The Weirdos were the most significant band of the early LA scene. This, following the theory that if New York punk was about art, and London punk about politics, LA punk was about pop culture, TV, and absurdity. The Weirdos had great songs, a great image, and a very good singer. The look was the most extreme of any band around.
—Greg Shaw, writer and founder of Bomp! Records, We Got The Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story Of LA Punk, pp. 71-72
The Weirdos’ most well-known song and also the title of a must-read oral history of the early Los Angeles punk scene (buy on Amazon). I think they’re described damn near perfectly in the first Dangerhouse comp: “Perhaps closest to the sounds of mainline English punk, they created the most convincing wall of distortion/sound of any LA band of the period. Where was the major label contact for these guys? Without a doubt, The Weirdos were the most creative and visually overwhelming band on the scene.” In “Neutron Bomb” you can certainly hear the Sex Pistols and probably The Ramones, but I think you can also hear some Damned and Devo, two bands with whom they shared stages in those halcyon days of 1977-78.
Peter Case discovered The Weirdos. Who knows, maybe we would have stayed in our own private little world if he hadn’t been so aggressive in talking us into playing out before we even had a completed lineup.
–John Denney, We Got The Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story Of LA Punk, We Got The Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story Of LA Punk, p. 71
A buzzsaw punk anthem that sounds like a latter-day “Have Love, Will Travel” (The Sonics) as well as a template for Rocket From The Crypt. Cliff Roman’s Vox guitar combines with Dix’s leads and Dave Trout’s bass to create a guitar tsunami, with John’s vocal howl surfing on top of the madness. The Weirdos at the peak of their powers.
They didn’t even have a drummer, so at first they were saying, ‘We can’t do it.’ Then we said, ‘Fuck it, man. Just go play and you’ll get a drummer. You don’t need a fucking drummer. Just show up, you guys are like the greatest group in the world.’ The Weirdos were fucking great. Those songs like ‘A Life Of Crime,’ ‘Idle Life,’ Hit Man’ — those are still great tunes.
–Peter Case, We Got The Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story Of LA Punk, p. 70
Weirdos – Idle Life
Available on Destroy All Music
Gee, you think Kurt Cobain heard this track at some point? “Love Buzz” may have been a Shocking Blue cover, with the original hinting at proto-punkery, but “Idle Life” is unquestionably punk rock and it sounds astonishingly close to what Nirvana came up with in 1988. In that sense, it’s the perfect Weirdos track. They were ahead of their time, musically and visually, the kind of band that record labels had no idea what to do with in the 1970s. Essentially, it took about a decade for the music industry to catch up to the early LA punks, if not all punk.
THERE’S NO PLACE TO HIDE, I’M STUCK IN MY BRAIN
You might think this post was inspired by my previous post on Thelonious Monster. After all, guitarist Dix Denney was a founding member of both the Monster and The Weirdos, and his brother John, pictured up top, was the band’s singer and fellow co-founder. I suppose on some level that has to be true. But, I also think this is one of those creepy Twilight Zone things where The Weirdos were floating in the cultural ether and I tapped into their frequency. In fact, the reason I’m writing about The Weirdos is because I was watching American History X for the first time the other night. (I know, I know, where the hell have I been?) Anyway, while watching AHX I noticed a distinctive, yet almost unbelievable piece of set design. On Edward Furlong‘s bedroom wall, set amidst the happy funtime Nazi propaganda, was a picture of John Denney from The Weirdos. Specifically, a poster for the band’s Destroy All Music 7″, and featuring the classic Denney pic used for the cover of Slash Magazine (top of the page). Don’t remember this in the film? Check it, foos.
My first thought was, “Is that John Denney?!?!” My second thought was, “Why is that awesome picture of JD being used in a movie about white supremacy???” Keep in mind, The Weirdos weren’t the type to adorn themselves in Nazi iconography and are kind of obviously not purveyors of the national socialist ethos. And from a purely visual standpoint, The Weirdos didn’t need iron crosses and swastikas. I like how they’re described in the Destroy All Music reissue: “Deconstructed thrift-store day-glow abstract expressionist rockabilly chic.” Essentially, they were walking Pollocks who didn’t need the distracting silliness and fake rebellion of Nazi symbolism.
Which brings me back to the why? Why was this picture used? If the poster was included because John Denney’s disturbing appearance mirrors the confusion and alienation of a Venice kid fucked up on white supremacy, job well done. But, with me living in Los Angeles, I can’t help but feel there’s some homegrown subversion at play. Was one of the set designers on American History X a secret Weirdos fan and included the poster as a nod to one of LA’s great, underappreciated punk bands? Nothing ends up in a movie by accident, for no other reason than rights need to be cleared. So, there’s a story here somewhere. If you can solve this mystery, please write in. I’d love to hear how The Weirdos very subtly infiltrated this excellent, brutal masterpiece.
We was good friends for a long, long time
But, baby you got hungry for a life of crime
Get the message now?!?!