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A junkie singer, a fatal overdose, and a high-school brainwashing programme. Los Angeles' Germs were the hottest punk band of the late seventies thanks to the charisma of their suicidal singer Darby Crash. Unable to decide if he wanted to be a music biz legend or a cult leader, Crash fell apart under the pressure of his heroin-fuelled lifestyle. CHRISTOPHER OTHEN, author of 'KATANGA 1960-63: MERCENARIES, SPIES AND THE AFRICAN NATION THAT WAGED WAR ON THE WORLD' and 'FRANCO'S INTERNATIONAL BRIGADES: ADVENTURERS, FASCISTS, AND CHRISTIAN CRUSADERS IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR' (amazon.co.uk or amazon.com), examines how a fan of Charles Manson and L Ron Hubbard briefly became the most influential figure in the LA underground.



After you've read this check out my new blog for all kinds of cultural and military weirdness.

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What We Do Is Secret


Mind Games and Germs Burns with Los Angeles Punk Legend Darby Crash (1977-80)



‘One day you’ll pray to me’ – Darby Crash

On 7 December 1980 Darby Crash, lead singer of Los Angeles punk band The Germs, pumped $400 worth of heroin into his arm. He nodded out in the arms of punk groupie Casey Cola, who thought she was part of a suicide pact. Casey woke up the next morning in the embrace of a corpse. Darby had prepared both their hits and intended to go out alone.

The singer wanted immortality. He once said he wanted his fans to worship a statue of him after he died. Bad timing messed up that plan. A few hours after Darby was found by paramedics at Casey Cola’s mom’s house, ex-Beatle John Lennon was shot dead in New York City. The movers and shakers of the LA punk scene paid tribute to the dead Germs vocalist; Rodney Bingenheimer’s Rodney On The Roq radio show alternated Beatles and Germs tracks all night long. Everyone else in America was mourning a much bigger star. The last of Darby Crash’s plans to lead the people had failed.

The Germs were the biggest band on the LA punk scene. They formed early enough (1977) to establish themselves amongst the disaffected teens of the punk scene, were arty enough to appeal to the culture pages of mainstream papers, violent and fast enough to appeal to the new generation of hardcore kids from Orange County who were the future of American punk. On stage Darby Crash slashed himself up with broken glass, got wasted on so many drugs he felt no pain and spat out unintelligible lyrics. Deciphered, his words walked a tightrope between insight and pretentiousness but, at a time when most bands were singing about six packs and hating the police, lines like:

I want toy tin soldiers that can push and shove
I want gunboy rovers that’ll wreck this club
I’ll build you up and level your heads
I’ll run it my way, cold men and politics dead

were a cut above the rest. The Germs were a dynamic live act and classier recorded one, into vandalism, drugs and noise.

Punk bands with self-destructive singers were not unique in a time that worshipped Sid Vicious, no matter how good their lyrics were, but what made The Germs different were the mind games, manipulation and cult weirdness that came with their charismatic front man.

Scientology and School

The seeds of Darby’s punk persona were planted by the idealistically freethinking Californian school system of the 1970s. Both Darby (then plain Jan Paul Boehm) and future Germs guitarist Georg Ruthenberg attended University High School in West LA. In the post-hippy liberalism of the 70s the school authorities decided that what trouble making underachievers like Paul and Georg needed was not discipline but therapy. To provide it Uni High set up an experimental ‘sub school’ called IPS (Innovative Program School) run by a group of teachers heavily influenced by Scientology and Californian self-help ideas.

L Ron Hubbard’s Scientology religion stood halfway between psychotherapy and the occult. It taught that everyone possessed an immortal spirit which could only achieve its true nature by freeing itself of the emotional encumbrances of the past through counselling (‘auditing’). Californians who found that just too weird could try self-help programmes like EST (Erhard’s Seminar Teaching), a combative offshoot of the Human Potential movement in which participants were broken down by aggressive psychotherapy techniques, allegedly enabling them to shed societal inhibitions and create a new, more successful personality. At University High School these beliefs were used both as teaching tools to get IPS’s rebels through their exams and as the basis for experimental lessons like Rhetoric classes, which were equal parts Scientology and hippy mysticism.

