"Why don´t you get your brains fixed, cred police?"
“..I'm not one I'm two..”
“We Must Bleed”
DARBY CRASH (Jan Paul Beahm) was the charismatic and much influential vocalist and front figure of THE GERMS,one of the greatest and most groundbreaking punk acts to ever emerge from the LA scene.The band was short lived, only existing from 1977-79,though they made good use of the time given and wrote themselves into a solid position in rock history. In music, lyrics, concept, scene appearance and not at least biography.
Beahm was born on the 26th of September 1958 and barely lived for 22 years before committing suicide on December the 7th, 1980. What was so special about his story, was the extreme level of commitment; he invested all he had in what he regarded as the only meaningful purpose of his existence; a search for the unholy grail of our times, pop stardom and the "immortality" we presume our history and “collective memory” are capable of preserving.Some day in 1975, Jan Paul Beahm and Georg Ruthenberg,both still in high school, sat around and made plans for a future band.They agreed on the following strategy:
1) Find a name.
2) Advertise for additional FEMALE members.
3) Book the first gig.
4) Buy the instruments and find a rehearsal space.
5) Write some killer tracks,record and release them.
They rechristened themselves on the spot, Beahm as the Edgar Allan Poe-ish the “Bobby Pyn”(Beahm) and Ruthenberg as “Pat Smear”. Then Beahm, who adored DAVID BOWIE,came up with the final vague point on the agenda:
"It s like BOWIE said, we´ve got five years".
He took this cue from BOWIEs album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust, which tells the story of an outer space rock star who falls down to earth and is given five glorious years on the planet as a rock god.This prophecy folds out in the first song on the album,"Five Years", which also of course implies the inevitable tragic end, the last track of the album,"Rock N Roll Suicide". While Ziggy Stardust died,his maker resurrected in the flesh of a new alter ego,“Thin White Duke”,and that has been the cycle of progression to this very day. Bobby Pyn,on the other hand,by then calling himself DARBY CRASH,.kept his promise of a "rock n roll suicide" at the end of the 5th year, shooting up an insane dose of China white heroin on the 7th of December 1980.
He imagined himself as the center of a cult,a spiritus leader of a flock of sheep named after one of their songs, “Circle One”. His demand to every member was crystal clear:
“...gimme gimme your hands, gimme gimme your minds, gimme this gimme that...”
The sloppy and chaotic order had an initiation ritual of it own. In order for an aspirant to be let inside the blue circle of lives, they had to go through the “germs burn” formality, where they got a cigarette burned into the flesh of the most sensitive point of the underarm, to optimize the pain involved.This left a circle formed scar,the symbol of the cult marked on their bodies. Beahm was clearly more of a dreamer than a realist,a self proclaimed fascist who would love to turn his audience of young punk kids in LA into toy soldiers, germs marionettes, he could command out to get him beer,drugs or food. His "disciples" and fans were often refered to as "crash trash".
All this paints a blashemic picture of an rock opera, titled "Darby Crash Superstar", with himself as the prophet, the Baptist,"chaotic master" and, eventually, the Messiah. The messiah also with an implication of "man of sorrows", a martyr doomed to an early death. From this point the story takes another direction than the New Testament. A motorway to hell instead of a resurrection. A digression: This link of punk and Jesus Christ superstar, is bound to remind me of the fact that TURBONEGROs Hank Von Helvete in these days actually plays the role of Christ in a contemporary Norwegian musical production of Jesus Christ Superstar. When first mentioning TURBONEGRO, I have to give EUROBOY(guitar, TURBONEGRO) all props for making an astonishing guest appearance during THE GERMS show in Oslo 2 weeks ago.
DARBYs apocalyptic version of the tale of DAVID BOWIEs 1972 masterpiece,The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust, and which of course also was influenced by the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, was not just an attempt at creating something similar in artistic expression or mythological thought. For the super bright but still very doomed boy DC, this was as real as life could be. He took the fictive universe of Oresteia(Greek tragedy) and applied it onto his own life, investing everything he ever had, even the promise of a possible future, into a social realism of tragedy. Since he came up with "The 5 year plan"(D.R.I) in ´75, his life and artistic career followed the exact same dramaturical curve as the Greek plays or the similar biblical story of Christ. Compared to the latter, the first objection would perhaps be the missing soothing element of catharsis, a resurrection never took place. Or so they thought until nearly 30 years later.
