Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lexicon Devil

Darby Crash in his Ants phase.

Crash in white, front row centre for Rock n Roll High School.

As long as we're remembering dead assholes, how about Darby Crash? Before The Germs had even coalesced, lead singer Darby Crash had the Story of The Germs in mind. Among his plot points were a female member, booking shows before having songs, and only five years for the band to make it. Whether Darby knew exactly how The Germs would end is unknown. What is known is that he stuck within his timetable.

Crash killed himself with a purposeful overdose of heroin on December 7, 1980. It was four days after a sold-out Germs "reunion" show and Crash was only twenty-two years-old. The overdose was part of a suicide pact with friend Casey Cola, who dosed with him, but survived. The next day John Lennon was killed and Crash quickly lost the battle for column inches.

On the twentieth anniversary of Crash's death in December of 2000, Exene Cervenka remembered:

It was like Darby was saying, "Hey, guys, look, I'm immortal." Then John Lennon died. "Oh, wait. You're not." X was leaving on our first U.S. tour. Everywhere we went we heard "Imagine" or a Beatles song. Every truck stop, every diner, that's all anyone was talking about. It was really annoying. Of course I listened to the Beatles--I'm an American. When you're a little girl and you hear the Beatles for the first time, you're transformed forever. But my focus was on my friend. Not to put down John Lennon, but someone we loved had died.

Adato, A. (2000, December 3). Crash and Burn. Los Angeles Times.

Darby Crash never an easy go of it. He grew up with an absent father, an abusive mother, and an older brother who also overdosed (or was murdered by his dealer? There are conflicting reports). Crash was also deeply conflicted about being queer. The hardcore scene likes to wear progressive politics on its sleeve, often literally, but can be deadly conservative when it comes to real acceptance of racial and sexual difference. In 1980 Los Angeles, how would Crash's fluid sexuality have been greeted by the macho boys and cooing girls in the clubs? Crash knew the answer, so he hid as a public junkie rather than an out gay man until his early death.

Crash was a mess, unmistakenly, unrepentantly. He was also a hell of a poet and was constructing vocal rhythms and performances as a teenager that were vital to the genesis of Los Angeles punk.

Meanwhile, John Lennon was a wife beater who abandoned his child.

Check out here (Angelfire?!) for the full text and original images from a 1977 Flipside interview with The Germs. The page also features a couple live tracks. Tracks which are set to auto-play and can't be turned off, but are great.

Since 2006 The Germs have been sporadically performing the original songs with actor Shane West taking up vocal duties. West played Crash in the 2007 biopic What We Do Is Secret. I liked the film, actually, but those shows cannot be pretty.

Live video and interview with Crash after the jump.

Live at the Whiskey A Go Go in 1979.

Clip from Decline of Western Civilization. This wonderful 1981 documentary by Penelope Spheeris STILL has not gotten a DVD release! It is a great time capsule of a period that will never be recreated. Bootlegs are out there, so see if you can track one down.

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