Thursday, October 20, 2016

Book Review: My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor by Keith Morris & Jim Ruland

Book Review: My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor

by Keith Morris & Jim Ruland

Hardcover, 336 pages Published August 2016 by Da Capo Press

Alright I am sitting on a flight home to Indiana, Circle Jerks rocking on my headphones and I just closed My Damage as my flight reading. I almost never write a review this quick after reading a book. I was lucky enough to see Jim and Keith do a reading and Q and A in San Diego so they really got me excited to read this book, but I was sold as soon as I heard the book announced - Black Flag and the Circle Jerks were one of the early west coast hardcore bands and I have listened to Keith Morris bands for decades. In its simple way that first short Circle Jerks record Group Sex is a undeniable masterpiece and to me Deny Everything is one of my favorite punk songs ever, ever.

Some of it I can’t relate to because songs like Wasted don’t mean much to someone who has been straight edge for over 25 years since he was pretty young. All you have to do is read my last two books Punk Rock Ghost Story and Amazing Punk Stories to realize that I love old school punk I grew-up with far more than the shit kids create today. I love the old scene, and the history of it. The concept of punk ghosts is one I explored in my book are very much a thing in My Damage. If you are not familiar with Keith Morris or his music – he was the singer of two bands who were largely responsible for kick starting the punk scene on the west coast in the late 70’s and early 80’s. While Morris did not have a easy exit from his first band, we should all be glad it happened because we got his second band the circle Jerks.

It is easy to forget that these icons of crazy insane music were human beings with struggles. Kudos to Morris and his co-author Jim Ruland for dragging some pretty gut-wrenching and brutally honest stories out into the light. The book doesn’t disappoint. If you were looking for Morris to shit on Henry Rollins…no he will tell you some pretty harsh stories about his former Black Flag bandmate Greg Ginn.

Tales of backstages, piles of cocaine, drug deaths of friends, disastrous tours, the story behind albums and ins and outs of band drama are all there. For me the coolest moments of the book came from intense details of early venues, punk houses and day to day life of the old punk scene in LA. Stories of now famous members of Fear, Flag and Chili Peppers long before they were stars when they were getting beat up outside VFW halls they rented by the LAPD.

This is Keith Morris raw and he deserves credit for telling his story, and maybe it’s my bias because Jim is local but want to give co-author Jim Ruland a lot of credit. Most reviews will not focus on him. Jim did a wonderful job of putting the stories into a structure and making the book a super easy fast paced read. Morris himself spoke very serious praises of his co-author.

My Damage is a must read for anyone interested in the history of punk rock or takes the music seriously. This a punk history lesson that the young bucks growing up with the internet need to read, but the scene when the struggles were real.

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