Black Flag. The Circle Jerks. X. The Germs. One often overlooked name that belongs on that same short list of important LA bands is The Plugz.
Along with fellow Chicano punks The Zeros, The Plugz played rough, loud, driving music that was abrasive enough to please the punk kids, but was given a decidedly noticeable flavor of traditional Mexican folk music. Over the course of two outstanding if underrated albums and a handful of memorable singles - not to mention inclusion on the soundtrack of one of the greatest movies of the era - The Plugz found a unique and memorable voice among the throng of often samey-sounding LA bands cropping up in the late-70s/early-80s.
The original line of lead vocalist Tito Larriva on guitar, Barry McBride on bass and Carlos Quintana on drums came together around 1977-78, debuting with a 3-song 7-inch that included "Move," "Mindless Contentment," and "Let Go." This was followed a year later by an outstanding single (one of my favorites of the era, actually), "Achin'." These two records introduced the band's basic sound: basic, straightforward garage-y punk. It was the flip side of the "Achin'" single, however, where they really let loose with a hyper-speed cover of Richie Valens' "La Bamba."
An album soon followed. 1979's Electrify Me gathered re-recordings of "Let Go" and "La Bamba" together with a strong selection of new material that ran the gamut from the reggae-fied folk of the title track to the thunka-thunka punk of "A Gain - A Loss" to the Clash-like "Satisfied Die." There simply isn't a clunker in the mix. Excellent.
Barry McBride left the band around this time, and was eventually replaced by Tony Marsico. In 1981 The Plugz issued their second album, Better Luck. While the music here harks back to the earlier material ("El Clavo y la Cruz" could have fit easily on the first record; "Achin'" gets re-recorded for this LP), The Plugz did not remain stagnant in their sophomore effort. This album explores some of the folkier sides of their music which were only hinted at on Electrify Me, and tracks like "Touch For Cash" and the stunning "Blue Sofa" show a band that has matured and moved out of the garage.
The Plugz disappeared for awhile after that, resurfacing in 1984 when they donated three tracks ("El Clavo y la Cruz," "Reel Ten," and an excellent cover, "Hombre Secreto (Secret Agent Man)") to the soundtrack to the movie Repo Man. Rather than a triumphant comeback, however, this turned out to be The Plugz' swan song: the trio would morph into The Cruzados, a more straight-ahead and, unfortunately, bland rock and roll outfit.
Both Plugz albums were reissued on CD by the Enigma label around 1990, but those discs have fallen out of print, and unfortunately both they and the original vinyl albums command high dollars if and when you can find them. Still, if you're patient you can sometimes find them turning up in an eBay auction or a used record shop at more budget-friendly prices. Trust me, both are well worth the effort.
Listen to the original single recording of "Achin'" and their outstanding cover of "La Bamba" below to enjoy one of the truly underrated bands to come out of the LA scene. Enjoy!