‘We Got Power!’ chronicles punk in Southland in ‘80s

We Got Power!
Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California

David Markey and Jordan Schwartz
Bazillion Points: 288 pp., $39.95

When music historians discuss California rock music, the post-punk burst that rocked Southern California in the early 1980s is often washed away by waves of classic surf music. But as “We Got Power! Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California” reminds us, the energy and spirit that explodedin that short span helped define a youth movement still active and vital 30 years later.

The book, by David Markey and Jordan Schwartz, uses as its starting point the L.A. punk zine they started in 1981, We Got Power! The two met in high school and found said power in the budding scene; the teens started interviewing the bands and snapping photos, documenting a grassroots movement that had as its stars bands like Black Flag, Minutemen, Circle Jerks, Urinals, the Gun Club, Descendents, Red Cross, Suicidal Tendencies and dozens of others.

Along with a mix of contributors, the pair published five issues between 1981 ’83, each vital to understanding the birth of American punk rock, and each reprinted in their entirety within. (A sixth, heretofore unpublished issue, is included as well.) Amid hundreds of photos of backyard gigs, bloodied faces, teen angst and ads for long-lost labels (many featuring art by Raymond Pettibon) are the authors’ own recollections. There are also essays by some of the scene’s most vivid documentarians, including Henry Rollins, Keith Morris, Jennifer Schwartz, Joe Carducci and others, making “We Got Power!” an essential addition to the history of a movement.