Punk on Film
From Marina del Rey Skate Park to the Santa Monica Civic, the photographers who captured music history
By Michael Aushenker
It may not have lasted long, but it sure was loud.
As Los Angeles’ punk rock movement peaked in the late 1970s and early ‘80s, its chaos spilled over into the Westside at now-defunct venues Music Machine and Club 88 as well as the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.
Taking its cues from English punk and East Coast influences, the scene exploded with mayhem for bands and venues alike, as police often faced off with fans, and groups soon ran out of clubs willing to host concerts.
Photographers Ed Colver, Jenny Lens, Gary Leonard and Glen E. Friedman (who chose not to participate in this story) captured artful images within the chaos that helped define L.A. punk for later generations.
“I like all of these people’s work,” said Chuck Dukowski, the original bassist for Black Flag. “Ed did the ‘Damaged’ and ‘Six Pack’ [album] cover shots as well as live and posed shots. He did cool culture, non-band shots of the scene. Glen did some of the best live stuff and some famous posed ones.”
And in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Eric Nakamura picked up the torch to cover the raw energy and turbulence of another wave of punk.
On April 18, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art presented a rare screening of the 1981 L.A. punk documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization,” where Circle Jerks guitarist Glen Hetson (also of Red Kross and Bad Religion) said it was a Feb. 9, 1979, show by The Clash at the Santa Monica Civic that motivated him to go pro.
The sold-out event was a virtual punk rock reunion that included Colver, Dukowski, Hetson, Circle Jerks drummer Lucky Lehrer, Wasted Youth guitarist Chett Lehrer (Lucky’s younger brother, a Marina del Rey resident), X drummer DJ Bonebreak and Fear leader Lee Ving.
“The British and early U.S. groups brought something important [to music],” said Dukowski, a Venice resident. “Minimalism and tight song construction. [Rock] had gotten all rococo and was often emotionally meaningless.”
CLICK ON THE LINKS BELOW TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EACH PHOTOGRAPHER: