[excerpts from Scream Until It All Falls Down: 30 Years of Resistance Records, A Retrospective, c.2005]
It was 1977, the year it all fell down.
By the time he’s fifteen, Poe has an old, beat-up guitar, a steadily-growing record collection, a dozen books on Resistance Records, five hours of footage from old shows at the Millennium Falcon downloaded to his laptop, and fourteen vintage magazines. He likes to think it’s a passion, not an obsession. His father has told him that’s a debatable point--especially after Poe had insisted on naming his bouncy Corgi puppy BB-8 after the catalogue number of the original vinyl release of Death Star--but Poe thinks it’s a good use of his time, a thing worth a little passion. He’s stayed up nights reading every word he can find, everything from actual books to internet message board threads, drinking in everything he can. He watches clips of Leia Organa, face as intense as it is stunning, as she sings, watches Han Solo surveying his club with a gleam in his eyes, watches Luke Skywalker, animated and telling stories that make everyone on the old grainy footage burst into laughter. Poe loves it. All of it. He loves the interior of the Falcon, with its kitschy, space-themed decor and stage that had been home to legends, he loves the idea that playing a single show there could make a career. He loves to imagine acts nervously playing, hoping for the approval of not just the crowd, but that famed back booth filled with Han Solo and all his friends.
Resistance Records was two years into its tenure on the Manhattan punk scene, an upstart label with less than a dozen singles to its name, the night the Rebel Alliance broke big at the Millennium Falcon in the summer of 1977. While not officially affiliated with the label, the legendary nightclub’s ties to Resistance Records ran deep--the label’s origins can be traced to a 1974 house party at Solo’s Lower East Side apartment where founders Gial Ackbar and Carlist Rieekan met. Solo was listed as a consulting director for the label until the Falcon’s closing in 1996, an unofficial title that officially made him a gatekeeper of sorts to the scene, as a well-received show at the Falcon and the approval of its owner was often the first step for acts signed throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s.
It’s not even just the music, as Poe has tried to explain to so many people: it’s the feeling of it all, the legend. It’s these people. It’s Leia Organa and Han Solo famously kissing on stage in 1980, it’s the story of how Luke Skywalker and Leia had been accidentally set up on a blind date that made them best friends years before they learned they were actually twins. It’s the way the gossip about the time is the sort Poe has not heard about anyone else--that maybe Han Solo and Luke Skywalker had an affair, that maybe the Falcon had mafia ties. It’s the spirit, too: the politics and the movement, the lyrics about changing the whole world--or at least New York--the way Leia Organa has gone on to actually do just that. It’s the way the Falcon was a more welcoming atmosphere than a lot of places are today--there are so many pictures of people who are so diverse, races and sexualities and economic statuses blending together in the images into one scene, one family of people who belonged to the Falcon as much as it belonged to them.
On August 3, 1977, punk upstarts the Rebel Alliance took to the Falcon’s stage and started a riot that would ripple through New York’s underground music scene--and beyond--for decades to come. Comprised of four female members--lead singer Leia Organa was a mere nineteen years old at the time--the Rebel Alliance more than proved they could rock out and keep up with the best of Manhattan’s punk boys. The aftermath of the show, along with the breakout success of the band’s 1978 LP release Death Star (eventually becoming the label’s first gold-certified release in 1980) forever cemented the place of Organa, Solo, and the Falcon as part of the label’s mythos, and, by extension, the DIY scene of New York musicians, artists, and anti-establishment rebels it came to represent.
Poe wants to be there.
Wants to stand in a club that closed before he was born and feel the music of the Rebel Alliance pumping through the floors, wants to see Leia Organa herself onstage, wants to feel what that was like. Wants to kiss a stranger on the club’s makeshift dancefloor, wants to smoke in a booth and throw back a drink and watch legends parade in front of him. He’s fifteen and he sits in his bedroom in his small town in upstate New York and he plays the records until he feels like it’s true, even if the Falcon is a fucking Pinkberry now, of all things. He just wants so much to be part of it, somehow.
So he finds all he can, buys everything he can find and that his part-time job will allow.
