It’s possible that overly judgmental folks like me have given Flipside the proverbial “short shrift” over the years. I didn’t even buy a copy until well into college, 1986 or so, mostly because they gave such energetic and frothing coverage to any & every punk rock lame-o band, differentiating not in the least and really just there to innocuously champion all of it. No one cared much about their prose, because (as I saw it) no one there could effectively convince you with any sort of engendered credibility to buy a record or see a particular band anyway.
Yet when I read an issue like Flipside #32 from 1982 cover to cover, all it makes me do is wish I was there side-by-side with Al & Hud and the whole Flipside gang at every single show from South Orange County to the North San Fernando Valley, watching hardcore punk explode and share stages with creeping death rock bands (45 Grave, Christian Death), that next LA wave of over the-top art/performance acts (Johanna Went, Vox Pop) and those few rarified bands that were just miles ahead of everyone else (Minutemen, Dream Syndicate, 100 Flowers, Flesh Eaters).
This was the thrill of reading a Flipside, well into the 1990s. These people really lived it. I’d always marvel at their live reviews. A typical Friday night would have Flipside correspondents jumping from show to show all over the greater LA area, trying to document every last jot & titter coming from the clubs. I got to sort of brush shoulders a few times with editor Al Flipside and a guy named Bob Cantu in the early 90s, and it was all very real: they would start the evening seeing a band in Hollywood, say, then hustle down to Long Beach for another show and then make their way to a 2am wind-down party afterward, drinking and reveling all the way, then file their broken and disjointed dispatches in the next Flipside (“we missed so-and-so but I heard they were good; then the cops came”). I thought I was personally going pretty hard in my 20s, but these folks had me licked – and Al was in his thirties, having started Flipside in 1977. (To say nothing of scene correspondent and “rock and roll bank robber” Shane Williams – I’ve documented my direct encounters with him here).
It was the same in 1982. You read this thing and you still can’t believe LA had so many amazing shows you’d have gone to yourself in June ‘82 alone. You too would be humping it to Canoga Park and Hollywood and Costa Mesa and San Pedro all month long. It’s quite the time capsule, this one. There is such a buzz of punk rock activity that there are “Southern California H.C.” scene reports from Northwest O.C., Palos Verdes, Riverside and “More O.C.” respectively, while the rest of the magazine reports many wild shows that took place in Los Angeles proper.
There’s a priceless letter to the editor from teenager Mark Arm from Seattle, WA, exhorting punks to “think for themselves”; decrying the use of drugs in the scene, and relaying the fact that he had to talk his mom out of joining “Parents of Punkers” after punk rock music and fashions were featured on the Phil Donahue show. “She sees a counselor instead.”
Name an active LA-area punk-adjacent band in 1982 and they’re in here somewhere, as you can see from the cover, but there’s also a Flesh Eaters interview; a Twisted Roots family tree; an interview with the hideous Jeff Dahl about his awful new band Powertrip (“Fuck it all. The only thing I’m into is speed, beer, rock & roll and young girls.”); Eddie and the Subtitles; The Big Boys; and lots of love in the live reviews for the totally-zonkers Meat Puppets (they played with The Cramps in San Pedro this summer; where were you?) and brand-new band the Dream Syndicate, who are said to “sound blatantly like the Velvet Underground, yet are so unselfconscious about it that their plagiarism can’t be held against them.”
About 18 months later, in my estimation, it all started to go sideways in LA, music-wise. By 1984 the city and its nether regions still held more good bands per capita then most anywhere else, but it was a fast fade through the rest of the 80s. Of course my years of living in Southern California happened to be 1985-1989, and so I’d look at Flipside at record stores, then compare it to the vitality, breadth and craft of a Forced Exposure or Conflict and find it all quite “lacking”. Thus my attitude about it over the years, save for my awe and immense admiration for the crazed show-going of their staffers. This issue’s making me a little more generous in my retroactive estimation for the thing.