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Book Reviews      by Blowfish
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Don't All Thank Me At Once.
By Brett Milano

Scott Miller book by Brett Millano
Scott Miller was the founder of thew bands Game Theory and The Loud Family. Those are probably names you’ve heard but don’t know much about. They've gotten college airplay and have some devoted fans.

   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.

Available on Amazon

Review by Blowfish

M Train
By Patti Smith

M Train

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.
   It's great that she is a celebrity now. So many of our punk personalities just sort of came and went as far as the general public is concerned. Now we have the latest book. M Train. It's an unusual book. There's no compelling narrative, to the contrary it jumps from thought to thought on a thread. Patti gives us an insight into where her mind (the M Train) leads her.

    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.
   Like Just Kids, M Train works because of her sensibilities. She sweeps us along and it's a great read. She's in a unique position and the book is a singularity too. If you care about her you will like the book.

Review by Blowfish

Be Stiff: the Stiff Record Story
By Richard Balls

Stiff Records

Did we love those Stiff releases back in the day or what?
   I was a DJ in the Late Risers Club at that time and we just bought those 45’s whenever we saw one. It didn’t matter who or what it was, if it had the Stiff label we got it and we played it.
   Stiff came into being for the same reason punk came into being: it was a reaction against the corporate rock behemoth.

   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.
   One running sad joke is the inability of Wreckless Eric to get a hit no matter what Stiff did. Barney Bubbles was one strange guy who did most of the sleeves that we're all familiar with. Strange and brilliant I should add.

   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.
    It's a good read but I would only recommend it to those with interest in Stiff Records to begin with and if you are this is a fascinating story.

Review by Blowfish.

Everything I'm Cracked Up To Be
By Jen Trynin

Jen Trynin Jen Trynin can be used as a symbol of the indie rock industry of her day; her day being 1995.
   We have been feed record industry stereotypes; phony, opportunistic, eccentric, power hungry…one could go on. Jen's book is here to confirm those stereotypes. In that sense there is nothing new here.

   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?
   I care about this sort of thing so when I read it I was a little reserved about embracing it.

   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

Alex Chilton

      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.
     His story is not typical of most and no great lessons can be derived from learning the details. All this is to say that this book is for those with enough interest about Alex to spend the time reading those details. I confess I am one who cares.

     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.
     Boston comes into play a few times. They mention that the second set Big Star played at the Performance Center (a club in Harvard Square that had a short life) was the best they ever did. At that gig (backing Badfinger) Billy Squier lent them some equipment. Alex also played the Rat a few times in his solo career.

     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.
     Alex died suddenly at age 59 on the way to the hospital complaining of chills and shortness of breath.

     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.

Black Postcards
By Dean Wareham

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.
   He keeps the spotlight on the music except for his early years and then the affair with Britta the gorgeous bass player that broke up his marriage. Other musicians' autobiographies I've read talk about everything but the music (Eric Clapton). Wareham talks about the songs and the lyrics and how they were inspired and created.

    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.
   The book ends with Luna's breakup.
   In the end it's intelligent and interesting and a good addition to rock lit.

Review by Blowfish

The Sound of Our Town.
By Brett Milano

The Sound of Our Town
This had to be done - a complete story of the rock that has come out of Boston. Brett did the heavy lifting. He manages to review all the important Boston rock acts starting with the G-Clefs and their hit Ka-Ding Dong in 1956. I didn't know about the G-Clefs or the under the radar rockabilly act Gene Malthais with his song Gangwar.
    Almost every other act and era I know most of the story but I enjoyed reading Brett's analysis. He puts things in a bigger context and he is able to sum up an act or era in a few succinct lines often humorously
   He also gets some new comments from the principals with his interviews from; Ocasek, Bruce Arnold of Orpheus, Joey Kramer of Aerosmith, John Felice of The Real Kids, J. Geils, Robin Lane, etc.
   The sixties music is always fun to read about; The Remains, The Ramrods, and the Boston Sound; eventually leading into Aerosmith in the early seventies.
   The punk era is what we really care about and Brett gives it plenty of room. He seems to cover everything and everybody. By the dawn of the eighties the bands proliferate so much that he couldn't be a completest but he manages to get most of the people you can think of.
   The book is published in 2007 so he ends with the scene at the Abbey.
   It's a must have for all fans and would be the go to book for those who got to the scene late or just want the whole damn story.

