30 SoCal Punk Songs

My Greg Salem punk rock PI series revolves around a fictional SoCal band called BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, but the music and musicians that inspired these books are very real.

The playlist includes songs from the 70s to the 2000s, ranging from Black Flag, The Runaways, Lagwagon and Minutemen to The Gun Club, Pennywise, The Bags and Face To Face. There are thousands of other songs I could have included, but 30 seems right for now.

I’m loosely defining SoCal as the region between San Diego and Santa Barbara. Likewise, the definition of “punk” is also pretty loose because it’s one of those words that means something different to everybody.

So…save your aggression for the pit, bro. As Descendents would say—Enjoy!

More Posts You Might Enjoy:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). Steve lives in LA.

Short Story in a Song — “Waiting Room”

Even 30 years after I first heard it, Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” still fills me with angsty anticipation from the moment the opening bass line kicks in. It’s three minutes of post-hardcore perfection that triggers some kind of Pavlovian response in me. And while I may not publicly drool as often as I used to, I do find myself almost hypnotized by the pulsating tension. The mysterious lyrics would make a great short story.

Our narrator sounds like he’s saying a lot without saying much at all. Instead of intricate detail, we get broad strokes and powerful imagery that evoke feelings of frustration and isolation. As if “the waiting place” from Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go has been stripped down to its non-psychedelic core to reveal the mind-numbing horrors of inaction. Whether this is a song about a Dante-esque Limbo, the effects of mood-altering prescription drugs, or an actual physician’s waiting room—our hero has had enough and is ready to rise up. He’s calling on all of us to stand up with him and spring into action. Are you ready?

Read the full lyrics for Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” HERE.

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

Short Story in a Song — “Date With Destiny”

SoCal’s South Bay community (including Hermosa Beach) has long been considered the cradle of American hardcore. Once home to the legendary church immortalized in The Decline of Western Civilization, this laid back beach town has produced an endless flow of punk bands over the decades including the big four—Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Descendents and Pennywise. Formed a decade after their forerunners, Pennywise picked the flag up and continues to carry it around the world thirty years later with hard-hitting songs that are often about positivity and self-reliance.

“Date With Destiny” from their 1997 album Full Circle exemplifies the band’s sound, but the lyrics would make a great short story. Our narrator opens by describing a series of untimely deaths ranging from a plane crash to an earthquake. It’s clear that he’s having extreme thoughts about the nature of life and coming to grips with the inevitable demise awaiting us all. More than just a morose examination of mortality, our protagonist challenges us to examine the way we lead our lives. He asks what we would do if we only had one hour to live, ultimately pleading with us to live every hour like it was our last.

Read the lyrics for Pennywise’s “Date With Destiny” HERE.

My podcast interview with Pennywise lead singer Jim Lindberg:

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

 

Short Story in a Song — “Nervous Breakdown”

Black Flag’s unrelenting sonic onslaught might make your ears ring, but the visceral anger and paranoid isolation will rattle your soul. It’s an unapologetic approach that’s evident in their earliest recordings, including the legendary “Nervous Breakdown” EP. Released at a time when Donna Summer, The Knack and Bee Gees topped the charts, this misanthropic slice of fury and confusion remains a blistering reprisal against all of mainstream culture. Forty years later, Black Flag continues to define the hardcore sound they helped create.

Which is why the straightforward lyrics of “Nervous Breakdown” would make such a great short story. From the opening line, our narrator declares himself a ticking time bomb. Fed up with the platitudes he hears from the people all around him, he pushes forward against the crowds that he’s grown to hate. But even in his apoplectic state, when all he wants is to end the misery, he cries out for help that he’s certain will never come.

In other words, Happy Monday!

Read the full lyrics for Black Flag’s “Nervous Breakdown” HERE.

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

 

 

Talking To Punks About Books (Podcast)

I recently spoke with two punk singers about their favorite authors and books. If you like punk rock and reading as much as I do, you’ll definitely dig what Joey Cape (Lagwagon) and Jim Lindberg (Pennywise) have to say. These two episodes were part of a podcast mini-series called “Books on the Bus.”

As the Descendents like to say, ENJOY!


S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

Short Story in a Song — “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts”

It’s hard to imagine a more influential LA punk band than X. With a sound that’s equal parts punk, roots rock and hard-driving rock and roll, X has been dodging easy classification since they burst onto the Hollywood scene 40 years ago. In that time they have released some of the most iconic songs this town has ever heard. One of my personal favorites is “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” from the 1983 album More Fun In The New World. Performed with acoustic guitars and a shuffling snare beat, the power in this song comes from the lyrics and the dual lead vocals by Exene Cervenka and John Doe.

“I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” also makes for a great dystopian short story. The action starts with our narrator having a debate with him/herself on a crowded city sidewalk. The world, as they see it, has become divided on every issue, with debate too easily giving way to violence. Wars break out, people starve, and chaos rules the day. But there’s nothing our protagonist can do despite a position of privilege, so s/he tries to force those thoughts away instead. This continued inaction fuels an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and guilt that the narrator eventually turns inward to examine his/her own helplessness in the face of obscurity.

Read the full lyrics for X’s “I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts” right HERE.

