We Got Power: Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California: By David Markey and Jordan Schwartz, 288 pgs. By Jimmy

Mar 07, 2013

I know it’s been prattled on about a zillion times before, but in this age where getting in contact with someone or finding information pertaining to danged near anything you wanna know about are a mere click away, it’s hard to fathom (or sometimes remember) just how much work it took to find out about a band like, oh, Social Distortion or Hüsker Dü. Schmos who had a yen for something different from Olivia Newton-John or the other crap that permeated the airwaves had to gain access to a remarkably well connected, yet also fairly well concealed network of bands and people who comprised the underground music scene. Sure, one could stumble into the Cathay de Grande, the Vex, Al’s Bar, or some other beer-caked hellhole and end up smack in the middle of the goings-on, but the real key to connectivity, the “web” if you will, was fanzines.

Most fanzines were little more than folded bits of paper with whatever brilliance/inanity the (often teenaged) author and often a cadre of friends could squeeze into every available space, but they nonetheless served to keep interested parties abreast of local goings on and to document the little oases of like-minded kids dotting the planet. We Got Power was one of many fanzines of the time covering Los Angeles/Southern California underground music in the 1980s. Like many of its peers, it was helmed and staffed by cats barely able to legally drive who happened to be neck deep in ground zero of arguably the largest punk scene on the planet.

The zine existed for what might be a mere blip compared to the colossal runs of Flipside or MRR, but they left a lasting impression with both the subsequent work of co-creators Dave Markey (director of The Slog Movie, 1991: The Year Punk Broke and the Lovedolls films, as well as drummer for bands Sin 34 and Painted Willie) and Jordan Schwartz (the man responsible for the first, and best, We Got Power compilation on Mystic Records) and other assorted staffers, and five multi-hued issues of the zine itself.

Each issue is presented here in its entirety, filled with interviews with the heavy hitters and the now-obscure (Black Flag, Circle One, Saigon, Misfits, Wasted Youth, Big Boys, Overkill and more), gig coverage, record reviews, tirades about asshole cops (and I can tell you from personal experience, and with no exaggeration, they were seriously fucked up back then to punks and anyone else who was “different” from the accepted social norm), address lists for other fanzines, gossip, rundowns on mainstream media portrayals of punk rock, even tips on the best pick-up lines, all delivered with humor and no shortage of creativity.

In addition to reprinting the existing issues, Markey and Schwartz also include the detritus of the unfinished “Issue 666”: a shit-ton of photos from their personal collections; and essays from various scenesters, musicians, friends, and former staffers to help provide context and reminiscences about the scene and the zine, folks with names like Rollins, Morris (hell, most of the members of Black Flag’s early lineups weigh in here), McDonald, Carducci, Watt, Tony Cadena/Reflex, Jula Bell, Jennifer Schwartz, Jack Brewer, and so on. When the histories are all written and the guilty parties are all long gone, We Got Power may not be deemed one of the most influential periodicals of the 80s punk era, but it was a fun read, and a great example of how shit got done in the days before “face time” replaced “talking.” You had to do some actual leg work to find the cool stuff going on away from the computer and you didn’t miss experiencing it because you were trying to “capture” it on your fucking phone’s video app. –Jimmy Alvarado (Bazillion Points, 61 Greenpoint Ave. #504, Brooklyn, NY11222)

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