music pictures by Pat Blashill

Great Moments in Post Punk
from George Gimarc’s Post Punk Diary

The early eighties were an amazing time for punk rock and new wave music, but also for pure pop, horrible noise, and even reappearances by people like Kraftwerk, who were themselves an influence on some of these new sounds. Much of what follows is quotes and notes about this music from the British music press, all of it collected in Texas radio legend George Gimarc’s wonderful book, Post Punk Diary (published in 1997 by St. Martin's Griffin.) It's a fascinating record of some good (and some pretty bad) English cultural discourse about American music, but best of all, this is a fragmented and colorful peek into the minds of a lot of very different (mostly) American musical legends--from the Cramps and R.E.M. to Sonic Youth and a now-almost-forgotten band of geniuses called the dB's.

The dB’s are “…ready to step out of their role as NYC pop favorites and into the world of (hushed reverent tones) STARDOM! This band is quite capable of making most of the competition look quite silly by comparison. Their success will rest on the fact that while they play pop songs like a lot of other bands do, their pop songs are better. Much better.”
January, 1980, New York Rocker

The Cramps epitomize the instant group, parading a built-in legend alongside the kind of collective ego that rarely manifests itself outside of America. Like the New York Dolls before them, they are out of sync with fashion or movement, creating rock and roll whose sound and vision are not only unique, but immediately identifiable…You’ll either love them or loathe them—but every one of you who finds no pleasure in this trashy, contrived New York garbage band means one less I have to share them with.”
Neil Norman, NME, March 6, 1980

Flipper is “made up of former members of Negative Trend, SST, and Jumping Jesus & the Baby Rapers, and is the prime exponent of San Francisco’s post punk ‘pet-rock’ movement. Singer Bruce Loose explains pet rock as, ’This cute little thing that could turn around at any time and bite your face off.’
press release, March 1980

Devo’s 3rd album Freedom of Choice: is a “distinctively American album. It has a distinctively American title (of course), and distinctively American concerns—which are, in no particular order, sex, sex. sex, and a bit more sex. In many ways, this is the perfect Devo album, for if dealing with humanity as a collection of biological blobs, what better activity with which to illustrate that essential “bio-business” than the tired old two-backed beast, the squelch and sneeze of flesh on flesh and its associated rituals? Freedom of Choice, like much pop music, is a fairly mechanical soundtrack for a fairly mechanical pursuit.”
Andy Gill, NME, May 16, 1980

The Go Go’s are a real dolly mixture of sizes and shapes, from the buxom-ish, Fifties-starlet looks of Belinda Carlisle to the dimunitive but perfectly-formed figure of rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin. Doin’ their thang each night in a motley collection of mini-skirts, Doc Martens and what looked like a job-lot of footless tights, they gave the impression that the five of them could have been thrown together as much by their unconventional looks and non-conformist fashion tastes as by any shared interest in music. The Go Go’s bubble without gushing, their sparkle is genuine and not just injected for easier consumption, and they’re sweet without being sickly. They’re special—count on it—but at the same time they’re just like the girls next door.”
Sounds live review, May 21, 1980

“I am a blatant exhibitionist and I always wanted to be a rock ‘n roll singer. Now that I got the opportunity I’m thrilled. I mean, I’ve never had so much fun in my life…The energy, the whole thing, it…really, really gets my blood pumping, my adrenaline flowing. It gives me that instant orgasmic rush. It’s just like fucking, super fucking. Well, my panties are always wet. I can’t help it.”
Wendy O. Williams, the Plasmatics, Sounds, June 1, 1980

“I never disputed that some girls can play rock ‘n’ roll. (But) these girls certainly can’t play reggae.”
Sounds review of the Slits’ single “Man Next Door,” June 13, 1980

