Punk(s) on Film

By Peter SM RSS Wed, June 25, 2014

Walking around the city recently—iPod on, ear buds in my ears, blasting out some tunes—I saw a flier for a punk rock show stapled up on a telephone pole: D.I. Summer Suburbia Tour. "Woah!" I said out loud, and a rush of memories came back to me.

Growing up in a suburban PA podunk town in the 1980s, most of my youth was spent trying to alleviate boredom from the perceived nothingness of my surroundings. Maybe I would throw my Walkman on, blasting out some tunes from a mix tape (some things, indeed, never change), and go down to the 7-11 to get a Slurpee and browse the spinner rack for some new comic books or a MAD magazine. Maybe hop on my bike and ride on over to my friend's house to go exploring in the woods (i.e. smoke cigarettes). But a good majority of my time was spent at my local library checking out and reading books or at walking up and down the isles of my local video store renting movies, mostly in the horror, sci-fi, or (what would today be considered) "cult" section. Maybe you would have heard about a movie from a friend or a friend's older brother, but a lot of times you just picked stuff out because the cover was cool or weird looking.

Enter Suburbia:

The VHS cover was a wild illustration with people (or creatures?!) with wild hair-do's and a cool looking logo. I rented it, brought it home, and watched it all the way through. My television screen showed images of kids my age, but from broken homes, living in squats and on the streets. There was even a kid who had a pet rat (who I would years later make the connection was played by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea)! Music exploded from the tiny tv speaker with bands I had never heard of: T.S.O.L., The Vandals, and a band called D.I., who performed a song named "Richard Hung Himself".

My burgeoning teenage head was kinda blown away.

I watched the video all the way through again. I think I even copied it before returning it. Hopefully the statue of limitations has expired on my unlawful act of punk piracy at this point in time.

Once I saw Suburbia (which we unfortunately do not currently have a copy of in our collections), I would then go on to watch, re-watch, and own a lot of other movies in the "punksploitation" genre: Suburbia director Penelope Spheeris' other major contribution to punk film history, The Decline of Western Civilization (which has sadly never been given an official dvd release) with music from now-legendary bands of the L.A. scene like Black Flag, The Germs, Fear, and X; probably one of my favorite movies of all time and really defies classification, Repo Man (recently added to our ever-growing Criterion Collection of titles in our catalog); Sid and Nancy (another Alex Cox directed film, two years after Repo Man), about the dope-fueled death romance of the Sex Pistols' bass player and his groupie junkie girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Even Captain Kirk and Spock had a run in with a degenerate punk on a bus when they traveled back in time to 1980s San Francisco in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

For a more localized history lesson on punk, check out the new book No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens, with a companion documentary, Riot On The Dancefloor, screening for free this week via Awesome Fest. Having attended some of the shows and events discussed in the book, I can honestly say that City Gardens was as much an influence on my formative years as that first time I watched Suburbia.

Search through our catalog for other punk rock-centric books, movies, and music, choose something just from looking at the cover image, and maybe you'll find something as weird and cool as I did all those years ago.

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How about Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains? I think that's my all-time favorite punk movie. Thanks for an entertaining post!
Saturday, June 28, 2014

Sarah, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains is indeed another great movie in this genre! Finally properly released on dvd not too long ago as well. The Free Library unfortunately does not currently have a copy in our collections : (
Peter SM
Monday, June 30, 2014