Best Place to Bang Your Head

When I think punk rock, I think Darby Crash, or Sid Vicious — brash, in-your-face attitude that says, “Fuck off.” But that image is as manufactured as the thousands of hardcore, screamo, thrash, '77, rockabilly, psychobilly, grindcore, straight-edge, and crust CDs, DVDs, 7”, 12”, mags, zines and shirts filling the shelves and dangling from the walls of Head Line Records. Ken, a longtime employee, sports some old-school Vans and thick, black-rimmed glasses as he shuffles through today’s UPS delivery, while Mohawked owner Jean Luc Gaudry pops out from the backroom wearing some scuffed Docs and a black Vibrators T-shirt. His arms are filled shoulder to wrist with band tags — the Dead Kennedys, MC5, the Exploited, the Vibrators and Bad Brains — but there’s no superfluous punk bravado. He’s a real mensch.

After immigrating from France in 1995, Gaudry fully embraced the DIY punk ethos, opening the first Head Line Records at Olympic and Westwood boulevards a year later to serve as both a record store and music venue hosting more than 500 shows to rocking audiences. Since reducing in size and moving in 2001, and after a few run-ins with the fire marshal, the new, 800-square-foot store no longer holds shows, but still fuels the scene with its own record label.

The place is packed. Fingering through the vinyl boxes, I find the staples and classics next to the obscure and newly released, from the Ramones and Minor Threat to Acts of Sedition and Head Line’s own Flash Express. You know it’s a good record shop when you can’t leave without getting something. I left with a glossy first release of Motorhead’s No Remorse, and I didn’t have any.

Head line Records ?7706 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 655-2125 ?or www.headlinerecords.com

LA Weekly