L.A. Explosion -8/15/79
.(Bomp BLP4004; Trash (Japan) TRSH-2001; Line
.(Germany) LLP 5015AS; London (UK) SH-Z-8540);
reissue: Lolita (France) 5041 - 1985
reissue: Line (Germany) in the mid-90's
reissue: Bomp (CD) BCD4004 - 2003
(Bomp CD has bonus tracks)
EXPLOSION - where the songs came from
"L.A. Explosion", as conceived at the end of '78,
was to be the ultimate Last showcase album. (Being a first album,
that kinda goes without saying.) It would feature the best of
the stuff we'd worked out during our one year recording career,
including definitive re-recordings of our first three singles.
It did represent a good cross-section of some of our
best stuff, but the "She Don't Know Why" re-recording
is arguably inferior to the original, and the third single ("L.A.
Explosion", the title song) didn't even get re-recorded.
Ah well . . .
I'd been exploring '60's motifs musically since early '74
(at least), but between August of '76 and April '77 I went a
little nuts. The emerging punk thing seemed to me to be a rebirth
of Rock & Roll, and I had this urge to play with some of
the various genres prevalent in the last Golden Age, some ten
years earlier. I did Beatle influenced stuff, Stones, Who, Kinks,
Surf, Garage Blues, Garage Psych, Folk Rock, you name it. Each
song was deliberately designed to come out the way it emerged
- it wasn't accidental by any means.
One unexpected result of that flurry of sixties songwriting was
that to this day I find myself incorporating '60's motifs into
my stuff unintentionally. It used to worry me, and indeed for
a time in the mid to late '80's I deliberately rejected anything
that sounded retro. Which in retrospect (no pun intended) was
You write how you write, you write what you want to write.
You gotta please yourself if you want to have a prayer of reaching
Anyway so I'm older and wiser now, and back in the late '70's
I was too young and stupid to care about the "retro"
Now I was writing a lot of punk stuff too, again copping from
Modern Lovers, Dictators, Pistols, Ramones, Clash, etc. - working
a lot of stuff out in the process of attempting to find my own
voice. There would also be ballads, more traditional straight
ahead rock, the occasional medieval malady (Don Waller coined
that term), etc.
At the end of '78 Bomp
was ready to spring for a Last album. We spent December '78 through
mid February '79 in a small practice studio in Santa Monica working
material out under the direction of John Harrison, staff engineer
at Village Recorders, former Hawkwind bassist, and now our producer.
He assisted us in choosing songs for the album, and though it's
a fairly representative cross section of the stuff I'd been writing
it does seem to have turned out rather '60's biased. Hadn't really
planned on that happening.
Recording details for all this will follow, but a word here
about the production is relevant. The goal of Randall Wixen,
our manager, and John Harrison was to "clean us up".
I was not opposed to the idea - after all, we were a bit ragged,
and we did want to make a good album. It would however
transpire that Harrison was vehemently against almost anything
approximating distortion. The few times we attempted to introduce
an appropriately funky amp, fuzz tone, etc. (anything to
get that drone thing happening), the results were disastrous.
Not musically disastrous, because we were never able to get far
enough into the distortion experiments to find out.
It turned out that any time we broached the subject in word or
deed we proceeded to butt heads with John Harrison. Nothing would
get done, everyone would argue and we would waste a lot of precious
time. Since without John Harrison there would be no
album (he was sneaking us into the Village in the dead of night,
usually), we quit trying, and let John have his way.
On the plus side, he indulged my every overtracking whim, and
a good listen to the album on headphones will reveal a bizarrely
large amount of vocals and instruments playing over and around
each other on nearly every track. So I had my fun.
Unfortunately, the result is not what people were expecting.
At the time we had a total of three hilariously awful sounding
singles. Not that they sounded bad, per se, but they were
so low fi, so primitive, so awash in reverb that it was difficult
for most people to listen to them. Word on the street was, however,
that we were poised to do amazing things, and would certainly
produce a masterpiece once we got into a proper studio.
