Demonstrating for Quiet Riot, 1979. Photo: Ken Papaleo
As a New Yorker I’ve sometimes asked myself why Los Angeles often didn’t appear to produce as many good musical acts as its size might lead you to expect. This was in the 1990s and after, when the closest answer to “What’s L.A.‘s answer to the Pixies?” might well have been “the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” which isn’t a great answer. My indie-rock bias and physical distance from the L.A. scene aren’t the only factors that would lead me to underrate what the city has produced, another one would be time. If you jump back just a decade or two, L.A.‘s music scene was as vital as anything the country had to offer, what with Minutemen, Black Flag, the Go-Go’s, RHCP, X, and the Dickies, not to mention such hard rock stalwarts as Van Halen, Faster Pussycat, Motley Crüe, and Guns ‘n’ Roses. And that only scratches the surface, as an invigorating new photo exhibition suggests.
Opening yesterday, the Los Angeles Public Library has a remarkable exhibition dedicated to throwing open the library’s Herald Examiner archives (as well as the Gary Leonard collection) for the years 1978 to 1989. The show features iconic shots of talents as diverse as Eddie Van Halen and Eazy-E as well as countless other important vital contributors to the L.A. music scene. At its best, L.A. music possessed a theatricality and immediate legibility that other cities may have lacked. Not sure what exactly that quality was, but the word “glitz” has been used so often to describe L.A. that we’ll just go with that one. And yet glitz had nothing whatsoever to do with the trenchant and incendiary punk of Minutemen or Black Flag or Descendents. Los Angeles is 100 neighborhoods in search of a city, and its music scene reflects that too, in a good way.
The exhibition is called “From Pop to the Pit: LAPL Photo Collection Celebrates the Los Angeles Music Scene, 1978-1989,” and it can be visited at the History & Genealogy Department of the Central Library location at 630 W. 5th Street through June 28. In addition to the acts shown here, the exhibition covers such diverse musical talents as Jetboy, All, the Runaways, Burning Tree, Faster Pussycat, the Nymphs, X, and the Unforgiven.
The show features an attractive catalog that runs a very affordable $13.75 on Amazon.
Dream Syndicate, ca. 1982. Photo: Dean Musgrove
Minutemen, 1983. Photo: James Ruebsamen
The Go-Gos, 1981. Photo: Anne Knudsen
More after the jump…