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

 

Short Story in a Song — “Clean Sheets”

One of my favorite rock docs is “Filmage” about the legendary SoCal punk band Descendents. It’s a thorough history of the band’s evolution that gives them credit for creating “pop punk” while outing drummer Bill Stevenson as the band’s mastermind. It’s also nice to see lead singer Milo Aukerman acknowledged as one of the best punk singers of all time, without making the film about him. And I love how the director explores ALL, the Milo-less band that has lived a parallel existence with Descendents since the 80s. So, if you’ve read this far and still haven’t seen “Filmage”—you totally should, bro.

Which is all fine and good, but we’re actually here to discuss a Descendents love song that would make a great short story. Driven by the band’s signature mix of straight-ahead punk energy and Beach Boys-worthy hooks, “Clean Sheets” is a devastating tale of betrayal and no-frills road life. In a little over three minutes our protagonist goes from falling in love and letting himself get comfortable, to getting destroyed by infidelity and moving on. He may smash a mirror with his fist in the end, but the moral of this story is clear—even punk legends get their hearts broken when they’re young.

Read the lyrics for “Clean Sheets” by Descendents right HERE.

More “Short Story in a Song” posts:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

Short Story in a Song — “Throwaways”

This is the start of a new blog series. The point is to post some of my favorite songs and briefly look at the lyrics through the lens of short fiction.

Listening to music as you get older can be tricky because pure enjoyment sometimes gets clouded by needless comparison. Or at least it does for me. So when I first heard the Philadelphia punk band Beach Slang a few years ago, I couldn’t listen without thinking about The Replacements, Sugar and Jawbreaker. Thankfully, good music doesn’t care about our stupid comparisons. It can wait us out. These days, Beach Slang isn’t a collection of references to me any more—they’re just a great band that I like listening to.

One of my favorite songs from their album The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us is the opening track, “Throwaways.” It’s a familiar tale of hometown hopelessness that feels universal and ageless. The protagonist reminds us that a full tank of gas, pocket change and a good book can seem like salvation when you’re brimming with ideas and out of options. He’s no revolutionary, but tonight he’s fed up enough to lead a few of his friends to a place that’s only better because it isn’t here. I don’t know about you, but every time I hear this angsty anthem I want to climb in the passenger seat of that car just to see what happens. Great song, great short story.

Read the full lyrics for Beach Slang’s “Throwaways” right HERE.

Like punk rock and books? Check out Books on the Bus, a podcast mini-series about the books musicians like to read. Here’s my conversation with Jim Lindberg from Pennywise:

And here’s Joey Cape from Lagwagon:

S.W. Lauden is the author of the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

“Books on the Bus” Podcast—Episode 5

 

For the fifth and final episode of the Books on the Bus podcast mini-series, I connected with Jim Lindberg, lead singer of Southern California punk band Pennywise. I’m thrilled to connect with Jim because Pennywise is among a handful of legendary South Bay bands—along with Black Flag, Descendents and Circle Jerks—that fueled my Greg Salem punk rock P.I. novels including BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, GRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME.

In addition to writing the autobiography PUNK ROCK DAD, Jim writes most of the lyrics for Pennywise, with self-reliance as a running theme throughout their catalog. He also has a degree in English and counts Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau among his influences, citing them as America’s “first punk rockers.” We also discuss DARK MONEY by Jane Mayer, FLOW by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac, among many others.

Here’s “Books on the Bus,” episode 5:

Find out more Jim Lindberg’s passion for music and reading HERE. Find out more about Pennywise HERE.

Here are the four previous episodes of Books on the Bus:

S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna novellas, CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in LA.

It’s “Hang Time” Release Day

Hard to believe that the third book in the Greg Salem punk rock P.I. trilogy is officially out in the world today. It’s been quite an adventure watching this series—including BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION (book 1) and GRIZZLY SEASON (book 2)—come to life. Thanks to Tyson Cornell and Rare Bird Books for believing in Greg and his crew, and to all of you for reading these books and helping spread the word.

Here are a few of the kind things that people have said about HANG TIME:

“Lauden’s prose zooms along with an arch energy, and the final installment in his Greg Salem trilogy (Grizzly Season, 2016, etc.) keeps the plot twists coming at warp speed.”—Kirkus Reviews

“As a rock journalist in my spare time I know the scene pretty well and Mr. Lauden just manages to convey so well how it is and feels, it’s impressive. Awesome, awesome stuff.” —Son of Spade

“The twists, turns, and shocks are enough to leave the reader gasping for more.”—Crimespree Magazine

“Addiction, isolation, punk rock and murder — all on a hot mic.”—Liam Sweeney, author of DEAD MAN’S SWITCH and WELCOME BACK JACK

As savage, fast-paced and bleakly comic as your favorite punk rock anthem, S.W. Lauden’s HANG TIME is a wicked and fitting finale to a first-rate trilogy, packed full of both sex and violence of the no-holds-barred variety, and building to a gut-punch conclusion that’ll leave you reeling long after you’ve closed the last page.” —Owen Laukkanen, author of THE PROFESSIONALS and CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE

S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna novellas, CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATIONGRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.