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Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  953 Ratings  ·  174 Reviews
Under the Big Black Sun explores the nascent Los Angeles punk rock movement and its evolution to hardcore punk as it’s never been told before. Authors John Doe and Tom DeSavia have woven together an enthralling story of the legendary west coast scene from 1977-1982 by enlisting the voices of people who were there. The book shares chapter-length tales from the authors along ...more
Hardcover, 277 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Da Capo Press
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Wil Wheaton
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the best audiobook I have ever listened to.
Lynx
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This isn't a memoir by John Doe, nor is it an oral history like Please Kill Me. This is a collection of personal short stories from an array of amazing, talented people who came into their own in the centre of the LA punk scene. While the overall theme of finding a place they finally felt they belonged is found in each chapter, it's the personal memories, interactions, and how it all shaped them and the art they would create that makes it all fascinating.

This was my first ever audiobook and I'm
...more
Quentin Montemayor
May 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
(Disclaimer: this review is for the audiobook) This is a great fucking book. And if you don't listen to the audiobook you're doing yourself a disservice. All the chapters are read by the people who were there and experienced it all. What a great piece of history told in their own voices. John Doe has the perfect tone of voice for this. He should become a voice actor or something. There's a great Jack Grisham chapter. And I wouldn't want to spoil all that sex for you...so go listen. Do not wait.
Craig J.
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great read about the original Los Angeles punk scene. Really enjoyed the emphasis on the creativity, inclusiveness, and intellect of the scene (which has always been the most most attractive thing about punk to me) rather than just tales of debauch and nihilism, although those are scattered throughout as well. It offers a very nice counter to all the current hype about the early New York punk scene, and successfully documents some great moments illustrating the unique feel the early LA artists b ...more
Aengus
May 31, 2016 rated it liked it
One could make a pretty good argument that the L.A. punk scene of the late '70's/early '80's was every bit as culturally influential as the London and New York punk movements, if not more so. Besides the music, SoCal popularized the D.I.Y. ethos, gave us the art of Raymond Petttibon, and the documentaries of Penelope Spheeris. It's fairly crying out for a good book about it.
"Under the Big Black Sun" is not that book.
What is it? A collection of short essays about L.A. in the late '70's, written
...more
Al Young
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Instead of a John Doe book, this is set up as John Doe curating a book about the LA punk scene. The stated objective of the book is that the Los Angeles punk scene of the late 70s doesn’t get enough respect and attention in comparison to the London and New York scenes.
I admire working towards that end, although for me, it’s impossible to beat the UK and NYC for depth and quality, as well as diversity. Still, LA is very important. For starters, Doe’s band X is despite many plaudits, still underap
...more
Jim
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a superfan of L.A. punk rock I was somewhat let down by Under the Big Black Sun. It's not a memoir, nor is it an oral history, and it's kind of a stretch to call it an anthology. It's a loose collection of essays that covers, more or less, the same ground as Forming: The Early Days of L.A. Punk, Make The Music Go Bang!: The Early L.A. Punk Scene, and We Got the Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk. That's fine. The voices collected here all add interesting insights to a story that's be ...more
Lisastrawberry
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent history, in a quirky random manner that perfectly suits the subject. Many writers co-authored the book with John Doe. I want to check out The Flesheaters and the Minute Men after hearing Jason and Mike give their accounts of the bands, respectively.
Thom
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is a collection of short histories by the people who were there, along with some great photos from the time. Better still is the audio book, where each of the authors reads their own section - telling their story. Combining the two - awesome!

John Doe writes (and narrates) the majority of the chapters, and they do a nice job of covering history from early LA punk - from glam to hardcore. This sets the scene for the other authors - Dave Alvin, Charlotte Caffey, Exene Cervenka, Teresa Cov
...more
Aimee
Feb 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you are interested in this, may I suggest the audio book! So fun! And so much LA punk history!! I had no idea the Go Go's were involved in the LA punk scene.
Steve
May 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Over twenty-four chapters from a host of scenesters from the emergent punk scene of Los Angeles in the late 70s and early 80s, John Doe et al relate their personal histories and various manifestos in “Under the Big Black Sun,” a “personal history of L.A. punk.” It’s an engaging and endearing read, if at times predictably repetitive. Then again, the people, places, and events might mesh into one, but the individuality of the memories is what makes each one special and unique.

Doe’s name is in big
...more
Angela(Angie)
May 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous!! This is an amazing punk rock history. I enjoyed it in both formats: as an audiobook and as a print book. I recommend both formats--they each offer different appeals. The audiobook was everything I have always wanted from a music biography audiobook-- each chapter was read by the author of that chapter, and there were musical excerpts in between chapters. But of course the print book offers a better way to pore over the lyrics, and also has great photos. We were lucky enough to go the ...more
Jessie McMains
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
A few of the chapters were a little meh, which is to be expected in a book written by many different people, but overall it was an excellent look back at the first wave of L.A. punk, from many of the main players.
Cristina
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. Unlike other books I've read about the history of punk music, this book heavily discusses the way people of color influenced the punk scene. Others have either glossed over it or don't discuss it at all.
Leenda dela Luna
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
A collection of short memoirs from people who were part of the early LA Punk scene.

Have only read 4 chapters so far but I am LOVING this book!
Jim
Mar 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
At the reading John Doe gave at Diesel Books in Oakland (June 2016), I asked him "Are we sure the Go-Gos were punk?" Some people laughed but John assured us all - yes, punk.

Finally, nearly two years later I read the book. He's right, and I asked a naive question! The Go-Go's came out of the same community stew that gave us X, The Blasters, Los Lobos, The Flesh Eaters, The Germs, El Vez, and The Minutemen.

The history of L.A's punk scene as told here starts with a communal fun vibe of DIY everythi
...more
Dean
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much. I listened to the Audiobook version and as a result, was able to hear the author of the work and it's contributors voices as they read their memoirs. There were many of the big names of the early LA Punk scene(1977-1982) John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Jane Weidlin, Dave Alvin, Henry Rollins, Alice Bag, and many many more people lent their perspective to this work.
I HIGHLY recommend this work to anyone who loves punk, it's a completely great time.
I felt like I knew punk pret
...more
Lauren
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, so so Great!

I'm so glad @wilwheaton recommended it and the audio version at that. 99% of the contributors had interesting and profound things to say about this time and did it so well. Some write better than they read but that's to be expected. Just listen for content, not professional tone and modulation. And I'm so surprised they can all remember so much from these crazy days!

I was not in LA in the late 70s or early 80s when this is centered but got to San Diego in 84 and could see a lot
...more
Brian Johnson
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The approach in writing about the early punk rock movement in L.A. is refreshing. I enjoyed hearing the multitude of perspectives, the accounts, memories, and stories told through the eyes of the people who were there. I have read a lot and have been told many stories from people who were in LA through those years and still I came away with having a clearer picture of what it was like then and how the first wave of Punk rock was a more bohemian lifestyle, before hardcore sort of took over. Great ...more
Georgiane
Aug 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The life I was too young to have

Luckily, some of these bands were still playing when I was old enough to go see them. I listened to the book and it was awesome to hear the artists themselves telling their own history. It was great to hear from several of them about the rush of the discovery of music, from mags to radio to record shops.
Kye
Every chapter is written by a different influencer of the early punk scene in LA, and, for me, it felt like a double-edged sword: some of the chapters were AMAZING and others were bland, dull and forgettable. Nevertheless, I respect that it was a group effort and not just one person’s story. Worth a read!
Thomas
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, read_2017
I really wish this book had been available years ago. There are so many great bands that came out of the LA scene, but I had very little idea how that all fit together. One of the most interesting revelations for me was the pre-hardcore relationship between the early LA punk scene and the "roots" scene. Reading this (or, listening, as the case may be) reminded me how little time I've spent giving bands like Los Lobos their due consideration, though it's clear they were a part of this community, ...more
Mike
An oral history of the late 1970's Los Angeles punk scene, told by the people who were there.

Fascinating on a musical and cultural level, plus a tragic reminder of the fleetingness of youth.

The audiobook is an enjoyable listen because it is narrated by many of the featured musicians and there are clips of X songs between each of the chapters.
ElphaReads
3.5 Stars.

So back in my high school years I was a huge, HUGE fan of late 1970s punk music. I still am. My tastes started in an act of rebellion, with me buying 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here Are The Sex Pistols' just because I knew my Mom didn't approve. BUT IT WAS MY MONEY AND I WAS A BADASS! I ended up really loving it, and expanded my repertoire to other punk groups, mostly American ones. One of these bands was X, a Los Angeles based group that was thrashing, pissed off, and fronted by Exene
...more
John Matthews
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
By the time news of the LA Punk scene reached me, it was long over. Technically, it was only about five years over, but it felt like it was ages gone and I had missed something truly unique. As John Doe’s book handily illustrates in the form of personal narratives by the West Coast’s main punk instigators, I certainly had.

Back in 1986, I watched the film Decline of Western Civilization and listened to Black Flag and X relentlessly, wishing I could reanimate that vibrant scene. I was seventeen ye
...more
Mel
One of the best books I read in 2016.

This was an easy read about the punk movement in Los Angeles. This says it was written by John Doe of X but lots of people who were there chime in. I am too young to have been there for this, but some of this was still going on when I was in high school in the mid to late 80s. We sought out this music and devoured what we could find. I was so far from the west coast in a small suburb of Chicago. I, of course, knew I must go west, and I did.

Now in Chicago wi
...more
patty
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
For those hoping this book is the Los Angeles version of "Please Kill Me" it is not.

The title is correct -- it is a personal history of L.A. Punk -- a collection of chapters written by various players on the scene. Their own take in their own voice on what was happening in the mid 70's through the early 80's. Ok.

But the book falls flat. With the exception of a chapter each written by Robert Lopez, Henry Rollins, and Dave Alvin, the remaining chapters of the book are weak. Needed editing. Grands
...more
Danny
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Under the Big Black Sun is an essential rock document. It chronicles the formation of the LA punk scene, focusing on the years between 1976-1980. The book consists of essays by the folks who were there. John Doe, Exene, Dave Alvin, Mike Watt, Jane Wiedlin and plenty others. In fact, don’t bother reading the book, you’d be better off listening to it. The audio version features the authors lending their own voices to the proceedings. The audio book drips with enthusiasm, personality and authentici ...more
Diana
I like John Doe. I mean, I LIKE like him. So when I heard he’d written a book about the LA punk scene in the late 1970s, I immediately checked to see if it was available on audiobook-- and it was. Hurray!

This is a great listen, not only because of my rockstar boyfriend, but also because aside from writing a number of chapters himself, Doe got a lot of other people involved in the scene to contribute chapters as well, and all these contributors read their chapters themselves. So the last couple
...more
Curt Hopkins Hopkins
This is a wildly - and disappointingly - uneven book. Some chapters, like that by El Vez, are extraordinary. But the majority are tedious. I wish the editors would have done more of a Please Kill Me-style oral history.

By the way, I haven't added anything to Goodreads in a year. I initially used it to see how many books I was reading per week (after a Starbucks gal asked me). Since that time, I've gotten the answer (I forget now - I think it was something like three), gotten real work, moved to
...more
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