City Lights has a long history of engagement with the punk rock scene, you may know already that V.Vale started the insurrectionary Search and Destroy fanzine with financial help from Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg. Ruby Ray who took many of the photos featured in Search and Destroy has a new book coming out (which we will hopefully receive copies of soon!) and an exhibition opening this Saturday in San Francisco of her punk photos… But punk rock is not just a historical artifact! It’s an ongoing endeavor, a possibility constructed out of noise, DIY, bad taste and a million other unexplainable attributes. City Lights carries long-running Bay Area punk mag Maximum Rocknroll, which turned 30 last year and still relentlessly covers the international DIY punk and hardcore underground if you want to keep abreast of what’s now and new in distortion and detruction.
Allen Ginsberg, reporting from North Beach’s former punk haunt the Mab:
Well, without further delay. let’s stroll down to the City Lights basement and scope out some of the recent books covering punk rock… then go start a band / make a zine!
Hard Art DC 1979 – Lucian Perkins (Akashic)
“Many punk fans will purchase Hard Art for the novelty of seeing H.R. as he was before Bad Brains moved to New York and became legends, or Ian MacKaye as he was before he shaved his head, and formed Dischord Records, Minor Threat, and Fugazi. The book deserves a wider readership than that. Perkins’s skill as a portraitist is such that you can see the energy and potential in these young men’s faces even without the context of their future roles as icons. Equally worthwhile are the portraits of those who did not become icons, but participated in the shows.”–Philadelphia Review of Books
“Hard Art…is another entry into the swollen literature of D.C. hardcore self-documentation. So the obvious question is, what can Perkins add to a subject? Two things: First, a very narrow and early focus. The photos document just four shows in 1979 and 1980… Second, it’s only half self-documentation. Perkins, a career Washington Post photographer who covered wars from Yugoslavia to Afghanistan, photographed this scene but was not of it. As intimate as they are, his pictures benefit from a certain distance that a curious outsider can lend to his subjects: anthropological though never exploitative…capturing all the energy of those shows without trying to explain it.”–Washington City Paper
The Riot Grrrl Collection – edited by Lisa Darms
The Riot Grrrl Collection reproduces a sampling of the original grrrl zines, posters, and printed matter for the first time since their initial distribution in the 1980s and ’90s, featuring work by members of punk bands Team Dresch, Bratmobile and Bikini Kill and many more artifacts from this punk rock feminist movement.
“Forget Andy Warhol and everyone being famous for 15 minutes. Because of riot grrrl we have new, exciting political movements every 15 minutes.”
“Riot grrrl is the gateway drug that girls use to find feminist history. I love love love this book—a snapshot of what riot grrrl was and could be.”
“What an experience–this book shows a movement being born and taking form, and how revolutionary ideas move from hand to hand. The Riot Grrrl Collection is alive with intimacy, passion, anger, and fun.”
“The materials in this book are more important than ever. Riot grrrl shows us that feminism isn’t synonymous with consumer empowerment. Passed person to person, riot grrrl culture advances a true revolution in which ‘girl’ qualities like candor and empathy are no longer trivialized and can re-make the world.”
“What zine-making taught me about writing: 1. shock yourself with honesty, 2. the truth is messy, 3. be brave like her. I use these riot grrrl skills every single day.”
Punk: an Aesthetic
From posters for punk-rock bands and indie filmmakers to fanzines and other independent publications, the art of the punk movement revolutionized design in ways whose influence is still felt today, and reflected the consciousness of a counterculture with a clarity seldom seen since.
Drawing on private and public archives of rare material from around the world, this heavily illustrated book presents an unrivaled collection of punk art and ephemera that incorporates every aspect of the movement, from the earliest occurrences of punk symbolism in posters and flyers for underground bands to the explosion of fanzines and Xerox culture, and from rare photographs of musicians such as the Sex Pistols and the Screamers to the artwork of Crass, Jamie Reid, John Holmstrom, and the contemporary street artist Banksy.
With more than three hundred images and accompanying essays by Johan Kugelberg, Jon Savage, and William Gibson, this definitive visual narrative illustrates how the DIY ethic of the punk era inspired a movement in graphic arts and design whose influence is still felt among the most significant figures in the fields today.
A Mix of Bricks and Valentines – G.W. Sok (PM Press)
G.W. Sok co-founded of the internationally acclaimed independent Dutch music group The Ex in 1979. He became the singer and lyricist, more or less by coincidence, since he wrote the occasional poem and nobody else wanted to sing. At the same time he turned himself into a graphic designer of record sleeves, posters, and books. Together with The Ex he was awarded the Dutch Pop Prize of 1991. The band is well known for its energetic live performances, their inventive music, and for their politically outspoken and thought-provoking lyrics. After about 1,400 concerts in Holland and abroad, and twenty-five record albums later, G.W. Sok decided to leave the group at the end of 2008.
