|'77 Sulfate Strip
By Barry Cain
This is about the punk scene in England in the year 1977 so you know you care right there. The author Barry Cain was a reporter for the Record Mirror at that time and saw the unfolding at ground zero.
It's basically an excuse to reframe his 1977 columns. Those columns do bring back the crazy heightened tone of the era. In that way they transmit the excitement of that new abrasive music and its purveyors.
Cain and the people he talks to only focus on a few groups: Sex Pistols, Jam, Damned, Clash and the Stranglers. The rest are dismissed as unworthy. Gee, I loved all those other outfits, so it comes up short there.
The last third of the book is new interviews from 2007. The best here is Rat Scabies of the Damned. He remembers and tells many details from stories you have heard through the years. The interview with John Lydon is long but he talks about himself and not nearly enough about '77.
There's not a lot new or things you don't know, it's about wallowing in the punk of the era.
Review by Blowfish
|Don't All Thank Me At Once.
By Brett Milano
Brett makes the case that there's great music here and that the man behind the groups, Scott Miller, was a genius of sorts. Scott worked for Silicon Valley tech companies and was well versed in James Joyce and T.S. Eliot. Some of that seeped into the music.
This book is 170 pages of details on the songs, the recordings, the band line ups and the life of Scott. So you have to care a bit. You also have to put in some time to listen to the music if you haven't done that before.
There wasn’t a big clamber for this book like there probably is now for a similar treatment for David Bowie. It was a labor of love for Brett.
If you are a fan of Scott, this book is sent from heaven. If not, you can use it to get up to speed on this very interesting musician and his music.
Review by Blowfish
By Patti Smith
Patti Smith holds a special place for us punks. Piss Factory changed the course of history for us. Horses was refreshing and the first salvo against the 70's rock doldrums. When she quit rock to just be married for a while I felt perplexed and abandoned. Of course this is very similar to what Patti's hero Rimbaud did. Later she returned to rock and did a few albums and her reputation grew again. Then it seemed people cared about her just because she was herself.
Her previous book Just Kids was very successful not just because it
celebrated the 70's New York culture but because it was her story too. Now Patti
fills large halls just talking about her newest book.
Above all she is a poet and she has a poet's mind. She imbues her chotskies
with talismanic power. She wanted to bring rocks from a prison in Africa to
Jean Genet because the rocks will somehow contain the spirit of desired place.
The prose goes from real world description to fantasies, memories and musings.
At times the writing borders on surreal or has a slightly drunk quality. She's
also working out real problems especially the loss of Fred Sonic Smith. We find
that she makes her living giving lectures around the world. That seems so perfect
for her; living the life of an artist celebrity.
Review by Blowfish
|Be Stiff: the Stiff Record Story
By Richard Balls
Did we love those Stiff releases back in the day or what?
I always knew Jake Riviera was the main guy but it turns out there was a co-owner; Dave Robinson. Riviera left after a few years and it was Robinson who led the label until the end. Robinson had a strong connection to the pub rock scene and Brinsley Schwarz and that explains the Nick Lowe connection. That pub rock to punk period was interesting and the first section on the book covers that.
An inspiration for Riviera was Jonathan Richman’s Roadrunner
and the Beserkley Record label. From the beginning Balls tells about some real
oddball characters and most of them had 45’s. You get their stories and what
led up to the recordings, that’s the main attraction of the book for me.
After a few years Riviera left and took Costello, Lowe and the
Damned with him and started Radar records. The book continues as plenty
is going on with Stiff till the end in 1986. The end is less interesting than
the beginning but still quite a tale. This book captures the excitement of those
early punk years during the telling of the Stiff story.
Review by Blowfish.
|Everything I'm Cracked Up To Be
By Jen Trynin
Jen Trynin can be used as a symbol of the indie rock industry
of her day; her day being 1995.
The twist is her breezy and flowing prose that makes it all easy to swallow. Just about the entire 350 page story is told in dialog which presents a problem. Do we think she wrote all the dialogs down? Did she remember it? Did she make it up? At what point between real and made up do we slot this book?
Outside of the record industry machinations she relates her personal relationships during the era which holds interest. Much of the action happens in NYC and the West Coast. You don't get a lot that shows the local scene. She name checks TT the Bears, WBCN and not much else outside of a nice scene with Mikey Dee. She mentions bands, people and clubs but changes the names. I didn't ID some of those. The Middle East for example is given a different name. Also, Aimee Mann shows up time and again.
It's a fun read and we can laugh and learn from a distance as she and her career goes through the record industry ringer.
