Germs performing in Madrid in 2009
|Also known as||Sophistifuck and the Revlon Spam Queens, GI|
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, U.S.|
|Associated acts||Joan Jett, Darby Crash Band, Nirvana, Mike Watt, Foo Fighters, the Go-Go's, the Weirdos, Nervous Gender, 45 Grave, Celebrity Skin, Ariel Pink|
|Past members|| Darby Crash |
Dinky (Diana Grant)
Lorna Doom (died 2019)
Dottie Danger (Belinda Carlisle)
Donna Rhia (Becky Barton)
D. J. Bonebrake
Germs were an American punk rock band from Los Angeles, California, United States, originally active from 1976 to 1980. The band's main early lineup consisted of singer Darby Crash, guitarist Pat Smear, bassist Lorna Doom, and drummer Don Bolles. They released only one album, 1979's (GI) , produced by Joan Jett, and were featured the following year in Penelope Spheeris' documentary film The Decline of Western Civilization , which chronicled the Los Angeles punk movement.
Germs disbanded following Crash's suicide on December 7, 1980. Their music was influential to many later punk rock acts. Smear went on to achieve greater fame performing with Nirvana and Foo Fighters.
In 2005, actor Shane West was cast to play Crash in the biographical film What We Do Is Secret , titled after a song by the Germs. He performed with Smear, Doom, and Bolles at a production party for the film, after which the Germs reformed with West as the singer. The new lineup of the band toured the United States several times, including performances on the 2006 and 2008 Warped Tours.
Crash (born Jan Paul Beahm) and Smear (born Georg Ruthenberg) decided to start a band after being kicked out of University High School for antisocial behavior, allegedly for using "mind control" on fellow students. Their original name was "Sophistifuck and the Revlon Spam Queens", but they had to shorten the name as they could not afford that many letters on a T-shirt. The (initially hypothetical) first lineup consisted of Beahm (then known as Bobby Pyn, and later as Darby Crash) on vocals, Ruthenberg (under the name Pat Smear) on guitar, an early member named "Dinky" (Diana Grant) on bass, and Michelle Baer playing drums. This lineup never played in front of a live audience.
In April 1976, the band added Lorna Doom (born Teresa Ryan) on bass, with transitional member Dottie Danger (later famous as Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go's) on drums. Carlisle never actually played with the band, as she was sidelined by a bout of mononucleosis for an extended period. She was replaced by her friend Donna Rhia (Becky Barton), who played three gigs and performed on their first single. Carlisle remained a friend and helper of the band (she can be heard introducing the band on the Germicide: Live at the Whiskey recording, produced by Kim Fowley), only leaving because her new band, the Go-Go's, were becoming popular and, as she put it, "I was really disturbed by the heroin that was going on".Nickey Beat, of various noteworthy Los Angeles bands including the Weirdos, also sat in on drums for a time.
The band's first live performance was at the Orpheum Theater. Smear recalled: "We made noise. Darby stuck the mic in a jar of peanut butter. It was a dare, we had no songs or anything! Lorna wore her pants inside out, and Darby covered himself in red licorice...we made noise for five minutes until they threw us off".
The Germs initially drew musical influences from Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Ramones, the Runaways, Sex Pistols, and New York Dolls. Early on, Smear was the only musically experienced member; Doom survived early performances by sliding a finger up and down the fretboard of her bass while Rhia generally kept a minimal beat on the bass drum, periodically bashing a cymbal.
Early performances were usually marked by raucous crowds made up of the band's friends. As a result, their gigs became notorious for being rowdy and usually verged on a riot.
The first single, "Forming", was recorded on a Sony 2-track reel-to-reel recorder in Smear's family garage, and arrived back from the pressing plant with the note, "Warning: This record causes ear cancer", printed on the sleeve by the plant staff,much to the band's displeasure. It was released in July 1977 on the What? label. The single featured a shambolic but serviceable performance on the A-side and a muddy live recording of "Sexboy" on the B-side, recorded at the Roxy for the Cheech and Chong movie, Up in Smoke . The song was not used in the movie, nor was the band. They were the only band not to receive a call-back to perform live for the film's "Battle of the Bands" sequence, perhaps due to the fact that the Germs' chaotic Roxy performance had featured an unscripted, full-on food fight.
