Your audiobook is waiting…

Under the Big Black Sun

A Personal History of L.A. Punk
Length: 7 hrs and 20 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (428 ratings)

Regular price: $28.00

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Publisher's Summary

Under the Big Black Sun explores the nascent Los Angeles punk rock movement and its evolution to hardcore punk as it's never been told before. Authors John Doe and Tom DeSavia have woven together an enthralling story of the legendary West Coast scene from 1977 to 1982 by enlisting the voices of people who were there. The book shares chapter-length tales from the authors along with personal essays from famous (and infamous) players in the scene. Additional authors include: Exene Cervenka (X), Henry Rollins (Black Flag), Mike Watt (The Minutemen), Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey (The Go-Go's), Dave Alvin (The Blasters), Chris D. (Flesh Eaters), Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L.), Teresa Covarrubias (The Brat), and Robert Lopez (The Zeros, El Vez) as well as scenesters and journalists Pleasant Gehman, Kristine McKenna, and Chris Morris. Through interstitial commentary, John Doe "narrates" this journey through the land of film noir sunshine, Hollywood back alleys, and suburban sprawl - the place where he met his artistic counterparts, Exene, DJ Bonebrake, and Billy Zoom - and formed X, the band that became synonymous with and in many ways defined L.A. punk.

Under the Big Black Sun shares stories of friendship and love, ambition and feuds, grandiose dreams and cultural rage, all combined with the tattered, glossy sheen of pop culture weirdness that epitomized the operations of Hollywood's underbelly. Listeners will travel to the clubs that defined the scene as well as to the street corners, empty lots, apartment complexes, and squats that served as de facto salons for the musicians, artists, and fringe players that hashed out what would become punk rock in Los Angeles.

©2016 John Doe and Tom Desavia (P)2016 Random House Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    334
  • 4 Stars
    78
  • 3 Stars
    13
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    1

Performance

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    321
  • 4 Stars
    56
  • 3 Stars
    10
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    1

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    303
  • 4 Stars
    67
  • 3 Stars
    15
  • 2 Stars
    2
  • 1 Stars
    0
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Brenda
  • Orange County, CA, United States
  • 07-09-16

A love song to the early punk days in LA.

Would you listen to Under the Big Black Sun again? Why?

I will without a doubt listen to Under the Big Black Sun again. There were so many brilliant moments that were expressed in such a way that it needs to be listened to more than once. Great stories that take you right there into the punk scene in Hollywood. I was there but I wasn't up close and personal with all the bands like these folk. Well, some but not as many. Everybody is in this book and they don't hold back.

Who was your favorite character and why?

There are too many great story tellers and stories to mention but I do have to say John Doe. His stories are all poignant, to the heart of things and gripping. Mike Watt did an amazing job, has the best voice. Robert Lopez told the sweetest of the stories and Tom DeSavia writes with a great life force. Jack Grisom killed it with his in your face story that I found appealing because he comes across honest and to the point. Quite startling at times.

Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This was by far the best audio version to ANY book I have listened to because all the authors lend their voices to their own stories. They all did an amazing job. Loved it and plan to keep Under the Big Black Sun on my desk top forever.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Much of this was close to home because I went to many of the same shows, knew many of the same people, went to the same clubs and stomping grounds and listened to the same music. In a way, this took me home, back to a past that I think of with mixed feelings but mostly good. It took me back to my coming-of-age story and I ate it up!

Any additional comments?

X always put on a good show and I was happy to be blessed to be amongst this group of outcasts and artistic types. The music the center stone to it all and this band put their souls into it. This book should definitely be read and for certain it's the old punks that will enjoy it the most. There is a real feeling of history here.

I loved being in John Doe's shoes. Most of us will never know what it feels like to be that alive. To be on stage and sharing a performance that feels as true to God that a non-religious person can feel. He takes us there with him and the view is spectacular.

Exene Cervenka writes with passion as she shares her love of The Doors and the music. In the day, I loved her Ike this and as a fan we didn't need her to be any more glamorous than she already was. To me, she was truth and it came across in the music she sang.

