Welcome to Tattoodo's Punk Rock Week! We're celebrating everything punk this week — from some scary dudes in New Jersey to heartbroken nerds from SoCal, and everything in between. We bitched about how being a NOFX fan used to be fun and weird, but now it's just problematic. We sniffed glue with The Ramones, dove headfirst into a New York Hardcore circle pit, and went down to DC to pay homage to the progenitors of Straight Edge.
Back in 1994 I got really into Green Day, the band that brought (for better or worse) punk rock into the mainstream. “Dookie” had just dropped and my fourth-grade self was obsessed. Obviously I eventually made my way to the local Musicland and picked up their previous efforts, I noticed that they were released by Lookout Records. This was weird to me, as it was not one of the handful of major labels I had tapes from. I didn’t realize at the time that this was my first time purchasing an independent release. The tapes came with catalogs chock full of albums by bands I had never heard of. My curiosity was piqued. Today, we’re taking a look at Lookout Records, its bands, and some cool Lookout Records tattoos.
Lookout was founded in 1987 by Larry Livermore and David Hayes. The label’s mission was to document the burgeoning East Bay punk scene centered around the DIY venue Gilman St in Berkeley, California. The first release was an lp of Livermore’s band The Lookouts, which featured a super young Tre Cool on drums. A slew of 7” vinyl following, including releases from Operation Ivy, Crimpshrine, The Mr. T Experience, and a young band called Green Day.
The success of some of the label’s flagship bands, namely Green Day and Operation Ivy, allowed Lookout to quickly expand and by the end of 1990 they had about 40 releases under their belt from bands like Cringer, Fifteen, Samiam, and Neurosis.
Lookout then entered into its golden years, releasing records by The Queers, Screeching Weasel, Pinhead Gunpowder, and Avail. Meanwhile, Green Day had gone on to major label stardom and brought a lot of attention to the label, which was by this time one of the largest independent record labels in North America.
Of course, what goes up must always come down. Livermore left Lookout in 1997 and the label went on to release a slew of forgettable bands that strayed from its initial East Bay sound. They also stopped handling royalties properly, and many of their bigger acts pulled their back catalogs from the label. This was a crippling blow and Lookout Records ceased to exist, but had managed to cement its legacy as one of the most important punk labels to ever exist.
Lookout really opened my young eyes to what a record label was and could be. They showed that anyone could start a label and because of that inspiration I did just that in my teenage years. While Lookout is long gone these days, its legacy lives on in the hearts of anyone doing a DIY punk label. In honor of this important influence in my life, let’s roll out some Lookout Records tattoos.
These Lookout Records tattoos are all testaments to a better time and the spirit of doing it yourself. If you haven’t heard of these bands, check them out ASAP. RIYL early Green Day. For more on Lookout, we highly recommend Livermore’s book How To Ru(i)n a Record Label.