Bolles is one of them--also serve up a lot about early West Coast punk, reported by a virtual punk who's who, sans, perhaps refreshingly, Henry Rollins, but including Jello Biafra, Exene Cervenka, Phranc ("America's Favorite Jewish Lesbian Folksinger"), and two who figured massively in the love triangle that, among many other factors, precipitated Darby's last exit, Gerber ("Queen of L.A. Punk") and Rob Henley. Evocative as hell of the punk ethos ("Part of the $400 [for the overdose drugs] was my rent money," mourns Ella Black), not least because of scads of photos of baby-faced adolescents (some nude) trying to look ugly. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
As it is, for me this is just a book about LA punk at a certain time. Probably to be taken with a grain of salt in any event because most everybody in it is busy having fun and being drunk/ stoned through much of it, so you know, "if you can remember, then you weren't there." Even if it's not 100% dead-on accurate, it seems to capture the vibe pretty well, and the people I know who had a nodding acquaintance with SoCal punk at that time agree. This book seems to pick up where "Please Kill Me" left off and describe the next branch that sprouted up on the punkweed vine. At times it almost seems to be more about Belinda Carlisle, or other people who are speaking, rather than Darby and the Germs, although in terms of discussing Darby it's way more intelligent and dimensional than the idiotic Germs movie that reduced everybody to the level of a low-budget cartoon. I enjoyed reading about the Scientology-in-high-school experiment, which did not make it into the movie. Only in California, folks.
Bottom line is, I don't feel like I'm super-knowledgeable about Darby and the Germs after reading this, and I sense he is always going to be a figure of controversy as to whether he was a genius or just ordinarily talented or a hack who got famous by dying. But in terms of conveying the feeling of an era and being a interesting read - with some of the most interesting parts being simply about clubs and apartment buildings and people other than Darby and the Germs - it's worth picking up. A sort of real-life low-budget punked-out version of "Velvet Goldmine", maybe. Read it with that attitude and not like you're seeking the One True History, and you should be fine.
The text is in typical oral history form: participants from Crash's life give responses to questions, with their names preceding them. Readers of L.A. punk history will remember some of the stories: the Germs' debut at the Orpheum, the sugar dumping at the Whiskey, and the antics that got them banned from every club in Southern California.
This is also a great companion piece to the film made about The Germs, What We Do Is Secret. I would recommend it to new fans of the band and punk rock, but to old school fans, these are the same old stories.
Visually stunning photographs and a refreshing, multiperspective commentary bring qualities of both Faulkner and the blog together in a chronological progression to the suicide of Darby Crash. I especially enjoyed the coroner's document and the funeral bill, but all the exhibits were great.
The book includes an unbelievable involvement of church and state in the Scientology influenced Innovative Program School in Los Angeles which 'graduated' Darby in 1976. This section once again shows the importance of LSD in late 20th century culture.
The dynamic of LA punk as it emerged in artfag circles, was subsumed in a Huntington Beach testosterone surge of disaffection and violence consuming punk and creating thrash hardcore. Darby Crash's closeted homosexuality and his apparent fear of rejection for it in late 70's culture, adds historical depth to the effects of discrimination, even among the young.
The book is compelling. I missed Darby's show at the Mabuhay, although I saw the other big show of the weekend, the Sex Pistols at Winterland.
The great strength of the book is the stylistic approach, the book being years in the making. Adding the content into that, I think it's the biggest thing in American literature since Douglas Coupland's Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture in 1991.
Best music history I have ever seen or read.