“[Bryan Gregory] was getting to be a real stranger. He said that he felt he was too old to carry on with rock and roll, and he couldn’t handle touring anymore. To tell the truth, I just don’t understand. [As a replacement for Gregory,] we’ve got our eyes on a girl who’s in this group who have no redeeming value at all.”
Poison Ivy Rorschach, the Cramps, NME
“My tastes were changing. I started liking Public Image more than Johnny Burnette…Whenever I’d say anything [to the band] about progressing they’d get on my case: ‘What do you mean progressing? We don’t want to progress. Any progressive band is for shit.’ And I didn’t mean it like that. I meant, like you gotta have new material. How many years are you gonna play the same songs?”
Bryan Gregory, ex-Cramp, New York Rocker, June, 1980

Gang of Four doesn’t believe in the individual, and we believe that whatever you do is ‘political’ with a small ‘p.’ I wouldn’t be doing this sort of music if I hadn’t joined the Gang of Four and worked collectively….I could be like Sting and write songs for the Police, but Sting is the Police and I could never be Gang of Four.”
Dave Allen, Gang of Four, NME, June 22, 1980

“Jah. A big influence was Bob Marley, and Stevie Wonder, and a group called the Dickies…Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder on the spiritual end, and the Dickies more on the musical end. Because when I heard their music, I said, ‘Gee it’s so fast, this is really bad!’ That’s what made me really start liking fast rock ‘n’ roll, which eventually lead into hardcore, which is what we’re into now. Another big influence was just wanting to change from being a robot in the system. That was the biggest stimulant for me, cuz it was like my back was against the wall, and I couldn’t cope with the system.”
quote attributed to the Bad Brains, in response to a question about their influences, Ripper magazine, June 1980

“That an extraordinarily loud, raw and obviously serious, humorless and illiterate band like Black Flag could be satirical at all was beyond the comprehension of a lot of observers at first. Black Flag were seen instead as racist, revolutionary zealots intent on leading their maniacal followers through the nightclubs of the city, the states and the nation, leaving nothing intact in their wake.”
review of Black Flag's “White Minority” single, L.A. Weekly, August 4, 1980

“[We play] updated swamp music with swamp influences. We do the same things to blues that the Cramps do. There’s a lot of scary songs coming out of that vein….The music pries [up] a lot of peoples’ secret hang-ups; the devil from a Baptist point of view, even though my mother brought me up Catholic. The hardest thing to do is get past your raising which tells you that you don’t belong to yourself. That gives you a ‘killer on the road’ attitude as Jim Morrison would put it.”
Jeffrey Lee Pierce, the Gun Club, Slash magazine, August 14, 1980

“We’re number one in L.A. on the local charts, over the Pretenders and the Clash, which is surprising. I’m real happy about that, ‘cause we’re an American band and usually in New York and Los Angeles the English groups are more popular. It’s such a drag to read those English papers and what they say about Los Angeles – what they say about America. It’s so ironic. We’re pretty proud of being American, sounding American, and being influenced by American artists.”
Exene Cervenka, X, New York Rocker, August 18, 1980

The Plasmatics held a free concert at the end of Pier 62, at 22nd Street and the Hudson River in New York City with a guarantee of the biggest spectacle ever from this outrageous band…The band were lowered to the special stage by a hovering helicopter….then came the big finale. Instead of tossing dynamite into the parked prop Cadillac as she’s prone to do, [singer] Wendy [O. Williams] hopped in, revved it up, and drove toward the end of the pier (where the stage was.)…At the last minute she could be seen jumping out as the car struck the 40’ x 50’ stage primed with explosive, which naturally sent a ball of fire into the air that was visible for a mile. The car, stage gear and bits of the platform went crashing through the other side and dropping into the Hudson River in a flaming ball of twisted metal. The band dusted themselves off and left the scene in a waiting ambulance.”
Post Punk Diary, George Gimarc, entry dated September 12, 1980

“If your mental profile consists of deeply-ingrained anger and resentment, if you get so pissed off sometimes you just want to explode, if you’re idea of relaxing is watching horror movies filled with blood and gore, then you’ll get a thrill out of this record.”
review of the Angry Samoans’ EP Inside My Brain, Ripper, October 16, 1980

"I don’t want to hear songs longer than two and a half minutes. If you go with three minutes someone should kick you in the fucking ass. You should have a gun pointed at your head as soon as you hit three minutes.”
"Metal" Mike Saunders, the Angry Samoans, Creep magazine

