Bazillion Points Books, 304 pages, hardcover, $34.95
If you had a time machine, what era would you travel to? That’s a fairly common question I’ve been asked as a ’90s kid who has felt as though I’ve missed out on some major events in the past century. Most people I’ve talked to say they want to travel back to the “Summer of Love.” I say screw that! Why would I want to be waving my arms around in a sea of hippies at Woodstock, when I could be dripping with sweat in a mosh pit at the Whisky a Go Go during the early 1980s? That’s where I want to be. Back when punk was still new and dangerous. Back when going to a punk show meant running the risk of being beaten by a line of cops waiting outside the door. It’ll be years before any scientist develops anything close to a time machine, but I’ve come across the next best thing: We Got Power!
We Got Power! was a small zine started in Los Angeles by a group of teenage punks. The zine included stories, show reviews, band interviews, and photographs. Although the features are obviously written by a bunch of high school kids, We Got Power! captured the energy, the music and the people of the time. The founders, David Markey and Jordan Schwartz, would regularly attend punk shows and snap tons of pictures of the contained chaos. Now, 30 years later, the duo have released this book, packed with all six issues of We Got Power! — pages of breath-taking pictures and first-hand accounts of the 1980s California hardcore punk scene written by members of Black Flag (including Henry Rollins and Chuck Dukowski), Circle Jerks, Descendents, Minutemen, Adolescents, and more. If they’re not paying tribute to the We Got Power! kids, they’re reminiscing about all the memorable shows, all the cool hang-out spots, the constant drama among bands, and that handful of friends who lived too fast and died too young.
Reading We Got Power! introduced me to bands I never heard of before, such as Circle One, Sin 34, Saccharine Trust, and Nip Drivers, among others. It made me realize how simple an age we live in now. If I ever want to listen to a band, I simply go onto YouTube, type in their name and listen to an entire album for free. Way too simple. Back then, if anyone wanted to listen to a band, they would have to get a ride from their Los Angeles suburban home to the record store, hope that they would have the desired record, and then hope that the record was worth the purchase. Today, we’re bombarded with distractions from the internet. I long to live in a time where there’s nothing for kids to do except start a punk band and publish a homemade zine. If you’re living in the past like I am, you need to read We Got Power! while waiting for the time machine to come around.