This month in 1981, the documentary movie The Decline of Western Civilization was released.
Penelope Spheeris directed the film, which was shot in 1979 and 1980 and chronicles the Los Angeles punk rock scene in considerable detail.
The film featured performances and interviews both with the band members, the publishers of Slash fanzine, and with the punks who made up their audience, it provides insight into a subculture that was largely ignored by the rock music press of the time.
The promotional poster for 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘋𝘦𝘤𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦 (and the record cover of the soundtrack album) featured a close-up frame of Germs singer Darby Crash supine on stage with his eyes closed. Crash died from a heroin-induced suicide shortly before the film was released.
Black Flag, Germs, X, Alice Bag Band, the Circle Jerks, Catholic Discipline, and Fear are among the bands included.
The film’s title is possibly a reference to music critic Lester Bangs’ 1970 review of the Stooges album Fun House where Bangs quotes a friend who had said the popularity of the Stooges signaled “the decline of Western civilization”. Meanwhile, Claude Bessy aka Kickboy, claims to have invented the title in We Got the Neutron Bomb, an oral history of the LA punk rock scene.
The decline has begun, we’re desperate, get used to it, kiss or kill!
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Featured image via Rolling Stone/George Rose.