The pages here will start with 1970’s California and expand from there…

Punk Rock in California

Los Angeles had a very strong glam rock scene in the early 1970s, mostly centered on the club Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco — a widely noted Los Angeles nightclub located at 7561 Sunset Boulevard on the Sunset Strip from late 1972 until early 1975. It catered to the glam rock movement, run by Rodney Bingenheimer, who later, as a disc jockey for KROQ’s Rodney on the ROQ, did much to promote LA punk bands. Many figures from this earlier scene would play notable roles in the later punk scene.

In the mid-1970s from 1974 to 1975 a wave of proto-punk bands emerged from Los Angeles, including the Flyboys.

Starting in 1976, following recent releases of recordings by punk bands such as the Ramones, a number of punk bands formed in the Los Angeles and Orange County area. Among these bands were the Flesh Eaters, The Weirdos, The Germs, the Controllers, the Deadbeats, the Skulls, the Angry Samoans, Agent Orange, The Dils, Black Randy and the Metrosquad, Catholic Discipline, the Go-Go’s, The Alley Cats, Kommunity FK, The Screamers, the Dickies, X, the Zeros, the Bags, The Plugz, the Consumers, and their successors, 45 Grave. Many bands also formed in the San Francisco Bay, including Crime, the Avengers, The Nuns, the Mutants, the Units, Flipper, Negative Trend, the Offs and the Dead Kennedys. California punk of this period was musically very eclectic, and the punk scene of the time included a number of bands whose sound crossed over to art/experimental punk, new wave, electropunk, rockabilly, deathrock and hard rock.

Emergence of hardcore punk
In 1978 in Southern California, the first hardcore punk bands arose, including The Middle Class, Black Flag, Vicious Circle, Fear, ANTI, and the Circle Jerks. Hardcore bands and fans tended to be younger than the art punks of the older LA scene and came mainly from the suburban parts of the Los Angeles area, especially the South Bay and Orange County and San Diego. This resulted in a rivalry between the older artsy “Hollywood” scene and the hardcore “suburban”, “surf punk”, or “beach punk” scene. Those in the “Hollywood” scene often disliked what they saw as the musical narrowness of hardcore and the violence associated with “suburban” punks (the South Bay and Orange County punk scenes had a particular reputation for violence), while the “suburban” punks looked down on what they perceived as the lack of intensity of older “Hollywood” bands (the Germs being a notable exception with lead singer Darby Crash) and the fashion consciousness of “Hollywood” punks. The Penelope Spheeris documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, shot in early 1979 and early 1980, documents the period when the older LA punk scene was being completely taken over by hardcore and features performances by bands from both scenes.

By 1979, hardcore had displaced the Hollywood scene and become the dominant expression called hardcore punk in both Northern and Southern California. By this time, many of the older punk bands had broken up or become relatively inactive. A few, such as the Go-Go’s, the Dickies, and X, went on to mainstream success (in some cases, X, almost abandoning punk entirely), while a few others, such as the Dickies, embraced hardcore completely.

Notable Venues

  • Cuckoo’s Nest – Orange County, 1978–1981
  • The Deaf Club – San Francisco, 1978–1979
  • The Farm – San Francisco, late 1970s–1980s
  • Hong Kong Café – Los Angeles, 1979–1981
  • Mabuhay Gardens – San Francisco, 1976–1986
  • Madame Wong’s – Los Angeles, 1978–1985
  • The Masque – Los Angeles, 1977–1979
  • Starwood – Los Angeles, 1973–1981
  • Target Video – San Francisco, 1978–1981
  • Valencia Tool & Die – San Francisco, late 1970s–early 1980s
  • The Warfield – San Francisco, 1979–present
  • Whisky a Go Go – Los Angeles, 1964–1982, 1986–present

Notable Labels

  • Dangerhouse Records – started by former Screamers member David Brown
  • Frontier Records
  • Posh Boy Records
  • Slash Records – associated with the fanzine Slash
  • SST Records – started by Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn
  • What Records? – started by Chris Ashford