Follow TV Tropes


Music / The Germs

Go To
The lineup as of 2018 from left to right: Lorna Doom, Don Bolles, Shane West and Pat Smear.

The Germs were a band from Los Angeles, California that formed in 1977 after Jan Paul Beahm and Georg Ruthenberg (later dubbed Darby Crash and Pat Smear, respectively) made the decision to form a band after being kicked out of school as "Sophistifuck and the Revlon Spam Queens". They shortened this to The Germs (to represent the germination of an idea) when they realized they couldn't afford to put all of that on a t-shirt. Upon finding a stable lineup of Darby Crash, Pat Smear, Lorna Doom, and Don Bolles, the band started performing semi-regularly in the LA area, and the band's fanbase started to rise, with food fights between band and audience becoming common; as a result, the band was frequently blacklisted from LA clubs, a problem they alleviated by playing as GI (Germs Incognito).

The band released one album - 1979's (GI), produced by Joan Jett - before vocalist Darby Crash died of an intentional heroin overdose on December 7th, 1980, whose death was overshadowed by the murder of John Lennon a day later. In 2005, the band reunited with Shane West on vocals to mixed reception among the punk community (the most vocal of those who disliked the reunion include Fat Mike and Jello Biafra), and a film featuring Shane as Darby Crash titled What We Do Is Secret came out in 2008. On January 16th, 2019, Don Bolles announced bassist Lorna Doom's death on Facebook, leaving the chances of any future reunions with the Germs unlikely.

The Germs are prominently featured in Penelope Spheeris's 1980 documentary of the LA punk rock scene, The Decline of Western Civilization.

Tropes that apply to The Germs:

  • Aerith and Bob: The final lineup. Pat Smear, Lorna Doom, Don Bolles, and...Shane West.
  • Badass Boast: "Richie Dagger's Crime" is a combination of this, a few lines from a poem called Astrid Darby had written before the Germs began, and a tribute of sorts to David Bowie (more specifically, his tendency to switch alter-egos).
  • Biopic: What We Do Is Secret, released in 2008.
  • Breakup Breakout: This trope applied twice to guitarist Pat Smear. About a decade after The Germs broke up, Nirvana's Kurt Cobain called him up and asked him if he'd like to work with them; he performed with them until Cobain's own suicide in 1994. After that, he went on to play guitar with drummer Dave Grohl in the Foo Fighters, who he continues to perform with to this day.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Darby and Pat were frequently given these attributes in their days at school. According to the teachers, Darby had started a cult among the students (followers apparently thought of Darby and Pat as God and Jesus, respectively, carried around copies of Helter Skelter and drew X's on their foreheads, and skipped school with the two to trip on acid and eat fruit), and in an attempt to keep them off campus and reverse the "antisocial behavior", they were given straight-A's if they agreed never to return. They did anyway.
  • Catchphrase: Darby would frequently utter "gimme" as opposed to politely asking for something. "Gimme a dollar", "Gimme a beer", and "Gimme a ride to the Whiskey", among other variations of that phrase were frequently heard by those in Darby's circle.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Darby's real father was a Swedish sailor whom he never got to meet before finding out he'd died, his older brother died of a heroin overdose (rumored to be a pissed off dealer having his revenge after said brother ratted him out), and the only real father figure he'd known died of a heart attack as a child. Top that off with a mother busting her ass until the day he died to provide for her family (especially towards Darby's love of reading/books), and you get a home life that tends to slide towards the "pretty bad" end of the scale.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When he wasn't acting like an ass, Darby would come off as a rather snarky individual.
  • Dreadful Musician: The entire band aside from Pat Smear. The early bassists and drummers survived by sliding their fingers along the neck at random and keeping a steady beat with an occasional cymbal crash every now and then, respectively.
    • Briefly averted by the introduction to "No God", where Pat Smear manages a near-flawless replication of a few seconds of the introduction to "Roundabout" by Yes (which comes off as surprising, unless you happen to know that "Roundabout" was the first song he'd learned how to play on guitar)...and then the proper song starts; it's much more in line with their usual sloppy Three Chords and the Truth style.
  • Driven to Suicide: Darby, via heroin overdose. Fans have multiple theories why he killed himself; according to "Wild-Eyed Boy: The Darby Crash Story", Darby's sexuality played a factor in his suicide (especially with bands with homophobic banter and lyrics like F.E.A.R. and the macho jock mentality permeating the scene); What We Do is Secret mentioned a five year plan for Rule of Drama and as a David Bowie shout-out, and there's always the camp that claims he never meant to overdose.
  • Harsh Vocals: Darby's vocals.
  • "I Am" Song: "Circle One", "Richie Dagger's Crime"
  • "I Want" Song: A variation in "Lexicon Devil":
    "Gimme gimme this, gimme gimme that!"
    • "We Must Bleed" ends with a shouted "I want out now!" repeated several times as an outro before descending into Angrish.
  • Initiation Ceremony: Darby would give "true fans" of his band and members of "Circle One" a Germs Burn, which is almost exactly what it sounds like; basically, he burned you with a cigarette on the left wrist, creating a permanent circular scar to represent the band, its ideas, and partially because Darby really liked circles and the symbolism behind them. Despite Darby being dead for over thirty years now, the tradition still exists. You'd just have to find someone that already has a burn that can be traced directly back to Darby in order to get a "proper" burn.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The original single version of "Forming" ends with Darby ad-libbing a critique of the song itself:
    "You're playing it all wrong. The drums are too slow, the bass is too fast, the chords are wrong, we're makin' the ending too long...I quit."
  • Punny Name: Lorna Doom note  and Pat Smear.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Darby would fall into this trope every now and then. "What We Do is Secret" exaggerates the trope.
  • Revolving Door Band: The early days of the band suffered from this trope, with some lineups never even playing in front of an audience before someone quit.
  • Spoken Word in Music / Lyrical Cold Open: "Circle One" begins with someone saying "Ready, aim, fire" before the song begins.
  • Stage Names: Darby Crash (originally Bobby Pyn), Pat Smear, Lorna Doom, among others.
  • Straight Gay: Darby.
  • Title-Only Chorus: "We Must Bleed".
  • The Unintelligible: Occasionally in studio, but towards the end of Darby's life, Darby would go onstage - for lack of a better term - fucked up. Case in point, The Germs' performance of "Manimal" in The Decline of Western Civilization, where Darby's warbling groans just barely come close to matching the lyrics onscreen.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: This came naturally, since The Germs were a punk band. Their recordings usually were rather muddy in quality. "Forming" was infamously recorded with only two microphones (Darby's and one in the back shared by the rest of the band).
    • "Sex Boy" (the B side to the Forming single) is even worse. It's a live recording from an early performance by the band where Darby allegedly covered his body in Red Vines and peanut butter and started running around in the audience, and the noise the audience is making is more audible than the actual performance. A YouTube comment (slightly paraphrased) puts it best:
    "Here is a good field recording of a broken glass. In the background The Germs are performing."
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Darby's lyrics (which started out most of the time as poetry) would qualify as this.