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PDX GENESIS
Splendid, humorous and gritty profile of early punk life in the city of Portland, Oregon USA back in the late 70's. It maybe somewhat exagerated and biased in Mr Shirley's ego centric favour (this is the geezer who's more famous for his Sci-Fi writing than his punk rock roots). However it's well worth a look. Cheers to Mish Bondage for passing this on and Zach Dundas for doing the groundwork.
Punk Rock's PDX Genesis
BY ZACH DUNDAS

A musty old walkup on the lower Southwest side is packed with the cream of Oregon's New Wave elite, all dressed in the height of 1980s mondo bondage fashion: lots of leather, short hair in every crayola hue, chains and tight, tight pants for everyone.
--Mark Christensen on the punk club Revenge, Oregon Times, July 1978

John Shirley remembers the short, sharp shock to Portland's civic nervous system well.
"People were afraid civilization was creaking to an end," recalls the seasoned hell-raiser who led the chaos-sowing bands Terror Wrist and SadoNation through the heart of Portland's first punk insurgency.
Malaise-ridden '70s music sat up in a cold sweat as the undercurrent of hard, arty noise that burbled beneath the granola crust of American rock--Iggy and the Stooges, the MC5, the Velvet Underground--mixed with alienated British venom in a new, highly unstable brew. Disaffected kids across the Western world seized on punk rock's confrontational, intentionally ugly styles and bracing noise. In Portland, then a depressed, terminally unhip, third-tier West Coast burg, the challenge to the status quo rang loud and clear. While the surge hit its high-water mark as the '70s bled into the '80s, the roots of rebellion reached back a few years.
"It was sometime in '76, and I went into this import-record store and asked them if they had any Sex Pistols EPs," says Shirley, now a successful avant-garde sci-fi writer who is widely credited with inventing the cyberpunk subgenre. "And the guys working there just looked at each other and said, 'My God, another one!' People had been coming in all day, asking about this British band they'd never heard of.
"What happened was, Parade magazine had run an article warning parents of the dangers of this stuff called 'punk rock.' To me that was like, 'What, they're warning my parents? Must have.'"
Today, when even the most cosmic space brother ambling down Hawthorne sports aggro piercings and hi-fi tattoos, it's hard to imagine the horror inspired by punk's S&M-clad pioneers. "The town was hostile," Shirley recalls. "I mean, people were just getting used to hippies."
"Portland was considered a logger's town," says Greg Sage, the lead singer of the Wipers, a band still cited as a pillar of Northwestern rock. "It was a very uncool place. In that era, if you weren't from New York, L.A. or London, you didn't exist. It was considered prehistoric, some place you just didn't want to be."
Isolated from the more cosmopolitan centers of the global avant-garde, Portland attracted local style exiles like Shirley, who'd been kicked out of Salem's McNary High School for locking a teacher in a closet. They put on neo-Beat poetry readings, all-ages shows and Dadaist costume balls holding more than a hint of the city's subcultural future. The resulting noise filled Shirley's short-lived Revenge--a rented lodge hall which he stocked with popcorn and soda stolen from a Salem movie theater--and the Earth Tavern, Urban Noize and Long Goodbye.
As alien as the young punks of PDX may have looked then, fuzzy old videos reveal scenes that anyone who's spent time around do-it-yourself rock, then or now, would recognize. Neo Boys--four wholesome young ladies who could step comfortably into a modern indie-rock show--bash out skeletal pop, stiff with rookie rocker nerves. The Kinetics aren't. The Fix smashes through rudimentary rebel anthems for a half-interested party crowd.
Bands played in dingy basements, neglected living rooms and fetid clubs. Fanzines came hot off the Xerox, glued together and rife with spelling errors. The kids played too loud and too fast, recorded 7-inch singles and sometimes whole albums, switched from band to band, broke up, reunited, moved away, came back. In other words, punk spawned a tradition of underground rock that is still in rude health today. Though the initial wave had broken by the middle '80s, new standard-bearers like Poison Idea and Dead Moon emerged, playing venues like Satyricon, the X-Ray Cafe, EJ's and LaLuna.
The young rebels of two decades ago have, for the most part, moved on. But the energy they unleashed, in all their ripening enthusiasm, still buzzes in the Portland air, a testament to the visceral charge of raw rock and a taste for adventure that, for all its avowed misanthropy and rebellion, was and is sweetly naive in its own way.
"We were just sort of trying this on for size," Shirley says. "You know the early punk thing where people would spit on bands? Well, if you look at videos from that era, you can see people sort of tentatively spitting. It was like that.
"Our scene was small," he says, "but for some people, that's all there was. For a few, it was that or suicide, y'know?"
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