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The Devil You Know: A History of 70s LA Punk

Updated: Jan 11

A history of Darby Crash, 70s LA Punk and the Germs

To many, the Germs were the epitome of drugged-out, nihilistic no-talent punk rockers. To others, Darby Crash was a tortured genius who was meant to die young and tragically. The truth lies somewhere in the middle as it usually does. One way to get to that truth, if you’re a devoted Germs fan or simply interested in rock history, is to read Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Germs

It’s quite possible that the notoriety of 70s LA punk band, The Germs, eclipses their musical output. More people were influenced by the band than actually saw them play. They were known for their raw and aggressive sound, and they played a significant role in the early punk scene. Darby Crash was the charismatic and enigmatic frontman of the Germs. Darby Crash was a unique and troubled figure, known for his distinctive stage presence and provocative lyrics.

Darby Crash entered the world as Jan Paul Beahm on September 26, 1958, in Los Angeles, California. He died on December 7, 1980, at the age of 22 of an intentional heroin overdose. The day before John Lennon was murdered, an event that vastly overshadowed Darby’s suicide.

Crash formed The Germs in 1977 with guitarist Pat Smear, bassist Lorna Doom, and drummer Don Bolles. The band became known for their chaotic and intense live performances, fueled by Crash's charismatic and unpredictable stage presence.

Darby Crash was a complex and troubled individual, often struggling with drug addiction and personal issues. He had a rebellious and provocative persona, and his lyrics often explored themes of alienation, disillusionment, and societal criticism.

His death marked the end of The Germs, but the band's impact on the punk rock genre and the underground music scene continues to be recognized and influential to this day.

Live Fast Die Young

Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs is edited by Brendan Mullen (1949-2009) who has himself an influential figure in the Los Angeles punk rock scene as a music promoter and founder and owner of The Masque club in Hollywood. While Mullen was primarily known for his involvement in the music industry, he didn't author any books himself. However, he contributed to the writing and documentation of punk rock history through interviews, articles, and his involvement with various publications and media outlets. Germs drummer Don Bolles along with Adam Parfrey chronicles the life and legacy of Darby Crash, the lead singer of the punk band The Germs.

The book provides a detailed and in-depth exploration of Darby Crash's upbringing, his involvement in the punk scene, and his impact on the music world. It delves into Crash's complex personality, his charismatic stage presence, and his struggles with drug addiction and personal demons.

Lexicon Devil also delves into the formation and trajectory of The Germs as a band, including their raw and aggressive musical style, their chaotic live performances, and their significant influence on the punk rock genre. The book examines the band's relationships with other prominent figures in the punk scene and their interactions with the Los Angeles music community.

Throughout the book, the authors aim to provide a comprehensive portrait of Darby Crash, shedding light on his motivations, creative process, and the challenges he faced. "Lexicon Devil" is considered a valuable resource for fans of punk rock, providing a deeper understanding of the era and the influential figures that shaped it.

The Germs crashed and burned well before I discovered punk rock. The LA punk scene in the 1970s has been documented in a number of books and the Germ’s story was even made into a movie. Of course, we all know that Pat Smear would get a career boost (to put it mildly) when Kurt Cobain asked him to join Nirvana. He is also an on-again-off-again member of Foo Fighters. Before all that, however, there were the Germs.


Lexicon Devil: The Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs from the RoosterCow Store.

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