IPS’s off the wall approach was tolerated because it functioned as a holding pen for gifted but troubled students who caused too much trouble on the main campus. In return for quarantining problem pupils IPS teachers were allowed to use them as guinea pigs for experiments in group therapy and dismantling perceived societal values. This was California in the seventies, after all.

The students put up with the mind games because IPS’s hippy values allowed them to pick their own grades. If you played along it was impossible not to graduate. Those who conformed found the school a liberal playpen with cutting edge therapy thrown in for free. Those who didn’t saw it as an authoritarian system which confrontationally trespassed into the minds of vulnerable teens.

At 16 both Darby and best friend Georg were causing enough trouble in Uni High main school to be sent off to the dilapidated bungalows of IPS. They were heavy drug users (introduced to each other at 12 by their speed dealer) who did enormous amounts of LSD thanks to a free connection Darby had. Georg went through an intense Christian period from 13-15, running away from home and living in a commune before recanting. Both were heavily into glitter (ie. glam) rock and Darby was obsessed with David Bowie.

Mind Games

At IPS Darby first realised his power to manipulate people. After a gruelling orientation in which students had bring along at least one parent for sessions in which they were verbally abused by the teachers and refused bathroom breaks Darby and Georg discovered that IPS’s new way of teaching was, in Georg’s words ‘a bunch of hippie mumbo-jumbo thrown into the Scientology/EST bullshit’ in which ‘the teachers were attempting to brainwash us, while teaching us brainwashing techniques’.

The large amounts of acid the two friends were doing gave them some immunity to the teachers’ methods. But it took a lot of drugs for teenage boys not to fold up in embarrassment at a lesson in which the teacher threw bibles to the class while saying ‘Here cock’ (to the boys) and ‘Here cunt’ (to the girls) or another where students had to act like members of the opposite sex in front of their classmates.

Every morning during ‘basic training’ all 300 students would pair off in the main hall and stare into their partner’s eyes without saying or doing anything. In ‘frame’ lessons (intended to provide the framework for the students’ beliefs) this would be expanded using Scientology techniques of cause and effect. TR0 (the initials stood for Training Routine) was, according to fellow student Will Amato, maintaining ‘a Zen-like indifference to an object’. By TR9 ‘you’re saying, “Please touch that wall,” and you are grabbing their hand and yanking them to a wall, and pushing their hand up to the wall, and then you look at them and say, “Thank you”’.

Paul Roessler, later in punk band The Screamers, thought ‘if you were an intellectual with an open mind, IPS was really enlightening’. He also compared some elements to Korean prisoner-of-war brainwashing. Students were allowed to say anything to the teachers (and were occasionally obliged to listen to them describing their sexual fantasies in the name of openness) but were not allowed to question them. The teachers were always right.

Darby, highly intelligent and fried on acid, began to thrive in the manipulative and intellectually fertile atmosphere of IPS. He and Georg took acid with the Math teacher and established themselves as top dogs with their school mates. Darby was soon treated with respect, and a little fear, by the teaching staff because of his brilliance in Rhetoric classes – an IPS speciality, defined as controlling reality with words. Rhetoric meant winning arguments but had nothing to do with truth.

Another Scientology influence was the intense importance given to the exact meanings of words and any word the pupils were not precisely sure of had to be looked up in the dictionary. ‘There are 26 meanings for the word “the”, and I like to know exactly what they mean’, Darby later said. He used his rhetoric skills on teachers, leading them into complex discussions on morality and the nature of reality. The Rhetoric teacher Fred Holby, well respected if not liked, said Darby could ‘manipulate reality like us’.

Years later not much remains of Darby’s early teenage attempts at psychology and the few memories are standard classroom tricks. IPS allowed students to create their own classes so Darby announced he had created a sewing class.

Fred Holtby: 'When are you going to start sewing?’
Darby: ‘Right now.’
F H: ‘How are you going to do that?’
Darby: ‘So?’
F H: ‘What do you mean? I don’t understand you?’
Darby: ‘So?’

And so on. Another time he and friends drove past the house of an IPS student with very strait laced parents and shouted: ‘Tracy’s on acid!’ with predictable results. Sometimes he disrupted lessons or the fragile mental states of fellow classmates by continually asking ‘What makes you think so?’ in response to any statement.

