With all the crust, noise and bluster, many fail to realize the extent to which surrealist and Dadaist art influenced bands of the original 1970s punk era.
“We fancied ourselves as some sort of new neo-Dada Beatniks, replete with cropped Mod-like haircuts and kooky sunglasses” writes John Denney, founding member of seminal Southern California ’70s punk band The Weirdos in an essay on breakmyface.com, an online archive of underachieving and underrated punk rock pioneers.
“Besides our reverence for Duchamp and Man Ray,” Denney continues, “we explored music with equal vigor.”
The concept of punk was still nebulous for bands in the genre’s first wave, in which The Weirdos belong. Inspired, however, by the back-to-basic rawness of acts like The Stooges, New York Dolls and The Ramones, these early American punk bands knew what punk wasn’t: refined.
The Weirdos aren’t really known for a particular album, instead living on as a legendary live act and through heavily anthologized, profane and irreverent tunes like “Destroy All Music” and “We’ve Got the Neutron Bomb.” These songs are rough, intentionally ugly, provocatively primitive garage rock imbued with their generation’s uneasy nihilism.
Bands like The Weirdos wanted to reject the high-minded fancy and optimism of the ’60s, reflecting instead on the impending economic meltdown of the ’70s while predicting the conservative takeover of society that began with Ronald Reagan in the ’80s — a takeover under which we’re still living, making first wave punk acts like The Weirdos feel remarkably prescient.
The Weirdos play with LA’s Egrets on Ergot and Eugene’s Googins 10 pm Thursday, July 19, at Luckey’s; $14 advance, $17 show; 21-plus.