WE GOT THE NEUTRON BOMB by Mark Sptiz and Brendan Mullen

Book Reviews
WE GOT THE NEUTRON BOMB by Mark Sptiz and Brendan Mullen
Nov 13, 2001, 03:40

WE GOT THE NEUTRON BOMB: THE UNTOLD STORY OF L.A. PUNK by Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen; Three Rivers Press, 2001

Had Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain written this, it would've been called Please Kill Me II: Los Angeles. I mean no disrespect to the authors; it's just that that's exactly what this is—a narrative, compiled of snippets of interviews from the bands, the managers, the club owners, the groupies, the zinesters and others who played a part in the very important but all-to-often overlooked Los Angeles punk scene. (Just cuz the weather's nice doesn't make their punks any less legit.)

Marc Spitz, a writer for Spin, and Brendan Mullen, the founder of the legendary (and long-defunct) Masque in Hollywood have done a terrific job piecing it all together. The book is loosely arranged in chronological order, beginning with the fall of the glam scene and punk's rise in response to the wretched singer/songwriter schmaltz that dominated Los Angeles in the '70s. And later, the inevitable and depressing death of the scene (thanks to heroin, violence, and MTV) is covered.

Straight from the mouths of the people who lived it—creepy Kim Fowley, Rodney Bingenheimer, Joan Jett, John Doe, Claude Bessey, Lisa Fancher, Tomata du Plenty, Exene Cervenka, Pleasant Gehman, Jane Wiedlin, Kid Congo, Keith Morris, Gary Panter, and many others--We Got the Neutron Bomb fills a gaping hole in a category containing books on virtually every scene, movement, and band. Up until now, the only book I've come across that is similar is Forming: The Early Years of L.A. Punk (Smart Art Press, 1999). It's good, but it is just a collection of photographs loosely tied together with a couple of fairly interesting essays from a couple of the major players. Actually, Forming makes a great visual companion to We Got the Neutron Bomb, which could've used some more photos.

The book is not without problems. The most glaring and particularly hideous of them is the Cast of Characters section at the back of the book. It seems to be missing about a quarter of the speaking characters and virtually all of the characters that are merely referenced. So, unless you know of absolutely everyone involved in the late '70s early '80s L.A. punk and new wave scene and are just reading this to rehash old memories and good times, you will be lost on several names. Hopefully, this is a mistake that will be remedied by the time of the second printing.

The book, clocking in at fewer than 300 pages, could've been a little longer. It would also benefit from a few more entertaining anecdotes—goofy, funny, and/or disturbing stories about drugs and debauch in general. Please Kill Me had plenty of those and they really added to the over-all enjoyment of the book.

A related beef is that many bands aren't discussed as much as they should be—particularly, Youth Brigade, Social Distortion, and some of the other beach and Orange County bands. Although, in the authors' defense, this could have something to do with a publisher trying to keep the book under budget.

These are minor quibbles. We Got the Neutron Bomb (the title is taken from a song by the Weirdos) is entertaining and informative and certainly anyone reading this magazine is sure to find it interesting.

A side note: the introduction mentions that Pat Smear, Lorna Doom, and Greg Ginn were not willing to work with the authors on this project. I'm curious as to why because it seems that everyone else (who is still alive) was happy to assist.

-Adam Miller

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