Darby was finally thrown out of IPS in 1976 when he was 18 for creating his own religion – the Inter Planetary School. His friends (increasingly followers, mostly rebellious misfits) took it up as a joke but through aggressive IPS rhetoric Darby ‘convinced’ some of the more vulnerable pupils he was God and Georg was Jesus. IPS agreed to let him graduate if he never talked to any members of the school again.

By this time Darby was reading (or claiming to read) books like ‘Decline of the West’ by Oswald Spengler, ‘This Spake Zarathustra’ by Nietzsche, ‘Mein Kampf’ by Hitler and ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley. He was particularly interested in books on Charles Manson like ‘The Family', and ‘Helter Skelter’, trying to understand how a short, ageing hippy with a long criminal record could have wielded such power over his followers. Darby and Pat carried copies of ‘Helter Skelter’ around claiming it was their Bible. The actions of the family in the wake of Manson’s trial became a big influence, especially the symbolic Xs that Family members cut between their eyes. This idea of scarred identity later led to the ‘Germs burn’.

After leaving school and half heartedly attending another college Darby, still living at his mom’s house, threw himself into the LA teen scene. There were long hours with Georg and his girlfriend Pleasant Graham in Darby’s blacked out room, wasted on Quaaludes, talking about the occult or dream interpretation or holding Pleasant upside down so she could stamp her muddy feet on the ceiling then telling his confused mom he’d just been walking around. They hung out in the parking lot record swap meet at Capitol Records or the Music Odyssey shop and met Iggy Pop. They became friends with Joan Jett, lesbian leader of the Runaways, and were the first to jump straight in when the punk tidal wave started by the Sex Pistols hit California.

Darby constantly tried to manipulate friends into recognising him as someone special. Some of it was usual teen stuff. When he was separated from his friends at a Peter Frampton concert and found at home when they returned Darby claimed he saw the whole show from backstage and somehow (he wouldn’t say how) got back before them. One time he decided to try sleep deprivation for a week as an experiment and had his circle of friends ring him through the night to check he was still awake. He always was.

In Will Amato’s opinion ‘he was actually asleep, but was primed so he could seem awake when the phone rang. But I know people who called him at four AM, and he had music on, was watching TV and could talk about what he was watching, so who knows?’

Punk

When punk hit California in 1977 Darby and Georg became faces in the emerging LA punk scene of teen runaways, underage groupies like Gerber (a 'jizz-pot’ in her own words), bored suburban white kids, and the genuinely disturbed. With a new scene came new names. Darby was now Bobby Pyn because it sounded like an English punk name and Georg became Pat Smear after an embarrassing period calling himself Je’tah. The pair started a fake band called Sophistifuck and the Revlon Spam Queens, and in the anyone-can-do-it, no talent necessary world of early punk found themselves on stage as The Germs with the addition of bassist Lorna Doom (aka Theresa Ryan) and various drummers. After shambolic early gigs they tightened up and self-produced a single, ‘Forming’:

I the Emperor proclaim
Us the masters we rule this game
Inclination – somethin’ to dream on
Depravation – we are sons

that ended with Darby in one speaker critiquing the band’s performance in the other and announcing it so bad he quit.

Permanent drummer Don Bolles (aka Jimmy Giorsetti), part of a dark group of transplanted Arizona gorehounds that included later Gun Club bassist Rob Ritter, steadied the line up and The Germs took off. Among the rapid fire sequence of gig riots, increasing popularity, film appearances, and record deals in 1978, Bobby Pyn became Darby Crash, naming himself after one of his own lyrics – ‘I’m Darby Crash/ a social blast’. The Germs were the biggest punk draw around.

When he wasn’t wasted on drugs, slicing his chest up on stage, or pining silently for a pretty punk boy Darby gave serious thought to the idea of a cult. He had long talks with KK Barrett, drummer of the Screamers, about the concept of religion as a business – like Scientology. Politics also interested him. His interviews of the time are full of quasi-fascistic ideas.