The B-52’s are walking the wacky dogma again…Like so many Americans who consider themselves humorous, the B-52’s suffer from growing up with too much canned laughter. They think every wacky nuance is going to set people splitting their sides and spitting up blood, just like it always happens for Archie Bunker. Canned laughter and dope encourages the American hipster to over-rate his rib-tickling powers…Another record, another reason to have a party. Only you know what happens after those parties, everyone throws up, comes down and feels crummy.”
Julie Burchill, NME, November 10, 1980

“I don’t know exactly what our style is, but it gets people nervous, real jittery…We don’t want to be stars…Our records will never have a picture of us, we’re not going to sell ourselves that way.”
Bob Mould, Hüsker Dü, November, 1980

Half Japanese is “…the part of the Stooges the Ramones threw away.”
Half Japanese press release, December,1980

The Minutemen are “…a collection of three bozos. One’s fat, screams and bangs guitar. Another is skinny and tall (he thumps bass and yells too.) The drummer is kind of buffed out.”
Minutemen press release, December, 1980

"[When I heard the Pop Group and Wire, I ] realized you didn’t have to have choruses, you didn’t have to have lead guitar solos, you could do anything. So that’s how my jazz influence started.”
Mike Watt, the Minutemen, Matter magazine, December, 1980

Plasmatics singer Wendy O. Williams was roughed up and arrested by Milwaukee police tonight on the charges of indecency after she reportedly ‘…simulated masturbation with a sledge hammer in front of an audience.’ Not going lightly into custody she reportedly asked for a female officer to escort her to the station. Instead of that, she was put into a van where a male officer began what is known as ‘an aggressive search,’ and Williams slapped him for taking liberties. The officer then threw her to the ground and reportedly kicked her in the face. Plasmatics manager, Rod Swenson, was also beaten into unconsciousness for two hours by police…Williams was later charged with battery of a police officer and resisting arrest.”
Post Punk Diary, George Gimarc, entry dated January 18, 1981

"[ Flipper have] done away with such rigid musical bullshit as tuning their instruments properly, or playing with the proper techniques. Try learning the chords to [their] songs and you’ll have lots of problems. What they do to annoy the punks is play excruciatingly slow.”
Jello Biafra, Trouser Press, January 30, 1981

“Eventually of course, the videodisk will make yer ordinary vinyl LP as obsolete as the pianola roll and people will look back on the era when you only listened to recorded music as the true dark ages.”
star reporter Tony Mitchell, Sounds, February 14, 1981

"[Patti Smith was] a rock singer and a poet….Plus, she wasn’t a trumped-up sex symbol. She was herself on stage…it looked like something I could do. You didn’t have to look like all the other singers.”
Debora Iyall, Romeo Void, The Los Angeles Times, March 16, 1981

“The area in front of the stage is a set piece of mindless mayhem. They call it ‘slamming in the pit.’…it’s something altogether new, spontaneous and pure, random, motiveless violence to a background of superfast rock and roll...frenetic, eye-popping energy that denotes either extreme youth or a methedrine connection.”
Mick Farren, writing about California punk, NME, April 5, 1981

“Holy Christ! Imagine what this would sound like if they were entirely Japanese! This is the first album I’ve ever owned which has buck teeth and pebble glasses and I love it. It sounds like someone dropping crates full of cutlery into a car compressor.”
Half Japanese review by Curt Vile, Sounds, April 17, 1981

X keep the promise of punk, use the devices of pop and exploit the inexhaustible legacy of the Fifties and Sixties to frame their soup kitchen romances and accelerated sleepwalks through a battle zone of teenage confusion.”
Sounds, May 4, 1981

“I see us as the musical Bauhaus. In their time, they could work in theater, architecture, photography and short films but they did not really have the technology to apply their ideas to music. We now have it. We see ourselves as studio technicians or musical workers, not as musical artists.”
Ralf Hutter, Kraftwerk, NME, May 5, 1981

“We try to be the fastest anti-poseur group. I work all day and night as a commercial fisherman so I call it fish punk…We play what we want to in the Descendants and don’t follow trends. We try to kick ass, that’s the bottom line.”
Frank Navetta, The Descendants, Slash, May 10, 1981

