Review of DISCO’S OUT, MURDER’S IN by Heath Mattioli and David Spacone
Illustrated by Raymond Pettibon
Some people identify with being Punk or Metal. I fall into the Punk category. As far back as I can remember, Punk Rock has been the dominating soundtrack of my life. Yeah, some Metal bands do it for me but, for the most part, it’s not the type of music that moves me.
I have a very good comprehension of the history of Punk. From The Stooges to The Ramones to Black Flag, I know those stories. One part of that history held unanswered questions for me. I’ve read GET IN THE VAN by Henry Rollins many times. It’s the Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness of Punk. Through Rollins words, I read about the violence that came onto the scene in early 1980s Los Angeles. Fights, riots and gangs. This led me to questions of just how violent was it?
Punk rock gangs?
What exactly was going on?
AMERICAN HARDCORE by Steven Blush filled in some of those blanks.
This book is, I guess, a memoir telling the story of Frank the Shank, who was a member of a punk rock gang called the La Mirada Punks.
No shit, Punk Rock gangs. Plural. La Mirada Punks was just one of them.
The book opens in 1978. The first wave of Punk is ending. Sid Vicious is dead. However his spawn have been born.
You first meet Frank as an all American Little League hero as the book describes it. The boy meets Punk Rock and, like an early Black Flag song, it’s all over fast for our hero. He has been bought and paid for by Punk Rock.
Yeah, I keep capitalizing Punk Rock because I respect it and I don’t give a fuck if you don’t agree.
By 1980, Frank is 13 and moving fast. Going to shows in Hollywood, and for those of you who are aware of the history coming into play, 1980-1 Southern California is where Hardcore was born. Frank’s home life kinda sucked so he was rather an easy target and that’s just me calling it as I see it. Running with an older, wilder crowd, he was ripe for the picking. I myself know exactly what this is like because that was me once upon a time. It could be anyone that drafts you, from white supremacists to Hare Krishna’s; somebody will punch your ticket. In Frank’s case, it was the La Miranda Punks.
This is the “Behold, A pale horse….” moment for Frank.
Fuck, what is it about motherfucker’s named Frank??? Frank the Shank needs to meet a guy named Frank DiMatteo. From reading both their memoirs, they may not recognize each other but they fucking know each other.
So La Miranda Punks……..not too much different from Bloods or Crips; only in soundtrack and clothing. They have a hierarchy and commit extreme fucking mayhem. Knives, fists, bats, pipes and guns. These guys had their turf. They defended it. They attacked other gangs. They took scalps. And Frank was the young rising star who became Frank the Shank.
To understand this trajectory you will need to read the book for yourself. It’s a dark fucking tale. You get the street level view of a Punk Rock gang. Countless stabbings, beatings and deaths. The story comes at you fast and it’s not easy to absorb in the sense that you begin to feel like you’re being pushed around a mosh pit or you’re on the receiving end of a beating.
Something that hooked me with this book: I’m 34, born in 1982. I came to Punk Rock long after it’s threat was neutralized. I will never know what it’s like to be attacked by almost the entire world, physically, for looking a certain way or for the music I like. Yeah, I caught shit, but not like Frank. Not only did he take it on the chin willingly, he gave it back. And that I respected because I should have done more of that. Not to this extent but definitely I should have shown I wasn’t playing.
I fell in love with this book and got lost in it. I can’t imagine what it was like to open the doors to recount this story. It became personal for me. I found myself cheering Frank on, like, “You got this dude, you’re gonna make it.”
At roughly 220 pages in length, this book is short and fast but weighs a ton. So much happens that I’m not going to recount specific details. It took enough out of me to read this book let alone write this review.