Damage #7

Damage was an upper-pantheon San Francisco punk tabloid that ran from 1979 through 1981. I have a few issues from their 13-issue run, and I’m always game to add more, especially after hearing the terrific interview Rock Writ podcast did with editor Brad Lapin recently, which you can listen to here. It wouldn’t be a stretch in the least to call it San Francisco’s “answer” to Los Angeles’ Slash and New York’s NY Rocker; other newsprint/tabloid gems from this general era include LA’s No Mag and Boston’s Take It! and Boston Rock. We’ll get to frolicking in all of this stuff in time, promise.

I’m always sort of bedeviled and a little bothered when I read some of these San Francisco-focused magazines, even Search & Destroy at times, as I continually find the focus on social politics boring, the art-school aesthetic pompous and pretentious, and many of the local musical mediocrities to be dull as dishwater. Damage #7 exemplifies much of this, exceptionally more so than other issues which I’ve enjoyed far more than this one. I don’t know, maybe catching “the scene” as the calendar was rolling over from mid-1980 to late 1980 is catching it all in a bad stretch, but there’s a sense here in #7 that it’s all a bit globally played out, and baby, you and I know that wasn’t the case.

Maybe it’s just San Francisco itself. Crime have just released their awful third single, “Gangster Funk / Maserati”, and the key members of the band have changed their names to “Frankie Valentino” and “Johnny St. John”. Some of the “new wave” artwork in the magazine follows suit, looking like Nagel paintings and reeking of cocaine. There’s a piece in here about “Trends: Pop Music”, which spotlights some of the Bay Area’s weakest nu-wavers and skinny-tie power poppers (No Sisters, Rubinoos) as pretty much the hottest thing going. And honestly, when you spend three big pages covering the Public Image Ltd. press conference, things are looking grim. 

So Damage #7 does what I’d have done to mitigate, and sends Amy Linden to interview The Cramps, who’ve just released Songs The Lord Taught Us, and puts Bruce Conner on a plane to Tokyo to cover the scene there. Anything but the moribund local scene depicted here. The Flipper interview, which is terrible, is very much to the contrary – but you wouldn’t have known it by the meandering discussion of punk’s past and present & absolutely no context for who this incredible band were and what sort of music they were playing. 

The magazine’s overall quality control just seems off this time. Later-period garbage records by Stiff Little Fingers and The Members get total raves, and someone thought it would be a good idea to interview The Dead Boys in 1980, after all of the band save Stiv Bators & Jimmy Zero had quit. You don’t get this sort of malarky from Slash in 1980, and even though there’s a great Peter Urban review picking apart X’s Los Angeles whilst enumerating his disappointments, I’d have probably found myself having a hard time trusting Damage as a tastemaker. Then again, I was 12 years old and would have been too scared to spend my dollar on this anyway.

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