Randy Rampage recalls D.O.A.'s early days in ruthless punk memoir

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      I Survived D.O.A.
      By Randy Rampage, with Chris Walter. GFY, 205 pp, softcover

      Not to belittle the brilliance of Art Bergmann, Brian Goble, or the legendary Joe "Shithead" Keithley, but one Vancouverite burned brighter than them all between 1978 and 1981.

      His parents christened him Randall Archibald, a weirdly regal-sounding name that led to more than one schoolyard beating in '70s West Van. First-wave punk fans would eventually come to know him as Randy Rampage, the bleach-blond bassist in D.O.A.

      And while Joey Shithead was the band's tireless engine, it was Rampage who was the group's charismatic showman and unofficial star. (The great shots taken by iconic Vancouver photographer Bev Davies back in the day capture what a magnetic performer he was.) He was a major reason D.O.A. became the greatest live band this city has ever produced. Or, if you prefer Henry Rollins's famous endorsement, "the shit you could not fuck with".

      I Survived D.O.A. not only captures the early anarchic brilliance of Rampage's time with the hardcore legends, but also pulls back the curtain on a life in which the party has never stopped. Hands up if you think you could balance a long-standing heroin addiction with a day job working Vancouver's docks.

      Even to those who weren't in punk's inner circle back in the day, Rampage was something of a mess. There were rumours of rampant drug use and general flakiness. And any doubts about whether his high-profile '80s departure from D.O.A. was amicable were seemingly answered by post-Rampage songs like "Liar for Hire".

      I Survived D.O.A. helps fill in the blanks about why he was in and out of the band even as it reinvented the rules for punk with classic albums like Something Better Change and Hardcore '81.

      The book's biggest strength is that there's no shortage of war tales to tell when it comes to one of Vancouver's most famous sons.


      I Survived D.O.A. It finds Rampage working with noted Vancouver punk author Chris Walter, who's penned previous books on the Dayglo Abortions and SNFU. The book reads, however, like it's entirely in Rampage's words; a good time is a "roar"; the multiple girlfriends he often finds himself juggling are referred to as "chippies".

      Amateur historians will love the way I Survived D.O.A. connects the dots of Vancouver's early punk scene. Rampage—whose family helped develop good parts of the North Shore—was first turned on to punk by childhood friend Tony Bardach, later famous as the bassist for the Pointed Sticks.

      Those who remember when underground punk and the mainstream didn't mix will be fascinated to learn that Bryan Adams was an early garage-band jamming partner. Mike Reno was known to wage war in the pit at D.O.A. shows between Loverboy gigs, and David Lee Roth of Van Halen definitely had the band on his radar.

      Sex and drugs are as big a part of the book as the music. Rampage banged a lot of women when he wasn't banging heroin. Liquor, meanwhile, was consumed in quantities great enough to float the Titanic.

      I Survived D.O.A. also spends plenty of time on the complicated and dysfunctional dynamics between Rampage, Keithley, and the band's fabled drummer Chuck Biscuits. Any doubts that the friction is going to be glossed over are pretty much erased on the first page.

      And while most of the book goes heavy on the early DIY craziness of North America's fledgling punk scene, the back chapters delve into Rampage's time in metal marauders Annihilator. There, he gets truly down-and-dirty in his assessment of former bandmates.

      What might amaze most about I Survived D.O.A. is the fact that Rampage is able to remember anything. He's not only remarkably candid about his drug use, but also refreshingly unrepentant about treating life as an endless party. It takes a special breed of person (hello, Keith Richards!) to go all-in decade after decade.

      The straight world tends to refer to those people as fuckups. We know them better as rock stars, and the essential I Survived D.O.A. leaves no doubt that Rampage was one of them.