No Longer a Mystery by Paul LeDuc Pretzer


I can’t decide if I’m suffering from too much information or a lack of mystery, and I’m having trouble separating the two or finding the line where one ends and the other begins.

I first heard the Germs when I was in tenth grade, back in 1983. A friend of ours had The Decline of Western Civilization soundtrack, and the song “Manimal” blew me away. Darby Crash became a musical and cultural hero of mine, and someone who propelled me into and through my punk rock/hardcore developmental years. Darby was a mythical figure. Part of the unintended draw to this figure was the mystery which surrounded him. Darby had died of an overdose a couple years before, and the Germs were just a little LA hardcore band at the time. Living in Grand Haven, MI in 1983, it was almost impossible to learn anything about the Germs. The rock magazines didn’t cover them, nor the press, beyond the coverage they got in LA. There weren’t any documentaries about them, and I certainly couldn’t go to Wikipedia or Youtube and find an endless amount of information.

If I wanted to find out anything about the Germs or how Darby died or anything like that, my only option would have been to go to my local library and go through the old microfiche, which was the method of looking at old newspaper articles that were on film. Libraries would also, often, keep old magazines in storage. So I could go to the library, and if they happened to keep old back issues of Rolling Stone or Creem, which were the only rock magazines a library might have stocked, they might have had a brief mention of his death, if I could find the issue that coincided with the date of his passing. The only footage of Darby I ever got to see in those days was the footage of the Germs, including his interviews, on The Decline of Western Civilization.

But looking back, part of the draw was the mystery, the fact that there was so much I didn’t know, and I only had the music, the lyrics, a few photos, and some rumor and gossip to go on, which helped create a whole mythos and legend.

We now live in a world where just about anything we want to know, information wise, is at our fingertips, and there is no denying the benefits of this accessibility to people, like myself, who are intellectually curious. Whether or not most people take advantage of the information and knowledge available to them or just bump around like sheeple is a whole other story and fodder for another article, probably a long article, but the fact remains that it is there if you wish to seek it out.

The inherent problem is that with all of this information, there comes a burden of knowledge and a lack of wonder and the unknown. Everything can be explained. Nothing is left to imagine. And unfortunately, the truth, the story, the reasoning, the marketing, and what becomes the trivial aren’t always worth knowing. As was the case with Darby Crash, I didn’t have unfettered access to pictures and stories and posts about all of the musicians, writers, and artists that I admired and looked up to back in those days. I wasn’t in constant contact with what or where they were eating lunch, their thoughts on daily events, or their selfies. I didn’t always know what my heros were eating, drinking, or wearing, and to be honest, that was okay. I didn’t need them to be that normal, that much like everyone else, that human; I wanted the people I looked up to to be legends and gods. And in the end, their art spoke for itself, as it should.

I’m not sure that I would have looked at Darby the same or had the same reaction if I had known everything about him, and I don’t mean that in a judgemental way, I just mean that part of the allure was the mystery of it all. I’m trying to picture the sixteen year old Me following Darby Crash on Twitter. “Lorna’s passed out again #GermsBurn #SomebodyGetMeABeer”. It’s not that it wouldn’t be entertaining, it’s just that gods are better when they’re not human.