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John Doe: From Punk Rock Pioneer To Punk Rock Historian

A 2019 photo of musician and author, John Doe.

Photo by Jack Grisham

Above: A 2019 photo of musician and author, John Doe.

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With a second book recently published about the Los Angeles punk movement, X co-founder John Doe has evolved from a punk pioneer to a punk historian.

Aired: July 26, 2019 | Transcript

Musician John Doe has, since the late 1970s, been known as the co-founder of seminal Los Angeles punk band, X.

Together with groups like The Go-Go's, The Germs and The Zeros, X helped establish an experimental, D.I.Y. punk scene that continues to thrive more than 40 years later.

Event: John Doe Book Signing

  • Lou's Records
  • Saturday, July 27, 2019
  • 2 p.m.
  • Age Requirement: All ages
  • Cost: Free

Full Event Information

Recently, however, Doe's evolved from his role as a punk pioneer to one of a punk historian. Since 2016, Doe and co-writer Tom DeSavia have been collecting essays from musicians and artists who were a part of, or influenced by, that L.A. punk movement.

The first book, "Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk" (2016), captured the scene's early days from a variety of voices and perspectives. Set between 1977 and 1982, it tells the stories just before bands were signed to record labels, before they made money and went on tour.

Photo by Laura Levine

A photo of the cover of John Doe's second book, "More Fun in the New World," published in 2019.

The second book, released last month, is "More Fun in the New World: The Unmaking and Legacy of L.A. Punk." Told once again through various essays, it deals with how bands survived - or didn't survive - once they started making it big.

Jane Wiedlin of The Go-Go's contributed a story, explaining how the scene she helped create reacted to The Go-Go's success.

"The blowback from the kids still in Hollywood was swift, ugly and final," she wrote. "The Go-Go's had SOLD OUT. Never mind that anyone who was in a band, punk or not, would've killed to be popular. To actually make a living making music. But we had abandoned ship. Like rats, but cuter. And it hurt to hear what our 'friends' back home now thought of us."

Even local skateboarding icon Tony Hawk contributed to Doe's latest book, explaining why punk was the soundtrack "piped through the speakers" at skateparks.

"Like skating, punk was raw. It was real. It was energetic. And it was pretty much all we listened to."

On KPBS Midday Friday, Doe explained how he didn't set out to become the voice of the early punk movement. But even though it's a job he reluctantly inherited, he's been able to relive those days from different perspectives, including the less-represented female and minority musicians like Wiedlin, and Angelo Moore of Fishbone.

Doe and DeSavia will be at Lou's Records on Saturday for a book-signing and Q&A. Doe then performs with his band, X, on Saturday and Sunday at The Belly Up.

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