We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk, by Marc Spitz and

for Prof. John Fenn
Oral History Project Review

Who Owns Punk History?

Now that punk history itself has become an umbrella expanding over thirty years, multiple academic disciplines, and the mohawk-rigged mammoth known as pop culture itself, I realize that any history is likely to be partial, riddled with gaps, and rendered almost instantly obsolete, though certain “tomes” have been authored, such as Greil Marcus selected writings found in collections like In the Fascist Bathroom: Punk In Pop Music, 1977-1992, also known stateside as Ranters and Crowd Pleasers: Punk in Pop Music 1977-1992, and the well-known England’s Dreaming Sex Pistols and Punk Rock by English critic Jon Savage. Other accounts, such as Punk in the Present Tense by noted female writer Gina Arnold have lapsed into relative obscurity. Meanwhile, the closest partner to We Got the Neutron Bomb, and likely the catalyst for the undertaking of a West Coast-based oral history of punk, stems from the publication, since revised, of Please Kill Me, by the former PUNK fanzine editor Legs McNeil, who was helped by co-editor Gillian McCain. This oral history has proven quite popular since its publication in 1997, and its approach, featuring “talking heads” on the page — key players reminiscing about their roles and experiences in East Coast punk culture – is emulated in We Got the Neutron Bomb and smaller pieces, like an oral history of hardcore punk in the Carolinas compiled for my own magazine by Brian Walsby, cartoonist (7 Seconds, Scared Straight) and drummer for Scared Straight, Polvo, and Double Negative. The formula is usually quite readable – both breezy and anecdotal – but exhibits some traits likely to stir concern among oral history traditionalists. More recent Do-It-Yourself texts, such as the hardcore punk historical reference book American Hardcore: A Tribal History and Going Underground, both written by 1980s scenesters or promoters, attempt to survey the vast landscape of suburbanized punk but also have been heavily critiqued for their shortcomings; for instance, Randy “Biscuit” Turner told me that the section on the Big Boys in American Hardcore blurred details, relied on gossip, and misrepresented the band. Hence, no account of punk is bound to be error-free, without gaps, or even fully democratic.

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Fall 2008 Punk Gig Flyer and Poster Show in Southern Oregon!

Visual Vitriol: A Punk Poster Exhibition

poster by Beau Eaton

The Art Gallery at Umpqua Community College

1140 Umpqua College Road,

Roseburg, OR 97470


Hours: 8 – 5:00, M – F

November 3 – December 10, 2008

University of Oregon Folklore graduate student and instructor David Ensminger, who has just finished a book on punk art and culture, will be curating an extensive collection of punk poster and flyers (known variously as urban folk art, instant Xerox art, and street style vernacular expressions) in the Art Gallery at Umpqua Community College, in Roseburg. The exhibition content focuses on Do-It-Yourself, often handmade posters that will survey over 30 years of subculture history. Featuring a broad range of work from North America, Europe, and Asia, the exhibition will also focus on the often ignored contributions of women, gays and lesbians, and people of color in punk. The exhibition will also feature potent photography and ephemera culled from punk archives and a looped, original documentary video made by Ensminger. Titled “Chronicles from the Zero Hour: The Punk Legacy,” the film features interviews with members of MDC, Chumbawamba, Strike Anywhere, Lifetime/Paint it Black, The Epoxies, Dag Nasty, and contains live footage of TSOL and the Circle Jerks. A short video lecture outlining the important issues of punk art will also be shown.

We are pleased to announce this exhibition includes new additions to the collection, including posters designed by Zak Kaplan, who works for the infamous New Jersey based punk label Chunksaah Records (Bouncing Souls…) and Rogue State Design. See his Hot Water Music piece below.

New friend and ally Helge Schreiber, editor of Plastic Bomb zine in Germany, has also provided a small bounty of European hardcore punk flyers from the 1980s, including the band Negazione from Italy, found below.

In addition, we’d like to thank designer Beau Eaton for providing us with the show promotional poster found at the beginning of this page. He is also designing postcards and one-of-a-kind, hand-printed, wood block type posters to be raffled off during the opening of the show, on November 3rd.

Similar exhibitions have been shown in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in several Oregon spaces (Portland, Salem, Eugene, and Monmouth) and across Western Europe (both England and the continent), even Budapest and Bangkok. For an overview of the collection, please visit: http://www.visualvitriol.wordpress.com.

Ensminger hopes to catalog these items in a permanent punk art and culture archive. This month, he is presenting lectures on the material in the states of Washington and Kentucky.

Hard copy press releases and material will be forthcoming.

For more information, please contact:

David Ensminger

Susan Rochester
Gallery Director

A Student Essay on Indie Rock Flyers and Posters!

by B.S., a student in my Folkore: Dynamic Street Art class

In exploring different neighborhoods around Portland, I documented what poster and flyer art presented itself to me; on street corners as well as in record stores and music venues. Many of these posters were of the DIY nature: Xeroxed on plain sheets of paper with simple graphics, meant for mass production and distribution. In addition I encountered posters which were of nicer quality, with detailed graphics and of a more stylized nature. Examining this range in poster and flyer art enabled me to gain better understanding of where the poster falls in terms of a mass advertising technique and as a “legitimate” art form. What real purpose does the music poster serve? How does it reflect the culture of the current generation? These were questions that ran through my mind as I wandered the streets of Portland.