Morrissey
By Morrissey

Morrissey

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.
   He writes about the things he sings about which is probably the way it should be and that helps us see clearer what we sort of know. The first example is that early schooling that seems to have been abusive, well yes, big time corporal and mental abuse that the Moz cannot let be. He goes on about it for a while.
   He is Manchester to the bone. He makes so many references to English culture I was googling names constantly. It a whole other set of artists, songs and authors that mean next to nothing to an American. I took it as a chance to find out about them.
   As far as his personal interactions goes his writing manages to be both ambiguous and ambivalent which is a mind bending combination. No matter how much he writes you still just don't know what to think.
   When he talks about music he's very sharp and that was some of my favorite bits.
   The ending section of the book he talks about his big tours and records (in very general terms). One jaw dropping moment he talks about his gig at Lowell Memorial Hall and the city. He claims to be "seduced" by it and asks, "Would they let me stay?" Really? Lowell? Maybe it has that mill-town feel like Manchester that he is relating to. Odd.
   There's lots more in this than I can talk about but all fans will love this pointed and lively autobiography.

Review by Blowfish

Next Big Thing
By Terry Kitchen

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.
   No pussy footing around he makes the story one of a band from out of town working their way through the club scene, a perfect way to name check places and to put you in familiar situations. Along with the band story is the romance. Pistonhead by Hauck (see below) covers some of this territory but didn't have the wealth of detail as this.
   His clever trick is making the story unfold in two time frames - one from '81 to 83 the other '86. That way you get to see the early dreams versus real life. The band starts on the North Shore and you get many references from there like Dogtown. Later they live in Brighton.

     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 develop.
    The book also comes with a CD of songs from the mock group. Ghosts of Kenmore Square is about the after effects of the Rat closing.
    Book is available as an ebook too at http://www.terrykitchen.com/nextbigthing.php

Review by Blowfish

New York Hardcore 1986-1993
By David Koenig

NYC hardcore 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

Richard Hell - I Dreamed I was a Very Clean Tramp

      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.

Tinkers
By Paul Harding

Tinkers 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 the year.
     Time and time again the focus becomes the intersection of man and nature. This theme contrasts with our constant-in-touch technology driven lifestyle and can be a welcome wake up for us.
     It's a short book that looks deep into mans existential battle.
     It's a Pulitzer Prize winner so you really don't need me to tell you it's worth the read but be in the right frame of mind to take this in.

Review by Blowfish

Clubland.
By Dave Morrison

Clubland

      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.
      It seems like Dave has remembered everything from his days in the Trademarks and put it to good use here. He never missteps in his wistful yet frank look at the bars, motels, managers, band members and girl friends that make up the world of Boston Citgo sign-Bunratty's-hit Storrow Drive to get there rock.
      He captures the moments with friends and lovers, bar veterans, music fans with fidelity. Time and time again the poems brought me to a place or feeling that was so familiar. Mysterious Gift has a point that reminds me of the way I feel in the middle of a great show:

"And just like that point when a plane leaves the ground
she's no longer thinking, watching, aware
she's swimming alone in a womb of sound
she's simultaneously there and not there."

      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
these moments just don't last that long
she smiled and grabbed him by his wrist
"come on" she said "I love this song!""

      In Walking Home there is an image that the whole city could appreciate:

"The morning traffic jams up Storrow Drive.
like thoroughbreds bunched up along the rail"

      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.
      We now have a poetry book that comes from Boston rock; how cool is that?

Get it here - http://clublandpoems.wordpress.com/
The Band CRIME - Punk77 Revisited .
By James Stark

Crime Photo book

      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.
     This is a book of those pictures. They capture that early punk feel of the band in posed pictures and in performance. The text is terse but does the job. You get a story of the band and some posters also. It's all good. It's a 7x10 inch book on glossy paper.

