Geography of ’80s Punk Rock L.A.

Nightlife, Things to Do — By Noah Albert on December 22, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Turn the clock back to the late ’70s and early ’80s and you will find a different Los Angeles. The city was a more hostile environment back then. The optimism of the ’50s and ’60s had faded away. The ’70s was a time of oil shortages and slow economic growth, then in the early ’80s the economy got even worse during the “Carter recession.”  In Los Angeles, gang culture and drug violence was on the rise; the crack cocaine revolution was just around the corner. Between 1970 and 1979 the homicide rate in L.A. almost doubled (rising from 12.5 per 100,000 population to 23.0/100,000). The now corporate and tourist friendly Hollywood area was at that point known as a destination for drugs, sex shops and prostitution.

In terms of the music, a gritty punk rock scene was starting to taking shape. Just as New York had CBGBs, a whole underground rock culture existed here in Los Angeles, a culture that defined itself in opposition to the perceived blandness of the music industry. Bands such as the the Runaways, the Germs, the Weirdos, the Dickies, the Go-Gos, Fear, X, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, and Los Lobos were all part of this vibrant scene. In this post, I identify some of the key locations of this punk rock music world back in the day, in particular I focus on the Hollywood and Los Angeles locations (the South Bay and Orange County sites will have to wait for another post). I have also included lists of links, blogs, and books at the bottom of the page.

The famous Canter's Deli


(Links on the list below more often than not connect to the cool Go-Gos blog, featuring nice vintage photos. You can also see these locations collected on this map. Please note that the majority of these places are now gone.)

Al’s Bar (Hewitt Street and Traction Avenue 90013) — Located on the ground floor of the American Hotel, this legendary downtown dive bar was Los Angeles’ oldest punk venue when they closed in 2001.

Anti-Club (At Helen’s Place: 4658 Melrose Ave 90004) — Eclectic venue started in 1979 that was originally booked by Russell Jessum, Jack Marquette and Jim Van Tyne. In the mid-80s the Anti-Club moved downtown to Eddy’s Burritos under different stewardship.

The Arena (11445 Jefferson Boulevard 90230) — This place was once part of the Jefferson Arena Bowling complex and was home to punk rock shows in 1980. Now a mini-mall.

Atomic Cafe (E. 1st Street and S. Alameda Street 90012) — Noodle shop in Little Tokyo that was open until 4am. Nancy, the daughter of the owners, loved punk rock and was super successful in bringing in that crowd, including luminaries like Blondie and the Ramones. Paul Greenstein helped program the legendary jukebox. Closed in 1989.

Blackies (607 N. La Brea 90036) — Opened in 1979 on La Brea, this smaller club was only around for 9 months.

Brave Dog (438 E 1st St 90012) — Located near the Atomic Cafe (above), this underground punk club run by Jack Marquette was open from 1980 and 1982. This link features a great collection on flyers and posters.

The Canterbury (1746 N. Cherokee Avenue 90028) — Very famous apartment house where the punks partied and then partied some more. The building is still there.

Canter’s Deli (419 N. Fairfax Avenue 90048) — This Jewish deli somehow managed to be a rock and roll meeting place for decades. They remain a good food destination and the Kibitz Room section of Canter’s is still a kicking bar.

Cathay de Grande (1600 N. Argyle Avenue 90028) — Chinese restaurant in Hollywood that in 1980 turned punk when Fred Paterson began DJing and then booking bands here. Closed in 1985.

Club 88 (11784 Pico Boulevard 90064) — After opening in 1977,  this club featured a ton of unsigned bands. This spot way out on Pico was considered a lower tier club in the local hierarchy but on the other hand they gave a lot of bands a place to play. Closed in 1981.

Continental Hyatt/Riot Hyatt now called the Andaz (8401 Sunset Blvd 90069) — Famous rock and roll hotel where the likes of the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Sex Pistols and the Stooges stayed and partied hard; now remodeled and luxurious.

Club Lingerie (6507 Sunset Boulevard 90028) — This place has been open under various names since the late 1940s. After the Masque clubs closed, Brendan Mullen booked bands here until 1991. Now this nightclub goes by “Club L.”

The English Disco (7561 W. Sunset 90046) — Rodney Bingenheimer ran this Glam club between 1972-75. The Bristish influence and the youthful crowd here anticipated the punk scene. Here is a good wikipedia entry; more photos at the sighswhispers blog.

The Fleetwood (260 N. Harbor Drive 90277) — Large Redondo Beach club; many bands played here and the place was important to the Beach Punk scene. Open from 1977 to 1980.

Hong Kong Cafe (425 Gin Ling Way 90012) — Club near Madame Wong’s that followed down the punk road and became a competitor; the Hong Kong stayed more punk rock and less New Wave. Closed in 1981.

Larchmont Hall (180 N. Larchmont Boulevard 90004) — Community center built in 1947. In 1977 and 1978 this hall was the site of a number of benefit concerts put together by Slash magazine. Today the building is a photography studio.

Madame Wong’s (949 Sun Mun Way 90012) — This spot in Chinatown was briefly booked by well-known promoter Paul Greenstein; later proprietor Esther Wong (the Dragon Lady) steered the place in a more New Wave direction. Closed in 1985.

The Masque (1655 N. Cherokee 90028) — Between 1977 and 1979 Brendan Mullen’s basement space was really central to the punk scene. After the original Masque was shut-down, Brendan Mullen briefly hosted shows at the “Other Masque” (6314 Santa Monica Boulevard 90038) and then after that at Club Lingerie (see above).

