Joe Franke

In 1981, I was 13 years old, and wasn’t really a fan of music around then, I was still into Star Wars, comic books, and figuring out Dungeons and Dragons, but music was a not-so-exciting thing based on what I was hearing on the radio and such. Sure, if I’d have dug deeper, but I wasn’t inclined to because of what I was hearing. I listened to my parent’s Beatles and Elvis and Jose Feliciano records, but they didn’t really motivate me. It is fuzzy but maybe the Doctor Demento radio show led me to the Rodney on the RoQ radio show, and that led me to punk rock. 

There was something going on, there was a rebellious aspect, an aspect of confrontation, and just loud crazy sounds that I hadn’t heard before in the context of music.

I started getting curious. Then I was at the Saugus swap meet and saw Black Flag’s debut album on cassette. I’d remembered them as a band I heard a song by and liked. I bought the album and loved it. Then I went to record stores looking in what was their independant/import section. Then came FEAR, the Circle Jerks, X, and whatever I was seeing on T-shirts and flyers. That method worked pretty well, as I still have trouble thinking of the ones that didn’t really pan out.. My sister’s boyfriend heard that I was interested and made me a compilation cassette or two, and then I was off to the races. A lot of my exposure came via the six o’clock news, as they were also fascinated by the phenomenon.

For the longest time, I was in awe of these artists, realizing, but not fully understanding that they were playing in neighboring zip codes. There was a good amount of mystery involved, or not a lot of information around. Fanzines and free weekly L.A. papers were a source to find out about the bands, and the lyric sheets and/or liner notes that would sometimes come with records. I soon discovered that being into this sort of music was participatory. You couldn’t always get the records at stores, so you’d send a few dollars to the bands themselves, or send a few dollars to fanzines that would write about them. In the process, you’d chat a bit and make friends. Later, I’d publish some zines for the same reason. I’d collect flyers for shows and trade them with pen-pals and use them for stationery. I’ve met people that I know to this day.

By the time I was driving or had friends that drove, I was going to all the shows I could. Wasn’t always picking since that was more up to the driver, but I started seeing Black Flag, Oingo Boingo, Motorhead, D.O.A., Social Distortion, GBH, 45 Grave, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Local bands like Scared Straight were of equal importance. Punk rock kind of spoiled me since it seemed like a rarity that I couldn’t say “Hey, good show!” to the band after every gig. I was driving to the Country Club in the Valley, Fender’s in Long Beach, the Anti-club and later the Scream in L.A., and many more that no longer exist or I cannot recall. As a fan it didn’t matter whether the gig was at a proper venue, a rented hall, or a backyard.

It was only after being schooled on punk that I dug deeper into rock and blues and more. I think my bar was raised as I was schooled on immediate results in music rather than accepting a lot of the 70’s rock that proceeded. I speak mainly from the FM dial, as there has always been amazing music, I just wasn’t hearing it. I first heard Iggy Pop as a $2.99 cut-out.

Eventually, I started a band and immersed myself further. It became much more participatory. Bands that I had read about, listened to, and later saw live, we got to play with (and befriend).That was really something. It was pretty amazing, but it was still punk rock. This is a thing I think about a lot. I feel like what I saw back in the day was a legendary show in my book, with perhaps a hundred people in attendance, may not have made the promoter happy, but in my mind, it was a concert. That could have been me, because I’d seen these bands in fanzines, cassettes, newspapers and word of mouth. I still have that sentiment.

I’d worked in record stores as my musical tastes expanded. I liked being around, talking about, and listening to music. Twenty-three years ago, I opened a record store, its first location being in Alameda, California.. I stocked all genres of music, but it was known as the “punk rock store” nevertheless. I had bands play in the store on the weekends, and bands and labels would sell me their releases in person. I migrated my business to the internet, but still sell all of the records that I got into back then, as well as newer ones that channel the same spirit and dynamics. Music and criteria seems to changs, but the basic sentiment hasn’t, so I’m still hooked.

These days I sell records for a living at axisrecordsandcomics.com

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