The Germs, despite most expectations, developed a sound that was highly influential. Throughout their career, they had a reputation as a chaotic live band. Crash often arrived onstage nearly incoherent from drugs, singing everywhere but into the microphone and taunting the audience between songs, yet nevertheless, delivered intense theatrical and increasingly musical performances. The other band members prided themselves on similar problems, with many contemporary reviews citing collapses, incoherence and drunken vomiting onstage. Fans saw this as part of the show, and indeed, the band presented it as such, even when breaking bottles and rolling in the glass, with the music coming and going.
Smear was revealed to be a remarkably talented and fluid player; much later, after Crash's death, critics finally acknowledged his lyrics as poetic art. Crash's vocals had begun to mold themselves around the style of the Screamers' vocalist Tomata DuPlenty (The Screamers, a huge LA live attraction at the time, never released a record, but covered the Germs' song "Sex Boy" at live shows, as heard on bootleg recordings.) Another strong influence on the band's final sound was Zolar X, a theatrical glam rock band popular in the Los Angeles area circa 1972–1980. Crash and Smear were enthusiastic fans of the band from the pre-Germs days, and the fast tempos and raw guitar tone of (the historically pre-punk) Zolar Xwere similar to the sound achieved on later Germs recordings.
The Germs recorded two singles (with alternate tracks), an album-length demo session, and one full-length LP, (GI), each more focused and powerful than the last. Crash was, despite his erratic behavior, generally regarded as a brilliant lyricist (a contemporary critic described him as "ransacking the dictionary"), and the final lineup of Smear, Doom and Bolles had become a world-class rock ensemble by the recording of (GI), turning in a performance that spurred an LA Weekly reviewer to write, "This album leaves exit wounds". It is considered one of the first hardcore punkrecords, and has a near-mythic status among punk rock fans. The album was produced by Joan Jett of the Runaways. Some European copies of the album also credited Donny Rose on keyboards (the song, "Shut Down," was recorded live in the studio, and featured melodic, two-fisted piano).
The Germs were featured in Spheeris's documentary film The Decline of Western Civilization along with X, Black Flag, Fear, Circle Jerks, Alice Bag Band, and Catholic Discipline.
Following the release of their only studio album, (GI), on Slash Records, the Germs recorded six original songs with producer Jack Nitzsche for the soundtrack to the film, Cruising , starring Al Pacino. Doom wrote one of the songs. Only one of these songs, "Lions Share", ended up on the Columbia soundtrack album. It was featured for approximately one minute in the movie, during a video-booth murder scene in an S&M club. Other songs from this session did not appear until the 1988 bootleg Lion's Share, along with four tracks from their infamous last show at the Starwood. The Cruising sessions were finally released officially on the CD (MIA): The Complete Anthology.
The end of the band came when Crash, who had become increasingly impatient with drummer Bolles' antics, fired him and replaced him with his friend Rob Henley.
Shortly after the Germs split, Crash and Smear formed the short-lived Darby Crash Band. Circle Jerks drummer Lucky Lehrer joined the band on the eve of their first (sold-out) live performance, when during soundcheck, Darby kicked out the drummer they'd rehearsed with. The band, described by Smear as "like the Germs, but with worse players", played only a few gigs to lukewarm reaction before splitting up.
Shortly after that, Crash contacted Smear about a Germs "reunion" show, claiming it was necessary to "put punk into perspective" for the punks on the scene. However, Smear has said Crash told him privately he wanted to earn money for heroin with which to commit suicide. Since Crash had described this scenario many times in the past, Smear did not take him seriously.
On December 3, 1980, an over-sold Starwood hosted a final live show of the reunited Germs, including Bolles. At one point, Crash told the amazed kids in the audience, "We did this show so you new people could see what it was like when we were around. You're not going to see it again".
Crash committed suicide on December 7, 1980, at age 22. Unreported at the time, Crash had overdosed on heroin in a suicide pact with close friend Casey "Cola" Hopkins, who ended up surviving. She later insisted that he did not intend for her to live, nor did he change his mind at the last minute and intend for himself to live. According to Spin , apocryphal lore has Crash attempting to write "Here lies Darby Crash" on the wall as he lay dying, but not finishing. In reality, he wrote a short note to David "Bosco" Danford that stated, "My life, my leather, my love goes to Bosco".
