Crime - Biography
Often credited for independently releasing the first punk 7” single on the West Coast, Crime claimed to be "San Francisco's first and only rock & roll band." In 1995, Crime front man Johnny Strike told Ugly Things, “As far as we were concerned, there had never been a real rock & roll band of any stature to come out of San Francisco, which is why we later billed ourselves as ‘San Francisco's first rock & roll band.’ The Jefferson Airplane? Give me a break.”
Crime was formed in 1976 by Johnny Strike, Frankie Fix, Ron "The Ripper" Greco (The Chosen Few and Flamin' Groovies), and Ricky Tractor. They ripped post-hippie San Francisco a metaphorical new one when they released that infamous first single “Hot Wire My Heart / Baby You're So Repulsive,” (1976 Crime Music) which hit the streets before they played even one live gig. There was no mistaking these guys for mere rockers; they mixed a rebellious and sexually-charged image (they were most often seen flaunting their vampiric, just-outta-rehab good looks in tight leather, regulation police uniforms, or old-gangster duds) with their unique blend of intellectual and furious lo-fi rawk and roll.
On Halloween of 1976, a few months after the release of their single, Crime played their first live show -- a gay rights fundraiser at the Old Waldorf in the Financial District of San Francisco. Five songs into the set (during “Murder by Guitar”) the owner of the Old Waldorf pulled the plug thus ending Crime’s first gig.
Crime soon found refuge at the now legendary Mabuhay Gardens, which was quickly becoming ground zero of the San Francisco punk scene. Regular gigging built an army of fans who couldn’t get enough of their onstage antics and controversial posters. As their local popularity grew, so did the violence and general chaos of their shows.
Their second single, "Frustration / Murder by Guitar," (1977 Crime Music) introduced Brittley Black, who replaced the reportedly unstable Ricky Tractor on drums. Black quickly moved on to new wave band, The Readymades and Hank Rank joined the ranks as both drummer and manager. For all of their Bay Area success, Crime didn’t play many out-of-town shows and, in fact, maintained a strict doctrine about who they would play with. They refused to open for most bands (including the Sex Pistols and the Damned) and succeeded in thoroughly insulting Sire Records co-founder Seymore Stein by calling the Ramones hippies.
On September 4th, 1978, Crime became nationally visible after playing a gig at San Quentin Penitentiary in full police uniforms. According to Rank in a 2007 interview with Amoeba Music (https://www.amoeba.com/blog/2007/09/people-s-republic-of-northern-california/san-francisco-is-still-doomed-still-.html), the band played directly opposite the cell where Sirhan Sirhan was in solitary. “…I'd like to think that our show was the worst punishment of his life,” says Rank. Video footage of this historic concert, released by Target Video in 1984, depicts a surreal scene of beefy, menacing inmates taking in the driving drone produced by the proto heroin chic (but equally menacing) Strike, Fix, Rank, and Greco.
Rank left Crime in 1979. The following year the third single “Gangster Funk / Maserati” (1980 Berkely Square) was released, with Black back on drums. The single uncharacteristically featured synthesizers, played by Joey D'Kaye, and a funk influence that alienated some of their hardened punk fans.
In 1982, Strike resigned as front man in order to pursue his writing--his pulp-inspired novel Ports of Hell was published in 2004 by Headpress, and his collection of short stories A Loud Humming Sound Came From Above was published by Rudos and Rubes in 2007. The band effectively dissolved at that point, but Frankie Fix attempted a reunion in the early 90’s. Strike and Rank elected not to join in.
Crime enjoyed a resurgence in the late 80’s when art rockers Sonic Youth covered "Hot Wire my Heart” on their album Sister (1987 SST/1994 DGC). By this time, Crime’s recordings were increasingly hard to find and unauthorized bootlegs began to appear. As a result, a collection of previously unreleased studio sessions called San Francisco's Doomed (1991 Solar Lodge) and a legitimate re-release of a live bootleg called Hate Us Or Love Us, We Don't Give a Fuck (1994 Planet Pimp/Repent) hit the shelves.
In 1996, Fix passed away during a surgical procedure. Brittley Black passed on in 2004 as a result of complications from diabetes. That same year, Crime released a collection of sanctioned bootlegs aptly named San Francisco is Still Doomed (2004 Swami Records).
Strike and Rank teamed up again in 2007 and recruited San Francisco garage rock vets Michael Lucas (a.k.a. Mickey Tractor) of Phantom Surfers on bass and Brett Stillo (a.k.a. Count Fink) of The Flakes on guitar. Crime’s new album Exalted Masters (2007 Crime Music) was released on vinyl only and features both new and revisited material. The cop uniforms are gone, but the rawk is still scathing.