The word on the street after "L. A. Explosion"
came out was: "What happened?" All my friends, from
Phast Phreddie to Chris Morris, from the Screamers' KK to Bomp's
Greg Shaw, were appalled (though some grew to like it). It sounded
way too weak, way too tame, and was missing all the fire and
power of our ragged live performances.
In spite of all that, KROQ played the thing and we found ourselves
catapulted to the upper echelons of the local scene (for about
two months, but I've told you that story).
We vowed to make sure we didn't repeat the same mistakes with
Now, 22 years later, none of our subsequent recordings have
had anywhere near the impact of this one, and the "L. A.
Explosion" album is considered by many to be a classic, and by
most to be our finest hour.
Go figure . . .
SHE DON'T KNOW WHY I'M HERE (lyrics)
Listen to a clip of this song: (Real Audio)
Listen to a clip of the single version of this song: (MP3)
| (written April 1977 by Joe)
Most of the songs I wrote about girls were indeed about living,
breathing, actual, specific girls. In most cases I'm going to
identify said sirens by an initial, so as not to offend them.
In this case, however, since the song is not specifically a torrid
romantic diatribe but rather a socio-political observation, I'll
name names. Brother Mike had known these three girls from his
glitter days, and introduced me to them January 1977. We all
hung out, I would occasionally drive them to the all-too-rare-in-those-days
punk rock show, etc. etc. It was watching their reaction to and
fondness for the early punk bands, while being in the unfortunate
situation of not being able to gig yet, that I began to feel
like a glorified chauffeur . . . the three girls were Helen,
Mary and Trudi. Trudi was the "girl with the raven hair"
- she became the only non-musician in the scene to have a fanzine
devoted to her, and is currently married (with children) to K.K.
- drummer for the late lamented Screamers. Mary was the "girl
with the soft blue eyes" - she is better known to those
who remember the glory days as Mary Rat. Helen is better remembered
as Helen Killer - the girl who punched Sid Vicious in the mouth
by accident in '78. Musically the song is an obvious homage to
the Castaways' "Liar Liar".
THIS KIND OF FEELING (lyrics)
Listen to a clip of this song: (MP3)
| (written Jan 14, 1977)
I wanted to write an ersatz Beatle song - in the period spanning
late Summer '76 to late Spring '77 I was obsessed with recreating
various 60's motifs, little knowing how such a brief obsession
would mark me nor the influence it would arguably have - so I
thought, if one wants to really sound like someone, one should
aspire not to sound like them, but rather to sound like whoever
they were trying to sound like. So I imagined myself as a young
John or Paul trying to rip off the Everly Brothers, and came
up with this. It's not about anyone, as far as I can remember.
BOMBING OF LONDON (lyrics)
Listen to a clip of the single version of this song: (Real Audio)
Listen to the single version of this song during a 1978 radio
interview - (Real Audio)
| (written March 1977)
More Beatle obsession, word-wise. Musically, this one started
out in the early '70's. In 1971 I saw a film (don't remember
the title) which was either about the Olympics or Drag Racing.
In one scene they cut to a nightclub, where this Japanese band
was playing what we would now term "Classic Punk Rock"
- i.e. Seeds, Music Machine type stuff. It was oddly moving and
inspiring, and indeed was one of the primary primal influences
leading to the formation of The Last. I had a cheap electric
guitar and amp at the time, and tried desperately to reconjure
the song they played at home. Never could quite finish it.
(In retrospect, it's immediately obvious that, tune-wise, it
owes a great deal to "The One Who Really Loves You",
"Mother In Law" and "Did You Ever Have To Make
Up Your Mind" - there was something about that 1-1-1-6 melody
that obsessed me throughout my childhood.)
Anyway, in 1977 I returned to it, and imagined the Ramones trying
to do a Japanese band trying to do the Seeds, and Bombing resulted.
Musically, it's pretty much what I wrote at the age of 15.