The common trend in most of these stories are about how things eventually started to change in LA. As she says, "That openness and nurturing nature of the scene in 1977 and thereabouts was changing."

The deterioration of something good is always a disappointment.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

One of the better music books I've read

And I've read a lot of music books. The wildly divergent viewpoints regarding the same events was a truly excellent editorial decision. Highly recommended.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A vivid portrait of a blazing moment in time.

What did you love best about Under the Big Black Sun?

The magnitude of this collection really starts to hit as you hear voice after voice detail the stories of their punk soaked youth.

Under The Big Black Sun is more than just a book, it's a historical document, which peels back the layers of life, music, and rebellion of the early LA punk scene.

Die hard fans will love this book, but anyone curious about music evolution in America will be transported by the simmering and shimmering energy of this singular moment in music history.

Highly recommended!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

This was my childhood as

I grew up in Manhattan Beach California, the suburbs of Los Angeles and was a punk rock girl of 15 in 1980. I recognize and relate to so much of this book from beyond Baroque poetry workshop to the Cookoo's Nest and all the clubs. Hanging out at Erryl Flyn's abandoned mansion and was with Rob Henley the day Henry Rollins first came to L.A. and was crashing at Greg Ginn and Ray Pettibone's sister's house. I like the idea of using different voices and different stories to tell their own memories and experiences of that time. The early days of punk in LA where a cacophony of art,!poetry, fashion, rebellion, expression, creativity, and a hell of a lot of noise. Despite the bruises and scars I still have to remember those days I wouldn't trade them for anything. Thank you all for making this book possible for me to walk down memory lane.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Real Deal

What made the experience of listening to Under the Big Black Sun the most enjoyable?

This is more than an audio book, it's a record worth listening to over and over. Told through the points of view (and actual voices) of some of the LA scene's greatest pioneers (Mike Watt, John Doe, Exene, Henry Rollins and more), it's a multi-layered story that even has a great chapter from the "villain" Jack Grisham detailing where the guys who some would say ruined the scene came from. I've read almost every book there is about this musical era and not only is this easily one of the best but also a great one for listening to instead of reading.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it.

Great recollection of memories of these times and even cooler to hear their voices tell the stories.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tim
  • United States
  • 04-20-19

The Only Way to Listen

The only way to read "Under the Big Black Sun" is to listen to the audiobook. As a So Ca kid that grew up with punk/ska music, John Doe from X pretty much summed up my adolescent age. Even though I was a nipple sucker and a diaper pooper in the mid 70's when the punk scene got started in L.A., I can still remember listening to the Germs for the first time in junior high and ever since then I resisted at being a poser.

I still have my wristband from the first show that I went to in high school at Costa Mesa Community Center. Farside from Revelation Records kicked butt that night and after that, I've been to at least 500 shows from all kinds of genres. I have a constant ring in my left ear from moshing, skanking thumping, and chilling out.

This audiobook is the best thing that I've listened to in a long time. Not only the spoken words are outstanding, but they even included snippets of music from bands that are in the book.

If I could go back in time, I would go see Operation Ivy. I was kinda of a poser when I was 12 though.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Transports you to 1970s LA

Fascinating inside history of a surprisingly small scene, both geographically and in numbers of people, that still exists and influences toady. Each chapter read by the people who were actually there. Loved it! Biggest surprise was the Go-Gos, I didn’t realize the size of their presence, or their life on the scene before taking over MTV. Atmospheric and visual, this audiobook takes you there, to a scene I got into as a kid, even though I was a few years late and a thousand miles removed.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

The beginnings of the L.A. punk scene!

This was such a prolific journey through how it started, why it started, what it was meant to be and what it meant to those who continue to live it.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Brought me back to '79

This was fantastic. I can't say I was part of the 1st wave of the blossoming of punk in Los Angeles, although the first live band I ever saw was Fear in 1979 when I was 12. I wasn't a punk in the 80s either, although I was always a closet punk rocker. But this book is a wonderful re-accounting of the birth of a movement that is often misunderstood, misidentified and just plain missed. Not to mention written and read by those who MADE these early days of punk the foundation of a movement that would tou h the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Really one of the best "reads" I've listened to in years.