After several intended film project on this story, all canceled due to several reasons, the Rodger Grossman production, based on a screenplay co-written with a friend of DC ,Michelle Baer Ghaffari(seen together with him in The Decline Of The Western Civilization) actually became a motion picture in 2007. A main issue during both screenplay writings and production, was to to secure the legacy of the dead punk star, telling his tragic but fascinating story in an respectful way. I presume this ethical and aesthetic codes also determined the outfall of the castings, not at least the lead role of critical importance, DARBY CRASH himself. They took a chance on a handsome actor in the mainstream league and I sure as hell can see all reasons why.
SHANE WEST,got so much into the role as DC that he underwent dental surgery adjustments, just to look more like the original. The young actor also, after few weeks of filming, got the same tattoo as DC on his left shoulder. A motive that embodies two key allegories in the lyrical realms of THE GERMS: The Panther, standing in front of The Circle. The most obvious examples are of course "Manimal", where he opens with the words:
"I came into this world
like a puzzled panther
Wanting to be caged
But something stood in the way
I was never quite tamed...”
"Circle One", was an early song performed by THE GERMS, with lyrics based around text fragments from DCs first lyrical experiments. The circle suggests a cycle, of search and destroy?, a circle painted blue and, by DC, declared as the only circle in this life. Death could then of course be seen as the second and final circle DC hints at in the beginning of the movie, the afterlife was "Circle Two". He probably had his fascination with circles from thinkers such as Platon and Friedrich Nietzsche,as well as being in need of a simple and clean cut symbol to represent his band and "order. One of the last things he said in life, to his surviving suicide pact companion,Casey Cola, after she expressed something of a second thought was:
What´s the point, next year you will be exactly at same point as now, trapped in a circle, the one we re about to break..."
SHANE WEST was undoubtedly encountering a legend of the past that still, 30 years after his suicide, is capable of setting young souls on fire."On Fire" is exactly what he is, during the entire movie, at their infamous chaotic concerts, his manipulative manic social behavior and his grotesque party line of drug taking from a to z, of course landing on a steady heroin addiction.
Just like Gary Oldman, as SID VICIOUS in Alex Cox ´86 movie Sid And Nancy,or Val Kilmer in Oliver Stones The Doors, SW captured something authentic,powerful and ESSENTIAL in the role as DC. Many of the drama-docu interviews during the film, give the similar impression as the few video clips and live shots that have survived the real DC. I ve absorbed every detail of information or data available on the subject and thus I claim a good understanding of the nature and personality of DC, private as on stage. This leads me to the conclusion that Darby, if he was to see the handsome substitute for himself at work, he would be very proud. Not at least given the nature of his sexuality, seeing that young revolting stud cutting himself with broken glass as his band bursts into "We Must Bleed". as JIM MORRISON in
I doubt the question of a reunion was a topic of debate in the ex-GERMS camp before they met SW and started playing for fun, as PAT SMEAR told me after their gig in Oslo. Mostly out of respect to the memory of the man and friend who gave them all their respective artistic alter egos, "Pat Smear", "Lorna Doom" and "Don Bolles". Without his presence, in one sense or the other, a resurrection of the work of Paul Beahms life was out of the question. They wouldn t run the risk of reducing the mission of achievements he spent the 5 last years of his life to turning into the stuff of legends. Physical presence was no option, so the only thing that could bring alive THE GERMS,was a silent approval from his grave.
The incident that could give the three members of THE GERMS still alive such a collective sense was probably when they were present under the shooting of the film, working as overall consults and mentors of the film crew. Meeting SW under the shooting of the movie was what probably opened their minds to the possibility of a second coming of the band. This time with a replacement for the non replaceable DC, a mainstream actor and pretty boy named SHANE WEST, soon rechristening himself to SHANE WRECK, Never mind all prejudices activated by the thoughts, when you see the movie, how SW in central moments comes very close to the spirit we know as DB, the social blast...
