The Los Angeles punk scene has been documented in a slew of cinematic documentaries and books, including 2016’s Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk co-written by John Doe, who was immersed in the subculture as a founding member of X, and Tom DeSavia, a recovering music journalist-turned-A&R rep.
The book had an atypical format. Eschewing a strict autobiography or interspersing quotes into an oral history, Doe acted as a narrator of sorts, letting his peers share their own thoughts in personal essays. It covered the genesis of the scene in the late 70s through 1982.
Those days were quite a party, but if Doe learned anything, it was that anyone could throw a party. It takes a strong constitution and sense of responsibility to clean up after one.
More Fun in the New World ostensibly serves as a sequel of sorts, picking up in 1982 where the first book left off and running generally through 1987. It uses the same format and in many cases the same authors—Henry Rollins, Dave Alvin from The Blasters, a couple of Go-Go’s, scenester Pleasant Gehman, and music critic Chris Morris return to talk about how things changed over that time.
Many of the stories from the old guard punks speak of former comrades in arms who succumbed to drugs and other pratfalls while recalling how only luck and timely interventions spared them from similar fates. Interestingly, there is a lot of grousing about how commercial success eluded many of them, even if that seems at odds with the romanticized notion of punk rock poets uninterested in such pursuits.
Alvin complains about the many things that derailed The Blasters from breaking through. Sid Griffin wonders about what could have been had label trouble and inter-band turmoil not crippled Long Ryders. Jack Grisham has a brilliant-yet-sad story about the stage-dive in the produce section of the grocery store to impress an old guy who recognized him from his days leading T.S.O.L. Even Doe himself frustratingly recounts how they used a hair metal producer on 1985’s Ain’t Love Grand in a quest to garner an elusive hit (Narrator’s Voice: It didn’t work.)
Meanwhile, artists who had tasted success are also represented with wildly divergent views. Members of The Bangles and Go-Go’s had to rehabilitate after years of excess, while Louis Pérez parlayed the multiplatinum Los Lobos debut How Will the Wolf Survive? into a career of activism and celebration of their Mexican-American heritage.
Los Lobos in a punk portfolio may seem strange, but Los Angeles was a fairly diverse scene from the onset and only got more eclectic when the second wave came along. Represented in More Fun in the New World are ska-punks Fishbone alongside musicians in bands such as The Gun Club, Lone Justice, and Rank and File who pioneered roots punk a few years after X started out but a few decades before The White Stripes and Black Keys were selling out stadiums.
The best contributions in the book actually come from artists who did not achieve fame playing music at all. Skater Tony Hawk, director Allison Anders, graphic designer Shepard Fairey, and actor Tim Robbins all wax eloquently about how they were able to channel the uncompromising attitude and DIY spirit of the 80s music scene in L.A. into their own artistic endeavors.
More Fun in the New World is a warts-and-all look at the second wave of Hollywood punk, an era often forgotten because it was sandwiched between both of the Decline of Western Civilization movies. That alone would be worthwhile, but it’s more so thanks to Doe’s and DeSavia’s ability to let storytellers do what they do best: Tell stories.
Purchase the book through Amazon.