Friday, May 23, 2008

THE GERMS - Forming / Live - What? - 1977

Here it is. The first single by the first band to ever have any real effect on me. I was 10 or 11 years old when I heard the Germs & just couldn't believe that music could be so trashy and noisy. Since that day I've been fascinated by them. I was unaware at the time of just how difficult it was going to be to track down their records though. For years I would walk into any place that sold music, in any form, asking hopefully if they had a copy of 'GI,' their only full length album, and for years I always got one of two reactions; either absolute confusion, or a rude kind of brush-off, like "yeah right, asshole. good luck." This was long before the wonderul / terrible invention of ebay, so it was my only hope. Oh well, I had my Germs MIA cassette, which had all of their studio recordings, and I played that tape so much that now it sounds like 'The Germs - Live From A Wind Tunnel."

Anyway, about this single.. It is considered by most to be the first LA punk single, & considered by others to be the most premature release in history. As far as I can tell, both claims may be true.
Forming was recorded using a karaoke machine & mixed down with some very convoluted idea of 'stereo' in mind. All of the instruments are panned to one side, the vocals panned entirely to the other. Darby (still known as Bobby Pyn) hadn't started using his rabid snarl yet & he's much closer to talking than any form of singing on this track. The band's marginal musical talent is very blatantly on display, & coupled with Darby's snotty little rant at the end, it makes for one hell of a punk masterpiece.

The B-side is actually Sex Boy recorded live (it was never recorded 'properly.') The sound quality is terrible, and the band can still barely play, though Darby should be given some credit for being as close to 'on time' as he would ever be caught on a live recording again. Still, this thing is a mess. At one point you hear what sounds like glass shattering and somebody yelling to "stay away!" The band finishes the song & the crowd is very audibly not happy. As Pat's guitar stops feeding back, there's a split second of silence before a giant, roaring "BOOOO!!" Faintly, in the fadeout, you hear a woman yelling "Get out of here!" It's absolutely amazing.

How is it, exactly, that this is the music that so violently grabbed my attention as a kid? I wish I knew.

This single isn't exactly an accurate representation of their music as a whole. From this, their first single, to Lexicon Devil, their second single, there's a colossal leap in the song writing, playing, and recording quality. They went on to write, in my opinion, some of the greatest punk rock songs ever recorded.

The Germs terrorized LA for 3 years, getting banned from so many clubs that they had to start billing themselves as GI (Germs Incognito) in order to get shows, then Darby killed himself.

The whole story of the Germs is definitely an interesting one, and the book 'Lexicon Devil' (co-written by drummer Don Bolles) is a pretty detailed account of their existence, & a great read to boot. If you have any interest in familiarizing yourself with the Germs, read this book, I beg of you, before the potentially disgusting Germs film (starring Shane West [WTF?!?!?!]) is released nationally. The book is written in the same style as "Please Kill Me" which is another favorite of mine.

Sink yr teeth in. Tasty.


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