Not too long after I’d moved to NYC, there was a lot of talk about an East Coast / West Coast rivalry, and although the flavor of the debate had more to do with The Notorious B.I.G. vs. Tupac and got downright bloody in its hip-hoppity hoo-haw, I too had a sense of left coast, right coast rivalry.
My not-altogether imagined face-off was between the LA punk scene of my youth as sweated out at the Roxy and the NYC punk scene that yowled mightily at CBGBs. And the only guns in evidence were being used to ink tattoos. Sadly, not being able to be in two places at one time, I missed the really seminal moments of the Ramones, Dolls and Blondie, because while they were breaking new ground in New York, I was trying to be cool and sneaking into Helen’s Wheel and other LA clubs to see X and Agent Orange. Oh, those were the days that I really can barely remember, but still have crazy fond memories of my deep crush on John Doe and my intense intimidation of Exene Cervenka. Those two lead Xers were to me the royal couple of punk and there seemed nothing cooler than to be a chick onstage making fierce music with the man you loved.
Well now many decades later an east coast/west coast meeting of the music has happened—no aggrao—with a new single by John Doe featuring Debbie Harry called “Go Baby Go” and damn if the twinge of Cali rockabilly doesn’t roll right into the attitude station that was below-14th-st NYC. John and Debbie, his coaxing, her push-back, it’s as if there were never any miles or weather fronts between them.
But just to keep us honest and remind us where his heart lies, John Doe’s new album The Westerner is dedicated to Michael Blake, author of Dances With Wolves and a champion of big sky and wide-open spaces, not to mention a vocal critic of the state of Native Americans. But that’s not to say the man can’t play the city slicker as witnessed by the first video off the album “Get On the Train” filmed in Brooklyn’s Beverly Road station as the Q train rolls past. Yes the West Coast dude comes East.
The man is busy. When he’s not jamming on a subway platform, teasing Debbie Harry, creating music with Chan Marshall of Cat Power and others on the new release, he’s been readying his memoir scribbles. His first book, Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk will be published on May 1 by Da Capo Press. And just cuz he’s super-awesome, fans can preorder the book and album via Doe’s PledgeMusic page with part of the proceeds going to Honor The Treaties.
Maybe I somehow knew when I watched him on stage so many years ago that he was too cool to actually sleep. And apparently that’s still the truth. I must now go nap.
Lauren has enjoyed the music bizness from the inside out while writing and editing for Rolling Stone, Spin and other national magazines, and doing video promotion for Elektra records. Currently, while still working in the NYC publishing industry, she's most happy being on the outside looking in on all things musical.