“’E’ is one of the major notes that Chrome deals with. ‘E’ is in tune with the genitals, and is also the vibration of change. ‘E’ rules the sign of Scorpio, which me and Damon [Edge] both are, and that’s the sign of death and rebirth. When music is in ‘E’ usually people are more sexually inspired than they are in any other key.”
Helios Creed, Chrome, Damage magazine, May 31, 1981

All charges against Plasmatics singer Wendy O Williams stemming from her January arrest in Milwaukee are dropped. Plasmatics manager Rod Swenson is found not guilty of “obstructing Milwaukee policemen in their duties.” The jury in the trial heard from four police officers and ten eyewitnesses for the defense, and they overwhelmingly believed the eyewitnesses, especially after seeing photographs of police beating Williams as she lay face down in the snow.
Post Punk Diary, entry dated June 11, 1981

“It’ll take a long time for us Europeans to appreciate the L.A. beach punk scene, that fascinating subculture which still seems to produce the kind of fast, pseudo-angry predictability most of England forgot about years ago. Give thanks.”
Black Flag review, NME, June 13, 1981

“It sounds like a joyous, bubbling celebration by five cute girls, with no thought inside their darling little heads save for tonight’s beach party.”
Robin Eggar, on the Go Go’s debut, Beauty and the Beat, NME, July 1981

The Go Go’s look smart and knowing but play ultra-stupid…I don’t give much for the Go Go’s chances either.”
Sandy Robertson, Sounds, July 1981

The cover art for Beauty and the Beat, which featured the band in towels and facial masks, was singer Belinda Carlisle’s idea, and meant as a joke about the marketing of a group of pretty girls. The album would eventually sell two million copies and has been described as one of the "cornerstone albums of American new wave."
Post Punk Diary, George Gimarc

“One of the few great American punk singles.”
review of R.E.M.'s debut single, Village Voice, July 27, 1981

The Replacements story starts back in 1979 with a group called Dogbreath…Then Dogbreath changed their name to the Impediments. Their first gig was at a halfway house for alcoholics and they showed up drunk.
Post Punk Diary, entry dated August 8, 1981

“[The Black Flag show] starts with a lazy howl of feedback which gradually grows into a song…My overall impression of the band is that they have their real roots more in the Detroit school (Stooges, MC5) of rock and roll rather than the hand blurring constant thrash of the modern three chord stuff. When they depart, there is no applause, just shouts.”
Mick Sinclair, review of a concert in London, Sounds, December 6, 1981

“When Al[ejandro Escovedo] and I first met, it turned out that we were both listening to the same record at the time--“Tammy Wynette’s Greatest Hits.” Well, after the Dils broke up, I went to New York and ran into Al, and we went to see Merle Haggard at the Lone Star, That show was like the first time I saw the Who, like seeing the Damned. It was a revelation.”
Chip Kinman, Rank and File, on meeting Alejandro Escovedo and forming their band, NY Rocker, December 13, 1981

"[The Meat Puppets first album is] possibly the most inventive demonstration of interplay between guitar, bass and drums ever recorded. The secret of the Meat Puppets is that they are near-virtuosos, three of the most inspired musicians living under the (Arizona) sun. Curt Kirkwood is transparently the incarnation of some violent, subliminal force of ecstasy, while brother Chris (bass) and drummer Derrick Bostrom are, even hurtling along at Bad-break-neck-Brains tempo, as calm and uncluttered as the greatest jazz propeller…Somewhere between Rudimentary Peni and George Jones lie the Meat Puppets. They will probably never leave Phoenix.”
Barney Hoskyns, NME, December 20, 1981

The Bad Brains make Motorhead sound like they’re standing still. They make Discharge sound like gentle balladeers.”
five-star review of the Bad Brains’ self-titled ROIR cassette, Garry Bushell, Sounds, March 3, 1982