‘We don’t believe in politics at all,’ he told Upsetter fanzine. ‘We’re fascists. We don’t believe in anything that’s existing. Everyone else has tried them, and nothing has ever worked. So either you’ve got to throw it all away and start with something completely new, or keep on going, playing the game, knowing it’s not going to work. We were thinking of being communists like the Dils [another, more political punk band], but they aren’t communists anyways’. Others were told ‘We’re not into anybody except for me. And I speak for me’ or ‘The ideal leader would be …. me’.

The Germs weren’t Nazis (Pat Smear’s mother was black and prominent fans were Jewish) but there is debate about what their lead singer meant by Fascism. Drummer Don Bowles dismissed it as ‘stupid rock platitudes’ but Paul Roessler thought Darby knew ‘exactly what it meant’.

Darby’s hero David Bowie had told Playboy in 1976 that he believed ‘very strongly in fascism. The only way we can get rid of the sort of liberalism that’s hanging foul in the air at the moment is to speed up the process of a right wing, totally dictatorial tyranny and get it over as fast as possible’.

Circle One

Darby cultivated an aloof asexuality, but underneath was a confused bisexual drawn mostly to men. Despite this, his charisma had always appealed strongly to women. Some of The Germs most fanatical followers were female. Darby christened them Circle One and appointed himself their Charles Manson-like guru.

Circle One began as old friends from IPS who cheered on the band at early shows but soon crystallised around a small group of young women, often well-off Jewish girls from the suburbs, who idolised Darby and wanted to take care of him. They fought amongst themselves but were even more vicious towards usurpers trying to get close. They became the inner grouping of Circle One, responsible for bringing in others.

Circle One’s name came from a symbol Darby created for The Germs - a blue circle on a black background which he and other band members sometimes wore as armbands on stage. The circle had its origins in Darby’s claimed reading of Spengler’s ‘Decline of the West’. Spengler advanced the theory that human history was circular rather than linear, with cultures being born, peaking and declining before others took over and went through the same cycle. Darby applied this obliquely to personal issues – ‘Everything works in circles. Sometimes you’re doing something and then like a year later, it seems like you’re doing something else, but you’re back at the same point. It’s really hard to explain’ or ‘You know, like, something you've done maybe eight years ago, but all of a sudden it feels like you're at exactly the same place doing the same thing?’ Pat thought the circle came about simply because Darby had blue eyes.

A more permanent symbol that originated in Circle One and spread amongst other fans was the Germs burn. This was a cigarette burn on the inside of the wrist on the bone where it would leave a circular scar. Only those who had a burn could give it to others. Darby told Flipside magazine ‘Over 200 people have them, even in San Francisco. You only get one from someone who has one’. Some female Germs followers initiated new found fans by clipping their hair short and ceremonially giving them a burn. One girl with a history of prostitution slept with new recruits before the burn – all for Darby.

‘I completely control a number of people’s lives,’ he said.

Circle One existed just to serve Darby. If you were prepared to give him anything he wanted then you were in. According to Germs manager Nicole Panter, ‘Darby used to make people do things, just because he could. Like he'd order one girl to take off a bracelet and give it to another girl, or he'd say, “Gimme that button,” “Gimme that shirt,”' “Gimme a beer,” and five little girls from Beverly Hills would run and get it for him’. Darby’s gimme gimme routine became an integral of his public image. It even turned up in The Germs’ first professional single. ‘Lexicon Devil’ –

I’m a lexicon devil with a battered brain
And I’m lookin’ for a future – the world’s my aim
So gimme gimme your hands – gimme gimme your minds
Gimme gimme your hands – gimme gimme your minds
Gimme gimme this - gimme gimme tha-a-a-a-t

with a propaganda poster of Hitler on the cover and a typical piece of punk outrage (never used) in its proposed advertisement – ‘Six Million Jews Can’t Be Wrong’.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about Circle One. Brendan Mullen, owner of The Masque, an underground bunker used as gig and rehearsal space that was the playpen of LA punk until the police shut it down, said ‘The dreaded "Gimme two dollars . . . Gimme a ride to the Whisky . . . Gimme a ride home" was the Klaxon from hell around a scene that saw a series of suggestible, often overweight women openly competing for the attentions of an emotionally unavailable, alcohol-soaked LSD-guru-cum-glitter-rock-wraith while picking up his tab for booze, drugs, gas, food and shelter’.

