I spent age 10 to age nearly-18 as a resident of San Jose, California during the years 1978-1985, before leaving with extreme prejudice for college and never coming back (except to visit my beloved folks, of course). While it would be extreme hyperbole to call this city of 500,000 people when we moved there a “cowtown”, culturally the place was truly a backwater until the 1990s or so, forever in San Francisco’s and even Oakland’s shadow, even to this day – despite having the 10th largest population in the United States, well ahead of Austin, Seattle and Washington DC. When I was growing up there, it was a metal town, a burnout town, a stoner town. You can read my reminiscences here if you’d like.
When punk rock hit, there were thankfully folks like Tim Tanooka and Verna Wilson in town to document its impact both across the suburban diaspora of the South Bay in South Bay Ripper – later Ripper – the first true fanzine I ever bought. But let’s not also pass by the chance to honor Howard Etc.and Billy Fallout from Forget It! – the other first-class San Jose punk fanzine, and one that existed in the pre-hardcore era. Forget It! #4 came out in November 1980 and straddles one world in which The Plugz, the Go-Gos and Mo-dettes are bands on the up-and-up and playing shows in San Jose and on the peninsula, and another in which Black Flag is opening for Stiff Little Fingers in San Francisco, and blowing everyone out of the water, changing lives, melting faces etc.
This is one of my favorite eras to read about in music, especially in US and UK fanzines that were not from the big cities. “Punk” and “new wave” have not divided and conquered yet in these places, and battle lines between them haven’t really been drawn in San Jose, a place where one Forget It! writer can express swelling admiration for Black Flag, the B-52s and XTC, as well as profess true love for “Margot of The Go-Gos”, with a center-spread of candids of her to boot. A place where contributing writers have names like Barb Ituate and Lisa House. Later – nine years later, to be exact – I’d get a radio show on landmark South Bay college radio station KFJC, and I’d join DJs there with names like Jim Shorts, Hell’n Hairspray and Mark Darms. I decided to go in the other direction, and made sure my crazy DJ name was “Jay”.
Favorite thing in Forget It! #4 is The Plugz interview, which goes on and on and was transcribed exactly as it happened. Some fanzines clearly reckoned that editing was something corporate media did. I sometimes forget that Tito Larriva and The Plugz carried on as long as they did; when this interview was done, their first LP Electrify Me was out, and Tito had come off his stint as a member of The Flesh Eaters the year before. He talks a bit about Chris Desjardins before taking the opportunity to mock his histrionic, yowling vocals on the song “Brain Time”, a Larriva-penned track that the Flesh Eaters also did, albeit never on vinyl. Bad, Tito, bad!
There’s also an advertisement for a long-gone San Jose store called The Dedicated Record Collector, the very store in which I procured my Mo-dettes “White Mice” 45 and The Story So Far LP when I was in high school. Did they once belong to Billy Fallout or Howard Etc. in previous years? We’ll never know!