Monday, January 16, 2012

Violence Girl - Alice Bag

When I first moved to LA in 1979, the Bags were one of the great punk bands on the scene and I especially enjoyed the way they mixed 60's garage with modern punk. Of course, having two dynamic and alluring women in the group (Alice and bassist Patricia) certainly was a plus, as well - and another example of the sexual diversity of the early LA punk scene.

I have not followed Alice's career closely since the demise of the Bags (though I saw a show here or there of bands such as the Castration Squad and Cambridge Apostles back in the 80's), but this book reveals that she is an intelligent, well-rounded person and a fine writer. She is close to my age, so I can relate to many of her pop culture references, though her tales of growing up as a daughter of Mexican immigrants in LA are quite enlightening for this Mid-Western white boy. Her family was dysfunctional, but they encouraged her in her quest for knowledge as well as her talent for singing. Self-image problems plagued her as a youth (apparently she was overweight - or at least thought that she was, as none of the pictures included show this, other than as a young child) and, along with her lack of fluency in English, contributed to her feelings of isolation. She became infatuated with rock'n'roll music (along with the traditional tunes that were played in her home growing up) and found her place with like-minded music junkies and even met future band members while stalking stars such as Elton John (her major crush as a teen).

This morphed into the early punk scene as many of these fellow fans, who were already interested in the more avant garde, glam bands, discovered the NYC and British punk bands and decided to try this on their own. The Bags had a number of false starts and a number of early members but gained popularity and momentum despite these set backs and became one of the more well-known groups of the time. Unfortunately, they never landed a real record deal and few recordings were ever attempted before they fizzled due to personality clashes and frustration at not reaching the next level.

Alice wisely distanced herself from the more self-destructive tendencies of the movement and, while remaining involved in a lesser sense (as a side-person in groups rather than the lead singer), she found steady employment, went back to school and eventually became a teacher.

I find that the book gives a fine, first-person account of the LA punk scene and many of the characters that it was composed of. Alice writing style is very personal and truly conveys a sense of the times - the good, the bad, the fun, the pain, the insanity and everything else that made up this wild period. She really is a fairly exceptional writer and this is a quite impressive effort. Get it!