Monday, July 23, 2012

It Was 30 Years Ago Today

Robert Boyd

Jaime Hernandez, spread from Love & Rockets #21, July 1987

Well, maybe not today, but 30 years ago, the first issue of Love & Rockets, by Gilbert, Jaime and Mario Herenadez, was published. I was a freshman in college and wasn't reading comics. But in my sophomore year, I ended up with a room-mate who was. Through him, I was hearing about some of the cool comics being published, including Love & Rockets. The first issue I got was issue two, so I guess I can say that Love & Rockets has been my favorite comic for about 29 years. For nearly three decades, I have been reading and loving the work of Gilbert and Jaime (older brother Mario bowed out fairly early on, leaving the book to his two brilliant little bros). I've even bought original artwork by both the Gilbert and Jaime--prized pieces in my art collection.

To celebrate their thirtieth anniversary, I'm going to reprint a blog post from 2006 (Jesus Christ! I've been blogging for more than six years!) from my old blog, Wha'happen? It's a little out of date--hell, it was out of date when I wrote it. Hope all my fellow Love & Rockets devotees like it. (If you want to read more Love & Rockets--and you should--here's the place to go.)


Below is a hastily assembled (and probably incomplete) annotated list of songs referenced in the great comic, Love & Rockets. This is one of the all-time great comics, written and drawn by two brothers, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. Each brother does his own very different stories, but both were (and presumably still are) punk rock fanatics and music lovers in general. This is reflected in their work.

From Jaime's big book, Locas:
  • "All Alone in the World"--a song from a 60s Mr. McGoo special, sung by Maggie when she and Rena are lost in the desert.
  • "Friday on My Mind" by the Easybeats. Maggie, Hopey and Doyle are driving together to get rid of Maggie and Hopey's foldout couch. The song, of course, is a great example of working class Australian '60s garage rock, a huge hit.
  • "Two Faces Have I" by Lou Christie. This is a song that Hopey's band plays that Hopey always thought was called "Do Vases Have Eyes." The song is pretty weak--not nearly as good as Christie's "Lightning Strikes." But it comes from an interesting period--after Buddy Holly died but before the Beatles come on the scene. Rock was barely hanging on by its fingernails, and people like Lou Christie, the Four Seasons, and Motown each kept it alive in their own way.
  • "Valentine" by The Replacements. This is what Ray is listening to on his cheap boombox while talking about Maggie with Daffy and Joey. It basically shows that Ray has (then) current tastes in punk, but its unusually romantic nature foreshadows his relationship with Maggie. It's a less obvious choice than, say, "Alex Chilton" from the same album.
  • "You" by X. Another romantic number. Maggie is torn between Ray and Hopey. The song is reputed to have been written by Exene Cervenka for Viggo Mortensen.
  • "Whipping Post" by the Allman Brothers. Hopey has joined a hippy cover band, and this is one of their songs. This song is sort of meant to represent the opposite of Hopey's tastes, and therefore her misery at being in this situation.
  • "I Can't Do Anything" by X-Ray Specs. A flashback to Maggie and Hopey's early punk days.
  • "Dead End Justice" by the Runaways. Ditto.
  • "Wig Wam Bam" by Sweet. Jaime named a longish story after this song. This was a special song for Maggie and Letty in their childhood, before Letty died in a car crash and Maggie meets Hopey. Basically, even though Maggie and Letty were two Chicana girls, they loved 70s glam-rock and metal, which was totally uncool in their context. It was their secret thing. This is a great, hard-rocking, silly song from the early '70s.
  • "Metal Guru" by T-Rex. Another fave of Maggie and Letty, and another great song. Again an unusual choice--T-Rex had one hit in the U.S., "Bang a Gong."
  • "Deuce" by Kiss. Another that they like. (This song, by the way, sucks. Especially compared to the previous two.)
  • "I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones. This great punk classic represents Maggie and Letty's discovery of punk.
  • "The American in Me" by the Avengers. A great punk song loved by Maggie and Letty. The Avengers were a relatively obscure (but excellent) San Francisco punk band.
  • "Space Station #5" by Montrose. Maggie is surprised to discover this song on a jukebox in the small Texas border town where her relatives live. This song is a lame, formless example of why people hate so much 70s rock. But it is amazing that it would show up on a jukebox.
  • "Brother Jukebox" by Mark Chestnutt. The only country song I saw. Like "Valentine," this song anchors a scene in a time and milieu. Maggie is trying to find a wrestler at a local watering hole frequented by wrestlers. This song was a brilliant choice to have playing in the background because of its lyrics give it a double-code: on one hand, it's like a lot of country songs about lonely guys who hang out in bars. But when the lyrics are written out, they seem unusually cosmic!--"Brother Jukebox, Sister Wine, Mother Freedom, Father Time."
  • Amazing Three theme song. Maggie's sister is watching this on TV.
  • "Teenage Kicks" by the Undertones. After Danita and Esther get married, Maggie walks down the street singing this old punk classic. It has an ironic effect, because marriage is inherently the end of "teenage kicks."