Terry Graham, drummer of The Bags and later the Gun Club, was contemptuous of Circle One followers – ‘I have no Germs burn personally administered by Darby Crash. I am not the victim of any mind control. I could never quite understand what the deal was with this Darby Crash guy. Sheep-like people, the followers, wanted to think that he was something he wasn’t … maybe the blind seek out the blind, who the fuck knows?’

Slash magazine journalist Claude Bessy got a Germs burn but wasn’t interested in the cultish aspects. ‘He said, “Bessy, the Germs burn?” I said, “Okay, give me the fucking Germs burn, but cut out the fucking pseudo-philosophy crap’. Alice Bag, lead singer of the Bags, got into a fistfight with Darby over his insistence that people needed to be led.

Away from Circle One Darby continued to manipulate people (and his own image) the way he had since IPS. One time, freshly introduced to someone, he pushed an object into their mouth with the words, ‘You are what you eat’. The object turned out to be an inch high plastic model of a baby. A favourite trick was to empty black beauty amphetamine capsules at home and swallow handfuls of the gelatine shells in front of strangers, leaving them astonished he hadn’t OD’ed. He took enough drugs for real and shot up water from a dirty puddle in the street when he couldn’t get any. When not wasted on drugs Darby could be obnoxious, as he showed in interviews on Rodney Bingenheimer’s Rodney On The Roq radio show –

Rodney B: ‘Here’s James Brown on the ROQ' [Plays ‘Soulful Christmas’]
Darby: 'Nicole, go get me a beer, this is the longest ad in fucking history'
RB: ‘And then we heard “Bleached Black” by James White and the Blacks; and we heard “Soulful Christmas” by James Brown …'
Darby: ‘Awful Christmas …’
RD: ‘So what does each person play?’
Darby: ‘I play hard to get’

Sometimes he invited the entire audience at a Germs show out for a burger at the Oki Dog (a West Hollywood Japanese burger place, the Oki Dog speciality was a burrito/hot dog combination, heavy on chilli and cheese, that could strip paint off a wall).

There was no program for Circle One, no meetings (except regular, stoned inner group gatherings at Darby’s mom’s house), no publications, no announcements, and no direction. It was just a large group of young people who cared for Darby, or the Germs’ music, enough to be permanently scarred on their wrists and give him whatever he wanted. Many regarded his lyrics as genius. To some outsiders Circle One looked like a punk Manson family of untapped potential ready to go wherever Daby took them.

Spoilt by Success

But the plane was downed before it took off. If Darby ever had any plans for Circle One they were never obvious. He wore the circle armband in photo shoots or on stage and the 1979 Germs album GI (‘Germs Incognito’) brought in more Circle One converts, but with punk fame across California Darby’s life changed. He moved out of his mom’s house and the acid gave way to heroin. His friendship with openly gay men like Regi Mentle (later sentenced to life for murder in 1981) and John E Valium encouraged him to explore gay relationships, but more often that not these turned into unfulfilling love triangles in which he and punk princess Gerber fought over underage bisexual rent boys like Donnie Rose or confused surfer dudes like Rob Henley.

Circle One, particularly the female inner grouping, were not allowed to see his sexual problems (many did not know about the boyfriends until after his death) and would not help him to get heroin. He turned to people outside the group, like Amber, a divorced older woman who bought him drugs and had a troubled sexual relationship with him.

All the problems added up and The Germs were an increasingly less fun band to be in as far as all four members were concerned. Many female fans were put off by the emergence of the hardcore scene from Orange County, typified by bands like Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, and TSOL (True Sounds Of Liberty). Hardcore was fast, brutal and macho. If you were a troubled teenage boy with anger and testosterone to spare then it was the answer to your dreams. Some of the music was great, some terrible but it stamped down on the experimental, anything goes style of early LA punk and replaced it with a noise that operated within strict parameters. The hardcore crowd loved The Germs because they were fast and loud, and Darby Crash bled onstage but violence at shows increased to the point were many girls refused to attend. The Circle One crowd saw less and less of their idol.

Whatever Darby’s feelings about the scene, The Germs were on a roll. In 1980 they contributed the track ‘Lion’s Share’ to the soundtrack of the Al Pacino gay movie ‘Cruising’. They were going mainstream without compromising.