A Mix of Bricks & Valentines showcases the lyrics G.W. Sok wrote during his three decade period of Ex-istance. More than 250 songs of agitprop lyrics, poetry, and rantings are included along with an introduction by the author discussing his development as a writer. A foreword by English journalist, author, and musician John Robb (the Membranes, Punk: An Oral History and Death to Trad Rock) puts the work of G.W. Sok into perspective.
A Mix of Bricks & Valentines is written with a sharp pen; provocative, creative, and witty, everything punk and art intended to be from the start. And yes, it can be quite loud at times, too
“Lyrically, The Ex is also in a class of its own. This is rebel punk’s finest
hour.” —SF Weekly
“Deep intellectual analysis of geopolitics and fearless insertion of their socio-anarchist perspective is a bold, defining path drawn by The Ex. Few of their peers, either in their nascent days in the late ’70s and early ’80s, or now amidst all the emo-punk caterwaulers, have equaled this loud, defiant cry.” —Pop Matters
WE GOT POWER!: Hardcore Punk Scenes From 1980s Southern California – David Markey and Jordan Schwartz (Bazillion Points)
Featuring essays by David Markey, Jordan Schwartz, Jennifer Schwartz, Henry Rollins, Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, Louiche Mayorga, Cameron Jamie, Pat Fear, Steve Humann, Tony Adolescent, Jack Brewer, Jula Bell, Mike Watt, Sean Wheeler, Joe Carducci, Daniel “Shredder” Weizmann, and Janet Housden.
Presenting nearly 400 first-generation L.A. hardcore punk photographs. Including complete color reprints of We Got Power fanzine 1981–1983 and beyond.
“One of the most thorough and lush compendiums of any punk movement”—Dangerous Minds
“The stark, often beautiful imagery presents an intimate portrayal of West Coast punk in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. With the accompanying personal reminiscences of turmoil and tenacity, which add depth and evocative context, it is a fantastic document of the scene’s emergence.”—PopMatters
In 1979, punk was over… but by 1981, hardcore was born.
As teenagers in 1981, David Markey and his best friend Jordan Schwartz founded We Got Power, a fanzine dedicated to the first-generation hardcore punk music community in their native Los Angeles. Their text and cameras captured the early punk spirit of Black Flag, the Minutemen, Social Distortion, Red Cross/Redd Kross, Suicidal Tendencies, the Descendents, White Flag, the Last, the Gun Club, Saccharine Trust, Sin 34, Nip Drivers, Circle One, M.D.C., Big Boys, Youth Brigade, D.R.I., the Butthole Surfers, Firehose, and many others at the height of their precocious punk powers.
In the process, the duo’s amazing photographs also captured the dilapidated suburbs, abandoned storefronts, and dereliction of the early Reagan era—a rubble-strewn social apocalypse that demanded a youth uprising! Never before seen except in crude fanzine form, these detailed and richly narrative photos are now collected to present an intimate portrayal of a uniquely fertile creative moment.
The proximity of the East L.A. barrio to Hollywood is as close as a short drive on the 101 freeway, but the cultural divide is enormous. Born to Mexican-born and American-naturalized parents, Alicia Armendariz migrated a few miles west to participate in the free-range birth of the 1970s punk movement. Alicia adopted the punk name Alice Bag, and became lead singer for The Bags, early punk visionaries who starred in Penelope Spheeris’ documentary The Decline of Western Civilization.
Here is a life of many crossed boundaries, from East L.A.’s musica ranchera to Hollywood’s punk rock; from a violent male-dominated family to female-dominated transgressive rock bands. Alice’s feminist sympathies can be understood by the name of her satiric all-girl early Goth band Castration Squad.
Violence Girl takes us from a violent upbringing to an aggressive punk sensibility; this time a difficult coming-of-age memoir culminates with a satisfying conclusion, complete with a happy marriage and children. Nearly a hundred excellent photographs energize the text in remarkable ways.
Alice Bag‘s work and influence can be seen this year in the traveling Smithsonian exhibition “American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music.”
Shotgun Seamstress was a zine by, for, and about Black punks, queers, feminists, artists, musicians and activists. This anthology collects all six issues, made from 2006-2011.
“Shotgun Seamstress exists for those that realize that punk rock is an idea and a possibility that must be forced open in order to fit everybody that needs it inside. Shotgun Seamstress is for those that understand the necessity of making a refracted reality available to the kids, especially in an era where it seems possible to unearth everything, where there lies no mystery, a barrage of images and icons displayed on computer screens for five seconds until the next thing appears…This is something to hold onto and reread over and over. A six zine blast that manages to blow apart the apathy and restore faith in the idea of punk rock as a strategy for resistance! Creating a separate currency for those that are not interested in replicating boring ideals in underground existences, Shotgun Seamstress is like the best mix tape anyone has ever made, where radical politics are never sidelined for an easier ride, where good times are never in doubt and where subsumed experiences are revealed as real… The Gories and Void, Nasty Facts and X-Ray Spex, Brontez, Vaginal Davis, punk rock. It’s an endless adventure and this is another way in.”
