Greg Ginn, Henry Rollins, and Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag
One of the hallmarks of punk rock has been its imperative to record its own history as it happens. Zines and independent magazines have been integral to the scene from the start, and in those pre-internet days they were often a lifeline to a community you felt a solidarity with, even if you were the only punk in your town. That being said, We Got Power!: Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California is one of the most thorough and lush compendiums of any punk movement.
David Markey and Jordan Schwartz started the ‘zine We Got Power! in 1981 in southern California as teens. At a time and a place when punk music felt both anachronistic and oddly incongruous with the California surfer culture, they played in and documented the bands that defined an entire wave of punk rock. The sophistication of the photography is singularly intimate, and the accompanying essays give a naked accounting of the moment. It includes every issue, plus retrospective essays from the likes of Black Flag’s Henry Rollins, Mike Watt of Minutemen, and The Adolescents’ Tony Adolescent (who, by the way, is now an elementary school teacher and autism advocate). The mood is analytical and historical, without any nostalgic sentimentality or bitterness. As a child of the 80s, this was always the music I swiped from my friends’ cool older brothers, and it’s strange to look at the pictures and see them looking so fresh-faced and young here. It’s even more affecting to read their reflections on that youth.
It looks (and feels) like a coffee table book, but We Got Power! is a primary historical document with forwards by the subjects, themselves. Zines like this have allowed us to be our own historians, and that’s so incredibly meaningful. Because, who else can you trust?
Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies: punks raising punks