We Got the Neutron Bomb (The Untold Story of L.A. Punk) chronicles the city's punk scene as it struggled to sidestep the shadow cast by bands in New York and London and recognizes a bunch of influential bands that spawned much of today's radio fodder from Rancid to Green Day.
A natural companion piece to Legs McNeil's look at New York punk in Please Kill Me, We Got the Neutron Bomb is a great refresher for former punks and a wonderful textbook for first-time rebels. The book includes the most influential groups that played Orange County garage parties and sleazy Sunset Strip clubs. Everyone from The Germs and The Go-Go's to Black Flag and Gun Club are at least cited, if not quoted extensively. Although Spin magazine editor Marc Spitz and L.A. club founder Brendan Mullen (a major character in the book) are credited with penning the book, it's written like an oral history provided by those involved in the scene with little editorial input.
Here are Neutron Bomb's top five revelations about the late 1970s L.A. Punk Scene:
1. In 1978, shortly after the Sex Pistols broke up, Johnny Rotten expressed interest in joining Devo as their lead singer (God, save us all).
2. IRS Records founder Miles Coupland considers Wall of Voodoo ("Mexican Radio") "the most brilliant and creative, exciting musical thing I ever signed." It should be noted that IRS was also home to R.E.M., the Buzzcocks, John Cale and The English Beat.
3. Los Lobos (Yeah, the "La Bamba" guys) opened up for Public Image at the Olympic Auditorium in 1980.
4. Former Germs guitarist Pat Smear (who went on to play with Nirvana and the Foo Fighters) was working behind the counter in a run-down Sunset Strip record store when Kurt Cobain called and asked him to join the tour.
5. The Germs were cast as extras in a punk scene in the Cheech and Chong movie Up in Smoke but were kicked off the set after trashing the stage.
We Got the Neutron Bomb (The Untold Story of L.A. Punk) by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen. Three Rivers Press. Paperback $13. 300 pages.