Lyrically, I was thinking about how being born during the Nazi
bombings of England could have potentially affected the outlook
and psyche of the various Beatles, and after that it pretty much
| (written Spring 1975)
That's right - '75! The old progressive/anarchist band I'd had
with Vitus had broken up in the fall of 1974, and in early 1975
I was experimenting with a few different styles. I wanted to
do something different - progressive wasn't it, clearly, I wasn't
about to go metal (too obvious), so what resulted was a combination
of strange medieval ramblings and my first serious forays into
ersatz 60's recreations. Among them was this obvious Who ripoff,
lyrically based on someone Vitus & I had known who was one
of the most manipulative people we'd ever met, musically aspiring
to sound like the lost song from "The Who Sell Out".
| (written Feb 9, 1978 - revised Mar 20,
As originally written in '78 this was essentially a Clash ripoff
- exploring the theme of punk rockers as the new proletarians,
"let me count the blisters on your hands" being an
obvious homage to the French Revolution, where if you didn't
have enough blisters they typically guillotined you. I tried
to write it straight but as it progressed toward the end it was
clear that the anarchists singing had become the new dictators.
Way obvious and cliche, but it was fun.
We'd already recorded the backings for it for the album when
I attended the St. Patrick's Day show at Elk's Lodge, which turned
into a Police Riot. Many friends were beaten up for no reason,
and I, having seen the whole thing, was appalled. I've got pages
on this, and may share them later. At any rate I immediately
rewrote some of the words (the Riverside reference refers to
a similar incident that had occurred days before at a Germs show
in that city), and the song became a serious diatribe against
the fascism of the time.
Listen to a clip of this song: (MP3)
| (written February 1978)
Basically a tongue in cheek homage to all bosses. I started out
pissed off against my current boss, but was unable to keep the
song serious, for obvious reasons. There is an obvious "oh
shit" just before the instrumental, so it was rather bizarre
when KROQ started playing the thing in the fall of '79. Wow,
swear words on the radio. This was evidently a favorite of the
early fledgling O.C. punk rock kids, who used to chant it while
EVERY SUMMER DAY (lyrics)
Listen to a clip of this song: (MP3)
Listen to a clip of the single version of this song: (Real Audio)
| (written August 1976)
This girl I knew (who shall be identified as "L" a
little later) was a few years older than I, and had gone to see
the Beach Boys play at the grand opening of Wallach's Music City
in Torrance in late 1963. The Beach Boys at that time were poised
to become the biggest group in the country, and 1964 looked promising.
Then the damn Beatles hit.
Now, for me and many others, the Beatles were a necessary diversion
after the horror of the JFK assassination. All this girl could
think about, however, was "Oh shit - this is gonna destroy
the Beach Boys".
Which, relatively speaking, it did.
Judging by recent interviews, Brian is still stewing over it.
So I started with that, and used the "last summer"
of '63 as a general allegory for the folly of thinking that youth
will last forever. Some 20 years later I don't feel as if I've
quite become an adult yet, but I'm quite sure it's coming.
Anyway, it's a tragedy, a very sad song in the guise of a simplistic
summertime homage. We almost got Brian Wilson and Dean Torrence
to sing backup vocals on the album version, but schedule conflicts
got in the way. Pity.
(written Dec 2, 1976)
Mike joined the band in October of '76 as backup/occasional lead
singer, proceeded to come up with a groovy new band name (The
Last) and subsequently bestowed upon me a heap of lyrics he'd
written. This one was based on his experiences while incarcerated
in a mental institution in the early/mid '70's. He'd been locked
up in solitary, strapped to a bed, for an incredibly minor infraction
(not washing dishes fast enough or something) and this song was
based on that. The institution was, I think, the Del Amo Hospital
mental facility - if any of you are planning on committing anyone
to that institution, I'd think again.
Oh yeah, that's the place where he learned to take drugs.
Anyway I set his words to an Ian Hunter type melody, and added
the chorus, which had been floating around going nowhere for
Mike Nolte says:
I wrote the words, that is, most of the words.
I think Joe wrote the chorus, only he'd know for sure.
Based on my true-life adventure in a mental institution at
the age of 12. Being the fact that I wasn't toeing the line at
home, fighting with my brothers, etc., and the fact that a close
relative was institutionalized for a few years (nervous breakdown),
it seemed to my parents that I should talk with a psychiatrist
who was based out of a brand new mental hospital in Torrance.
