Under the Big Black Sun

  • by John Doe, Tom Desavia
  • Narrated by Exene Cervenka, Henry Rollins, full cast
  • 7 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Under the Big Black Sun explores the nascent Los Angeles punk rock movement and its evolution to hardcore punk as it's never been told before. Authors John Doe and Tom DeSavia have woven together an enthralling story of the legendary West Coast scene from 1977 to 1982 by enlisting the voices of people who were there. The book shares chapter-length tales from the authors along with personal essays from famous (and infamous) players in the scene. Additional authors include: Exene Cervenka (X), Henry Rollins (Black Flag), Mike Watt (The Minutemen), Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey (The Go-Go's), Dave Alvin (The Blasters), Chris D. (Flesh Eaters), Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L.), Teresa Covarrubias (The Brat), and Robert Lopez (The Zeros, El Vez) as well as scenesters and journalists Pleasant Gehman, Kristine McKenna, and Chris Morris. Through interstitial commentary, John Doe "narrates" this journey through the land of film noir sunshine, Hollywood back alleys, and suburban sprawl - the place where he met his artistic counterparts, Exene, DJ Bonebrake, and Billy Zoom - and formed X, the band that became synonymous with and in many ways defined L.A. punk.
Under the Big Black Sun shares stories of friendship and love, ambition and feuds, grandiose dreams and cultural rage, all combined with the tattered, glossy sheen of pop culture weirdness that epitomized the operations of Hollywood's underbelly. Listeners will travel to the clubs that defined the scene as well as to the street corners, empty lots, apartment complexes, and squats that served as de facto salons for the musicians, artists, and fringe players that hashed out what would become punk rock in Los Angeles.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A love song to the early punk days in LA.

Would you listen to Under the Big Black Sun again? Why?

I will without a doubt listen to Under the Big Black Sun again. There were so many brilliant moments that were expressed in such a way that it needs to be listened to more than once. Great stories that take you right there into the punk scene in Hollywood. I was there but I wasn't up close and personal with all the bands like these folk. Well, some but not as many. Everybody is in this book and they don't hold back.


Who was your favorite character and why?

There are too many great story tellers and stories to mention but I do have to say John Doe. His stories are all poignant, to the heart of things and gripping. Mike Watt did an amazing job, has the best voice. Robert Lopez told the sweetest of the stories and Tom DeSavia writes with a great life force. Jack Grisom killed it with his in your face story that I found appealing because he comes across honest and to the point. Quite startling at times.


Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This was by far the best audio version to ANY book I have listened to because all the authors lend their voices to their own stories. They all did an amazing job. Loved it and plan to keep Under the Big Black Sun on my desk top forever.


Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Much of this was close to home because I went to many of the same shows, knew many of the same people, went to the same clubs and stomping grounds and listened to the same music. In a way, this took me home, back to a past that I think of with mixed feelings but mostly good. It took me back to my coming-of-age story and I ate it up!


Any additional comments?

X always put on a good show and I was happy to be blessed to be amongst this group of outcasts and artistic types. The music the center stone to it all and this band put their souls into it. This book should definitely be read and for certain it's the old punks that will enjoy it the most. There is a real feeling of history here.

I loved being in John Doe's shoes. Most of us will never know what it feels like to be that alive. To be on stage and sharing a performance that feels as true to God that a non-religious person can feel. He takes us there with him and the view is spectacular.

Exene Cervenka writes with passion as she shares her love of The Doors and the music. In the day, I loved her Ike this and as a fan we didn't need her to be any more glamorous than she already was. To me, she was truth and it came across in the music she sang.

The common trend in most of these stories are about how things eventually started to change in LA. As she says, "That openness and nurturing nature of the scene in 1977 and thereabouts was changing."

The deterioration of something good is always a disappointment.

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- Brenda

Real Deal

What made the experience of listening to Under the Big Black Sun the most enjoyable?

This is more than an audio book, it's a record worth listening to over and over. Told through the points of view (and actual voices) of some of the LA scene's greatest pioneers (Mike Watt, John Doe, Exene, Henry Rollins and more), it's a multi-layered story that even has a great chapter from the "villain" Jack Grisham detailing where the guys who some would say ruined the scene came from. I've read almost every book there is about this musical era and not only is this easily one of the best but also a great one for listening to instead of reading.


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- Brian

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-26-2016
  • Publisher: Random House Audio