Three decades have come and gone since Organa first screamed into a microphone and shouted her way into the hearts of Falcon patrons. Many more successful artists have graced Resistance Records’ catalogues, from the post-punk jangles of Mon Remonda to the Siouxsie-inspired proto-goth of the Nightsisters, the raucous arena-ready anthems of Kessel Run and the laid-back stoner vibes of 90s indie rockers Sabacc. Indie rock’s royalty has stepped through the label’s doors from time to time, most notably in the form of a 2002 dual-album compilation of b-sides from the riot grrrl scene, curated by none other than Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein and Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre. Yet somehow, this fabled precursor to indie giants from Matador to Sub Pop is still most associated in the eyes of pop culture history with a trio of Manhattan’s ‘77 royalty--club owner and international businessman Solo, punk-princess-turned-politician Organa, and a farmboy from small-town Pennsylvania who took Manhattan by storm with his signature floppy haircut and flamboyant disco moves--none other than, of course, Studio 54’s own Luke Skywalker.
His collection is largely from garage sales and flea markets, treasures other people had let collect dust, with a few special items in better condition tracked down on the internet. He’s hoping to add more--he wants t-shirts, buttons for his favorite jacket, things that he can take with him during the day. So far, he’s not had much luck. The best he’s managed is getting the Organa for Senate campaign to send him free stickers a few months back. And while he’d loved those and had passed them out to everyone who would listen to a teenager talk about a politician in a precinct they didn’t live in, they’re not quite the same.
How a sometimes-drag-queen, a current member of New York’s City Council, and a reclusive club owner with long-rumored ties to organized crime came to be emblematic of one of the greatest American indies of the end of the 20th century, especially when none held a title on the label’s staff higher than the intermediate director level, is one of the label’s most charming, and most discussed, mysteries. Perhaps it was Solo’s 1982 marriage to Organa that struck a romantic nerve; Solo’s quote that he knew, in retrospect, he had fallen in love with the electric performer after two songs and two rounds in a booth at the back of the club is, surely, enough to warm the heart of even the most hardened punk cynic. Perhaps it was Skywalker’s induction into the Falcon’s innermost circles, through his fated friendship with Organa and his subsequent influence on label signees, that broke down doors for queer artists to cross over into genres previously inaccessible for those outside of the straight white heteronorm; singer Tegan Quin recently told Pitchfork, of course, that without the label’s inclusive, queer-positive policies influencing the politics of marketability to the mainstream, her band would never have been nominated for a Juno Award.
It’s winter when he thinks of it, sitting in his room, listening to his slightly-scratched but still-playable copy of Fall of the Empire and plucking guitar chords aimlessly, unfinished homework open on his bed and fallen to a notebook page that is more doodles than actual class notes. The doodles, and the record, and his guitar, give him the idea, and he jumps up, already pleased with it. He pulls a large coffee-table style book off his shelf and opens it to a place where he knows there is a full-page Resistance Records logo, grinning. One day he will use his guitar for something more than the halfhearted band he and his friends, Karé, Iolo, and Muran, sometimes pretend they have. One day maybe he’ll learn to play his own songs and not just play covers of the same twenty punk songs. Maybe one day he could even be on a stage somewhere himself--an aimless dream he’s not ever even sure if he wants for reasons beyond his Resistance Records fixation--but that sounds good sometimes, anyway. For now, though. For now he thinks maybe his guitar can at least look the part.
Or, perhaps, Organa and Skywalker and Solo were simply the right people at the right time to define a movement--young, charismatic, idealistic, seemingly as madly in love with each other as all of Manhattan was with them for a brief, beautiful moment in 1977. As Skywalker famously told VH1 in 1999, it was a sentiment shared by everyone swept up in the Falcon’s social circle:
“Would I do it all over again, even in spite of the hard times, even knowing AIDS and Reaganomics and all that were right around the corner? Absolutely, without a doubt. I would savor every moment of it all over again, I would make the same mistakes with those same people, glitter on my face and screaming along with a song off Fall of the Empire. Absolutely I would, it’s not even a question. Those were the best adventures I ever had, and everyone who was part of making them with me was the love of my life, too.”
Two days later, he rides his bike across town to the college screenprint shop, where he makes a copy of the image, and then a vinyl decal, big enough to take up the entire front of his guitar case. He sticks it on before he even leaves the shop, not able to wait to see it. His guitar case is now completely dominated by the symbol of Resistance Records, like maybe he is part of something that was over before he was even born. Like maybe he’s joined a movement.
Like maybe now he’s a part of the Rebel Alliance.