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fromDa Capo Press

Under the Big Black Sun

A Personal History of L.A. Punk

By John Doe, By Tom DeSavia

Under the Big Black Sun explores the nascent Los Angeles punk rock movement and its evolution to hardcore punk as it's never been told before. Authors John Doe and Tom DeSavia have woven together an enthralling story of the legendary West Coast scene from 1977-1982 by enlisting the voices of people who were there. The book shares chapter-length tales from the authors along with personal essays from famous (and infamous) players in the scene. Additional authors include: Exene Cervenka (X), Henry Rollins (Black Flag), Mike Watt (The Minutemen), Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey (Go-Go's), Dave Alvin (The Blasters), Chris D. (The Flesh Eaters), Robert Lopez (The Zeros, El Vez), Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L.), Teresa Covarrubias (The Brat), as well as scenesters and journalists Pleasant Gehman, Kristine McKenna, and Chris Morris. Through interstitial commentary, John Doe "narrates" this journey through the land of film noir sunshine, Hollywood back alleys, and suburban sprawl, the place where he met his artistic counterparts Exene, DJ Bonebrake, and Billy Zoom and formed X, the band that became synonymous with, and in many ways defined, L.A. punk.

Focusing on punk's evolutionary years, Under the Big Black Sun shares stories of friendship and love, ambition and feuds, grandiose dreams and cultural rage, all combined with the tattered, glossy sheen of pop culture weirdness that epitomized the operations of Hollywood's underbelly. Readers will travel to the clubs that defined the scene, as well as to the street corners, empty lots, apartment complexes, and squats that served as de facto salons for the musicians, artists, and fringe players that hashed out what would become punk rock in Los Angeles.

L.A. punk was born from rock 'n' roll, from country and blues and Latin music, the true next step in the evolution of rock 'n' roll music. It was born of art, culture, political, and economic frustration. It spoke of a Los Angeles that existed when regionalism still reigned in the USA. It sounded like Los Angeles.

For the first time, the stories and photos from this now-fabled era are presented from those on the front lines. Stories that most have never heard about the art that was born under the big black sun.
John Doe has worked as a roofer, an aluminum siding mechanic, a manager of poetry readings, a musician, and an actor. He met Exene Cervenka at the Venice poetry workshop in 1976 and started working with Billy Zoom around the same time. When DJ Bonebrake joined X in mid-1977, the lineup was complete. As one of the last original punk rock bands standing, they continue to tour, most recently with Blondie and Pearl Jam in front of stadium-sized crowds and audiences born after the band's formation. He has recorded eight solo records with numerous renowned singers and musicians and as an actor has appeared in over fifty films and television productions, including Road House, Great Balls of Fire, Boogie Nights, and Roswell. He currently tours as both a solo artist and with X. Doe lives north of San Francisco.

Tom DeSavia is currently head of creative services for SONGS Music Publishing and is based in Los Angeles, California. Prior to joining SONGS, DeSavia did lengthy stints as both a publisher and record label A&R man, as well as many years running pop membership for ASCAP. He currently serves on the West Coast board of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame and previously served on the board of directors for both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). A native of Southern California, Tom began his career as a music journalist.
Praise for Under the Big Black Sun

Vogue.com, 2/28/16
“A candid look at one of rock’s most exciting scenes.”

Publishers Weekly, 4/4/16
“Doe, frontman for X, has gathered the testimonies of punk’s progenitors in L.A., a scene only rivaled by those of New York and London for fecundity and influence.”

Q Magazine, June 2016
“An excellent dissection of the unique cultural and sexual plurality of the LA scene…Compelling reading.”

Library Journal, 4/15/16
“[A] fascinating collection of essays.”

Rolling Stone, 5/5/16
“The true story of the Los Angeles punk scene…A set of vivid personal essays…The most artist-centered look yet at a scene that helped define the future of a music whose rallying cry was ‘no future.’”

John Evans, co-owner of California’s Diesel: A Bookstore, on NPR’s All Things Considered, 7/22/16
“A great and generous memoir of L.A. punk.”

Booklist, 7/21/16
“An entertaining, firsthand history that should appeal to punk fans everywhere.”

Record Collector, May 2016
“A great read for anyone with even a passing interest in the U.S. underground of the time.”

Esquire.com, 4/26/16
“The new book from punk icon John Doe offers a history of the overlooked music scene…For anyone who thinks that punk rock was limited to the famed scenes in London and New York, Under the Big Black Sun offers hard evidence that the L.A. scene was just as important—and perhaps created an even greater, lasting impact…A great story about the underappreciated music that came out of the City of Angels during that golden period of 1977-1982.”

The A.V. Club, 4/25/16
Under The Big Black Sun opens up L.A.’s punk-rock underbelly…Culled from the personal remembrances of roughly a dozen of the city’s most prized punk-rock figures, the book digs deep into the ugly, dangerous, but nonetheless fraternal nature of the burgeoning L.A. punk scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s. From Hollywood over to East L.A. and south to San Pedro and Huntington Beach, Under The Big Black Sun covers the scene’s considerable sprawl, from the sketchy clubs and apartment dwellings to the bands and the drug and booze-fueled chaos that followed them…The dirt dished on the bands and the music is great, but the book wisely casts a wider net to capture broader aspects of early L.A. punk culture…You-had-to-be-there style storytelling.”

PopMatters, 4/25/16
“A series of essays in which each voice shines…These aren’t Rolling Stone profiles that have been sanitized to protect us from the truth, they’re the real conversations that you’d have with this gang if any of them were your friends…The memories, some of them anyway, are here too for us to sort through and feel something akin to being there. What more could we want?”

Examiner.com, 5/3/16
“A fascinating, first-person account of professional gigging and groupie-dom in the late 1970s and early ‘80s…Doe’s descent into the dark tumult of southern California in the post-Carter years is as seedy and unsterile as it is musically and historically significant…Doe effectively Sharpies an X on our hands for reentry into a world most of us probably never knew, into a labyrinth of alleyways and urine-besotted staircases populated by society’s fringe-dwellers—the talented outcasts and
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