Dicks and Deedees. This is a weird book because it starts with Maggie's divorce. Who knew she was married?! Jaime very cleverly inserts a history between Maggie and Tony that goes back to their respective teenhoods. Because there are a lot of flashbacks to their youthful punk days, there are a lot of early punk songs.
  • "You can Cry If You Want" by the Troggs. This is playing at Maggie and Tony's "divorce party."
  • "No God" by the Germs.
  • "Blues" by the Chiefs.
  • "Dead at Birth" by the Subhumans. Three punk songs by L.A. bands from the early 80s--they give the flashbacks a time and place.

Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories is the big Gilbert Hernandez book set in the Central American town
  • "Holidays in the Sun" by the Sex Pistols. This is the title of a story set in the grim prison where Jesus was sent for the crime of assaulting his wife. The title of the song is bitterly ironic, and that irony is carried over to Gilbert's story. The title also refers back to the story in which Jesus commits the crime, called "The Laughing Sun."
  • "All Tomorrow's Parties" by the Velvet Underground. Israel goes to a weird, decadent party where this song is playing in the background, appropriately enough.
  • "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions. This is the song prefered by heavy metal fan Gerry. And a great song it is. This is the thesis.
  • "Institutionalized" by Suicidal Tendencies. Another great song, prefered by punk fan Steve. This is the antithesis.
  • "Ace of Spades" by Motorhead. The synthesis--this is a song both Steve and Gerry can love.
  • "Burnin Love" by Elvis. When Luba is in a great mood, she dances and sings this song.

Love & Rockets: Volume 10: X--this is Gilbert's first big story set in the U.S.A. Since it deals in part with a band called "Love & Rockets" (not the well-known English band), there is a lot of music quoted. Generally speaking, the music is current or the kind of music the characters would like. But Gilbert can't resist using the music to comment on the events, whether ironically or even directly.
  • "7 & 7 Is" by Love. Steve is singing this classic 60s garage tune as he skateboards, reflecting excellent tastes way beyond what you would expect (he is a sympathetic but outstandingly stupid character).
  • "Love Me Like a Reptile" by Motorhead. Another song sung by Steve.
  • "Immigrant Song" by Led Zep. Gerry's car radio is playing this seconds before they pick up Riri, an actual illegal immigrant.
  • "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" by Public Enemy. Gilbert introduces some young black characters, and Erf'quake is listening to this tune.
  • "Funky Stuff" by Cool and the Gang. Riri and Maricela have this playing as they have a romantic interlude.
  • "Lethal Weapon" by Ice-T. This hard-ass song is playing as Erf'Quake's hat gets peed on by his infant son.
  • "Miss You Much" by Janet Jackson. Riri is listening to this on her headphones. I wonder why she is always listening to English-language music? No norteno, salsa, meringue, boleros?
  • "Falling" by Julie Cruise and Angelo Badalamenti. This sophisticated music is playin at Rex's mom's party. She is a Hollywood exec, and her guests are supposedly Hollywood sophisticates, but Gilbert portrays them as dishonest and fundamentally racist.
  • "Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell" by Iggy Pop. Igor speculates that this kind of music can never be commercialized. Oh, how naive!
  • "My Way" by Sid Vicious. Also playing in the background at the party (weirdly enough).
  • "Stranded in the Jungle" by the New York Dolls (or the original do-wop version by the Cadets). This is one of the songs that Sean's cover band does.
Gilbert and Jaime have great musical tastes, but one thing that I wonder is why is there no Latin music? There are plenty of opportunities where it would make sense to have a great Mexican pop song playing. This is not a criticism, just something I noticed while compiling this list.

Gilbert Hernandez, Love & Rockets no. 6, 1984



  1. This is a great list, Robert. I actually thought about doing something similar myself, but never got to it. One small correction (sorry to be such a nerd)- "Brother Jukebox" is actually by Mark Chesnutt, not Vic Chesnutt. They're two very different singers.

  2. Corrected, and I knew that! But sometimes my fingers type things even though my brain knows better.

  3. Nice, but this list would have been better if it could tell you which issue the song appeared in instead of referencing the trade paperbacks :( I can't remember which issue # had Dead End Justice.