We Got Power!: Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California - exclusive photo gallery excerpt

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Jello Biafra as the president of the United States in Lovedolls Superstar, occupying an empty office adjacent to SST/Global, 1985. JORDAN SCHWARTZ

We Got Power! is a book of nearly 400 photographs taken for an early-1980s LA hardcore punk zine of the same name. The book includes new essays by Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks, Louiche Mayorga of Suicidal Tendencies, Steve Human of The Vandals, Tony Reflex of The Adolescents, and Henry Rollins, Chuck Dukowski, and Dez Cadena of Black Flag, and more. It also includes the complete color reprints of the We Got Power fanzine from 1981­–1983 and beyond.

After the jump, a gallery of photographs from the book (posted with the kind permission of the publisher, Bazillion Points Books).

There's also an exhibit in Santa Monica that will open September 8 at Track 16 gallery.

Buy We Got Power!: Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California on Amazon


As teenagers in 1981, David Markey and his best friend Jordan Schwartz founded We Got Power, a fanzine dedicated to the first-generation hardcore punk music community in their native Los Angeles. Their text and cameras captured the early punk spirit of The Minutemen, Saccharine Trust, Black Flag, Circle One, White Flag, Sin 34, The Gun Club, Overkill, Circle Jerks, The Descendents, Red Cross/Redd Kross, Firehose, Jello Biafra, Youth Brigade, Suicidal Tendencies, JFA, Big Boys, Nip Drivers, Butthole Surfers, D.R.I., Government Issue, Social Distortion, Red Scare, Gone, M.D.C., Vox Pop, Symbol Six, Wasted Youth, RF7, the Go-Go's, and many others at the height of their precocious punk powers.

In the process, the duo's amazing photographs also captured the dilapidated suburbs, abandoned storefronts, and dereliction of the early Reagan era-a rubble-strewn social apocalypse that demanded a youth uprising! Never before seen except in crude fanzine form, these detailed and richly narrative photos are now collected to present an intimate portrayal of a uniquely fertile creative moment.

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Mike Roth at We Got Power headquarters—Dave Markey’s bedroom—1982. Mike became a Calvin Klein model after being stolen from We Got Power by fashion photographer Bruce Weber. DAVID MARKEY

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Onetime Sin 34 guitarist Bob Bitchen, sporting a clean punk haircut, shows off a photo of himself in longer-locked days. DAVID MARKEY

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The Go-Go’s, the Whisky A Go Go, January 1, 1981. This was one of my first times going out in Hollywood, as a 17-year-old kid. They didn’t let cameras into the Whisky, and I had to sneak in my Pentax K1000 35mm. DAVID MARKEY

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Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies with skanker on his shoulders. The youngest kid behind him is Junior. JORDAN SCHWARTZ

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The black-light posters identify this space immediately as Bob’s Place in Watts. You risked your life by going there, but that was where the gigs were happening in 1982 and 1983. The last show there was raided by some locals who were clearly miffed that suburban white punks had taken over their dance hall. They raided the gig, mugging punks for their cameras. A girl was raped in the bathroom. That was the end of Bob’s Place. JORDAN SCHWARTZ

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Dez Cadena checking out the Minutemen at the Grandia Room, 1982. Oftentimes, nobody was going to see these bands except their friends in other bands. The Minutemen didn’t really have a crowd until Double Nickels on the Dime in 1984. JORDAN SCHWARTZ

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Milo Aukerman and the Descendents, Glen E. Friedman with his camera visible in audience. 1982

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Marlon Whitfield in leather cap and Joe Baiza in fedora, Mari Castelli caught somewhere in the middle, Santa Barbara. JORDAN SCHWARTZ

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Left to Right, Greg Ginn, Henry Rollins, and Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag, SST Phelan office, on Phelan St. in Redondo Beach. DAVID MARKEY

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Fresh ink on Henry Rollins, the birth of an icon, 1984. DAVID MARKEY

Q wegotpower
Youth of America Unite! The rear of the Punk Shack during demolition. Local anti-punk surfers crossed out our Black Flag graffiti as part of an ongoing war. A year or two later, these same culprits would cut their long surfer hair and don Suicidal Tendencies shirts. DAVID MARKEY


  1. Spectacular photographs. I was living in North Dakota at the time these photos were taken. It’s fascinating how so many of these former rebellious punk teens have incorporated themselves into so-called “straight” society – last year I saw Henry Rolins playing the role of a dad on the now-cancelled (and unfunny)Paul Reiser sit-com. Funny how the self-proclaimed “voice of a generation” can wind up being as much of a sell out as anyone else. Anybody know what Jello Biafra’s doing these days?

    1. Funny how the self-proclaimed “voice of a generation” can wind up being as much of a sell out as anyone else.

      What exactly does “selling out” mean? Henry Rollins is quite past his prime. Everyone who was in Black Flag is truly past their prime. At their prime, they did not sell out at all. They kept it as real as possible.  So now decades later he takes a gig on a TV show to make money.  Did he dump on his past by taking the role? Nope. Did anyone care? Nope. He did what most people do: He made money by acting. Whop-dee-doo.  Who cares.

      Selling out means compromising yourself. Taking a job & getting paid is not compromising yourself.

      1. They kept it as real as possible.

        Sometimes I wonder what people expect from their idols.  Did Judy Garland and Elvis ‘keep it real’ by dying young from too many drugs?

      2. Plus wanting money for things like being able to see a doctor, have a decent place to live, see the world, buy good food and nice clothes aren’t exactly “selling out”.

        1. Some folks tend to not understand the difference between being a predatory capitalist & simply asking to get paid. Lots of ill educated masochists out there.

    2. Henry is at least 50 years old. He might still be the voice of a generation, but that generation is no longer caught up in teen angst. They’re now working and planning for retirement.

      1. Rollins was, and is, a blowhard bully who liked to make kids cry.  Voice of a generation?  Only if that generation is false, shallow and irritating.  What a minute….

    3.  Besides holding money away from his bandmates and then suing them?  Who knows or cares?  Biafra is the biggest sellout of all.

  2. I wasn’t at any of those shows, but my brother was at the Go-Go’s show.  Jello told me once that he’d kill for an early/bootlegged Go-Go’s tape.  Wonder if he ever got one. 

      1. Thank you very much, that’s awesome. 

        I think this is the sort of guitar sound he was so taken with:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DcHX–3crg&feature=share&list=PL4E15BFCF63F554C1

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