“I was in Berlin and some girls came up to me and said, 'Oh, you are Diamanda, please do another record for us soon. We have witchcraft rituals and shoot up speed and chant to the Devil and listen to your music.’ I thought, 'Oh, fuck, you could get a Julie Andrews record and do this kind of stupid shit.'”
Diamanda Galas, after the release of her first album, The Litanies of Satan, on April 9, 1982, quoted in the Re/Search book, Angry Women

“When [the Misfits] walked onstage…I knew here was something wrong, call it a feeling in my gut but these guys looked like…KISS! The guitarist walks over to where some young punks are sitting on the stage and nudging them with his boots says, ‘Get the fuck off the stage.’ I’m from the east coast and when he uttered the above nicety. I could tell that in terms of the east coast social hierarchy he was what is known as ‘a dumbshit New Jersey jock.’ They started playing and people started throwing beer cans. The lead singer starts screaming about how San Francisco was the city of buttfuckers, this remark drawing more beer cans. The drummer jumps into the audience and starts pounding some kid…The Misfits squeeze in a couple of more songs—straight on garbage, rock and roll done by guys in funny costumes. The guitarist slaps Chris Cross, Santa Cruz’s most dangerous punkette, giving her a bloody lip and soon after unleashes his guitar and brings it down over the skinhead Timmy, a fourteen-year-old punk from Berkeley…The Misfits attempted to return and were again shouted down and off the stage. They had done a total of three songs, three songs too many for my taste….”
Eugene Robinson, review of a show at the Elite Club, San Francisco, Ripper magazine, April 10, 1982

“We’re all crazy. And that’s the only reason we’ve stayed together for three years. We’ve never listened to anyone who wanted to push it…I want people to know we’re not some kind of next big thing bullshit.”
Bruce Loose, Flipper, NME, April 16, 1982

"[Sonic Youth] inhabit that weird expanding void where hippie ends and hip starts, a swooning, shabby and temperamental quality…Like an orchestra trapped in a drainpipe.”
3 ½ star review of SY's self-titled debut EP, Sounds
“[Sonic Youth's] clanging noise over a dance beat is all right if you can take it, but the Contortions are still champs in the funky chaos department.”
review of same, Trouser Press, both May, 1982

“Frankly, noise-wise, X are dreadful. They run on a mixture of glitterjunk (Eddie) Cochran riffs in 3:1 ratio to strained B-52’s vocal runoffs, Cervenka and hubby Plain John Doe being singers of the very weediest caliber. Far from doing what his name would suggest, Billy Zoom’s guitar (without doubt, a black Les Paul) all but turns on itself; not so much a chainsaw as a sawn-off single barreled repeater…DJ Bonebreak couldn’t so much as chip a loose fingernail.”
Barney Hoskyns, NME, June 30, 1982

“[The Gun Club’s album Miami is] a mighty lycanthropic mutation that howls out its supremacy in the vain hope hat the airwaves will eventually beam out its cry.”
Edwin Pouncey a.k.a Savage Pencil, five-star review, Sounds, September 20, 1982

"[Crass’ single, “How Does it Feel?" is] the most vicious, scurrilous and obscene record ever produced.”
British conservative MP Tim Eggar, October 16, 1982

“Keep in crouched position low and always moving around, tightening muscles and keeping loose. Thrash to the beat. Hippies slam like goats butting heads in mating season, punks slam like playing rugby. When slamming never attack one individual repeatedly, bounce in and out of the pack to the beat, changing direction every few steps. Jock preps don’t know this and should be slain. Don’t let your friend get in a fight either. Break it up or help. Persons wearing spikes please don’t hit your friends in the face too hard. Stage Diving is dangerous, but is great fun and looks real wild to the average tourist. Remember to dive on someone you know….If someone falls down, feel free to form a spontaneous dogpile on top of him…Slam to very hard core bands only. Let new wavers pogo to their dull slow shit. Let hippies nod off to their crud.”
slam-dancing tips in Dallas fanzine The Steel Press, October 19, 1982

“If you compare what we play to any radio station, you’ll find we’re much more open to exposing new artists.”
MTV Programming Director John Sykes, Trouser Press, November 8, 1982
Some of the station’s most played videos that month were Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy,” REO Speedwagon’s “Keep the Fire Burning” and Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran.”