The Germs - Forming/Sex Boy [Single] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Germs

Forming/Sex Boy [Single] (1977)

What? Records

The Germs were kind of like the America Sex Pistols in a way. Not because they sound alike, but because both bands truly didn’t know how to play their instruments and somehow became a huge success. Its important to know just what was going through The Germs’ mind when the Forming/Sex Boy [Single] became a thing. The band had worshipped glam rockers like David Bowie and Roxy Music. They decided to form a band while staking out Freddie Mercury at a motel. Aside from Darby Crash (who went by Bobby Pyn at the time) the band’s bassist and drummer were female. All of this gets factored in when you hear the single because even though it’s regarded as one of Los Angeles first punk record, The glam rock influences on the original version are uncanny.

“Forming” is a simple punk song at best. It’s a perfect example of a Three-chord punk rock song that The Ramones became famous for the year before. While the song is a bit repetitive because of this, it makes the song what it is. The entire rhythm section is extremely in sync with Darby’s vocals follow the guitar riff almost like silk. Its almost as if its easy to tell that Darby Crash had not found his vocal style on their first recording. Known for his more aggressive animalistic styling, the original version of “Forming” finds him trying to emulate a more glam rock persona. He was trying to sing more so then than he did later in the band. If you listen to “Forming” and “Forming 2” back to back, you can hear a more confident Darby Crash in the latter recording. That’s not to say that “Forming” doesn’t showcase his vocals, it’s just that he definitely didn’t find his own voice until later on in the band. Instead he chose to sing the way that his idols had sang in the past.

For a band that had no idea how to play their instruments, the band remains pretty in tune with each other on their earliest recordings. Donna Rhia definitely has a sold grasp as a drummer and definitely knew how to keep the drums just as simple as the guitar part. Donna Rhia replaced Belinda Carlisle on drums after Carlisle was diagnosed with mononucleosis and she ultimately became The Germs prop woman in the earlier days of the band.

The song was recorded on a 2-track reel-to-reel recorder with one microphone for the instruments and one for the vocals. For what the song is, that’s fairly impressive. While the echo on Darby’s voice was completely accidental, it’s no wonder the band kept it in the song given their influences. Overall “Forming” is a staple in The Germs career and laid out the groundwork for the band’s more aggressive later catalog.

The single’s B-side, “Sex Boy” was recorded live at The Roxy during the filming of Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke. The tape recorder was brought in pretty secretively and the song was recorded that night. “Sex Boy” feels like The Germs’ take on The Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs” in a relatively strange way. The riff is a bit grungy which may be due to the quality of the recording. The guitar also has this wavey characteristic that gives it a little more character. It’s hard to describe but if you listen to the song, you can hear what I’m talking about. As Darby Crash usually was under the influence on stage, he sounds like he is on something during the song. His slurry delivery adds some effects to the song’s rawness. This song definitely showcases that The Germs in fact were terrible live when they started. The song isn’t bad; it just feels unrehearsed at times. There’s a cymbal crash during one point of the song that just feels completely unnecessary and very impromptu.

The recording has a lot of evidence that it was recorded in secrecy. For one, the breaking of bottles can be heard throughout the song as well as fans talking. Whistles can be heard at times and you may even wonder if the audience was even into the band at this point. “Sex Boy” delivers a different side of the band’s early inception, a sound you wouldn’t hear from the band again until songs like “Now I Hear The Laughter” or “The Other Newest One.”

The Germs’ first single landed them a place in the punk community through the late 70s and early 80s. Darby Crash has become a household name in punk and will always go down as one of the odder punk singers. Pat Smear went on to play live in Nirvana and has been on and off with the Foo Fighters for some time. Belinda Carlisle will probably not go down as the original drummer for The Germs, but its an interesting anecdote to share to your friends that might not know her before her Go-Go’s fame. Overall the song launched a lot of careers and while it’s a simple three minutes, it’s an awesome three minutes. While it’s not the strongest song in the band’s catalog, it was certainly enough to put them on the map for Los Angeles punk music.