Now, in all fairness to my parents, they were told beforehand
to pack an overnight bag for me just in case the fine doctor
wanted to speak to me at length. As for me, I thought it'd be
cool to talk to a shrink and possibly get out of going to school
the next day. Anyhow, what was supposed to be, at the most, a
one-night stay turned out to be 6+ months!
The song "The Rack" was inspired by my stay there,
and needless to say, I could have written a book about my adventures!
Maybe one day I will.
Just to throw one incident at you . . . I was given the task
of returning the meal cart to the cafeteria every day after lunch
(and I do mean RIGHT AFTER LUNCH!). One day, I got so entrenched
with some movie on TV and forgot about the meal cart. I was locked
up in solitary confinement for 1 week. which meant being alone
in a room the size of a small closet with only a mattress (no
blankets or sheets), a bedpan and urine container, and a single
lightbulb that was on 24/7! No TV, no books, no visitors . .
And I was only 12. . .
(written November 1976)
Yeah, I voted for Carter. Big deal.
The music for this was actually completed Summer 1974. I could
never find words for it, and originally scripted it as a love
song for my current girlfriend (who shall be identified as "F"
subsequently) in August '74. The lyrics, however, as you might
suspect, were corny beyond belief. I liked the music however,
and revisited it just prior to the 1976 Presidential elections,
turning it into an arguably equally corny political diatribe.
Standells ripoff, you say?
| (written April 21, 1978)
Vitus wrote this one - I think this was his first submission
to The Last. The subject matter became an affair of much political
discord, and shall go nameless here. In truth, we were waving
swords at the wrong scapegoats. At any rate, take it as a rant
against soulless industry executives, and a warning of the coming
I realize we're fucked if Vitus gets online and decides to contribute.
| (written September 1976)
This was written for "F". (I bet you were wondering
when we'd get to the famous initialed girls.) Classic idiot male
story of not appreciating what you had when you had it &
letting it go & suddenly realizing what a classic mistake
you'd made. The embryonic version of The Last (which was called
The Power and consisted of me, Dave Harbison on bass, and Vic
Pizarro on drums) made its debut at a party at the house of the
aforementioned girl - we were too loud so everyone ended up outside
and we found ourselves playing for the furniture. Later that
night, I realized that what I'd had with this girl was irrevocably
lost, and the next morning I wrote this song.
| (written September 1977)
I never quite got together with "L" (look - another
initial!) - it was weird for both of us even though there was
obviously some sort of mutual attraction - so I tried to put
the weirdness into a song, which ended up being this one.
BE BOP A LULA
Listen to a clip of this song: (MP3)
| (arranged July 1977)
I borrowed Vitus's 4-track and messed around with a lot of stuff
- obviously this was an attempt to do Gene Vincent's immortal
song as the Doors would've. Best overheard response was in 1980
at Al's Bar, when one biker said to another, "You know who
this guy reminds me of?" and the other responded "yeah
- GENE MORRISON". . .
Who could hope for more.
I think we were playing with the late lamented Top Jimmy, appropriately
| (written Nov 29, 1978)
Also about a specific girl. However, since she's dead, I'll name
her. Paula Pierce. As in Pandoras. Her boyfriends read as a who's
who of L. A. rock, but I've made enough enemies already so I
won't name them. Actually their names are a million miles away
from me at this point.
Anyway we would run into each other at the New Masque in late
'78 and inevitably end up in some parked car or another, and
for some reason I started getting obsessed, and if you write
songs obsession is a good thing, and anyway that's how this one
Musically this is number two of my Tchaikovsky ripoffs. Number
one was "She Don't Know Why I'm Here" - the chorus
is a half speed take on Tchaikovsky's violin concerto, which
I'd originally set to a surf beat in '74 as a joke, resurrecting
it when "She Don't Know" needed a chorus.
Looking At You is based on the opening stuff from Tchaikovsky's
Symphony #1. The same theme can be heard in Generation X's "100
Punks", which is coincidental, and the Descendents' "Silly
Girl", which I'm sure they got from my song.
I revisited the same theme in one of my most recent songs, "Take
Care Of Her", which is me doing Descendents doing me doing
And Billy Idol can go bugger himself.