Myron’s Ballroom (1024 S. Grand Ave 90015) — Old ballroom downtown (built by Mary Pickford in 1910) that sometimes hosted punk rock nights in the 70s and 80s. (In the late 80s, the fabulous Club Vertigo occured at this site.) Recently the ballroom was operating under the name Crash Mansion (the ballroom has had a host of names through the years); although as of right now the place is vacant and is likely to be torn down.

Odyssey 1 (8471 Beverly Blvd 90048) — This disco opened in 1975 and embraced more of a New Wave sound during the punk years. Closed in the 1980s after repeated fire damage. Another link.

Oki-Dog (Santa Monica Boulevard and N. Vista St. 90046) — This was once the site of the famous punk rock fast food joint. There are no Okinawan dogs at that address today but the local restaurant still has locations at 860 N. Fairfax Avenue 90046 and 5056 W Pico Avenue 90019.

Radio Tokyo Studios (1717 Lincoln Boulevard 90291) — Important studio run by Ethan James up until 1989. Ethan James died in 2003. Many important bands recorded here including the Minutmen, Black Flag, Jane’s Addiction,  Sonic Youth, and the Knitters.

Tropicana Motor Hotel (8585 Santa Monica Boulevard 90069) — Ground zero for a lot of party action back in the day. The attached Duke’s Coffee Shop was also a hot spot. Duke’s ended up moving to the Sunset Strip; the motel was torn down in 1988.

The Starwood (8151 Santa Monica Boulevard 90069) — This was one of the major Hollywood clubs and a music industry showcase spot (the other major clubs included the Whiskey, the Troubadour, Gazarri’s, and the Roxy). The Starwood was one of the first of these places to start featuring punk acts (thanks in part to Michelle Meyer who was responsible for booking bands at the club after 1978). The club (owned by Eddie Nash) was closed by in the city in 1981 because of complaints related to drugs, alcohol, violence, and vandalism.

The Vex (3802 E. Cesar Chavez Avenue 90063) — Important East Los Angeles club that was started in 1980 by Willie Herron and Sister Karen on the second floor of Self Help Graphics. In the late 1980 management of the club was passed on to Joe Suquette who ran the club at the old Paramount Ballroom (2706 E. Cesar Chavez Ave 90033) until 1983.

The Whiskey A Go Go (8901 Sunset Boulevard 90069) — This club was the top of the heap back in the day, with a glow surrounding it after being the center of the rock universe in the 1960s and then hosting bands like the Doors, LOVE, and Led Zepellin in the 70s. Kim Fowley helped punk rock make its appearance here with his sponsored nights that were open to a wider range of bands. Although not nearly as glamorous as it once was, the club is still around today. Here is another link about its history.

X’s Garage (601 S. Van Ness Avenue 90010) — First Billy Zoom and then later Exene and John Doe lived in the Craftsman style house from the 20’s that was here; X practiced in the garage.

Zero Club (1957 N. Cahuenga Boulevard 90068) —  Also called Zero Zero. Underground art gallery/after-hours club that was open from 1980-85; set-up and run by a bunch of guys including John Pochna, Mark Boyd, Brendan Mullen, Top Jimmy, Donnie Popejoy, Peter Beckman, and David Lee Roth.





We Got the Neutron Bomb: the Untold Story of L.A. Punk

Forming: the Early Days of L.A. Punk

Make the Music Go Bang!: the Early L.A. Punk Scene

The Beautiful and the Damned (edited by Kristine McKenna)

Lexicon Devil: the Fast Times and Short Life of Darby Crash and the Germs

[Photos courtesy of stevendamron and olliethebastard]

Tags: 1980s, Clubs, Hollywood, Los Angeles History, Music Scene, Music Venues, Offbeat L.A., Punk Rock


  • barbara albert says:


  • Harry says:

    X is still at it. Here’s a recent interview with John Doe where he gives his take on LA:

  • noahalbert says:

    Cool article, I love the discussion of the collaborative process. So many times that element of creative partnership (Keith and Mick, John and Paul) is such a wildcard element. . .

  • KR says:

    Nice blog. I remember hearing about all these places when I was young but was not old enough or allowed to go to any shows yet. Once I was around 16 I was able to start going to shows and a couple years later was in my first band and got to play at a few (Canters Kibitz room, The whiskey, and club 88) Which brings me to this…it says here Club 88 closed in 81. I played there in 1988 though. Did it reopen for a time? Is the 81 date just an error? I know for sure it was still called club 88 when I played there in 1988. Same place on Pico near Bundy in West LA. Ive even got pics from that gig. The old guy who ran it was great as he would pay every band, even if they only brought in $5. He would pay them their five bucks.

    Anyway, just curious if that 81 date is an error or if he actually reopened for a time.

  • Beth says:

    Where is Fenders Ballroom?

  • Pamela Moore says:

    Don’t forget the Grandia Room on Melrose and Godzilla’s in the valley!

  • Louie Garcia says:

    Also The Music Machine formerly located near the corner of Pico and Bundy . My former band Love Canal opened for The Cult at that venue. Spinal Tap actually played a benefit show there along with many other punk rock acts.

  • A Guy says:

    Godzillas? Scream?

  • MikeD says:

    Blackies was also a dive bar on Msim St. in Ocean Park. Many groups played there as well. I remember one night I saw Wall of Voodoo and The Dickies on the same bill!

  • Freddy Menk-A-Rooney says:

    In 77 to 79, when the scene was thriving elsewhere, LA was a ghost town. Dead. But San Francisco had a big exciting scene — with lots of excellent bands and musical traffic between London and New York. Meanwhile, in hot, sunny LA, 17 rich offspring from Beverly Hills day at Cantor’s, parading their imported jeans and expensive haircuts.


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