Review by Blowfish
|A Man Called Destruction
By Holly George-Warren
What I thought I knew about Alex Chilton
was that outside of some great songs he was erratic in performance and
personality and eclectic in music. This biography confirms those impressions.
I liked getting the background of his Memphis life.
I was also happy to get the story of his resurgence with the interest
of the punk movement. Here they talk about Terry Ork
and his record company. Not much has been written about that and even
here there is just enough to give you an idea of what was going on.
Holly George-Warren does a good job. She did lots of research and interviews and you feel like you are getting the real story as much as anyone could. There are lots of twists and turns to his story and many people who he interacted with. I focused on his time collaborating with Jon Tiven another person who you don't hear much about. There are stories about Alex's time with Tav Falco (Panther Burns) and the Cramps.
Often he was characterized as "tempermental". He
would often turn off longtime friends with no compunction. No mental
illness is ever mentioned but that's what I would suspect. Through the
book you learn his personality and how he lived the way he wanted.
Do you care enough about the Box Tops, Big Star and those solo albums to want to know the background? You decide.
Review by Blowfish.
By Dean Wareham
Galaxy 500 was born in Boston but Dean Wareham was born in New Zealand. The family moved to Australia then NYC. He came to Boston to go to Harvard. As much as Boston claims him he seems to be a NYC person. He lives there now.
There is about a 30 page stretch where he talks about the early Boston days. There are chapters named CHET'S LAST CALL and THE RAT. He mentions how WMBR playing Tugboat helped move Galaxy 500 along.
What I love about the book the most is the insight
into what a less than blockbuster act goes through on the road and in
its business dealings. The thing about Wareham is that he is
blunt. He's blunt about his band, band members, record companies, Boston
and himself. This makes for provocative reading. I don't think I'd want
to be around him for any length of time though - too harsh. Surprisingly
he talks of empty clubs on his tours with Luna despite
them being well known. A lot is written about things as they tour and
he makes it interesting by keeping things balanced. There are no repetitive
and boring tour excess stories.
Near the end of the book he talks about playing the
Middle East where he played scared at the beginning
of his career. Now more confident going "back to Cambridge was like going
back to the old house I lived in as a child, which is somewhat pleasant
but slightly depressing, too." He does have that Boston connection.
Review by Blowfish
|The Sound of Our Town.
By Brett Milano
If you are not a fan of Morrissey you should move along now; there's nothing for you here. Fans, however, will be riveted with the tales of childhood, the outrages slags he loves to throw and the insightful capsule reviews of the people and music he loves.
Review by Blowfish
|Next Big Thing
By Terry Kitchen
People have threatened to do this from the beginning; that is write
a novel centered on the Boston scene. Forward 30 plus years and here
it is. So, right there it is congratulations to Terry Kitchen
who was in Loose Ties and knows the ins and outs of the scene
and nails it.
You get the early band drama at the beginning of the novel then the local references really pick up at page 105. He has characters getting excited at their first trip to Kenmore Sq and the Rat. He mentions Cantones, Jumbo's (where Radio is now), Twin Donuts, Bunratty's, Jumping Jack Flash, Channel, In Your Ear (he calls In Your Face), Deli Haus, IHOP (OMG - many a late night there) and more. He gets the details right and it all adds to the veracity of the tale. When someone goes into a record store he makes sure someone asks to check their bag. This is where Terry shines. There's people out there, like me, that care about that similitude. The band progresses and ends up in the Bean Pot a stand in for the Rumble.
This is very good for a first novel. There is enough
drama and romance to keep the story going. Terry makes the stressful
dynamics of being in a rock group painfully real. It was exciting to
read a story based on what you love and know. I don't think this is
the last word on this even from Terry. He should continue to write and
Review by Blowfish
|New York Hardcore 1986-1993
By David Koenig
Koenig never actually finished writing this book so he posted the raw info as an ebook. Good for us. Even in this form is gives a lot of insight into what was going on in the Big Apple. The format of a big section of this is a question followed by answers by a large group of people, then another question, etc. In the process you get familiar with the venues, bands and personalities of the scene. Later he lists the song titles in many band demos and the gigs at CBGB's, not surprisingly the main focus of the scene.
Even raw and unfinished I found it more interesting than a John Grisham novel…that's what punk does to you, I guess. You know whether you care about this too.