     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.
     This successful photo book shows us where Boston comes up short.

Pistonhead.
By Thomas A Hauck

sweet.
By Dave Morrison

Piston and sweet
      Two more Boston ex-rockers have put out books.

     Thomas A. Hauck was the bass player of the Atlantics whose members have turned out to be a fruitful bunch.
     Pistonhead is in the young adult genre. The main character is a musician in a band whose success level is about the same as that attained by the Atlantics. The character also has a day job in a software assembly line. Both scenarios ring true and one assumes Hauck brings his experiences to the story.
     One scene brings an ex-girlfriend to the apartment, as she begins to flirt, it comes out that her new boyfriend is waiting in the car outside: real scummy and you know that sort of thing happens all the time in those circles. There is also a funny sex scene and a character dealing with drugs.
     I can’t say I’m an expert on young adult books but the elements make a good mix and Hauck keeps them from being too graphic. It’s a story that would appeal to a young rocker.
     Get at Amazon.com

     Dave Morrison was in the underappreciated Trademarks and True Blue. I’d love to see a CD of that material…hint, hint, suggestion.
     Dave has become a focused writer and has put many stories on line. He also has material about his band days that include scenes in Cantone’s. With his latest effort: sweet, we have a book of poetry…now don’t stop reading! I know poetry is not a big thing for many people; of course that’s what Dave is up against here. I’m here to tell you that sweet is a good read.
     None of this is too long or ponderous or technically complicated. There are over 50 easy to digest poems from the perspective of a onetime Boston rocker. His sensibilities and concerns are very appealing to me and I assume to some of you.
     He writes about drinking, women, the struggle with the writer’s muse, along with the subject of life itself. He has clever lines, clear images and observations that capture you for that one moment that marks a good poem.
     I enjoyed all of sweet.
     Dave Morrison web site.

Dead on the Internet.
By Johnny Barnes

Barnes Dead on the Internet

      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.
      This book is longer than the previous ones and the extra length is used to establish character and detail in the plot. Much time is spent on bringing the villain to life and that helps to give the story more weight than the two previous ones.
      In some spots the writing is very vivid and a few scenes, including the opening one, you can imagine on TV or in a movie. Indeed, at this point it seems like someone could grab this series and run with it a la Spencer For Hire.
      One of the attractions of these stories is the Boston locale. In this book it's MIT and environs that frame the action. The Miracle of Science restaurant and Central Square show up a few times. Discoveries at the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab fuel the plot.

      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

Sweat   a book about the Fleshtones
     This is a well researched, well written book on the career of the Fleshtones. Their start in Queens, NY, their recording history, their touring, their striving for big time rock glory just beyond their reach is all here. This is a must read for all Fleshtones' fans. Now, if you're not a die hard Fleshtones' fan there is still a few reasons why you might be interested in reading these 388 pages.

     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.
     Bonomo does a great job in describing a botched Fleshtones' recording session, going back and forth between band members and the producer (Paul Wexler) in a Rashomon-like attempt at the truth. There's no answer of course but it illustrates how the entanglement of peoples shortcomings and perceptions cause misunderstanding and ultimately, in the rock and roll world, bad recordings.
     You get stories and good quotes from the main players like: Richard Gottehrer, Steve Albini, Dave Faulkner of the Hoodoo Gurus, Marty Thau of Red Star, and Miriam Linna.
     The last half of the book relates the inevitable drug and drinking problems and how they short circuit the band's success. By the time you finish you have a good picture of what a career mid-level rock band goes through just to play the music they love. Many of the bands we love here at the BGN are in this situation so that story resonates.
     I'm actually jealous of this well done band bio because I wish someone would do something similar for a Boston band, lucky Fleshtones.

     Link to the publisher's web site...Continuum Books

Gentlemanly Repose.
By Michael Ruffino

Gentlemanly Repose One funny book
      This is one of the funniest books on rock ever. Ruffino was the bass player of the Unband from western Mass that managed to get some high profile arena gigs with Dio and Anthrax. He writes this history of the band and it's antics in a pseudo sophisticated style like he's P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves looking dispassionately at the hoi polloi. This elevated tone next to the lowlife goings on makes for a comic masterpiece.

