There have been many books about the early punk rock scene and a couple specifically about the Los Angeles one in general but for as good as all those books are, none of them tell the story of just one person. The ones that give oral histories only do so in sound bytes; little digestible nuggets. One man who was a teenager who happened upon that early punk rock scene decided to share his story of being a teenage punk rocker at a time when things were a lot different than they are today and being a punk wasn’t something that was accepted or even common.
1978 tells the real-life story of a troubled teenager named Todd (who later acquired the nickname Ger-I Lewis) who was searching for somewhere he could fit in back in the 1970s. After finding drugs and plenty of trouble he discovered surfing, skateboarding and eventually it was the small but blossoming Los Angeles punk rock scene that he really connected with and it forever changed and shaped his life.
All those years of self-abuse didn’t seem to erase his memories of those early punk rock years as Ger-I’s story is told in the first-person with amazing clarity in its recollection. He tells the story about how he and a couple of his friends slowly discovered this exciting new music and scene and how they formed their own little punk rock crew. This crew spent their days the way most people getting into punk rock back then did, discovering bands, going to shows, skating, surfing, and partying. Ger-I had the good fortune to be living right in the heart of arguably the best early punk rock scene in the world, the one in Los Angeles and he survived all the chaos, the violence, and even the drugs and had a really interesting story to tell.
Having grown up in the same era as Ger-I and only being a few years younger, there was some striking similarities to his teenage punk rock life and mine which made the stories all the more enjoyable. Unlike me however, Ger-I was there hanging around with people who formed the best bands of the early punk years, most notably The Germs. Ger-I befriended Darby Crash and the rest of the band and hung out with Darby on a regular basis in the later half of The Germs’ short career. Being a huge Germs fan, I found the stories that revolved around Darby and the rest of that group the most fascinating and I couldn’t put the book down because I was so engrossed with the stories I didn’t want to interrupt them by putting the book down.
The book is a paperback and its only flaw is that it is only 120 pages long and as a result a quick read that is made even quicker by the fact that it is a really enjoyable look into the life of a teenage punk rocker in the late 1970s and a story that I’m glad was put to paper. Any fan of early punk rock whether you lived it at the time or just have an interest in what it was like back then would find this book a really enjoyable way to spend some time.