At some point, “punk” came to mean “hard, fast music”, but looking at the diversity of those original New York bands, it was more than just a style of music. Those early bands (including the English ones), empowered wave after wave of young people – whether or not they could play a single chord. There’s been destructive behavior in the mix, no doubt, but the ethic of getting some kind of truth out clear and loud was a new beginning for rock. It’s portable and powerful, though hard to live up to. (For an even wordier intro to this four part series, look at part 1.)
Here’s more punk…
White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race – Stephen Duncombe and Maxwell Tremblay, editors – This is a comprehensive study of race in punk, sourcing everything including lyrics, interviews, theory and zines, from a wide variety of authors and non-authors with relevant experiences. No easy conclusions here; you have to work it out for yourself.
Dream Baby Dream: Suicide: A New York Story – Kris Needs – An artist (Alan Vega) and a jazz musician (Martin Rev) make up the two-man synth-heavy, protopunk, anarchic, spark-shooting pinwheel called Suicide. Kinda like The Monks, but longer lasting, they were entirely unique and hugely influential. This is the bio.
No Wave. Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980 – Thurston Moore and Byron Coley – Moore is the guy from Sonic Youth, maybe the most widely known “no wave” band. This is the story of this avant-garde development of punk, from 1978 on. It was artistic as well as musical: think everyone from Lydia Lunch and Jim Jarmusch to Brian Eno. It includes interviews and tons of photos.
New York Rocker: My Life in the Blank Generation with Blondie, Iggy Pop and Others 1974-1981 – Gary Valentine – Valentine was in Blondie through its early development (and then left), so he was on the scene from the beginning. This is an interesting take on the transition from the first New York punk to the changes wrought by the reverse influence of UK punk.
Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day – Jack Boulware and Silke Tudor – The SF – LA rivalry continues here, with SF claiming 3rd place on the punk pecking order (NY, London being 1 and 2). Well, I’m all about the LA, but I’m a punk noob, so I can’t say much about it. SF did play host to the cataclysmic implosion of the Sex Pistols. This is that northern scene, the bands, labels, venues, and its argument for primacy.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl – Carrie Brownstein – This is ambidextrously-talented (dumb word? just trying not to say “renaissance woman”) Brownstein’s music memoir. Nothing to do with Portlandia, this is all about music, Sleater-Kinney and really good personal autobio – AND DAMN COOL GUITAR PLAYING. She’s a helluva writer, as you would expect since… gah… she’s a renaissance woman.
Just Kids – Patti Smith – At the dawn of New York punk, at the hub of music, art and poetry, there was Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. This is her memoir of their relationship.
We Owe You Nothing: Punk Planet, the Collected Interviews, Expanded Edition – Daniel Sinker – From the mid 90s on, Punk Planet covered punk and all of its extensions into activism, art, film, etc.. With everything from Riot Grrrls to Noam Chomsky – these interviews show the breadth and depth of this 3rd(?) generation of the punk scene. Get the expanded edition.
NYHC New York Hardcore 1980-1990 – Tony Rettman – Some punk spun off into different music styles and created other scenes, some just dug down to bedrock: that’s hardcore and this is the New York version. 100+ interviews, including Agnostic Front, Misfits, Cro-Mags – nothing fancy, just that raw thing.
Rock and the Pop Narcotic – Joe Carducci – We covered Carducci’s Enter Naomi in our first list, and here is his theory of rock. He is attempting to define rock as an art form and distinguish it from pop music. You can analyze his theory for yourself, but as a songwriter, producer, and OG LA punk, he’s got unassailable pedigree.
The First Collection of Rock Criticism By a Living Female Rock Critic – Jessica Hopper – The title says it all. Starting when she was in junior high, Hopper has been writing about music. This is a collection of her reviews, interviews, essays, etc.. You’re on a 20 year road tour with an exceptional writer who is also an obsessed fan and a feminist with appropriately high expectations for such a powerful art form. Here’s a cool interview in Paste.
The Evolution of a Cro-Magnon – John Joseph – The Cro-Mags were a New York hardcore band, Joseph was the vocalist (sometimes). Everything about this dude is hardcore, and this is his story from his tough childhood thru times of both success and setback. Gritty as fuck. He’s vegan. See also, Meat is for Pussies.
Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980 – 1984 – Ian Glasper – After Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Slits came another wave of early British punk. These were bands like GBH, The Exploited and many, many more – all covered in this book by region. Good lord, there are a lot of bands in here; it’s hard to imagine they missed anyone.
A Riot of Our Own: Night and Day with the Clash – Johnny Green and Garry Barker – Imagine hanging out with a buddy who roadied and then road managed The Clash. You get all the war stories and shenanigans, seemingly unfiltered by PR or ego. Johnny Green is a fan, but he’s got no asses to kiss: he’s just gonna tell you what it was like. Pretty crazy shit, the good and bad.
Tired? Stay on your feet – we got one more! Part 4 is next, then you can go home.