Download the book here…did I mention FREE?… http://archive.org/details/NewYorkHardcore1986-1993
Review by Blowfish
|I Dreamed I was a Very Clean Tramp - An Autobiography
By Richard Hell
As always, and even after this book, I am ambivalent about Richard Hell. He talks pretty candidly about himself here and readily points out when he was wrong or made stupid choices or was a jerk but it's pretty obvious he's still madly in love with himself as he gives himself credit for everything from creating punk rock and its fashion to being solely responsible for the scene at CBGB! Come on now Richie it was a movement, a product of its time, and a generation…yeah, "blank" I'll give you that! But hey that's Richard Hell…I remember meeting him when he played at the Rat in 78 or so. He was so sure every girl in the place was hot for him that when I tried to talk to him he actually said "We are like two ships passing in the night...it wasn't meant to be." I was like "Huh? I just want to ask you a few questions for the BGN." Imagine my surprise when I read in this book that his friend Jennifer, at that time, used to say "My thoughts and me are like ships passing in the night." So I guess that wasn't an original phrase for him!
This book is about Hell's life up until he decided to give up music in 1983. He starts out talking about his childhood and admits it was mundane…playing cowboys and Indians and living in a suburban town like any other suburban town. Let's face it I read this book to get to the part about punk, and then it becomes, for folks like us, an amazingly great read. So now I like Richard Hell again, and have lots of respect for him. I learn he left home with no money at 17 to make it in NYC. He wanted to be a poet but slowly veers toward music with school chum Tom Miller/Verlaine. He makes intentional life and fashion choices that point to the beginnings of the punk ethos.
Then when describing the nascent scene at CBGB he says something that makes me totally love him and know that he was and is and always will be the real thing: "This was the essence of CBGB then and there that we, with our rejected and extreme sets of beliefs and values and intentions, had managed to materialize an environment in which we were not outside, but at home ourselves. Where we were the positive standards of being, rather than examples of failure, depravity, criminality and ugliness. It was a world of rock and roll and poetry and anger and revelry and drunkenness and sex…it brought real life, as opposed to the conventions of popular songs, back to rock and roll…The traits and signs of what came to be called punk were the ways that we'd systematically invented or discovered a means of displaying on the outside what was inside us. That's the origin of the funny, lyrical, angry music, the haircuts, the clothes, the names and everything else that identified us. What defined the club was that it was where we were completely ourselves." Whew!! If that doesn't sum it all up, and perfectly, I don't know what does. That can only come from someone who truly knew.
As a woman reading this book I also learned a bit about how men think. He keeps sport of sidetracking to write about some the women in his life and remembers things like how their hair would shine a certain way in the light or what parts of their bodies were like.
He also talks about his decent into addiction and how it caused him to be an ass and make bad choices. But all in all this book is a fascinating walk down memory lane and then some…and it's so cool to read about NYC in those days and the life of someone who was there through it all. There's photos too, not a ton but good ones to bring you back to the good old days too!
Review by Miss Lyn.
By Paul Harding
The buzz on this book was that it was written by a Boston Punk (he was in Cold Water Flat). That got my attention. Harding has also taught writing at Harvard and the University of Iowa and that is more to the point because this is some serious writing.
The material is austere and stark. The cover is a clue
here. This is the winter landscape of the mind. Harding is trying
to get to the nub of what we are when there is nothing left in life
and then life itself begins to ebb. This is not the feel good book of
Review by Blowfish
By Dave Morrison
I had hopes for this. A book of poetry focused on the rock and roll lifestyle -- this could go either way. As it turns out, it's right on the mark. Dave has the right voice for this look at Clubland.
"And just like that point when a plane leaves the ground
Dave says in the afterward that he was trying to use this material first as a book but I like the way these scenes play out in short form like the piece called Come On. The short lines describe a scene that sticks in the mind in a way I think a prose version wouldn't. One stanza goes :
"But a Saturday night should not be missed
In Walking Home there is an image that the whole city could appreciate:
"The morning traffic jams up Storrow Drive.
There is more structure in the poems this time around but this is light material: it's like a pop song not a symphony. Morrison can be trusted to not waste your time; every poem is worth the read. It's a perfect book for late night with a drink and a good gift for someone on the scene.
|The Band CRIME - Punk77 Revisited
By James Stark
This is one of those books that just makes me so jealous because I wish a similar thing was done for one of our Boston old school punk bands.
Crime was one of the earliest LA punk bands. We're talking 1976. Here in Boston we knew them because they got an early 45 out - Hot Wire My Heart - and they had a LOOK. That photo on the 45 sleeve said they were outrageous and the music backed it up. Crime was also lucky because the photographer that took that picture was good and took many pictures of them that helped spread their reputation.
So, this is the thing - where's Boston's version of this? I don't know if a photographer of quality had a connection to one of the early bands and could do this. What about Phil'n'Phlash? Where's his book? He must have stuff piled up somewhere.