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How a Possible Encyclopedia Entry For Flyers Might Function

Aesthetic Approaches and Actions

In almost every large city in America, vestiges of flyer art (also spelled as flier and alternatively known as gig posters and handbills) made for band gigs or concerts remain on traffic and light poles, kiosks, the sides of buildings, cramped record store spaces, and just about anywhere that one can use glue, wheat paste, tacks, thumbnails, tape, and staples. Due to being made by a variety of promoters, designers, band members (as varied as Mick Jones from the Clash and David Yow of Jesus Lizard), and fans, multiple flyers for one show often exist. These works are found in various shapes and sizes, including standard letter copy machine size (8.5 x 11), legal letter size (8.5 x 14), or larger formats such as 11 x 14 . Artists range from self-taught, “naïve” amateurs (an example seen above) to schooled design students and professionals who use a variety of means to reproduce the work, including digital printing, xerography and photocopying (black and white, color, and split fountain printing, seen below), offset/linotype printing, and silkscreening. Continue reading

Recent Donations, Acquisitions, and Fanfare!

As many readers of this page are aware, we succesfully curated a month long show at the DIVA gallery in downtown Eugene, Oregon during the month of March, highlighting several hundred posters from the punk archive. In the process, we met new friends and supporters, plus we were able to acquire many new pieces for the collection. The week prior to the show’s opening, Jeff Nelson, drummer for Minor Threat, 3, and Senator Flux, plus the co-owner and original graphic designer for Dischord Records, let us purchase 250 copies from his vast early hardcore collection, many of which he had never shared before. We were unable to afford his eBay auctions for the originals, so once contacted, Nelson was generous enough to spend hours making copies and preparing the packaging for us. In addition, he also loaned us a handful of screened, mid-late 1980s color posters, which we showcased in a large vitrine. One of Nelson’s early works, made with crayon, that succinctly highlights the punk, DIY, handmade aesthetic can be found below, for a Teen Idles show.

As word of the show travelled through the invisible waves/code of the Internet, Mike Huard, bassist for the the well-regarded Houston punk band AK-47, which lasted from 1979-1984, discovered us through a University of Oregon newpaper article on-line that previewed the show. Mike was also very kind, donating almost a dozen copies of flyers and articles about the band, which helps fill in gaps for our collection of the early Ozone City scene, which includes large holdings of Really Red and Hates flyers. Mike has also contacted other members of the band, so we hope that our collection can continue to expand, providing breadth and depth to our southern coverage. See the excellent sci-fi themed, hand drawn flyer below, printed on orange paper, for a gig at the notorious venue the Island.

The second night of the opening we held a film and panel discussion event, previously mentioned in our overview of the show on this page, which found a roomful of eager people sharing stories and memories, including one of the bass players from the infamous California hardcore band Circle One. Roxy Epoxy, the former lead singer of the Epoxies, who is now busy working on a solo project, DJ radio show, and other adventures, donated several incredible Epoxies posters, including rare, specialty silkscreens and glossy gig posters. Although too large for our scanner, see the poster below for a glimpse of the keen style.

Gretta Fine, singer and bass player of Bang Bang, one of Chicago’s premier nu wave/dirty dance punk outfits, donated three silkcreened posters to the collection during the week the show opened, adding to our contemporary Midwest collection. The posters were large format, and our scanner had some difficulty capturing an image, so just a sliver is found below. She has also provided a sly, insightful narrative that we hope to integrate into our book chapter on women in punk, which should be completed in rough draft form in ten weeks. We are presenting an introduction to the chapter in Davis, CA, at the University of California, for a folklore conference in the next few weeks. The paper is entitled, Punk Gig Flyers as Urban Folk Art.

Although Brenton (Break the Chains), a zine enthusiast and longtime punk fan, was not able to make the opening, he contacted us shortly after the opening, informing us of his own binder of local Eugene hardcore and punk gig flyers that he has safely stored and gathered over the last ten years. He also showed us some amazing early Black Flag flyers, a few very rare, that were given to him by an aunt who once dated Chuck Dukowski, bass player of the band. Needless to say, we took deep pleasure in his stories and in the fact that he loaned us the binder so we could make dozens of copies of flyers documenting the bustling Eugene-area hardcore scene of the last decade. See the bristling handmade gig flyer below.

In addition, Brenton introduced usto his roommate Sean Schock, drummer for the recent line-up of the Detonators and Happy Bastards (Profane Existence). Not only do stark b/w flyers grace the walls of his room, but he was generous enough to donate records, CDs, and gig flyers to our collection. To follow up, we recorded a video interview with Bruce Hartnell, the singer of the Detonators, who grew up across the street from Dez Cadena of Black Flag. In fact, the interview took place at the DIVA gallery, which featured three Detonators posters, including one Bruce made for the last Dead Kennedy’s show! Bruce and Sean also play in the instrumental mariachi-punk-surf band Los Mex Pistols. See their mutant spider skull party gig flyer below.

Lastly, we do keep busy purchasing inexpensive pieces from collectors around the world, many of which will soon be featured on this page. Below is a Black Flag original, apropos since we have been mentioning the band, that we were able to acquire at a very affordable cost, since it is both late period and does not feature any readily identifiable “significant” artist, although the design is very appealing and atmospheric.

Contact us here if you would like to contribute to the collection, make suggestions, or join the community.


Be well, and sincere thanks to all the helpers and contributors! David/LOTD