Sam: What We Do Is Secret

Last night I watched What We Do Is Secret, a film about punk legend Darby Crash and his band The Germs.  It started off as sort of a mock documentary, with bad writing and questionable acting but I ended up sort of really liking it.

It turned out to be one of those it’s so bad, it’s good situations.  I was immediately drawn to the film because I love The Germs. Then I was curious to see how Shane West was going to pull off portraying such a gritty punk with a heavy drug addiction.  Then(!) I found out Bijou Phillips was in it and I was sold.  She is a total train wreck, but I love her and will watch just about anything she is in.

When Darby formed the band in the late 70’s, none of the members knew how to play the instruments and none of them had performed live.  They immediately booked a show and bumbled through it.  Darby’s vision was brilliant.  Start a band, create a bunch of hype, play a show then learn how to play.   He was determined, and set a plan in place, to become a legend in five years.  In this particular section of the film, David Bowie’s Five Years played in the background which is when I knew I liked the movie and it had me by the short and curlies.  The band went on to book shows all around Los Angeles and were gaining serious notoriety.  Mostly due to the self mutilation on stage (yep, Darby was a cutter!) and their ability to incite massive riots.  The crowds grew increasingly violent causing the bands to be banned from most venues they were used to packing.  This nearly derailed the band until Crash began booking shows under the moniker GI which stood for Germs Incognito.  Brilliant.

After the venues got wise to this little trick, the band continued to struggle to perform live.  Darby and Pat Smear left to form the Darby Crash Band, but the project did not take off like planned.  They only played a few shows, then realized it was time to reform The Germs for one final show.  They took the stage at The Starwood on December 3, 1980 and played to a packed house.  The show was a success, but unfortunately the last one the band would play with this line-up.  Darby Crash committed suicide by overdosing on heroin on December 7, 1980, the same day John Lennon was murdered.

The film did a pretty good job of capturing all of this, even if it was in a made-for-TV-movie kind of way.  It was all a little clean though, the scene at that time was hard and dirty.  They should have made the film a little edgier, but you can’t always get what you want.

Shane West did a pretty good job portraying Crash, they even managed to fuck up his teeth to mirror Darby’s cracked smile.

Shane West

Darby Crash

The Germs formed again to play the after party directly following the release of the film.  Impressed with West’s work, the band asked him to take on lead vocals.  I’m not so convinced it was that good, but it makes sense I guess.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Sam: What We Do Is Secret

  1. rich

    this is a great study in how music really has never been anything more than hype and style. And I do not mean that in a bad way. I think it is ironic that everyone rips a “created” band yet sees a band like the germs as groundbreaking, etc. they really were not, they were all about image and style just like Britney spears, just like Nirvana and the rest of the “grunge” movement, (c’mon, did you think it was a coindcidence that they all wore their dad’s flannels or did you think they were lumberjacking by day and singing by night?). I guess the germs differentiate themselves by being open about it, they had no idea what they were doing, had no idea how to play any music and dumped bad music out. but it was never about the music. it was about being famous and being the center of a small universe, they obviously suceeded at that.
    i often say that no matter how terrible the idea, if you reach enough people with it someone will agree with you. i think to an extent that the germs had a following due to my premise. the music was bad, even by the grimiest early west coast punk standards, yet there had a following, i just wonder if the people who were big fans understood that it was never about music or about them but about image and style.
    who knows, maybe they knew and I am not giving them enough credit or maybe I should re-examine any group I ever liked and see if I am giving myself too much credit.

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