By Thomas A Hauck
Thomas A. Hauck was the bass player of the Atlantics whose members have turned out to be a fruitful bunch.
Dave Morrison was in the underappreciated Trademarks and True Blue. I’d love to see a CD of that material…hint, hint, suggestion.
|Dead on the Internet.
By Johnny Barnes
This is the 3rd installment in the Jack Kelly series by Barnes (review of
the first two below) with this one, the character and series have been fully
established. I looked forward to this as I do a new mystery by Sue Grafton or Philip
Craig (to spotlight another local writer). I also wanted to hear the new wisecracks
from the main character Jack Kelly.
There are so many books and movies about violent murderers I would think it would be hard to find a novel way for them to act but Barnes comes up with a few real surprises and he notches up the gross factor a few times and it works. His final hostage scene will stick with me for a long time.
|Sweat: The Story of The Fleshtones, America's Garage Band.
By Joe Bonomo
The early days in the Queens, NY 'band house' make you wish you were there and then the story quickly goes to the NYC scene. Arriving after the first wave of punk they have a slightly outsider view of the scene. This is covered with plenty of interviews from the band members, Hilly Crystal, and Dictator Andy Shernoff . They also describe the dance (disco/gay) club scene a world I didn't know. In this first 1/3 of the book which was the most interesting for me they give Boston a big compliment (It's on page 94 if you go looking.). Peter Zaremba calls Boston the Hidden Rock and Roll Capital of the World and name checks for DMZ, Lyres and The Real Kids are all through the book.
Link to the publisher's web site...Continuum Books
By Michael Ruffino
He has his own language. Morning becomes "unforgivably ante meridian" or "ass o'clock". Hungry is a "nutritional black hole". Los Angeles is the 'City of Fights'. There is a hysterical scene at the Rat but again that's just one in a book full of funny scenes. It's half real and half drunken remembrance wrapped in colorful verbiage.
I saw Ruffino in another band, Old Money, and
his act was basically trying to keep vertical for an hour all the while
dealing with a plague of zipper problems, all very amusing and the music
was good. He's one talented guy.
Review by Blowfish
By Michael Muhammad Knight
The concepts here are more important than the literature. The underlying story is of teenagers coming to grips with life, but that becomes trivial next to the issues being raised about Islam. You're knee deep in Arabic phrases from the beginning and are shown the customs and tenants of Islam as seen through these Buffalo punks. It's all extremely interesting.
By Michael Patrick MacDonald
The first 100 pages see Michael on the Boston punk scene and that’s very interesting for us here. Starting in 1979 he spends all his time at gigs at The Rat, Thayer Street, The Bradford Hotel, and The Channel. He has some stories involving Rita Ratt and Springa. All ring true as do his observations of the scene and its people types. Skipping school and unencumbered by a job he spent a LOT of time on the scene. He snuck into a lot of shows because he was underage, penniless and had a brother who was doorman at the Rat.
All Bostonians will want to read this for its depiction of the Southie mentality as Patrick presents it. Boston rock fans, especially those who were around from about 1979 to 1983, will get a big kick out of those first 100 pages.
|Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll's Legendary Neighborhood.
By Michael Walker
|Rock Tease:The Golden Era of Rock T-Shirts.
By Erica Easley and Ed Chalfa
|Trash! The Complete New York Dolls.
By Kris Needs and Dick Porter
|Dead Men Talk/Sleep When I'm Dead.
by Johnny Barnes
The Johnny Barnes Group was a hard working outfit in the seventies and early eighties playing clubs with regularity. They had an early single Street Rail Blues and later some LP's. Now Johnny has resurfaced with some new CD’s and these books.
Johnny has a website at www.johnnybarnes.com. I took a day trip to Bev’s Books in Rochester, MA. to get the books. You can also find them on amazon.com or barnes&noble.com or his website.
By Charles Romalotti
It took a long time to get to this, a fictional account of a punk life that has worthy writing. Off hand I can't think of another book that does this. This is a story of Frank who lives out a life with the values he finds inherent in the Hardcore scene. This is a big chore especially since he lives in Kansas. Frank is uncompromising and as such makes a good focus for the story. The way people act around him illuminate their values and give you the side stories.
Available online at a good price here....Link to Layman Books
By Brett Milano
I'm so close to this I never realized it could be a book. Milano was right though, what a weird bunch record collectors are.
by Bob Dylan
The information you want comes in bits and pieces but Dylan is an entertaining writer, and if you believe him, he has a great memory.