It was all over by the Summer. Darby and Amber went on an extended trip to London (paid for by Amber) in May. Before he left Darby sacked The Germs’ drummer Don Bolles. No-one was sure why but Bolles claimed it was because he wore dress onstage in one of his jokey side bands, triggering something in Darby’s repressed psyche. Pat Smear thought it was the whole concept of jokey side bands that annoyed Darby. Tony the Hustler (a male prostitute and Darby’s ex-boyfriend) thought Bolles was just too much of a smart aleck. The easiest answer is that Darby wanted Bolles out so he could get his current crush, Rob Henley, onto the drum stool. It destroyed The Germs. Henley couldn’t drum and the one rehearsal Pat and Lorna Doom held with him while Darby holidayed in London was a disaster. The band broke up.

Darby told Rodney Bingenheimer that he didn’t bust the band up, ‘it just fell apart’. Initially he didn’t seem worried. He returned from London obsessed by Adam & the Ants, with a Mohican cut (given by Jordan, Malcolm McLaren’s assistant). LA scenesters didn’t know what to make of him. Claude Bessey thought ‘He was cool when he went to England, but when he came back he looked a fucking idiot – he had a fucking Mohawk’. The Ants would later be synonymous with pantomime pop but at the time were an edgier proposition with transgressive lyrics ('Whip in My Valise', 'Puerto Rican') and a musical attack somewhere between punk, new wave, and rock. Their influence could have provided a new direction for Darby but LA's lack of enthusiasm rocked his confidence. He was soon drinking heavily and doing increasing amounts of heroin. Circle One had lost its centre with the end of The Germs and only the inner core stayed loyal to Darby.

The short lived Darby Crash Band were nothing special and failed to get off the ground, Darby even drafting in Pat Smear to shore it up. The band’s demise was accelerated by the fact he couldn’t write new material and the sound was tired. The abortive and embarrassing failure of his solo career tarnished Darby’s image even more. The Mohican was copied by some fans but it was no compensation for the fact that the LA punk scene regarded him as a has-been at twenty-two. He and Amber drifted apart. He became close to punk groupie Casey Cola, annoying the remnants of Circle One, and moved into a large house with her and a revolving cast of LA punks.

Unexpectedly The Germs reformed for a one-off gig at the beginning of December. It was legendarily good, all the band members burying the hatchet and Darby in great form. The flyer for the show was a Mohicaned skull tearing through the Germs’ circle. Darby was the main mover behind the reformation. ‘Darby was very specific about where and how he was going to kill himself,’ Pat Smear said years later. ‘When we were rehearsing for the reunion show he said, “The only reason I’m doing this is get money to get enough heroin to kill myself with.” He’d said that so many times I just said: “Oh, right …” and didn’t think about it any more’.

Darby had told people for as long as anyone could remember that he would die young. In an interview with No Magazine in 1979 he said ‘I'm not going to save up for my old age because I'm not going to have an old age. If we run out of money, I can always kill myself’. Most people took it as part of the punk star routine. ‘In almost every interview he said that he would never be old, that he was going to kill himself,’ remembered Bolles. In the days after The Germs reunion the threat seemed serious enough that a group of his older friends began making plans for an intervention. It was too late.

Suicide

On 7 December Darby Crash and Casey Cola decided to kill themselves with heroin overdoses after a wretched evening during which Darby fought with Gerber over Ron Henley and the pair failed to get into a party at Victoria Sellers’ house.

‘It was one of those nights when everything goes wrong, you know?’ Casey said. She talked about the motivation for the suicide in a way that echoed Darby’s reasoning behind the Germs’ circle symbol. ‘When you’re trying to put things together and you’re really trying, and then things fuck up for the way they’ve been fucking up for the last 10 years, or 15 years, or 22, you know, you just finally lose it; you lose conception of how much better tomorrow might be – that becomes the moment when you want to die’.

They stole $400 worth of rent money from their roommates and bought heroin, then went back to Casey’s mom’s house. Darby wrote a suicide note, leaving ‘my life my leather my love’ to his most recent boyfriend and shot them both up.

