Punk, Politics and POTUS Carter

Did POTUS Carter suppress punk? (DO NOT MAKE ME LAUGH). How political was early punk? Did punk influence or be influenced by politics requires investigating the mid-1970s. I wrote this because a Facebook pal asked me some questions about punk and politics for her college paper. It is obvious to me what people think NOW often is at odds what many of us were thinking THEN. I suppose if I posted this when I wrote it, I might have been invited to speak at recent events dealing with punk and politics. Oh well. Better now than never. What was the state of the music industry and politics during Carter? But it even means going back further, a decade earlier to the 60s. In 1964, the United States used the excuse, later proven to be a lie, that there was incident in the Gulf of Tonkin Bay in Vietnam. It justified are sending over troops in an all-out military action. Almost immediately, people began protesting the Vietnam war. Many agreed with Mohammed Ali, who famously said: “The draft is about white people sending black people to fight yellow people to protect the country they stole from the red people.” Political unrest on college campuses were an everyday occurrence. The music reflected that. John Fogerty singing with Creedence Clearwater, “Fortunate Son,” about not being born with silver spoon in his mouth. Therefore he would be eligible for the draft. Whereas the rich boys like Trump could get out of it because of questionable medical excuses like “bone spurs in the foot.” Country Joe and The Fish and their wonderful, “I’m fixin’...

How and Why I Became an Infamous Early Punk Photographer

Welcome to a brief history on Jenny Lens, MFA, the Punk Years. Creator of some of the most iconic Punk Photos, first generation, 1976 to 1980, punk photos based in LA. Classic photos of New York, British, San Francisco and other bands. How did it start? I waited in line, towards the end of the marquee or building to see Patti, the Roxy, January 76. Cold evening air. I see people getting out of a car at the box office entrance and walk in. I channeled Scarlett O’Hara, who famously put her fist in the air and said: “As G-d is my witness, I will never go hungry again. Nor my family.” I figuratively raised my fist and said: “As G-d is my witness, I will be part of this. I can’t play an instrument, can’t write songs, manage, too old and fat to be a groupie, but I’m going to be involved with this!” Never occurred to me to take photos. I only used my camera to photograph my art for my portfolio. I hadn’t used it in awhile. I barely knew how to put film into it. I only photographed my art in good light. I didn’t use a flash. I rarely looked at rock magazines. I was mesmerized hearing Patti – I could not see well because that’s what happens when you aren’t first in line. But hearing Patti’s “Horses” and seeing her live changed my life. I read everything I could, which wasn’t much. I subscribed to “New York Rocker” and “Punk” from NY. I subscribed to and loved LA’s own “Back Door Man.” I picked up...
Punk Music and Politics in 1970s versus 1980s

Punk Music and Politics in 1970s versus 1980s

People love to say I photographed punk of the 1980s. I always correct them. I photographed FIRST gen punk in the 1970s! They are DIFFERENT eras. I could write a book about how and why 1970s punk is VERY different than 1980s. If nothing else, we had more mass media coverage in the 1980s. MTV. Music videos. Much more, but that’s enough. Art develops differently when hidden from sight vs under the public’s constant scrutiny. I wrote this awhile ago and sharing now. Everyone has their own version of THEIR life history. This is mine, at least at the time I wrote it.  In the mid-1990s, LA-based Rhino Records released DIY, a several volume collection of Punk and New Wave music. They focused specifically 1976 to 1980. 1976 was a turning point because there were two major record releases which changed our culture. Patti Smith’s “Horses” and “The Ramones.” Patti performed her poetry in LA prior to releasing “Horses,” end of 1975. My first live punk show was Patti at the Roxy, January 1976. Then Ramones, August 1976, also the Roxy. The Ramones infamously toured in England on the Fourth of July, where they influenced both the Sex Pistols and the Clash. The Ramones’ appearances (returning in February 1977, with Blondie on the seminal Whisky double bill) and their recordings attracted and galvanized a few hundred people in Southern California area by spring 1977. 1976 saw the reopening of the Whisky, with competition a few miles east at the Starwood. An overview, “Riot On Sunset. How punk and new wave resurrected Hollywood’s legendary Whisky a Go Go in the...