It comes as no surprise that someone, some grumpy punk fundamentalist, the purist that limits his life with a set of rules or standards, such as the demand for authenticy or "street", or "punk" credibility. It almost broke my old punk heart to hear that JELLO BIAFRA allegedly is one of them. The arguments are the worn out rhetoric of the underground "punk" spectacle, somehow starting with CRASS and their ideals of "no sellout" and "no negotiation with the mainstream industry". The ideal is to remain against the grain no matter what, and to even CONSIDER replacing a true "underground" hero of punk like Darby Crash with a slick actor would be, to quote SORE THROAT, "a disgrace to the corpse of Sid(meaning the "spirit of punk"). The irony of that is that neither VICIOUS ot CRASH by any means are gallon figures for such a metaphorical use.
So you stupid fucks really think the legacy of Darby Crash would be better off laid to rest for good, cutting off the links of influence through time onto and into new generations of youngsters running wild to rock music and pseudo-religious mind control? What do you think Darby, lying in his grave, would have preferred see happening to his explosive testament in words and music? Dead, silent and deaf in the grave for eternity, or reanimated, resurrected in new versions of the classic set of THE GERMS, introduced to a new audience in clubs of today? People going nuts to "No God", like an unholy communion using the same words and guitar chords as the original line up did in the last gig ever(Starwood Club, 4th of Dec,1980)is a thought that Darby must have chosen before the fading memory of a old punk that was there in his own time.
Another more principal aspect which can only count in favor of the reunion of THE GERMS with SHANE WEST these days, are the personality traceable in the surviving lyrical lines, interviews and statements made to friends,band mates and family during his short life around. DARBY CRASH was not the underground anti-mainstream hero or spokesman that many people declare his creative expressive posthumous persona to be. His life was not a battle against the corporate music industry or the streamlined mainstream popular culture, rather the opposite, a TOTAL commitment to the tradition of rock n roll stardom and mythology.
All Paul Beahm dreamed about was to become a star, the bigger the better, that would burn brighter than all others in the pop culture galaxy, guiding the way into a chaotic and shadowy future and the burn out for good, only leaving the immortal tale of a punk Messiah behind.
BOWIE in those days, also lived in L.A and had such a serious coke habit that he fell into a 2-year psychosis, among other things spawning the alter ego Thin White Duke . This pseudonym lead him into the studio for the pompous recording "Station To Station", where every feature, arrangement and the words of the lyrics, is marked by the same grandeur of temporary drug-fueled madness and megalomania. "It´s not the side effect of the cocaine", he states in the title song, but in fact it was. To this day, Bowie don t remember anything from this recording whatsoever, neither his quote to the English press of Hitler being the first rock star of all times. This was the result of a "cranked actor"(1972 BBC documentary on BOWIE), reading too much NIETZSCHE under the Bolivian influence.
Paul Beahm was, even before his wild experiments with drugs, both a serious reader of Nietzsche and Oswald Spengler, and when it came to politics he always claimed to be fascist, even admiring the "genius" of Adolf Hitler. Hence the illustration on the cover of the "Lexicon Devil" 7 " of 1978. He dreamt of becoming the leader of sect, which also had its´out spring in Beahms former years as a student of Ron Hubbard and the Church Of Scientology. Not to mention his profound fascination for Charles Manson, and the way he controlled a small group of followers through mind control and though manipulation. After all, mind control was what got himself and Pat Smear kicked out of school, even though he received his diploma nevertheless. Even in the GERMS interview in Flipside # 2 of 1977, Beahm, Bobby Pyn, commented on Scientology as
"..the biggest rip off there is but it´s also worth the money, their philosophy is unbelievable...
everything they say...even the government´s been suppressing them...everything they say works. If I had $ 10.000, I´d go back and do it (talking about their courses) "
A statement such as this reveals that what´s important to this young aspiring leader, is the methods of argumentation, in other words means of controlling the minds and the will of the followers. This interest in mind control, dreaming of himself as the spiritual leader of a "circle of lives", runs through many of the main songs recorded and played by THE GERMS: "What We Do Is Secret"), "Circle One", "The Slave" etc.
On top of this, ripping to pieces the presumption of Darby Crash as an underground hero, I will remind everybody who refuse to accept SHANE WEST as a worthy replacement, of the fact that one of DARBYs favorite artists and idols was QUEEN and especially Freddy Mercury. On one occasion, when QUEEN did a concert in L.A, 3 members of THE GERMS (Darby, Pat and ex-member Berlinda Carlises) found out where the band stayed, they stood outside the hotel all night through, freezing their asses off, just to get a sight of the superstars. They never showed up, unfortunately.
"The great man lives in such a way that his existence is a sacrifice to his idea"