Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen - We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of LA Punk [book] (Cover Artwork)

Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen

We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of LA Punk 📕 (2001)

Three Rivers Press

In the annals of punk rock, Los Angeles is largely forgotten. Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me doesn't mention Southern California, other than to reference Iggy & The Stooges post-glam misadventures there. The vast majority of British-centric histories, like Stephen Colgrave's Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution, fails to mention it at all (most of them would prefer to ignore America altogether, but that's another story).

Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen's oral history, We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of LA Punk does a more than admirable job of documenting the legacy of Los Angeles. Strangely enough, it begins with a mention of the Doors (who, admittedly, had a pretty great ‘fuck you attitude' in Jim Morrison, and Iggy was also a fan) and runs through the pre-punk glam rock scene, anchored by The Runaways. The book's punk focus finally starts to formulate 63 pages in, when we are introduced to 1976 and the Weirdos, the Screamers and later, the Germs kick-start the scene.

From there, the really interesting stories of Los Angeles pour in: Belinda Carlisle (yes, from the Go-Go's) as a former cheerleader and was slated to be the drummer for the Germs; X's Billy Zoom once played with R&B legend Etta James; Jack from TSOL tortures someone in his parent's garage on Easter; scenester, promoter, and all-around scumbag Kim Fowley pops in and out with wonderfully amusing observations (his thoughts on Germs fans are particularly outrageous).

In between, various personalities gravitate towards synth pop, rockabilly, roots rock, and most famously, hardcore. The rise and fall of the Germs' Darby Crash is documented, Penelope Sphears makes the infamous "Decline of Western Civilization" (John Doe: "Didn't care") and punk falls as hardcore rises. Unlike most scenester histories, "We Got the Neutron Bomb" does not just end with 1981–there's a nice epilogue, chronicling Germs guitarist Pat Smear's moonlighting with Nirvana, Bad Religion's popularity, and Epitaph's success.

While its does have its share of oversights–no mention of the Descendents, no mention of the late, great cartoonist Shawn Kerri (she did the Circle Jerks flyers), no Greg Ginn interview–the book does paint a vivid picture of what life must have been like for a young punk back in the day without sounding too jaded.