“…the momentum that drives a subculture is more important than any particular band…” – Jesse Michaels, Operation Ivy
The pop-punk explosion of the 90s has as much to do with Lookout! Records as it did the success of Green Day. Formed in 1987 by Larry Livermore and David Hayes, the Lookout! Records was named after Livermore’s band The Lookouts. Based in Berkeley, California, Lookout captured the sunny lifestyle through thrashy bubblegum pop-punk bands not unlike The Ramones.
The happy 3-chord 3-minute style was in direct opposition with the hardcore scene that ruled most of America at the time and as a base for the growing movement, 924 Gilman Street was the CBGB of Berkeley. It was an all-ages, non-profit music club usually referred to by fans simply as “Gilman” and for a mere $2, members could make decisions and work for the improvement of the club.
But we digress. Of all of Lookout!’s signees, Operation Ivy was the label’s most idealistic and respected. For the 2 short years Op Ivy were around, they galvanised the scene and made the ska-punk masterpiece Energy before disbanding the same month it was released (ex-members Tim Armstrong and Matt Freeman formed Rancid and even chronicled their Op Ivy experience on the song ‘Journey to the End of East Bay’).
But as California slowly thinned away from hardcore to a catchier, brighter sound, Lookout! became the home for many San Francisco Bay Area punk bands. On their roster were riot grrrl pioneers Bratmobile and later on, girlie punk-poppers The Donnas. Interestingly Op Ivy’s last show was also Green Day’s first show. Formerly known as Sweet Children, Green Day released their first two albums on Lookout! before Dookie hit the fan. Green Day decided to let Lookout! hang on to the distribution of 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours and Kerplunk, and for nearly 15 years, these two albums (along with Energy) became Lookout!’s main source of income.
Sadly in 1997, a frustrated Livermore sold Lookout! to former mailroom assistant Chris Appelgren (Hayes had left in 1989 to start Very Small Records) Royalty disputes and questionable business decisions including US$50k for a booth at Warped Tour?, led to key Lookout! bands reclaiming their back catalogues and consequent retrenchment within the label’s ranks. Still, Lookout isn’t a basket case yet (har! har!) – it continues to release records. J
Show some support at www.lookoutrecords.com