Disco’s Out…Murder’s In!

The true story of Frank the Shank and LA’s deadliest punk rock gang


Heath Mattioli & David Spacone (Feral House, 2015)

I have always found it interesting that stories regarding the early ‘80s Los Angeles punk rock scene usually end with the rise of gang violence at shows. Some of the gangs evolved out of band followers, with Suicidal Tendencies being the best-known example. Vocalist Mike Muir cultivated a massive crew—the Suicidals—that eventually outgrew the band’s influence. Apparently, the gang turned on Mike when he began decrying their violent dance floor behavior, resulting in a brutal group beatdown. Circle One and Fight for Freedom (FFF) were two other bands/gangs on the scene that are frequently mentioned in the historical retrospectives. Even Bad Religion had affiliations with a Hollywood punk gang called the LADS, or Los Angeles Death Squad. However, the narrative generally downplays the gangs’ presence and thus ends the story of ‘80s hardcore punk in Los Angeles and Orange County.

Disco’s Out…Murder’s In attempts to fill in the blanks, chronicling the formation of a punk gang and its role in turning the LA hardcore scene into a war zone. Some find it hard to believe, but punk rockers took a potentially serious risk simply walking down the street in those days. They could expect frequent attacks by, well, anybody for simply looking different from the established norm. Hell, even stoned-out peacenik hippies would try to pick fights with punks! One could say that punk rock was slowly beat into becoming hardcore. Gangs formed to fight back and let society know that punk rockers were no longer their punching bags.

LMP (La Mirada Punks) was one such gang with a Clockwork Orange-style saga relived through the eyes of one Frank the Shank. Frank befriends LMP members as a 13-year-old upstart and quickly immerses himself in their life of chaos, violence, and murder. Memorable shows become backdrops for mayhem as the gangs lose focus on fighting society and begin battling each other for scene supremacy. Attending a Misfits gig is less about seeing the band and more about an ex-con LMP member’s newfound talent for relieving kids of their leather jackets. LMP seems to find new victims to stab with each turn of the page and it blows my mind when I remember that teenage kids are committing these ultraviolent acts! Frank is barely eighteen years old when a brutal encounter with followers of the band Pig Children leads to his arrest and subsequent “come to Jesus” moment. He is able to make his departure from punk rock gang life and tell the tale. Most of his crazy cohorts were not so lucky.

I cannot say for sure how much of Frank’s voice actually resides in Disco’s Out…Murder’s In, but his tale helps put things into perspective. Sometimes we need an ugly reminder of where this punk rock stuff comes from, which does include its darker elements whether we like it or not. Disco’s Out…Murder’s In serves that purpose nicely.

 

Written by Jake Kelly

Proud author of the Rock 'n' Wrestling column as seen in PORK, a free quarterly magazine from Portland. Wrestling fan since 1985. TSM lurker since 2003. Semi-functional human being since 1978.