Before founding Lookout Records and hugely facilitating one of the more dynamic and seminal punk scenes this country has seen, Larry Livermore drove from San Francisco up to
Spy Rock Roadin remote Mendocino County, California, to try at a quiet, rustic lifestyle. He possessed more romanticized notions than preparation or experience. At this point, he considered most of his life’s more formative experiences safely behind him. Spy Rock was to be a sanctuary, and many times at that stage in someone’s life (mid-thirties), the same sort of situation becomes someone’s last station in life. Thankfully for us—I’m assuming almost everyone reading this is appreciative of at least one thing Livermore has had a hand in since then—Livermore did not settle down, although he did hunker down almost solely on Spy Rock for approximately a decade. In this time he demonstrated his outstanding drive and predilection for stamping things as his own: his band, record label, and newsletter/magazine were all incredibly prolific and possessed near-identical names that insinuated a web-like, tied-in DIY media empire (The Lookouts, Lookout Records, and Lookout magazine).
A healthy (or unhealthy) amount of ego and drive often bring people to such heights of productivity, and just as both resulted in Livermore’s many accomplishments, it seems they have also now brought him to the domain of self-indulgent memoir. I don’t mean that as a totally disparaging label: this book is not for ego-stroking or navel-gazing. I only mean that there is nothing crucial about it. We live in a memoir culture. The fact that Larry did a number of significant things that continue to resonate with people automatically creates an audience and “demand” for his recollections. As a lifelong writer and someone who—to his credit—has audited his personal achievements fairly accurately, Livermore gives interested parties plenty of contextual gristle to chew on in Spy Rock Memories, as well as insight into an alternative way of living (off the grid with a grow operation in the woods behind the house), the flavor of which seems fairly particular to the rural pot-infested counties north of the Bay.
Breezing through his years up the mountain, Livermore takes us through the inception and execution of his multiple projects and introduces many of the supporting characters candidly and impressionistically: Judi Bari, Green Day, Tim Yohannon, Bruce Anderson (of the legendary Anderson Valley Advertiser), David Hayes, Anne (his girlfriend and roommate for the first few years), his many pets, and more. Ben Weasel makes a cameo at a local fair. Mostly, Larry is concerned with his own involvement and efforts, although he gives credit where credit is due. Other small parts are played by the issues, both social and political, of the time and place: ‘90s environmental activism, DIY punk, homeschooling (a common practice in Mendocino county), and the ethical considerations of shooting a bear are all subject to Larry’s muscled and well-tempered opinions. No topic addressed by Larry in the book could accuse him of not giving it a fair shake, although one gets the impression that this is only because Larry has a lot of practice at having a lot of opinions and has learned how to properly forge them. Probably he learned this through trial and error—as he’s seemingly learned most things in his life—and this book serves as his account of what that learning process looks like. To that end, this book is instructive and informative to a point—the point at which we learn the real lesson: that we should all be setting out and taking our own risks, to undergo a similar process, to know not to be scared of the trial by fire. –Dave Brainwreck (dongiovannirecords.com)