Book Review: Disco’s Out, Murder’s In

2015-11-25-1448491465-6789161-DiscosOutMurdersIn510x765-thumbDisco’s Out, Murder’s In by Heath Mattioli and David Spacone (Feral House Press)

There are many books on the market about the development of the early LA punk scene, mostly focusing on the musicians and scenesters that enabled the music to exist. All of these books reach a point where they have to talk about the mindless violence that ruined the scene, first brought on by the police, later by other punkers, gang members with a taste for loud, fast rock and roll. This book is told from the perspective of one of the people widely believed to have ruined everything for everyone, a high-ranking member of the LMP crew in the first half of the 1980s.

When I started seeing hardcore bands in New Jersey in 1985, a couple of bloody noses and a dislocated knee was usually as bad as things ever got in the pit, maybe a couple of fistfights. (And good luck getting a cop to show up out there!) So I wasn’t here to bear witness, but stories are legion of gangs like the LADS, FFF, Circle One and the people that surrounded Suicidal Tendencies, operating like punk rock military organizations. Most of them who are interviewed today claim their only interest  was protecting themselves and each other, primarily from the norms that liked to beat up punkers, though they did get into spats with each other.

But LMP, out of La Mirada, were serious criminals. The way our humble narrator Frank The Shank tells it, every single gig in Hollywood that he and his people went to ended up with multiple ambulances being called, maybe even a coroner. Breezily, he gives elaborate details of the various beatdowns, strategic plots, acid trips and knuckle-biting standoffs perpetrated by him and his fellows with a considerable sense of humor. The part about how one of the gang tries to impress the others by obtaining a bootleg VHS copy of the still-in-theaters hit Footloose is a masterpiece of punk rock comedy writing. There’s a nearly heartwarming attempt at romance that, of course, leads to a decision whether or not to beat another man to death. There’s unmistakable humanity among all the wretched behavior.

The writing about the relish he took in stomping heads and slicing up organs is a little more worrisome. Though Frank goes through the inevitable come-to-Jesus moment that leads to him still walking around today, he talks about his violent past kind of like Nikki Sixx talks about his heroin use; that’s totally wrong and I was so sick to do that, but damn, I was such a badass, wasn’t I? Given that Frank isn’t even listed as an author of a book told entirely in his voice, it’s hard to know how much of that is him, and how much is Mattioli and Spacone teasing up the story to make it sound like a Mafia testimonial from Joe Dogs, who would make jokes about the guy lying on the floor, how wrapping him up in carpet gave him the idea to make cannoli that night, then give you his recipe for cannoli. That’s the kind of tone at play here.

But if you like your true crime cold and brutal, it’s a fast read. Fans of punk rock history won’t learn anything specific about the LA scene in terms of records and bands, but you will finally get the in-depth perception of one those “assholes that everyone hated” you’ve read about in your other punk books, or maybe ran away from at the Cathay one night. And from Frank’s stories of his and his cronies’ childhoods, you might find something worthy of compassion in there too. That may be cold comfort for anyone who got their skull cracked open for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, i.e., anyone who was anywhere these guys were at any time. But punk history is made of many stories, and this is a particularly grim-yet-compelling one.

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