Transmissions from the Punk Heart

When the music scene in Seattle exploded in late 1991, bands from everywhichwhereplace rushed to the Pacific Northwest to try and get in on the buzz. This wasn’t how things usually went. Normally, a musician had to leave the Emerald City in order to make it big. Heck, even Jimi Hendrix had to do a reversal of “follow the yellow brick road.”

Example of a brilliant scientist

Here’s some other examples of people that had to ditch Seattle to order to find “success.” I put success in quotations because it can be a pretty subjective term, and the following musicians certainly achieved different levels of it.  Of course, the examples given will then be combined into a trifector (trifecta?), because science has proven that’s the best way to make an overall argument. Thanks in advance, science.

Penelope Houston

Penelope Houston. She moved down to San Francisco for art school, and quickly found herself fronting the Avengers. A pivotal punk band whose music still gets covered these days by bands like Pearl Jam, the Avengers had a big impact on the late 1970s Bay Area music milieu. They didn’t last too long though – the Avengers broke up even before Ronald Reagan made it into the Whitehouse. Which is a real shame, really.

The Screamers were a band that formed in Seattle in the mid 1970s. When they started, their name was the Tupperwares. Apparently, the copyright owners of that particular name didn’t take too kindly to the (mis)use of it, and hence the Screamers they were dubbed. They were a key part of the early Los Angeles punk scene, and used synthesizers BEFORE THE 1980S. Bootlegs exist of their live performances, but they didn’t make any recordings. They broke up at the beginning of the decade whose popular musicians seem to have really ripped off the Screamers whole “using synthesizers” idea.

SCREAMERS.jpg

Then there was this one guy that played in MANY Seattle punk bands before heading to what he hoped would be greener pastures in Los Angeles. He did okay. Success wise. Here’s a couple of bands Duff McKagan played in before helping to found Guns N’ Roses.

Ten Minute Warning

So…what did we learn? Well, if we get all scientific…in the early years of punk in America, there was a transmission of people and musical ideas from one region of the country to another. From Houston and the Screamers, we learn that folks from the Pacific Northwest had an impact on two of the most important early punk scenes in America, Los Angeles and San Francisco. From McKagan, we learn that when somebody felt they had outgrown their local music community, they can hit the dusty trail and try their luck elsewhere. And that sometimes it can pan out. I mean, if you call getting together with Axl Rose success, anyways.

All in all, it shows the interactions that were occurring between music milieux in the underground during the mid to late 1970s and 1980s. The network that developed across America built off these interactions, in venues, record lables, and fanzines, before things came to a head in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990s. And then the mainstream said, “what the heck is all this stuff?”

And the rest, of course, is…

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2 Comments on “Transmissions from the Punk Heart”

  1. William GIlgan Says:

    Some crazy gems might shine through no matter where the dusty trail took them. Hendrix for sure. There is a community, and some are at the top and some times the folks at the top are all from the same town. But medicine is magical and magical is art and every generation sends a hero up the pop charts.


  2. Duff McKagan: on leaving Seattle for Los Angeles


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