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Punk Flyers from 1977 Los Angeles
Essay by artist, Mark Vallen

I collected, and created, some of these flyers from concerts I attended during the late 70's and early 80's.

THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION was filmed in 1979 and 1980, and still stands as one of the best documentary films about LA's early punk scene. While working at SLASH magazine I was lucky to meet the film's producer, Penelope Spheeris, and I became marginally involved in the production of her film (I produced the subtitles that appeared onscreen). I also created some of the promotional posters and flyers for the film's release. I slapped together the 5 x 8 inch flyer at right which was used to advertise the movie's run in Hollywood. THE DECLINE featured live concert performances with Catholic Discipline, The Alice Bag Band, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Germs, Fear, and X.

Flyer designed by Mark Vallen
Flyer designed by Mark Vallen
Flyer designed by Mark Vallen
Flyer designed by Mark Vallen
Black Flag - Hong Kong Cafe
Black Flag - Hong Kong Cafe
BLACK FLAG were one of LA's first punk outfits, and their concerts were always riotous affairs. Early on they issued flyers featuring the artworks of Raymond Pettibone, a fellow whose nervous pen and ink drawings mirrored the disturbed angst of the band. This particular drawing features a pair of conservative parents throwing their punk daughter out of the house, with the angry father yelling: "Let your peculiar Hollywood friends take care of you!" The flyer advertised a concert at the infamous Hong Kong Cafe, a venue in LA's historic "Chinatown" district where many punk bands played.

THE CIRCLE JERKS epitomized southern California's loud, fast, and angry sound, and artist Shawn Kerry did quite a few terrific flyers for the band. This one advertised a 1981 concert at the California State University of Northridge, featuring the BAD BRAINS, CIRCLE ONE, and PUBLIC NUISANCE. Kerry's humorous graphics gave an insider's look at the punk scene, showing punkers slam dancing, drinking, rioting, and otherwise engaged in "good clean fun." Kerry also created remarkable images for the bands D.O.A. and the GERMS.

Flyer for a 1981 Circle Jerks concert
Flyer for a 1981 Circle Jerks concert
Flyer for a 1977 Concert at the Masque
Flyer for a 1977 Concert at the Masque
THE MASQUE was LA's very first punk rock club, opening in 1977. Located in a back alley basement on a run down Hollywood street, the club featured all of LA's best punk bands. This flyer advertised a benefit concert for Flipside Magazine (one of LA's first punk zines), featuring the DICKIES, SKULLS, BAGS, GERMS, EYES, and the surrealist ARTHUR J AND THE GOLD CUPS. Artist X-8 created this flyer using a photo of one of Hollywood's first punks, a female Masque regular named Trudy (she's holding an early issue of Flipside). X-8 created the logo for Flipside and was of the publication's original founders.

THE AVENGERS were one of San Francisco's original punk bands. This flyer advertised a MASQUE sponsored concert that took place at Bace's Music Hall in Hollywood. After the Masque had closed in 1979, punk clubs sprouted up like fungus all across LA. Most were storefronts or shabby halls rented out for a weekend, Bace's being one such venue. The AVENGERS were one of the first punk bands from SF, and their highly political lyrics and aggressive sound made them one of my favorite groups. Their vocalist was a beautiful young woman named Penelope Houston (shown in the flyer). Before breaking up in '79, the band released an album that was produced by ex-Sex Pistol, Steve Jones.

Avengers at Bace's Hall
Avengers at Bace's Hall
Germs - Black Flag - Middle Class
Germs - Black Flag - Middle Class
THE GERMS played with MIDDLE CLASS and BLACK FLAG at this 1979 Hong Kong Cafe concert. An anonymous artist used a photo of a mental hospital patient combined with the type: "A law unto themselves." The caption to the photo reads: "All designed to give people a better understanding of some major problems of contempory life." As you might imagine, the tiny little venue exploded that night.

X was one of the first Los Angeles punk bands, and they swiftly gained international notoriety with their bone crunching melodies and unique LA take on things. More than any other band, X helped focus the world's attention on LA as the center of the punk movement in the US. This 1980 flyer appeared soon after the release of the band's first album on SLASH Records, and it announced two nights of concerts with Chicano punkers, The Brat.

1980 Flyer for X and the Brat
1980 Flyer for X and the Brat
Germs - Whiskey
Germs - Whiskey
THE GERMS were LA's most controversial band. The outfit fronted by Darby Crash embodied all of the rage, nihilism, and chaotic energy of the early LA punk scene. Having attended most of their "performances" I can personally attest that their concerts were more like riots than anything else. Crash would wail and thrash around with unbelievable abandon, and the band would cripple it's audience with an unrelenting cacophony of punk noise. This terrific flyer by an anonymous artist announced a set of concerts the band played at the Whisky a Go Go. The artwork shows a group of authoritarian looking fans wearing Germs armbands. The small headline in the upper left corner reads:"What God means to me..."

THE WEIRDOS were one of LA's first punk bands. I became aware of the LA punk scene in 1977 while walking down Hollywood Blvd. and seeing flyers like the one at right posted to telephone poles. The WEIRDOS certainly lived up to their name. The sound of their music was razor sharp and threatening, but with a tinge of comedic madness. The band combined their inflammatory sound with dada aesthetics, and their bizarre on-stage behavior and dress made you actually wonder if they were sane. The band's graphics also presented surrealist images that were strange and impenetrable. This flyer for a 1977 concert at the Whisky presents photos of the band members, their bodies punctured by shards of broken glass.

Flyer for the Weirdos at the Whiskey, 1977
Flyer for the Weirdos at the Whiskey, 1977
"Decline" poster designed by Mark Vallen
"Decline" poster designed by Mark Vallen

THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION opened in Hollywood in 1981, but not before the city was plastered with thousands of these ominous posters.

I created the simple design for the film's director, Penelope Spheeris, and it was wonderful to see the posters stuck all over the dirty streets of Hollywood... truth in advertising at last!

 

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