Last updated: 08/18/2011 11:00:00 AM
The GERMS' story started uneventually in the summer of 1977. Two teenagers, Paul Beahm, white lower middle class, into David BOWIE, glam rock and general androgyy and his best friend George Ruthen, a half caste with roughly the same qualifications, were attenting Santa Monica College. They had met originally in the 8th grade, whilst cutting acid and classes, and found they shared a common love of music and troublemaking. Their philosophy term was a cut short when Paul convinced half the girls in school that he was Jesus and George was God. The two boys were expelled for mind control and an antisocial attitude.
George could play a bit of guitar and Paul was quite a lyricist, so they began to amuse themselves, writing songs in the vein of their heroes Iggy POP, and Bowie. A T.V. broadcast from London, featuring the SEX PISTOLS, The CLASH and then exploding London punk scene, turned about 150young Hollywood teenagers into part-time punks overnight. There was a craze phenomena. Bands like the WEIRDOS and SKulls appeared out of nowhere, and Steve Samioff started plans to put out the first LA punkzine, "Slash Magazine", in the vein of Mark P's "Sniffing Glue".
Rechristening themselves as Bobby Pyn(Paul) and Pat Smear(George), they set out tofind two people who were as clueless as they were musically. Donna Rhia and her friend Lorna Doom were enlisted as drummer and bassist, and the GERMS were born.
Their first gigs, little more than parties, had friends turn up to heckle and throw shit to get the Germs banned and build a hell raising reputation. The germs were soon notorious enough to play Sunset Strip as part of Kim Fowley's punk package gig. Their third ever gig at the Whisky club was released from these sessions as a live LP on Mohawk Records, andhas to be heard for Bobby Pyn's swearing into the crowd, throwing himself around while being backed by true musical incompetents. Belinda CARLISLE introduces the gig by saying she left the Germs "Cuz they're sluts..." She emerged later as the new American pop queen of the GO GOs.
The DAMNED blew through LA on their first US tour, after doing a run of sucessful gigs inNe York, and helped the growing Los Angeles scene grow stronger while the RAMONES and BLONDIE floundered on the East coast. The Germs were suddenly part of a wider scene with great new London style punks like VOM, FEAR, FLESHEATERS and the BAGS all popping out of the woodwork.
The legendary Masque Club opened in late '77 and amongst the line ups in to 1978 were the Germs, getting better with every beer. They recorded their first official release with a new drumboy Cliff Hanger who lasted long enough to do 'Forming' 7" on the What? label. The single was recorded live and has a typical Germs atmosphere with lots of breaking glass, crowd screams, and Bobby Pyn smearing his body in peanut butter Iggy Pop style.
SLASH Records persistent and energetic releasing of Californian garage music soon had the Germs, now with a new line up and vastly tightened up sound, do a new single. Drummer Nick Beat was brought in to do the session and the 'Lexicon Devil' EP was born. The shock cover came in three different pressings, with a picture of Adolf Hitler on it. The songs No God, Lexicon Devil and Circle One all snarl along with classic burning punk energy. Bobby became re-incarnated as Darby Crash, the new Sid VICIOUS stule swastika boy martyr like his fave band the SEX PISTOLS.
Their original aim to do it for kicks was never replaced, but the Germs grew steadily into being a real band, at least on the surface. Slash, under the auspices of its editor Claude Kickboy Bessy, prodded the potential out of the Germs by hounding them into doing a debut LP. Joan JETT was final choice for producer, and promised Darby that the LP would sound like 'Never Mind The Bollocks' only better. The watershed LP for the emerging hardcore sensibility was the Germs 'G.I.' album. The cover was basic production line black with enigmatic blue circle design. Songs like Communist Eyes, Strange Notes and What We Do Is Secret were all pounding, holocaust inspired anthems that touched your heart and feet with raw energy. Punk as it was meant to be, with some of the best angry lyrics this side of the Berlin Wall.
All over America in the months to come, in places like Reno, Austin and portland people were beginning to form bands in the vein of the Germs. Who can say where your Husker Du's, Necros and others would be without the influencial G.I. LP. In 1980 the Slash Records promo movie 'Decline of Western Civilization' was released. Penelope Spheeris an ex film student, took on the task of documenting the bands involved in the Los Angeles hardcore scene. The Germs got a big slice of celluloid immortality. Scenes of Darby making breakfast, playing with his pet tarantula, and lots of horror stories about his legendary concerts make compelling viewing. Dumb, drunk and soon to be tragic, Darby is seen performing with the mechanical quality born of alcohol and downers.
It was during 1980 that the Germs sadly, reached the decision to split up. The result of long time feuding between eachother had finally forced them to throw in the towel. Darby, never deterred, decided to carry on in the show band named after him, The Darby Crash Band doing a set of club dates to keep the needle and pill money coming in. In December 1980, the Germs reformed for one night only, and to bid farewell to a whole generation of LA punks, by playing the Starwood club. It was to prove their last ever gig.
A week later, on December 7th 1980, Darby Crash was found dead of a heroin overdose. Ironically enough he was cheated of local music press headlines for a full week, as his untimely death occured a day before the shooting of John Lennon.