In the aftermath of Darby Crash’s death Circle One was reduced to a small group of women blaming each other for not saving him. Petty grudges were settled as individuals were banned from his funeral. The wider world mourned John Lennon and even some within the scene were not impressed by Darby’s sudden exit.

‘He died dramatically enough as a martyr but he picked the wrong day to die,' said Kim Fowley, sixties musician and unwilling godfather to LA punk. 'That just makes him a jackoff fuckboy doesn’t it? Now we can all jack off to the futility of his life as the art form’.

Darby’s most permanent legacy was the Germs’ music, still selling today. A biopic was made of his life in 2007. Darby’s manipulation and mind games vanished with him leaving only memories of immature conversations about political philosophy and the fanaticism of Circle One. At its height Circle One amounted to a small inner group of women and a few men who lived for Darby, a wider group of devoted fans for whom he was a vital part of their lives but who would have felt the same about another figure if he hadn’t existed, and a larger group of people who liked the band, scene or extremeness of it all without buying permanently into Darby’s philosophy or star status.

It is clear Darby wanted followers rather than fans but his ideas, however eclectic or esoteric, were not mature enough to provide a coherent direction. His techniques of manipulation did not evolve much past intimidating teachers at IPS and for every wide-eyed punk fan whose love of The Germs’ music or desire to save Darby from himself made them ideal subjects for control, there was another who was not shy about declaring the whole thing pretentious pseudo-intellectual garbage.

Circle One’s most lasting impact is the Germs burn, still carried by hundreds of people. It functions the way Darby intended, as Pat explains – ‘It was his idea of something permanent, so that in ten years you’d be at the supermarket, and some lady would give you change, and you’d see the burn and make a connection’.

You can buy t-shirts with the circle logo on E-Bay. More people listen to Darby’s music now than ever did during his lifetime. Fans may not be praying to him but they are buying his merchandise.

Licensed to drill with the torch in our lives
Walking on shallow water
Progressed to the point of no distinction
Dementia of a higher order –
What we do is secret – secret!

- ‘What We Do Is Secret’



Further Listening & Reading


For some reason this piece gives the impression I prefer The Germs to hardcore greats like Black Flag, Negative Approach, and the Necros. I don't. There must have been a reason for taking that line but I can't remember what it was. I also have a slightly better understanding of Oswald Spengler's theories than this article suggests. Whatever. The best place to start with The Germs is '(MIA): The Complete Anthology' (amazon.co.uk or amazon.com), a CD containing pretty much everything The Germs recorded. You want live? Try 'Germicide: Live at the Whisky, 1977' (amazon.co.uk or amazon.com), a scrappy early set produced by Kim Fowley.

The best account of Darby Crash's life is the oral biography 'Lexicon Devil: The Short Life and Fast Times of Darby Crash and the Germs' (amazon.co.uk or amazon.com) by Masque owner Brendan Mullen, former Germs drummer Don Bolles, and publisher Adam Parfrey. As thorough as they come, although some of Darby's friends hated it, and a good read.

We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk (amazon.co.uk or amazon.com) by Marc Spitz is another oral biography; this one shows the impact the Germs had on the Los Angeles punk scene.

Steven Blush's 'American Hardcore: A Tribal History' (amazon.co.uk or amazon.com)is a great book, if a little sloppy on the facts, about the US hardcore punk scene of the early 80s spawned by the Germs. Radio Silence: A Selected Visual History of American Hardcore Music (amazon.co.uk or amazon.com) extends the hardcore story into the 21st century.



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One Man Army

They Live By The Pen

One Man Army

History

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

History

One Man Army

They Live By The Pen

One Man Army

History

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

History

One Man Army

They Live By The Pen

One Man Army

History

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

History

One Man Army

They Live By The Pen

One Man Army

History

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

History

One Man Army

They Live By The Pen

One Man Army

History

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

History

One Man Army

They Live By The Pen

One Man Army

History

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

History

One Man Army

They Live By The Pen

One Man Army

History

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

History

One Man Army

They Live By The Pen

One Man Army

History

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

History

One Man Army

They Live By The Pen

One Man Army

History

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

History

One Man Army

They Live By The Pen

One Man Army

History

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

Wars

New

Wars

Music

Heists

History

One Man Army

They Live By The Pen


General Franco's International Brigades Book Cover



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