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John Albert Obituary, Punk Pioneer and Chronicler of L.A.’s Underbelly

In the early days of Southern California’s hardcore punk explosion, John Albert went to Arizona with his friends in the Orange County band the Adolescents.

Being a roadie in those days meant riding in the back of the truck with the amps and the equipment. After they drove across the desert for eight hours, a brawl broke out at the gig.

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Albert locked himself in the dressing room, gathered up all the deli platters and booze, and climbed out the window. The show may have been a bust, but thanks to Albert’s quick thinking, they had sandwiches and beer for the long ride home.

As a teenager, Albert threw himself into the L.A. punk scene, where he made many of his lifelong friends. In an essay about seeing Black Flag for the first time, he wrote about the suffocation of suburban ennui. “I have cut my hair short and can’t stop smashing windows.”

 

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Musician Ben Harper, who grew up next door to Albert and was four years his junior, witnessed the transformation: “I’ll never forget the first time I saw his Mohawk spiked to the moon. It was as if he had landed from outer space.”

A beloved participant in and observer of the L.A. underground, Albert died of a heart attack May 3. He was 58. His death was confirmed by his brother, Jesse.

Albert grew up in Claremont, the youngest of two children. His father, Robert S. Albert, was a professor of child psychology at Pitzer College and his mother, Julie Maehling Albert, was a social worker at Loma Linda University. From an early age, John Albert was drawn to a side of L.A. that others didn’t appreciate or could even see. Wherever he went, others followed.

As a musician, he played an important role in L.A.’s punk rock scene as a co-founder of the influential Goth-punk band Christian Death, which he formed with Roger Alan Painter, a.k.a. Rozz Williams, in late 1979. “Christian Death started in our garage,” said Jesse.

“Jay Albert and his squad introduced Southern California to punk rock,” Harper said, “especially in the 909 and the Inland Empire, where he and I grew up.”

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