Lookout Records

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Lookout Records
Lookout Records logo.PNG
Founded 1987 (1987)
Founder Larry Livermore
David Hayes
Status defunct
Distributor(s) Mordam Records (1988-2000)
Genre Mostly punk rock and alternative rock
Country of origin United States of America
Official website http://lookoutrecords.com/

Lookout Records was an independent record label, initially based in Laytonville, California and later in Berkeley, focusing on punk rock. Established in 1987, the label is best known for having released the seminal album of Operation Ivy and the first two albums by platinum-selling punk artists Green Day and for having pioneered the American pop-punk sound of the 1990s.

Following the departure of co-founder Larry Livermore in 1997, new ownership took the company in new sonic directions from its trademark "East Bay sound" but proved unable to match the label's early success. Financial turmoil followed, marked by the departure of Green Day and others in 2005. After a period of rapid contraction the label slowly expired, terminating operations and removing its music from online distribution channels early in 2012.

History[edit]

Background[edit]

Cover of the Summer 1988 issue of Lookout! magazine, published in Laytonville, California by Lawrence Livermore.

During the fall of 1984 Larry Livermore (née Larry Hayes), a resident of the small town of Laytonville, California of countercultural proclivities, felt the urge to opine about the problems of his community and the world in a small-circulation periodical.[1] Thus in October of that year was launched a circulation magazine called Lookout, the first issue of which was typed and photocopied with a "press run" of just 50 copies.[2] Opposition emerged to the controversial local topics upon which Livermore opined and so he turned to the theme punk rock, a form of music he had followed in the late 1970s.[3]

Livermore began to reacquaint himself with the ongoing punk music scene by listening to the Maximum Rocknroll (MRR) radio show, broadcast weekly from Berkeley and featuring prominent scenester and MRR publisher Tim Yohannan and his cohorts.[4] Livermore also decided to start a band, drafting a 12-year old neighbor to play drums — given the punk rock name "Tré Cool" by Livermore.[4] Cool would later gain fame as the drummer of Green Day.[4]

After a few ill-attended shows in 1985 Livermore took his band, The Lookouts, into a local recording studio to record their songs, the with a 26-song demo tape resulting.[5] He also began living part time in the San Francisco Bay Area, splitting his time between the city and his home in the mountains of Mendocino County.[6]

The Lookouts began playing out more in San Francisco and Berkeley and began to develop a fan following and to make the acquaintance of other local bands, including a melodically-friendly group called The Mr. T Experience.[7] A vibrant local scene began to congeal, based around the Gilman Street Project, an all-ages venue inspired, bankrolled, and coordinated by the popular Maximum Rocknroll, launched the night of December 31, 1986.[8]

Early in 1987 Livermore decided that it was time for The Lookouts to release a record. [9] Livermore chose to take the Do It Yourself route to create such an album, self-releasing the one-off LP as "Lookout Records." At the same time, the new bands emerging around the vibrant 924 Gilman Street venue, including Operation Ivy, Crimpshrine, Sewer Trout, Isocracy, and others were documented for the first time by local scenester David Hayes on a 17-song double 7" compilation entitled Turn It Around, released through Mordam Distribution on the Maximum Rocknroll Records label.[10] The duo would soon join forces as co-founders of a permanent label.

Establishment[edit]

Both Lawrence Livermore (née Larry Hayes) and David Hayes (not related) were deeply inspired by the energetic East Bay punk rock scene and sought to further document its leading bands. David Hayes initially wanted to start a new label of his own for the purpose, to be known as Sprocket Records, with a view to a first release for the band Corrupted Morals.[11] Livermore, a columnist for Maximum Rocknroll (MRR) who knew Hayes as a so-called "shitworker" for the publication, convinced the latter that a partnership was in order to advance their common goal.[11] As Livermore's release had an independently controlled label name, Lookout Records, while Hayes' debut release borrowed the well-known MRR moniker, the former name was decided upon as the label name for the releases of the duo moving forward.[11]

According to Livermore, the name "Lookout" was chosen for his magazine and band and thus the label from whence it sprung was selected in reference to the United States Forest Service fire watch tower on Iron Peak, the highest point in Livermore's rural Mendocino County neighborhood.[12] The company's iconic "beady eyes" logo was the early creation of David Hayes, who also handled much of the artwork for the label's early sleeves and LP jackets.[13]

With Hayes' Corrupted Morals project moving forward as LK-02, a 7-inch EP entitled Chet, Livermore and Hayes jointly worked to bring about a third release later in 1987.[14] This would be yet another 7" EP, a record by raw-edged ska-punkers Operation Ivy called Hectic.[15] This third release proved to be an aural document of the right band at the right moment, with the release by the high energy local favorites selling through its first pressing of 1,000 copies within a month.[16]

In an effort to make a splash, four 7-inch vinyl records were released simultaneously, including also releases by popular 924 Gilman bands Crimpshrine (LK-04) and Isocracy (LK-05).[13] This initial barrage of new releases went far in cementing Lookout's place as a cutting edge local label for the Berkeley punk scene.