Outside the world of the Germs' fans, news of Crash's death was largely overshadowed by the murder of John Lennon the next day. A local news station mistakenly reported that Crash had died from taking too many sleeping pills.
After the Germs ended, Bolles played with several other LA bands, including Nervous Gender, 45 Grave, Celebrity Skin, and Ariel Pink. In fall 2009, Bolles joined the cast of punks, mods and rockers web series Oblivion.
In 1993, Slash released (MIA): The Complete Anthology, with liner notes by Pleasant Gehman.
Smear went on to play with Nirvana during their last year and, after the death of Kurt Cobain, with Mike Watt, and then Foo Fighters.
In 1996, a tribute album titled A Small Circle of Friends appeared that featured tracks by Watt, Free Kitten, Melvins, Meat Puppets, that dog., L7, the Posies, NOFX, Flea, Gumball and others, along with a version of "Circle One" performed by Smear with Hole under the name "the Holez".
Rhino Handmade officially released Live at the Starwood Dec. 3, 1980 on June 14, 2010. The live set was previously unavailable in its entirety. Along with the CD, the release includes an 8½" × 11" replica of the original poster for the show, a reproduction of the handwritten set list and a four-page fanzine with photos and liner notes by Jonathan Gold.
A movie about the Germs, What We Do Is Secret , was in production for several years, and premiered June 23, 2007 at the Los Angeles Film Festival.The film was theatrically released on August 8, 2008. The film starred Shane West in the role of Darby Crash.
Smear, Doom, and Bolles reactivated the Germs with actor Shane West taking over the vocal spot. They played on the 2006 Warped Tour and toured clubs in the US later that summer, and again in 2007. They once again played on the 2008 edition of the Warped Tour, on the Vans Old School Stage. Some prominent members of the punk rock community such as Fat Mike and Jello Biafra were critical of the band's decision to replace Crash with an actor.
In a July 2009 article, Bolles spoke about the band's plans to re-record old material for a planned box set titled Lest We Forget: The Sounds of the Germs.The band rearranged songs from the Germicide live album and the Cruising sessions; they planned to record several Darby Crash Band songs as well. Live recordings, both old and new, would have made up the rest of the box set, which Bolles hoped to release in 2010. The newly recorded songs were to be released on Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan's new, unnamed record label. Two songs, "Out of Time" and "Beyond Hurt – Beyond Help", were originally written by Crash and Smear prior to Crash's death, but were never recorded. The songs were to be recorded with West providing vocals. However, West left the Germs in 2009.
In December 2013, Charlotte Caffey (of the Go-Go's) played bass for a one-off gig (a memorial for Bill Bartell a.k.a. Pat Fear) when Doom could not be located.
On January 16, 2019, former bassist Lorna Doom died.
Georg Albert Ruthenberg, better known by the stage name Pat Smear, is an American musician and actor. He was a founding member of punk band the Germs, and was the touring guitarist for grunge band Nirvana from 1993 to 1994. After Nirvana ended, its drummer Dave Grohl went on to become the frontman of rock band Foo Fighters; Smear soon joined on guitar, and has since recorded five studio albums and a live album with the band.
45 Grave are an American punk rock band from Los Angeles, California formed in 1979. The original group broke up in 1985, but vocalist Dinah Cancer subsequently revived the band.
Darby Crash was an American punk rock vocalist and songwriter who, along with longtime friend Pat Smear, co-founded the punk rock band the Germs. He committed suicide by way of an intentional heroin overdose.
Belinda Jo Carlisle is an American singer, musician, and author. She gained worldwide fame as the lead singer of the Go-Go's, one of the most successful all-female bands in history, and went on to have a prolific career as a solo artist.
The Decline of Western Civilization is a 1981 American documentary filmed through 1979 and 1980. The movie is about the Los Angeles punk rock scene and was directed by Penelope Spheeris. In 1981, the LAPD Chief of Police Daryl Gates wrote a letter demanding the film not be shown again in the city.
Shannon Bruce Snaith, better known as Shane West, is an American actor, musician, and songwriter. West is known for his portrayal of Eli Sammler in the ABC family drama Once and Again, Landon Carter in A Walk to Remember, Darby Crash in What We Do Is Secret, Dr. Ray Barnett in the NBC medical drama ER, Michael Bishop in The CW spy drama Nikita and Bane in the Fox superhero drama Gotham. He also starred in the WGN fantasy/adventure/historical drama Salem as John Alden.
