PM Press, P.O. Box 23912, Oakland, CA 94623,
A quote on the cover says „John Robb is supremely qualified to talk about punk rock“, if that is the case, why did he then interview over 150 people for these + 550 pages of „oral history“? This is clearly a b/j book. You dont know what that is, lemme tell you, it is a book that only can be read at the beach or in jail, because you need alot of time that you can not spend otherwise and that is alot of times the case on the beach and most of the time in jail, since there is nothing better to do (lucky me, I was at the beach, not in jail!). Said that, you can imagine that I’m not a big fan of this monster. For obvious reasons: it is way too much text, which would not be a problem, would it be interesting what these people have to say, but in most cases it is not.
They just have been at the right place at the right time (sure, most of them played in „legendary“ bands…..) and talk alot without really saying too much. There is some valid information, good behind the curtain knowledge storys and other interesting bits to be found in the book, but it suffers, like so many other „oral history“ books from the „you can not see the wood for the trees“ effect, less trees would be more wood. That is what I expect from a oral history author, to cut the crap out and present only the best. In this case it seems nothing is cut out and we get everything. I said this before, since it is also not the first oral history book about the first years of punk rock, less would have been more. Of course you can find out about what was going on back then, how new and exiting everything was.
But, like the books before about the ’77 years, you also learn that most of the bands, apart that some of them did play some cool music – at least in the beginning, switched to punk because it was new and a possible carrer move/boost. Almost all had managers or major recordcompanys looking after them – for some people that is still cool today. And even if you find people talking about change in society or crys for revolution, it seems most the people back then where interested in music and fashion and having a good time (in general, there is nothing wrong with that….!). But, that is old news, nothing new here, at least nothing I can remember.
Speaking of memory, it is, again, astonishing how good all the people memorize things that happend 30 years ago. The book has a bunch of different chapters, starting off with the „roots of punk (50-69)“, „glam rock and other early seventies revolutions (70-74)“ and then becomes much more detailed for the years 75 (the start of punk) to 79 (the second wave peaks) and ends with „protest and survive (80-84)“. In between the different chapters there is usually a short recap text by Robb, which is mostly the most interesting bit, since it gets to the point.
To top things off, also footnotes are used to complete this build up of useless knowledge. The funny thing is that the author sometimes makes use of them when he disagrees with the opinion of a history vomiter. If I remember correctly he „footnotes in“, when something is said, that I would sign (like when people complain about punk back then beeing very commercial and such…) – but I do like the idea. Luckily there is a few photos here and there that loose up the mass of text. Not sure why Henry Rollins wrote the introduction, but, why not, the press sheet says Lars Fredriksen wrote it.. last minute changes, not that it matters.
But hey, if you can not get enough of your The Clash, Sex Pistols, Stranglers and so on and if you love to listen to the main players from back then (they are all in here), then you will have hours and hours of fun. In the beginning the + 150 contributers are listed alphabethical by name and their bands/doing. Also in the beginning of the book it always says the bandname, I wish that would have been the case thru the whole book…. hitting page 474 nobody will remember who Guy Trelford is, and browsing back and forth is not a good option either. One thing is for sure, you get alot to read for twenty bucks. (dolf)
19,95 US $, www.pmpress.org
Isbn 978 1 60486 005 4
[Trust # 157 December 2012]