Anyone that has any passing interest in LA/American punk has heard the names Darby Crash and the Germs. The songs of the Germs (Darby Crash/Pat Smear/Lorna Doom/Don Bolles) have been heard for almost 25 years. The image of Darby and the Germs live in the film Decline of the Western Civilization has been visible for almost as long. In the years since his death in 1980, many tales have been told about Darby and the life he led. This book attempts to clear up some of the confusion and offer the story of Darby from people who where there with him. Band members, family members, hanger on's, hustlers, and scene makers all contribute in this recount of the life of Darby Crash.
The charm and allure of this book is that it is not a one-sided biography of Darby. Lexicon Devil is not presented as a "this is how it was" history. Instead, the three co-authors Adam Parfrey(Feral House founder), Brendan Mullen(founder of the Masque) and Don Bolles(drummer for the Germs, Vox Pop, 45 Grave and Celebrity Skin) compile a huge number of recollections and piece them together in chronological order. Lexicon Devil shows how a young man transformed himself from Paul Beahm to Bobby Pyn to Darby Crash and finally to death. This approach bears spectacular results. It allows the reader to see the same occurrences through multiple eyes and perspectives. And while this approach may not be the norm in the world of biographies, it is a style that works in this case; Darby Crash didn't live a life that can be pinned down in a one-dimensional conventional biography.
So was Darby a Manson like cult of personality? Was he a David Bowie glam rock wannabe? Was he a troubled genius? Was he a drunk? Was he a junkie? Was he gay? Was he a suicidal mess? Was he a hustler looking for a handout? Did he create his own myth? All these questions and more are asked during the course of this book. And they are all answered, sometimes by more than one person and sometimes in contradictory terms. So where does the truth lie in regard to the life of Darby Crash? I have no doubt that the real Darby can be found in the pages of this book. Lexicon Devil provides the reader with a few versions of "the truth" and then leaves it up to them to define their version of the real life of Paul/Bobby/Darby.
The folks that contribute to Lexicon Devil read like a who's who of the early LA punk scene. Members of X, the Weirdos, the Screamers, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Black Randy & the Metro Squad, Go-Go's, the Runaways, TSOL, the Dils, the Bags, the Zeroes, Fear, Angry Samoans, as well as other early scenesters all contribute. Also included at the end of the book are short profiles of each contributor.
In addition, this book includes 140 never before published photos, Germs lyrics, a Germs discography, as well as a list of gigs and key events. As a whole, the quality of the book is at the same high level that has come to be expected from any Feral House release.
This book is an important oral history of a person, a band, a time long past that will never be repeated. Today, when "punk" is heard on the radio and seen on MTV or reduced to a hairstyle and mall bought clothes, it is important to remember where, how and why this movement started. The creators of the LA punk scene started something special; Lexicon Devil tells their story and history while they in turn relay the story and history of Darby Crash. (TR)