There are eight songs, done in a total of 9 minutes and 20 seconds. The final song is a live track and it reaches 2 minutes mostly because of the introduction and crowd noise. Three songs almost reach 90 seconds long. The rest are under 1 minute.
Interestingly, there are earlier demos of these songs that are a little slower and a little less fastinyourfacescreamedlyricswhat??? Perhaps because I’m old I like the slower ones a little better, but I know that this represents the core of DC Hardcore and I respect that. And you can actually make out the lyrics if you try.
Some themes include being too young to go to shows, people trying to grow old too fast, punk music (“you say we need practice, maybe in a couple of years”), and apparently dissing British punk for selling out. (“There goes your fury out the door, don’t expect our respect anymore”).
The acerbic “Deadhead” even has a slow section (but is still overall less than 90 seconds) in which they parody the Grateful Dead—the song is anti-Dead primarily because of the drugs they espoused (The Teen Idles, like Minor Threat were straight edge). I had to look up Fiorucci to see what “Fiorucci Nightmare” was about (it’s a fashion house).
For an early taste of the DC Hardcore scene, it pretty much starts here.
[READ: August 22, 2013] Hard Art DC 1979
Do you like punk rock? Punk rock from the late 70s? Specifically bands from Washington DC? In particular bands that played at three venues? On four specific dates? That’s the focus of this book.
This is a collection of photographs by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Lucien Perkins. Perkins has been taking pictures for decades, primarily for The Washington Post—covering major events in Russia, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and, in the late 70s, a few DC punk shows.
The book doesn’t say anything about his motive for doing these shows—other than that he was new to the scene and thought it looked interesting. And since Bad Brains are the focus of most of the pictures, I’m certain that race and racism had something to do with his showing up at these events. Especially because the first event was called Rock Against Racism and was held in a public housing area of Washington D.C.
The four shows covered in the book are
Bad Brains ; Trenchmouth
“Rock Against Racism” Valley Green Housing Complex, Sept 9, 1979
Bad Brains ; The Slickee Boys
Hard Art Gallery, Sept 15, 1979
D.O.A. ; Tru Fax & The Insaniacs ; Brick Bats (Trenchmouth)
Madams Organ Artist’s Cooperative, Nov 11, 1979
Bad Brains ; Trenchmouth (Fri) Bad Brains ; The Teen Idles (Sat)
Madams Organ Artist’s Cooperative, Jan 25/26, 1980
So as I say, this is a very specific scene with just a few bands represented. However, there are some interesting historical pieces here. One of the people in a number of photos (and one or two very cool ones at that) is Alec MacKaye. MacKaye was a singer for The Untouchables, Faith, Ignition and The Warmers (bands I don’t know). But (and I’m sure he’s not happy to hear this) more importantly, he is the brother of Ian MacKaye, the seminal DC punk who was in Minor Threat and Fugazi and who founded Dischord Records. He was also in The Teen Idles (one of the bands photographed).
Alec MacKaye is now a writer and he writes a few essays about the scene and the photos—most of which were only recently uncovered and, given the youth of the participants and their general obliviousness to the camera, most were not even known to have existed.
The photos themselves are really cool—right in the action. But they don’t focus only on the bands. There are tons of crowd shots and in some of the shots, the reactions (especially of the young children) are great. The Rock Against Racism show had tons of little kids there and their wide-eyed wonder at HR’s vocal antics during the Bad Brains set are great. There’s another shot where someone is pouring a beer over the head of Charlie Danbury (of Trenchmouth) and the kids look scandalized.
And I love that on the cover you can read HR’s button that says Think for yourself, Schmuck!
There could probably be a little more context in the photos. Many people are named in the captions, but I’m not sure if they are fans or band members. Of the bands mentioned, I only know Bad Brains and The Teen Idles (and D.O.A., but they are not from the D.C. scene, they’re from Vancouver). Some of the people seem to be in a lot of shots and don’t know how they fit in.
I’m a little surprised there aren’t a few more pictures of the full bands in action. I imagine these shows to be fast and furious, but a lot of the shots are just singer or a guitarist sort of relaxing in the background. But that’s how it happened.
My two surprises about this book: I know of Bad Brains from their later incarnation (when they sported very long dreadlocks), so these photos, especially of HR with really short hair are quite surprising. And the Trenchmouth in this book is not the Trenchmouth that I have recently discovered (that band is from Chicago in the 90s, duh).
Oh, and the cover lists Narrative: Alec MacKaye; Essay: Henry Rollins. I don’t know why Rollins’ little piece is called an essay as opposed to a narrative. It’s not like Rollins writes more than MacKaye (Rollins: 2 pages, MacKaye: about 20), it’s not like Rollins’ piece is any different from MacKaye’s (it’s about being on the scene, nothing more profound or overarching). But there it is.
I’m not going to downplay Rollins’ piece, because I like him and I like what he wrote. It’s just odd that he is singled out that way. Anyhow, he writes about being a groupie for The Teen Idles. Never missing a practice, being there at the recording sessions (I assume he is the Henry that you can hear them mention in the recording above), and generally being inspired by the band. I had no idea he was a fanboy back then. It’s fun to imagine.
If you loved the scene, or just want to see what was up, there are some great pictures here.