     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.
     This book is actually from 2004 but I find it slipped past most people. Google the title and you can find it for sale around the web. Very much worth it.

Review by Blowfish

Taqwacores.
By Michael Muhammad Knight

Taqwacores by MM Knight
     This is a fictional story of Muslim punks in Buffalo who are inspired by a movement of Muslim hardcore punks from California called taqwacore. The twist is that it has inspired real life Muslim groups to form; this has been written about in Newsweek and elsewhere. Wikipedia has the story and some links to follow up on...Wikipedia link.

     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.
      Knight puts Islam through some outrageous paces. He never flinches from out and out blasphemy. Considering the sensitivity of Islamic issues it comes across as courageous to write this book and almost feels dangerous to read it. If a cartoon on one hand and a few lines in Rushdie' s book on the other caused so much trouble the only reason this hasn't generated a fatwa is because it's not on the radar yet.
     I got this book through Alternative Tentacles (Link to Alternative Tentacles) you should too and support the independent press.

Easter Rising.
By Michael Patrick MacDonald

Easter Rising by Patrick Michael MacDonald
     In his memoir of growing up in South Boston MacDonald readily and repeatedly refers to his fellow city residents as violent parochial racists. MacDonald now resides in Brooklyn, NY. Hi oh!

     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.
     After being a 24 hour party boy in NYC, he has a mental breakdown and then goes to UMASS to study…wait for it…Irish History. Way to bring the coals to Newcastle, Michael.
     The last third of the book is about his trips to…all together now…Ireland.
     His family history which is the center of his story is a soul crushing litany of tragedies.

     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

Laurel Canyon
     Being part of the Boston Punk scene was an exciting experience and makes me interested in the dynamics of other scenes. The main elements of a scene as I see it are - time, place, creativity and commerce. Here, Walker looks at those aspects in California's Laurel Canyon.
     The special thing about Laurel Canyon is the topography. The ultra steep hill with winding roads makes for small houses in a dense neighborhood. Then it ends abruptly in the flat Sunset Boulevard. It's as if the creations of the artists roll down the hill and into the Whiskey A Go-Go, The Rainbow, The Troubadour etc..
     The main musicians talked about: Joni Mitchell, John Mayal, The Mamas and Papas, Carole King, The Eagles, Frank Zappa, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, The Turtles and groupie Pamela Des Barres.
     The book is most satisfying in the first half where the Canyon is the main subject after that the focus goes to the music scene at the foot of the canyon and even though that is of note it has been told in other places.
     The musicians of Laurel Canyon are the ones we hated when punk started. Walker tells the story of their decline fuelled by drug abuse. I loved that section but I'm not a nice person.
     It's an easy read if you have the interest.

Rock Tease:The Golden Era of Rock T-Shirts.
By Erica Easley and Ed Chalfa

All about rock T-shirts
     I never thought this could be a subject for a book but here it is.
     The book is light on text and heavy on pictures, although I found the text more interesting than the pictures. There are very short profiles of Richard Hell, Wayne Kramer, Mark Arm and Arturo Vega.
     It's hard to think of a time when there weren't rock shirts but they started in the late sixties during the psychedelic era. The first big rock t-shirt printer was Phil Graham.
     The authors go into the changes in t-shirts styles and motifs. They all seem very subtle to me and don't make for a dramatic showcase. The t-shirts are photographed on mannequins which is a lost opportunity. It would be a lot more fun to see the Skynyrd shirt on a mullethead or the Stray Cat shirt on a rockabilly babe.
     There are plentiful pictures of the shirts illustrating all eras of rock and roll which will be a big kick to the t-shirt fan. I might be more blase about the shirts having been exposed to them so much.
     Rolling Stone just had an article on the huge resurgence of vintage rock T-shirts recreations. They are now selling in Target and Wal-Mart and giving classic rock acts a substantial chunk of money.
     That proves there is an audience for this book, which would make this a good buy for them or a good present.

