A ‘Zeroville’-Inspired Protopunk Mix


Recently, word got out that James Franco is planning to adapt Steve Erickson’s 2007 novel, Zeroville, into a film. In Zeroville, Vikar, the protagonist, hears punk for the very first time and becomes a man obsessed. At this point, he’s recognized as a difficult but talented film editor, so he moves from his home in LA to New York to work on a new movie. While there, Vikar becomes a regular terror in the mosh pit at CBGB, and back in LA, he heads to Whisky A Go-Go.

Check out Penelope Spheeris’s documentary The Decline of Western Civilization for more information about LA’s burgeoning punk scene, and Burning Down the House for the history of CBGB. We suggest you start this mix with The Misfit’s 1978 paean to sleaze and scandal, “Hollywood Babylon,” and then click through below to continue on our musical journey.

2. “Sixteen” by Iggy Pop (live, 1977)

The Stooges formed in the late 1960s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and often performed to hostile audiences in their heady early days. Iggy is still out there, shirtless, but as a 63-year-old trying to shake things up on American Idol.

3. “Lexicon Devil” by the Germs at Whiskey A Go-Go (live, 1979)

The Germs began in 1977 in L.A. and managed to put out one album (G.I.) before the singer, Darby Crash, died of a heroin overdose. Vikar would’ve enjoyed the mêlée at any Germs show, as Darby Crash writhed around onstage, forwent the mic, and starting food fights.

4. VOM “I’m in love with your mom” (1979)

VOM began in 1976 with rock critic Richard Meltzer on vocals, and later became the Angry Samoans, which took over the song. In Zeroville, Vikar develops a kind of parental bond with Zazi, Soledad’s daughter, though he never gets the chance to really patch things up.

5. “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” by X

X formed in LA in 1977, featuring Exene Cervenka and John Doe on vocals. “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” is pretty obvious song about rape, featuring Cervenka’s signature wail.

6. “Ghostrider” by Suicide at Max’s Kansas City (live, 1979)

Suicide started in 1971, and the influential duo were loosely part of the early glam punk scene in New York. Their self-titled first album was released in 1977 and features the song above.

7. “I Can’t Stand Myself” by James Chance/The Contortions

Vikar was always hard on himself and we think he might have understood what was happening as James Chance cavorted onstage.

8. “Race Mixing” by Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (live, 1979)

The short-lived Teenage Jesus and the Jerks featured Lydia Lunch on vocals and James Chance on saxophone; even though they were around from 1976 to 1979, they were highly influential in the No Wave and post-punk scenes.

9. “Red Tape” and “Beverly Hills” by the Circle Jerks

Vikar loved nothing more than to dive headfirst into a mosh pit, pogoing like his life depended on it. He would have been right at home at a Circle Jerks show, as the early hardcore band was notorious for stirring things up.

10. We have to end on “Marrakesh Express” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young because of the following hilarious passage:

The clerk says, “Hey, man, have you seen Easy Rider? I usually don’t go to movies. I’m into the Music.” “What?” “The Music.” The clerk turns up the radio. There’s a song playing about a train to Marrakesh: “All aboard the train,” the singer sings. It’s horrible; they’ve forgotten A Place in the Sun for this? Vikar also suspects there’s something narcotics-related about the song.

As Lemmy says in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 film: “This isn’t Alphaville, this is Zeroville!” If we reset this list to the beginning, what would you recommend, readers?