80s punk zine We Got Power! still packs a punch

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D. Boon of the Minutemen
  • Jordan Schwartz
  • D. Boon of the Minutemen
Last year I fully intended to write about the recent coffee table book We Got Power! Hardcore Punk Scenes From 1980s Southern California (Bazillion Points). The lavish four-pound, 12-by-nine-inch, 304-page hardcover book included reprints of the mere six cut-and-pasted issues of the titular LA zine (the last of which was partially laid out, but never actually printed), along with a cornucopia of great photos shot mainly by Jordan Schwartz—the teenager who, along with Dave Markey, by Jordan Schwartz and Dave Markey, the teenagers who published We Got Power! Alas, time was short I never got around to doing it. But a book like this doesn't lose its freshness or value quickly, and with upcoming visits to Chicago by much older, reconstituted versions of some of the book's key subjects—Redd Kross and Black Flag—the tome seems more timely now that it did four months ago.

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The reprinted zine fills the back of the book, letting us read show and record reviews, band interviews (D.O.A., J.F.A., Misfits, Bad Religion, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, and Circle Jerks among them), cartoons, and photos sandwiched between typewritten text. Checking out the zine is one entertaining trip back in time (1981-'84), experiencing youthful perspectives of a scene that was very much underground and wickedly DIY. We Got Power! chronicled the era when LA's punk scene collapsed (in the wake of the Penelope Spheeris documentary The Decline of Western Civilization) and resurfaced as hardcore—a scene that would have much greater impact nationally and around the globe. SST Records, which documented much of the hardcore scene, ended up creating a template that would last years and give birth to the likes of everyone from Nirvana to the Pixies. The writing is funny and enthusiastic.

The bulk of the book, however, features nice reproductions of Schwartz's photos taken at shows, parties, and various informal social settings, along with lots of reminiscing—some lucid, some wack—from many of LA hardcore's most important figures: Henry Rollins, Chuck Dukowski, Keith Morris, Joe Carducci, and Jeff and Steve McDonald (of Redd Kross), among others. Some of the photos of these legendary figures capture them at such young ages it's hard to see the resemblance with the faces we now know. Check out the shot of Jeff and Steven McDonald of Redd Kross in 1982, when they were still spelling their name Red Cross.

Red Cross
  • Jordan Schwartz
  • Red Cross

To put a little of the old hardcore flavor in your ears, listen below to all 43 tracks from the compilation album the zine released in 1983:

Today's playlist:

Forma Antiqva, Concerto Zapico (Winter & Winter)
Martina Topley-Bird, Quixotic (Independiente)
Jonas Kullhammar Quartet, Salut (Moserobie)
Sabir Mateen and Silvia Bolognesi, Holidays in Siena (Rudi)
John Wright Trio, Nice 'n' Tasty (Prestige, Japan)

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