I, Shithead: A Life in Punk

by Joey Keithley; appearing at Reading Frenzy, 921 SW Oak, Thursday March 25, 7 pm, free

B efore it was a marketing niche, punk was a code, not very different from that of Bushido, the code of the Samurai. Okay maybe it was always a marketing niche and nothing like Bushido, but nevertheless, during the '80s, especially in the West Coast Hardcore scene, there were a set of ethos that countless punks used as guideposts. The apostles of this creed were the musicians, like Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys, and native British Columbian Joey "Shithead" Keithley, the frontman for D.O.A. who was, and continues to be a politically charged dynamo. Keithley has just issued a painstaking chronicle of his journey through punk entitled, I, Shithead.

I don't usually like autobiographies because, like the people who write them, they lie, or have an agenda, or both. Being a straightforward individual, Keithley does neither, but rather omits dirt and malice, sparing most of the rod and spoiling the guilty. While he does speak of events and dark places, his tome is scarily devoid of condemnation. Hey Joey, readers like bitterness and spite.

While good at touring and cranking out three-minute fireballs like "Fuck You," Joey's prose is a little clunky. At the junctures where his children are born, for example, he just stops in the middle of a tour story and flatly states "Then a wonderful thing happenedÉ" then reenters the tour story immediately. No transitional finesse. The other annoyance is the overall tone. You get the impression that he is thinking about what his friends and family will think when they read it. That takes it down to PG-13 when it should be R.

Overall, I, Shithead performs its intended function. It really is a very good tour diary and the names, places, and events are all recorded with an admirable accuracy that anyone surviving the '80s wouldn't refute. For D.O.A. fans or punk aficionados, the book is a must. The indices are great and from beginning to end you feel as though you are actually following Shithead around. It is a really good look at the mechanics of being in a punk band and of coming of age in a confusing, shitty decade. LANCE CHESS