The Decline of Western Civilization

The soundtrack to "The Decline of Western Civilization" features live performances from several LA area punk bands at their peak. It’s an interesting record to listen to, and an even more interesting film to watch because of the moment in rock history it captures. “This is 1980,” Lee Ving of Fear says to an audience member. “Can’t you afford a fuckin’ haircut?”

Penelope Sheeris shot the film in late ‘79 and early 1980 for about $120,000. In an undated interview with Hip Magazine, she talked about getting the financing for “Decline”: “I had the first music video company in LA, it was called Rock 'n Reel. Cheesy name, but fuck, it was the '70s...A girlfriend was approached by these guys who had money and wanted to make a porno movie and I went to see them and said, ‘You guys really should give me some money to make the film I want to make. ‘Cuz punk rock is the next big thing after pornos... I swear.’ They bent to my will. So I made ‘Decline,’ but I didn't keep the rights, and never made any money off it.”

The New York Times seemed to get what Spheeris intended to convey, and wrote a positive review:
Not merely a compilation of concert footage, The Decline of Western Civilization compiles numerous viewpoints on the meanings of the punk movement, from journalists -- one of whom calls punk the folk music of the 1980s -- to club security guards, to the punks themselves. The center of the film, however, is the music, which is fast, loud, and abrasive and often played with purposeful ineptitude; the lyrics are intentionally controversial and shocking, often seeming to embrace violence, sexism, racism, and even Nazism, though usually in an ironic manner. The performances, by bands such as Black Flag, X, The Circle Jerks, and Fear, are mostly shot from within the audience, where the camera often becomes an unwitting participant in the crowd's slam dancing. Especially fascinating are the performances by The Germs, thanks to the antics of their violently self-destructive lead singer Darby Crash, who would later die of a drug overdose and gain a martyr status within the punk community. (New York Times review by Janet Maslin)

The Germs Manimal.mp3
Circle Jerks I Just Want Some Skank.mp3
Black Flag Depression.mp3
Fear I Don’t Care About You (with intro).mp3
X Johny Hit and Run Paulene.mp3

The The Decline Web site is under construction. Penelope Spheeris has directed a ton of movies, including the first "Wayne's World," and two sequels to "The Decline of Western Civilization." IMDB has more information about Ms. Spheeris.


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