On Thursday 17th January 2019, the internet was awash with news, tweets and obituraries for the great Lorna Doom, bass player of LA band the Germs. Some of them seemed hastily written, most had scant information, and for a couple of days, there was no mention on the her cause of death. So who were you Lorna Doom…???
Along with bands like Black Flag, the Circle Jerks and X, the Germs were part of the influential Los Angeles punk scene of the late 1970s. It was a movement, that in hindsight, spearheaded the race towards hardcore.
Born Teresa “Terri” Ryan in Dallas TX, Lorna as she was to become, grew up in the LA suburb of Newbury Park where her father managed a timber store.
Answering a musicians wanted ad that asked for “two untalented girls”, Terri and her best friend Belinda were recruited into an early Germs by singer Darby Crash, who renamed Terri, Lorna Doom and Carlisle, Dottie Danger and they became the Germs’ first rhythm section. It was still early days for punk rock, so experience and musical skill were not high on the agenda, and Lorna set about learning her bass chops from the ground up, while Belinda vacated her drum stool as she moved onto the Go-Gos. The Germs released their first single “Forming/Sexboy” in July 1977 which has since become recognised as the city’s first proper punk record.
Live, the band became regulars at the Masque, the Germs became known as much for their attitude as their songs, and the enthusiasm of their crowds meant gig nights would often end in a fight.
“It all got terribly violent and extremely frightening towards the end,” Ms. Ryan told The Guardian in 2008. “There was this influx of punks from Southern California who latched on to our gigs and basically made it impossible for us to play without a riot happening. That was the beginning of the end.”
With Darby’s own well documented death wish, his obsession with Sid Vicious, his habit of cutting himself onstage and subsequent bleeding, along with a crowd who were only too willing to join in, it became the perfect storm, of a badly behaved band with a badly behaved crowd, that got The Germs banned from almost every venue in LA.
Appearring in Penelope Spheeris’s gritty documentary “The Decline Of Western Civilisation” the Germs come across as the genuine article, cementing their place in punk history. They certainly knew how to ellicit devotion from their fans who would show loyalty to the band by burning a mark on their own, or someone else’s wrist, with the end of a lit cigarette.
After the band broke up, Teresa left LA with boyfriend Gary Moss, Joan Jett’s bass player, who she was married to until the late 1990s. While living in New York, Teresa carved out a career in art galleries before returning to California in the early 2000s to care for her ailing Father.
After acting as an advisor on the 2007 Germs biopic “What We Do is Secret”, Teresa unexpectedly found herself becoming Lorna Doom once again, after the film sparked a renewed interest in the band, and actor Shane West fronted a reformed The Germs for a tour in 2008. The crowd were younger, and probably better behaved but no less appreciative, “It was totally surprising to get the band together again,” Ms. Ryan told The Guardian, “but it’s also the most comfortable thing in the world.”
Teresa Ryan died on Wednesday 16th January 2019 in Thousand Oaks, California, she was 61 years old. The news was broken on Facebook by Germs drummer Don Bolles, and was later confirmed by her cousin Beth Bergman, who added that Teresa had died of cancer.
There have been tributes paid to Teresa all around, but one of the most touching of these came from long term friend, one time bandmate and Go-go in chief, Belinda Carlisle, who called Teresa “a visionary and a trailblazer” – and who are we to argue with that.