Crime was an early American punk band from San Francisco. The band was formed in 1976 by Johnny Strike (vocals, guitar), Frankie Fix (vocals, guitar), Ron “The Ripper” Greco (bass; ex-Flamin’ Groovies), and Ricky Tractor (Ricky Williams) (drums). Their debut, the self-financed double A-side, “Hot Wire My Heart” and “Baby You’re So Repulsive”, appeared at the end of 1976, and is the first single released by a U.S. punk act from the West Coast.
The band’s sound was characterized by simple rock-and-roll arrangements played at intensely high volumes. Michael Goldberg, critic for New York Rocker magazine, wrote in 1978: “Crime play loud. So loud that the plate glass window at the opposite end of the club shakes, tables tremble and people hang onto their drinks. Loudness may be Crime’s only musical raison d’etre. This band is a literal translation of the concept ‘minimal.’ Drummer Hank Rank thumps out a simple Bo Diddley beat that is only adequate in the context of the rest of the band. Bassist Ron the Ripper coaxes a thick rumble from his amp that reminds one of the thunder of a bulldozer rolling over rugged terrain. And the guitar playing of [Johnny] Strike and Frankie Fix make you feel like you’ve been forcefully held underwater for the full 25 minutes of the set.”
In Issue #13 of Ugly Things Magazine, critic Mike Stax wrote: “CRIME’s music didn’t conform to the norm either. They didn’t use the standard-issue highspeed buzzsaw guitar approach. Instead their noisy attacks were an unpredictable stew of clanging, howling guitars and shuddering rhythms – more of an intense sonic RUMBLE than anything else.”
Show List and Key Dates – This index features show dates, venues, and flyers
Releases – This index features only vinyl and includes official releases
Unofficial Releases – This index features only vinyl and includes unofficial recordings
In the following years Crime changed their line-up several times.
Ricky Tractor was fired (later appearing in groups such as Flipper, Toiling Midgets and The Sleepers) and was succeeded by Brittley Black (Larry Black) in 1977. After releasing one single, another double A-side, “Frustration” and “Murder by Guitar”, Black was replaced by Hank Rank (Henry Rosenthal) that same year.
In 1979, Greco left the band and was replaced by Joey D’Kaye (Joey Swails) on bass, who had been the band’s sound engineer.
Greco and Black both returned for Crime’s last release, the single “Maserati/Gangster Funk” in 1981, while D’Kaye moved to synthesizers and produced the recording.
The band split up the following year. Strike and D’Kaye briefly formed a electropunk duo called Vector Command, while Fix attempted to start a solo career, with a back-up band called The Rockabilly Rebels. Neither produced any record releases at the time.
Ricky Tractor died in 1992, Frankie Fix in 1996, Brittley Black in 2004 and Johnny Strike in 2018.
Recordings and media
Over the course of their career in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Crime officially only released three 7″ vinyl records. But many bootleg recordings of the band’s live performances and demo tapes were sporadically produced throughout the 1980s.
San Francisco’s Doomed, a collection of studio recordings and rehearsal tapes, was released with the approval of the band members by Solar Lodge in the United Kingdom in 1991 on vinyl and CD. Fix, Strike and Rank played on all the songs, with Greco playing bass on side one of the LP, and D’Kaye on side two. The album was re-released as San Francisco’s Still Doomed (with added tracks and remastering) in 2004 by Swami Records.
In 1979 San Francisco video company Target Video produced Crime: Live in San Quentin Prison, a documentary of a live performance by the band at San Quentin State Penitentiary in California, where they played for the prisoners wearing exact copies of the uniforms worn by the prison guards.
Sonic Youth featured a cover of “Hot Wire My Heart” on their 1987 release Sister.
Electric Frankenstein featured a cover of “Frustration” on their 1993 release “Action High / Sick Songs”.
In January 2010, a book of Crime’s early photographs and posters, The Band Crime: Punk ’77 Revisited by James Stark, was
published by Last Gasp Books.
In July 2013, a compilation album of unreleased studio recordings, Murder by Guitar: 1976 to 1980, was released on the Kitten Charmer label, remastered under the direction of Strike, Rank and D’Kaye and released on CD and iTunes. After distribution problems with the LP record release, the album was re-released in August 2014 by the Superior Viaduct label, with a limited release of the first 500 on clear red vinyl. The album has garnered mostly positive reviews, including “four-stars” by UK music magazine MOJO, which wrote: “This important release restates CRIME’s place in the punk pantheon and fills in the history of a lost pop moment. It also celebrates the diversity of the proto-punk groups: that fascinating moment when change was at hand but the rules were not yet set. Murder By Guitar is a testament to that sense of discovery.” MOJO also rated the album as one of the “10 Best Reissues of 2014”.
In a 2007 interview with Resonance Magazine, Johnny Strike stated a boxed set of Crime recordings was to be released by a Spanish label. In March 2015, Munster Records released the box set, Crime – 7×7 with seven 45 RPM singles replicating those that had been released by the band and including several unreleased tracks.