The "Gilman bands" began to form friendships amongst themselves and to play out together at other venues on the road. One important contact was made in the person of 14-year old Christopher "Chris" Appelgren, a resident of the small town of Garberville, California who worked as a volunteer at community radio station KMUD and who had learned of The Lookouts and the burgeoning East Bay punk rock scene through the pages of Lookout magazine, which was distributed in the area.[17] Appelgren attended a show held at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California played by Lookout Records bands Operation Ivy, Crimpshrine, Isocracy, and The Lookouts and was wowed by what he saw, meeting Livermore for the first time and making the acquaintance of Tim "Lint" Armstrong of Op Ivy — later a leading member of Rancid.[17] Before long Appelgren would be traveling to Livermore's Laytonville home to help with the stuffing of 7" vinyl into sleeves and packaging records for mailorder, becoming the label's first paid employee.[18]

Livermore and Hayes began to become estranged from one another, with Hayes handling the organizational tasks behind LK-06, an LP by Gilman gonzo-thrashers Stikky called Where's My Lunchpail?[19] The label's projects began to be bifurcated between the two principals — "Larry's bands" and "David's bands," with the eclectic Hayes next turning to releases by speed metal band Plaid Retina and country punks Sewer Trout.[20] In addition to differences in musical taste which became more apparent over time, the pair were temperamentally ill-suited, with Hayes understated and reserved and Livermore boisterous and gregarious.[21]


Departure of David Hayes[edit]

"Golden years" (1993-1997)[edit]

Lookout became famous for releasing albums that featured a very distinctive pop punk sound including bands such as Screeching Weasel, The Mr T Experience, The Queers, Crimpshrine, Green Day, Sweet Baby, Squirtgun, The Wanna-Bes and others.

In the spring of 1994 Lookout principal Larry Livermore made a very public break with Tim Yohannan and his Maximum Rocknroll, for which Livermore had written since 1987.[22] With punk exploding in popularity and various tangential musical forms attaching themselves to the movement and swamping MRR with promotional material, a tightening of musical focus was demanded by Yohannan — a move which led to the launch of the more eclectic rival publication Punk Planet. Livermore rebelled at the new line, charging that MRR had increasingly become "a lifestyle journal for retro-punks" who "think if they dress up in the same clothes they wore 15 years ago, if they drink the same beer and play the same guitar riffs, that somehow it'll be the glory days of punk all over again."[22] Despite Yohannan's radical politics, Maximum had been revealed to be "simply another business," Livermore provocatively declared.[22]

Under new management[edit]

Termination[edit]

Lookout Records turned 20 years old in 2008. In December 2009, the company entered a major financial reconstruction period.[23]

The label officially closed in January 2012.[24][25]

Band roster[edit]

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Larry Livermore, How I Became a Capitalist: The Lookout Records Story, Part One. [1994] Corvallis, OR: 1000 Flowers Publishing, 2014; pp. 2-3.
  2. ^ Livermore, How I Became a Capitalist: The Lookout Records Story, Part One, pg. 3.
  3. ^ Livermore, How I Became a Capitalist: The Lookout Records Story, Part One, pg. 4.
  4. ^ a b c Livermore, How I Became a Capitalist: The Lookout Records Story, Part One, pg. 5.
  5. ^ Livermore, How I Became a Capitalist: The Lookout Records Story, Part One, pp. 5-6.
  6. ^ Livermore, How I Became a Capitalist: The Lookout Records Story, Part One, pp. 6-7.
  7. ^ Livermore, How I Became a Capitalist: The Lookout Records Story, Part One, pg. 7.
  8. ^ Livermore, How I Became a Capitalist: The Lookout Records Story, Part One, pp. 7-8.
  9. ^ Livermore, How I Became a Capitalist: The Lookout Records Story, Part One, pg. 8.
  10. ^ Kevin Prested, Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout! Records. Portland, OR: Microcosm Publishing, 2014; pg. 9.
  11. ^ a b c Prested, Punk USA, pg. 10.
  12. ^ Livermore, How I Became a Capitalist: The Lookout Records Story, Part One, pg. 10.
  13. ^ a b Livermore, How I Became a Capitalist: The Lookout Records Story, Part One, pg. 11.
  14. ^ Prested, Punk USA, pp. 10-11.
  15. ^ Prested, Punk USA, pg. 11.
  16. ^ Prested, Punk USA, pg. 12.
  17. ^ a b Prested, Punk USA, pg. 15.
  18. ^ Prested, Punk USA, pp. 15-16.
  19. ^ Prested, Punk USA, pg. 18.
  20. ^ Prested, Punk USA, pp. 19-20.
  21. ^ Prested, Punk USA, pg. 20.
  22. ^ a b c Larry Livermore, "Column," Punk Planet, no. 1 (May/June 1994), pp. 5-7.
  23. ^ Hicks, J. Rush Jr. (2000). "Should a Record Company Be Alarmed When an Artist Files for Bankruptcy?". MEIEA Journal (Meiea.org) 1 (1): 84–117. Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  24. ^ http://www.punknews.org/article/45835
  25. ^ Chris Appelgren (2012-01-16). "Hard to say goodbye". Lookout Records official blog. Retrieved 2012-06-23. 

Further reading[edit]

Articles[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Kaitlin Fontana, Fresh at Twenty: The Oral History of Mint Records. Toronto, ON: ECW Press, 2011.
  • Larry Livermore, Spy Rock Memories. Kingston, NJ: Don Giovanni Records, 2013.
  • Kevin Prested, Punk USA: The Rise and Fall of Lookout! Records. Portland, OR: Microcosm Publishing, 2014.
  • Stacy Thompson, Punk Productions: Unfinished Business. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004.

External links[edit]