-Layla Gibbon of Maximum Rocknroll
On February 21, 2012, five members of a Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot staged a performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Dressed in brightly colored tights and balaclavas, they performed their “Punk Prayer” asking the Virgin Mary to drive out Russian president Vladimir Putin from the church. After just forty seconds, they were chased out by security. Once a retooled video of the events circulated on YouTube (edited to seem much longer than the actual performance), the state was riled into action.
Three members of the collective, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, known as Masha, Nadya, and Katya, were arrested and charged with felony hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, an offense carrying a sentence of up to seven years. As their trial unfolded, these young women became global feminist icons, garnering the attention and support of activists and artists around the world, including Madonna, Paul McCartney, and Sting, as well as contributors to this book: Yoko Ono, Johanna Fateman, Karen Finley, Justin Vivian Bond, Eileen Myles, and JD Samson. The Internet exploded with petitions, music videos, and calls to action, and as the guilty verdict was anticipated,
Pussy Riot responded with articulate, unwavering courtroom statements, calling for freedom of expression, an end to economic and gender oppression, and a separation of church and state. They were sentenced to two years in prison, and inspired a global movement. Collected here are the words that roused the world.
For readings, declamations, and manifestos by: Frightwig (Deanna Mitchell, Mia Simmans, Cecelia Kuhn, Eric Drew Feldman), Daphne Gottlieb, Penelope Houston (of The Avengers), Sophia Kumin, Meri St. Mary (of The House Coat Project), Michelle Tea, and V. Vale (of Search and Destroy & Re/Search Publications) from an evening in solidarity with Pussy Riot at City Lights check out our podcast here
Of course, punks sometimes drop by City Lights to read; Richard Hell is pictured below…
The sharp, lyrical, and no-holds-barred autobiography of the iconoclastic writer and musician Richard Hell, charting the childhood, coming of age, and misadventures of an artist in an indelible era of rock and roll…
From an early age, Richard Hell dreamed of running away. His father died when he was seven, and at seventeen he left his mother and sister behind and headed for New York City, place of limitless possibilities. He arrived penniless with the idea of becoming a poet; ten years later he was a pivotal voice of the age of punk, starting such seminal bands as Television, the Heartbreakers, and Richard Hell and the Voidoids—whose song “Blank Generation” remains the defining anthem of the era. Hell was significantly responsible for creating CBGB as punk ground zero; his Voidoids toured notoriously with the Clash, and Malcolm McLaren would credit Hell as inspiration for the Sex Pistols. There were kinetic nights in New York’s club demi-monde, descent into drug addiction, and an ever-present yearning for redemption through poetry, music, and art.
“We lived in the suburbs in America in the fifties,” Hell writes. “My roots are shallow. I’m a little jealous of people with strong ethnic and cultural roots. Lucky Martin Scorsese or Art Spiegelman or Dave Chappelle. I came from Hopalong Cassidy and Bugs Bunny and first grade at ordinary Maxwell Elementary.” How this legendary downtown artist went from a prosaic childhood in the idyllic Kentucky foothills to igniting a movement that would take over New York’s and London’s restless youth cultures—and spawn the careers of not only Hell himself, but a cohort of friends such as Tom Verlaine, Patti Smith, the Ramones, and Debbie Harry—is just part of the fascinating story Hell tells. With stunning powers of observation, he delves into the details of both the world that shaped him and the world he shaped.
It was the summer Coltrane died, the summer of love and riots, and the summer when a chance encounter in Brooklyn led two young people on a path of art, devotion, and initiation.
Patti Smith would evolve as a poet and performer, and Robert Mapplethorpe would direct his highly provocative style toward photography. Bound in innocence and enthusiasm, they traversed the city from Coney Island to Forty-second Street, and eventually to the celebrated round table of Max’s Kansas City, where the Andy Warhol contingent held court. In 1969, the pair set up camp at the Hotel Chelsea and soon entered a community of the famous and infamous—the influential artists of the day and the colorful fringe. It was a time of heightened awareness, when the worlds of poetry, rock and roll, art, and sexual politics were colliding and exploding. In this milieu, two kids made a pact to take care of each other. Scrappy, romantic, committed to create, and fueled by their mutual dreams and drives, they would prod and provide for one another during the hungry years.
Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. It serves as a salute to New York City during the late sixties and seventies and to its rich and poor, its hustlers and hellions. A true fable, it is a portrait of two young artists’ ascent, a prelude to fame.
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