The Bags were an American punk rock band formed in 1977, one of the first generation of punk rock bands to emerge from Los Angeles, California.
(GI) is the debut and only studio album by American punk rock band the Germs. Often considered the first hardcore punk album, it was released in the United States in October 1979 on Slash Records with catalog number SR 103. The album was later released in Italy in 1982 by Expanded Music with the catalog EX 11. The album's title is an acronym for "Germs Incognito", an alternate name the band used to obtain bookings when their early reputation kept them out of Los Angeles-area clubs. After (GI)'s release, the band would only undertake one more recording session, for the soundtrack album to Al Pacino's 1980 film Cruising. A year after the release of (GI), on December 7, 1980, vocalist Darby Crash committed suicide.
Lexicon Devil is a three-song EP and the second release by American punk rock band the Germs. It was also the debut output of Slash Records, and of Geza X both as a producer and as a recording engineer. The record was named after its leadoff song.
Chris D. is a punk poet, rock critic, singer, writer, actor and filmmaker. He is best known as the lead singer and founder of the early Los Angeles punk/deathrock band the Flesh Eaters.
What We Do Is Secret is a 2007 American biographical film about Darby Crash, singer of the late-1970s Los Angeles punk rock band the Germs. Rodger Grossman directed the film and wrote the screenplay, based on a story he had written with Michelle Baer Ghaffari, a friend of Crash's and co-producer of the film. Shane West stars as Crash, while Rick Gonzalez, Bijou Phillips, and Noah Segan respectively portray Germs members Pat Smear, Lorna Doom, and Don Bolles.
Paul Roessler is an American musician and producer. Roessler was a prominent member of the L.A. punk scene during the late 1970s and 1980s. He played keyboards in bands such as The Screamers, Twisted Roots, 45 Grave, Nervous Gender, SAUPG, Geza X and the Mommymen, Mike Watt and the Secondmen, Nina Hagen and The Deadbeats. Roessler has also released solo recordings such as "Abominable," "Curator," "The Arc," "6/12" and a rock opera entitled "Burnt Church" with Jeff Parker. He currently works as a record producer at Kitten Robot Studios in Los Angeles, California. He is the brother of Kira Roessler, formerly of Black Flag, and the son of underwater photographer Carl Roessler.
Teresa Marie Ryan, better known by her stage name Lorna Doom, was an American musician best known as the bass guitarist for the punk rock band the Germs from 1976–1980 and again after they got back together from 2005–2009.
A Small Circle of Friends was a tribute album for the Germs released in 1996.
The Darby Crash Band was a music project started by Darby Crash and Pat Smear, founding members of Los Angeles punk rock band the Germs, formed after the Germs split in 1980. They recruited bassist David "Bosco" Danford and Circle Jerks drummer Lucky Lehrer and began playing shows in Los Angeles. The band's setlists would include a number of well-known songs from the Germs' archives, as well as newly written material. The band never recorded and played only a small number of shows before Crash's death on December 7, 1980.
Germicide, also known as Germicide: Live at the Whisky, 1977, is a live album by the punk rock band the Germs. Performing live at the Whisky a Go Go in 1977, Darby Crash and the Germs were at the beginning of their career. At this time, Crash performed using the name Bobby Pyn. Darby and the audience feud constantly throughout the show. Disc jockey Rodney Bingenheimer appears at the beginning as master of ceremonies, and "Belinda" briefly takes the mic to introduce the band, who she describes as "sluts".
Brendan Mullen was a British-American nightclub owner, music promoter and writer, best known for founding the Los Angeles punk rock club The Masque. Through Mullen's support at various nightclubs in California, the scene gave birth to such bands as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Go-Go's, X, The Weirdos and the Germs.
Celebrity Skin were a post-punk, glam influenced, hard rock band from Los Angeles, California. They were active from the mid-1980s till the early 1990s.
"Forming" is the debut single by American punk rock band the Germs. Released on What?, an independent start-up label, in July 1977, it is regarded as the first true Los Angeles punk record.
Live 1981 & 1986 is a live album by the American punk rock band the Adolescents, released in 1989 on Triple X Records. It consists of live performances recorded during the band's original 1980–81 run and during their 1986 reunion.