We Got Power! Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California, David Markey and Jordan Schwartz, 304 pgs, Bazillion Points Books, bazillionpoints.com, $34.95, $59.95 (with extras)
David Markey and Jordan Schwartz were 16 when they met in suburban LA. Both still in high school, neither could drive, so they hitched rides to shows, immersing themselves in Southern California’s hardcore punk scene. Equipped with a camera and some imagination, Markey and Schwartz created We Got Power, a fanzine published between 1981 and 1983. Thirty years later, We Got Power is back, reprinted in We Got Power! Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California along with around 400 photographs and new essays in the voice of those who were there. The book also features the unreleased sixth issue of the zine.
“We were young, the music was great, and everything was heavy,” writes Black Flag’s Henry Rollins in the introduction. Churning with energy and aggression, youth took to slam pits, plunging into the grimy, dense music of the scene. Markey and Schwartz documented it in We Got Power’s issues, including gig and record reviews, photo collages, and interviews with bands like Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys and D.O.A.
What makes We Got Power! unique is that it isn’t only filled with familiar photographs of seething musicians with microphones in hand and sweat- soaked hair flying wildly. Instead, the most evocative photographs capture the moments before and after shows, showing teens together in backyards, living rooms, and the streets of LA. These candid shots exude the camaraderie of the scene, as punkers drape their arms around one another, holding cigarettes and emptying beer bottles.
A book like this could easily drip with overwrought nostalgia from middle- aged former punkers, but instead, its essays are gritty. The book’s most powerful essay, “We’re a Riot Fight,” eloquently recalls the senseless violence of “punk rock riots” when LAPD officers beat teens.
We Got Power! Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California may seem like a book that’s only ideal for punk- lovers clinging to 1980s nostalgia, but it’s not — it’s equally a tribute to youth culture, and the first tastes of freedom to which everybody can relate. (Jessica Rose)