Proclaiming themselves as "San Francisco's first and only rock & roll band," Crime was a forerunner in America's do-it-yourself punk history, releasing their first single in late 1976. Though they never referred to themselves as punk (a term they felt was a media concoction), Crime had all the elements of a classic punk band, with their snotty attitude and garage rock-meets-Raw Power-era Stooges sound. Guitarists Johnny Strike and Frankie Fix began rehearsing and learning their instruments together in 1975, with the idea of forming a glam rock group named the Space Invaders and appearing around town in extreme outfits. By the time Ron "The Ripper" Greco joined (Greco was a veteran of many '60s bands, notably the Chosen Few, who would evolve into the Flamin' Groovies), the glitter rock era had ended and the band opted to change their image -- now donning black leathers -- and change their name to Crime. Once drummer Ricky Tractor (now deceased) came aboard, Crime's first lineup was in place.
The band's initial recording session took place in mid-1976, which yielded the contents of the "Hot Wire My Heart" b/w "Baby You're So Repulsive" 45. They made their live debut at a gay political fund-raiser on Halloween, 1976; the plug was pulled during the fifth song, as many were headed for the exits. After the release of the "Hot Wire" 7" on their own Crime Music label, they began appearing regularly at Mabuhay Gardens, a Filipino nightclub that would become the epicenter of San Francisco's punk scene. But Crime were outcasts within a group of outsiders, making high profile enemies early on and often. By 1977 they had begun sporting standard police uniforms at live dates and on the streets of San Francisco, much to the dismay of the San Francisco police department. A second vinyl release, "Frustration" b/w "Murder by Guitar" (with Brittley Black on drums), came out in mid-1977, again on Crime Music. Out-of-town gigs were sporadic, though the group did perform at San Quentin Penitentiary in full police garb. Studio recording continued, but they found little interest from labels, due in part to their antisocial behavior; Fix alienated Seymour Stein of Sire Records by informing him that he was wasting his time with the Ramones, and that they were "hippies who should get haircuts." A third and final single, "Gangster Funk" b/w "Maserati," was delivered via the independent Berkeley Squared, and found the band using a synthesizer, which was also incorporated into their live show. Crime soldiered on for a brief period before quietly disbanding in 1982. "Hot Wire my Heart was covered by art-punks Sonic Youth on their Sister LP in 1987. A posthumous collection, San Francisco's Doomed, containing unreleased studio sessions from 1978 and 1979 (with Hank Rank handling the drum duties), was let loose in 1992. The same year, Spirit Records re-released the first two 45s in limited editions. Hate Us or Love Us, We Don't Give a Fuck is a legit issue (with four bonus tracks) of the Terminal Boredom bootleg. In 2002, guitarist Johnny Strike's band TVH released their debut record, Night Raid on Lisbon. The record recaptured some of Crime's energy and included a cover of "Hot Wire My Heart" for good measure. Strike died in September 2018 at age 70 after a long bout with cancer. ~ Bart Bealmear
HOMETOWNSan Francisco, CA