Jewish Punks 1974-80

Ramones, Sex Pistols, Clash, Patti Smith Group, Lou Reed, photographers, writers, managers were often Jewish punks. I compiled this list in 2005. I have poor Jewdar. I was stunned to find out so early punks were Jewish. Now you can find books, blogs, articles and more. But in 2005, my post was radical! NEW YORK Ramones: Joey [Jeffrey Hyman] RIP, and his brother, Mickey Leigh (who roadied for them). Original drummer Tommy Ramone. Gabba gabba hey, we accept you! Blondie: Chris Stein Blondie and The Know: Gary Valentine [Lachman] Bob Gruen, photographer Danny Fields: Ramones first manager, history starting with the Doors, Iggy, Dolls and so many more. We OWE Danny so much!!! Dictators: Handsome Dick Manitoba [Richard Blum], Andy Shernoff, Scott “Top Ten” Kempner [always so kind to me] and Ross “the Boss” Freidman Lisa Robinson, journalist Lou Reed, Velvet Underground and soloist NOT Lydia Lunch [her email: “Sorry hon, the nose is Sicilian, the name is German. can’t be part of every list.” Birth name Lydia Koch. Ha, I originally wrote I didn’t think she was Jewish, and for once, my hunch was right!] Marty Thau, original manager of the New York Dolls, co-producer of Suicide, owner of Red Star Records, producer of Ramones 1st recordings, record company of Richard Hell’s 2nd album. [Marty was kind enough to write me! What a thrill to hear from him!] Mumps: drummer Paul Rutner and Joe Katz [bass player who replaced Kevin in the Mumps. He went on to be the bass player in Swinging Madisons, Kristian Hoffman’s post-Mumps band]. New York Dolls: Sylvain Sylvain [Steven Mizrahi], Arthur Kane RIP [ need verification,...

Riot on Sunset and Punk at Whisky

My rebuttal to article claiming Punk saved the Whisky but then talked more about non-punk bands. Minimal about LA Punk bands. I could write a book. Read what I wrote (below or use link) after reading his long article. Why the fashion photo above? Author included photos of English punks with swastikas on their faces. Not in LA! Plus most everyone in the above photo played a VITAL part in bringing punk to life. At the Whisky and elsewhere. Left to right: Terry Graham (Bags drummer and much more), Lorna Doom, Germs bassist, Belinda, future Go-Go and solo performer, ?, Hellin Killer, ?, Pleasant Gehman (who was quoted, as was I). Photographed near the Whisky, on the Sunset Strip, August, 1977. Just another night on the town. LOVELY compliment: “Photographer Jenny Lens, whose work vividly documented the LA scene, wrote in Punk Pioneers…” Yes, I did vividly document and helped create the LA scene. Lots of colorful and vibrant photos. My responses: Where do I start? First, yes, I always said punk brought the Whisky back to life. No argument there. But the stories and photos veer off to include Van Halen (the better to promote his book), Johnny Cougar and Tom Petty. But exclude vital LA Bands? LA PUNKS built and kept the scene alive. Not just the Whisky. The many fanzines and flyers. We promoted and publicized and produced our own shows and good times at the Whisky. No mention. The photos of the punk fans with swastikas on their faces: England. I went out nearly every night and many days, photographing parties, backstage, on the street and shows. Starting August 1976 and ending nearly...

TRUE LA Early Punk History by MAJOR Photographer!

Punk Stories and Photos, April 9, 2014. Written for a local rag who misquoted me. Here’s what I really wrote: Jenny Lens, MFA was born in West LA and raised in the Valley. I went to the Teenage Fair at the Hollywood Palladium in the 60s, and the Renaissance Faires, 1960s-70s, but otherwise didn’t get out much. Then, like now, I don’t like to drive. I surprised my high school classmates because I often quoted rock song lyrics. They assumed I wasn’t into rock ‘n roll. My worst high school enemies were the surfers: the skinny, blonde, bronzed boys and girls who looked down their noses at me. They were the cool kids. I was the lonely girl, who was only noticed because I was very creative and outspoken. The writer, Steve Erickson, and I shared a student award for creativity, voted by our classmates. My work was always exhibited or else I was wearing it. I made my own clothes, jewelry and more. While earning my BA in Art, cum laude with Honors, at CSUN (1972), my wood design teacher told us to buy a camera to photograph our art. I told my parents that’s what I wanted for my graduation present. I earned my MFA in Design at Cal Arts (1974), with Honors and a scholarship. I didn’t want to be a solitary artist. I loved Broadway musicals and rock ‘n roll. I came across Patti Smith’s “Horses” in November 1975. I saw her at the Roxy in January 1976. Patti changed my life. That spring, 1976, I began to read a local fanzine, “Back Door Man.”...

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