Forty years would seem to be plenty of time to canvass and document the history of punk rock, but as is the case with any genre, there are always some narrative holes that need filling. New York City and London dominate much of the discussion about punk’s nascent years, so much so that even the most casual music fans likely have some understanding of CBGB, The Clash, the Talking Heads, and other big-picture genre talking points. Those are important conversational pillars, of course, but there’s plenty of ground to cover between the two cities.

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Los Angeles, for one, cultivated its own hugely influential punk rock scene. If New York and England helped lay the foundation for punk’s first wave, L.A. had a large hand in building the subculture that’s kept the genre going through the years. This is the story Tom DeSavia and X singer-bassist John Doe tell in Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History Of L.A. Punk. Culled from the personal remembrances of roughly a dozen of the city’s most prized punk-rock figures, the book digs deep into the ugly, dangerous, but nonetheless fraternal nature of the burgeoning L.A. punk scene of the late ’70s and early ’80s. From Hollywood over to East L.A. and south to San Pedro and Huntington Beach, Under The Big Black Sun covers the scene’s considerable sprawl, from the sketchy clubs and apartment dwellings to the bands and the drug and booze-fueled chaos that followed them.

Considerable attention is given to many of the scene’s most enduring exports, and understandably so. Stories of X’s legendary stage presence, violent Black Flag shows, and the tragic self-destructiveness of the Germs’ Darby Crash are necessary parts of the story, even if they’re already well-told ones. But DeSavia and Doe’s collection shines when it digs deeper. Robert Lopez—a.k.a. El Vez, the Mexican Elvis—sheds fascinating light on an East L.A. scene that fostered the likes of The Zeros, Alice Bag, and even chicano roots rock heroes Los Lobos, pre-La Bamba. Many might be aware of The Go-Go’s origins in L.A. punk, but Belinda Carlisle and Jane Wiedlin go into incisive detail as to just how much the band was into that scene before becoming new wave hit-makers. The dirt dished on the bands and the music is great, but the book wisely casts a wider net to capture broader aspects of early L.A. punk culture. Other entries call attention to the documentation of the scene through ’zines including Bomp Magazine, Flipside, and Slash, the latter of which morphed into a label that released early records by The Blasters, The Gun Club, Fear, and others.

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Fans seeking a linear, front-to-back telling of the scene’s early years might be thrown by the erratic structure of DeSavia and Doe’s narrative. Under The Big Black Sun spurns chronology in favor of personal anecdotes and reflections that dart all over the map. But what it lacks in tidy cohesion, it makes up for in you-had-to-be-there style storytelling. The varied voices and storytelling styles—from Mike Watt’s eclectic dude speak to Gentleman Jack Grisham’s vulgar-but-emotional gutter poetry—give the book a loose, conversational feel that plays more like a documentary in words than a strict historical account. Given punk rock’s innate wont to flaunt convention, the style fits the subject matter in its own roughshod sort of way.

Considerable time has lapsed since the book’s subjects inhabited the matinee shows and house parties they speak of. But the authors hang on every sinewy detail like it all happened yesterday. Hard as it can be to make history seem tangible and visceral, Under The Big Black Sun speaks of a genre that’s still young at heart.