Trash! The Complete New York Dolls.
By Kris Needs and Dick Porter

Trash The New York Dolls story
     You might expect that a Dolls book would be a sleazy expose. It turns out not to be true and that would be redundant anyway. What they have done here is make sure they have covered all the Dolls history and present the sleaze and facts in a straight forward manner. The writing is filled with snappy concise sentences that nail the point every time.
     This book would not convert a new fan, you need the records for that, what it does is give the full arc of their career, and quite a story it is. Drugs play a big part - surprise. Jane County shows up a lot and deserves a book all her own.
     The story goes into the early punk years and brings in the usual subjects: Malcolm McLaren, Nancy Spungen, Sex Pistols, et al.
     The main Dolls story ends half way through the book and then it's mainly the Johnny Thunders' story which is full of ups and downs, and uppers and downers.
     The final two chapters tell about the unexpected group reunion and album. It's like a fairy tale and very inspiring, even more so because the authors have told the story without adornment or false cheerleading.
     This is recommended for all those who want the Dolls/Johnny Thunders history and especially those that are not familiar with the orgins of early NYC punk and punk in general. .

Dead Men Talk/Sleep When I'm Dead.
by Johnny Barnes

Johnny Barnes Books      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.
     These both feature the same detective, Jack Kelly, a joke cracking Bostonian. The stories are packed with local color and plenty of laughs. I defy you to read this next to someone and not try some of the jokes on them.
     These are just made for Boston punk rockers. References to Boston rock clubs abound with some characters sporting the names of local rockers.
      Lots of action happens in the Fort Point area. Johnny used to live there and helped to book The Channel which was there on Necco Street.
     The books are enjoyable light reading that are the perfect beach read or rainy day book.

     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.

Salad Days
By Charles Romalotti

Salad Days 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.
     I got the biggest kick out of reading the actions of people who live on the scene. You know like us. Their lives revolve around the music and the scene. Other parts of their lives suffer because the music takes up most of the time and energy they have.
     The book is over 300 pages and never flags at all. It's not James Joyce but Romalotti does a good job. Many books like this can be just so embarrassing as they pander to the audience. Romalotti has a valid voice that discribes the hardcore lifestyle with authority.
     The way I see it is that there is no where else to get this sort of book at the moment. Romalotti has done a real service to the punk community. I enjoyed it from front to back.

     Available online at a good price here....Link to Layman Books

Vinyl Junkie.
By Brett Milano

Viny Junkie 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.
     I have thousands of LP's and 45's but I always claim I just want the music not a specific piece of vinyl. I stand by that but I have to say collecting vinyl is fun the way CD's never are, never mind shoving the digital info into an MP3. The 12 inch glossy canvas that was an LP lent itself to wonderful presentations that had a visceral whomp. Well, there I go, waxing poetically over vinyl.
     What Brett has done is to tell the stories of different types of record collectors their peculiarities, their dream searches and the like. He gives a few psychological explanations for their actions but it's just the crazy stories that you want to hear. The goings on with Monoman and Pat McGrath are a high point.
     In the end Milano has covered the subject and put it to rest. You know if you want this. I would suggest that if you are interested to get it soon. I think the book is becoming collectable itself. The irony.

Chronicles.
by Bob Dylan

Chronicles 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.
     He seems to be a big reader and mentions many authors. That is important because it would be clues to where those amazing lyrics came from. He has an interest in the French Romantic writers like Villion and Baudelaire which was expected but also Thucydides, Sophocles, Pericles, Balzac, Milton and many more.
     He comes back to the point several times on how he looks at the world and the news in an objective way and gets ideas. Obvious maybe but it’s nice to hear him admit it.
     He delves into his early formative years in folk in detail and that is very satisfying.
     Dylan relates that his songwriting breakthrough came by dissecting the song Pirate Jenny a Brecht/Weill song from the Threepenny Opera. That was unexpected, but there it is.
     It’s not mind blowing just revealing but for Dylan fans only.

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