We all watched Repo Man tonight. So fun to hear all the old songs: TV Party, and Institution, Pablo Picasso, and all the rest. Black Flag, Iggy Pop, Suicidal Tendencies, and––God!!––the Circle Jerks dressed in lounge suits playing one of their songs at 1/8 speed while Emelio Estevez says, “I used to like these guys.” And who doesn’t love Harry Dean Stanton?
I had forgotten how many times the F word was used, and my kids raised their eyebrows a little at that and the sexual references, but they laughed at the same parts I always did (so glad the main character’s parents aren’t us!) and I was very pleased at how well the movie has held up.
I guess I’m showing my age here. I was always just on the edges of the punk scene. My friends were always going to concerts of what have since become extremely famous bands––Flipper, Agent Orange, the Germs, X, Butthole Surfers, the Cramps, Dead Kennedys and all of the ones mentioned up above––who seemed always to be playing at some warehouse or other. I saw PIL in LA in 1984, with Mike Muir popping up informally to join in, and for some reason the drummers from Bow Wow Wow onstage with what looked like taiko drums. I even spent a few days in Redlands once with a friend who introduced me to his friends, all of whom were in a band known later as Camper Van Beethoven. It just seemed in those days like you couldn’t go anywhere or do anything in California without tripping over one band or another, and everyone was always showing up at one anothers’ concerts.
I was, unfortunately, too shy to actually attend more than a few of the concerts. They were very crowded and filled with a kind of angry energy that I didn’t fully identify with, at least in action, though I liked many of the songs, which had a goofy side to them, a sort of quirky humor that was hard not to like. But I was a country girl, not used to close quarters with bodies bumping, and was still too green to identify with the movement yet. I was under 18 in a town where you mostly had to be of age to do anything and, well, like I said, I was shy. I might have been in college, but I was only 16, and I didn’t know how to lie about my age (and no one would have believed me if I had).
What’s funny now for me is to go into a shop and find someone wearing a Cramps t-shirt (or something), and realize there is no way that I, a weird redheaded old lady in a t-shirt and Steampunk jewelry, can explain all this. I smile at the checker and say, “I haven’t seen that t-shirt for a long time,” and he looks at me like “what?” I am still shy, so I walk out thinking, in the espirit d’escalier of these things, of what he might have said if I said, “I saw them in 1981.” But of course I didn’t, because I didn’t always seize the moment back then. I know better now.
Nowadays, if I hear these songs I smile. They seem so melodic! It’s hard to completely explain to people raised with all the various flavors of Metal how discordant the punk bands all sounded in 1980, when we were all coming fresh from the syrupy sounds of the 70s. It’s a little like trying to explain what it was like having to wait for your TV show to come on––people nod their heads, but they don’t really get it, I mean really get that when there was nothing on there was really NOTHING on. You had to just go read a book. Or something.
The truth of this hit me tonight, when I put TV Party on my iTunes to play for my kids. I still love that song, and was pleased to see my (non-loud-music-loving) teenage girls respond with laughter… especially when the band members all say sadly, “No TV party toniiiiiiiight…”