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Punk Rock: An Oral History

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'To see The Clash on the White Riot tour was like discovering how to be a rock star: you just did it yourself. You didn't wait for someone to come and discover you. That was the most important thing that came out of punk... We came home and we cut our hair and bought skinny trousers. It was year zero. That was the moment for me' Billy Bragg Punk Rock is a book like no other 'To see The Clash on the White Riot tour was like discovering how to be a rock star: you just did it yourself. You didn't wait for someone to come and discover you. That was the most important thing that came out of punk... We came home and we cut our hair and bought skinny trousers. It was year zero. That was the moment for me' Billy Bragg Punk Rock is a book like no other. It is an oral history of a radical movement which exploded in Seventies Britain. With its own clothes, hair, artwork, fanzines and radical politics, Punk boasted a DIY ethos that meant anyone could take part. The scene was uniquely vibrant and energetic, leaving an extraordinary legacy of notorious events, charismatic characters and inspirational music. John Robb has spent over a year interviewing more than 100 contributors including Glen Matlock, Mick Jones, Don Letts, Slash, Billy Bragg, Hugh Cornwell and Captain Sensible. Now, for the first time, they give the inside view on events such as The Sex Pistols' swearing live on the Bill Grundy TV show and staging their anti-Jubilee riverboat party on the Thames, famous gigs at The Roxy and 100 Club, and the groundbreaking records by The Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and others. From the widely debated roots of punk in the late-Sixties through to the fallout of the post-punk period in 1984, and the ongoing influence on today's bands, Punk Rock is the definitive oral history of an inimitable and exciting movement.


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'To see The Clash on the White Riot tour was like discovering how to be a rock star: you just did it yourself. You didn't wait for someone to come and discover you. That was the most important thing that came out of punk... We came home and we cut our hair and bought skinny trousers. It was year zero. That was the moment for me' Billy Bragg Punk Rock is a book like no other 'To see The Clash on the White Riot tour was like discovering how to be a rock star: you just did it yourself. You didn't wait for someone to come and discover you. That was the most important thing that came out of punk... We came home and we cut our hair and bought skinny trousers. It was year zero. That was the moment for me' Billy Bragg Punk Rock is a book like no other. It is an oral history of a radical movement which exploded in Seventies Britain. With its own clothes, hair, artwork, fanzines and radical politics, Punk boasted a DIY ethos that meant anyone could take part. The scene was uniquely vibrant and energetic, leaving an extraordinary legacy of notorious events, charismatic characters and inspirational music. John Robb has spent over a year interviewing more than 100 contributors including Glen Matlock, Mick Jones, Don Letts, Slash, Billy Bragg, Hugh Cornwell and Captain Sensible. Now, for the first time, they give the inside view on events such as The Sex Pistols' swearing live on the Bill Grundy TV show and staging their anti-Jubilee riverboat party on the Thames, famous gigs at The Roxy and 100 Club, and the groundbreaking records by The Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and others. From the widely debated roots of punk in the late-Sixties through to the fallout of the post-punk period in 1984, and the ongoing influence on today's bands, Punk Rock is the definitive oral history of an inimitable and exciting movement.

30 review for Punk Rock: An Oral History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Tipper

    I loved this big brick of a book of punk history. It’s got the actual words of all the key players and I read things here I haven’t read in any other books about punk.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Julie Suzanne

    I'm impressed with my perseverance and commitment to finishing this book, all 539 pages, since it wasn't all that enjoyable. First, it just needed to be a video documentary. This oral history had no business being a book, in my opinion, and I think who will enjoy it most is the lot of OG punks who hung out at Sex and attended those first shows at elite art schools, rehearsal spaces, and pubs. Almost half of the book was spent discussing how it all began, which was amusing at times since differen I'm impressed with my perseverance and commitment to finishing this book, all 539 pages, since it wasn't all that enjoyable. First, it just needed to be a video documentary. This oral history had no business being a book, in my opinion, and I think who will enjoy it most is the lot of OG punks who hung out at Sex and attended those first shows at elite art schools, rehearsal spaces, and pubs. Almost half of the book was spent discussing how it all began, which was amusing at times since different people had entirely different memories of the same event, and attributed many different people, events, and places to being the "first" or the origins of the movement that was never a movement, etc. There is little that everyone agrees with when looking back to create a narrative of the origins of punk. Lots of redundancy, lots of conflicting stories, stories that were not really interesting anyway....it just wasn't great. I say it would appeal mostly to these OG punks because I was not familiar with a lot of what was being described. I had to use my phone constantly to look up slang, styles of clothing, sounds, etc. because there were barely any pictures at all...GOD, if ONLY this were a documentary so that there was audio and visual! I've seen punk documentaries, and they are great, so really, I'm a bit annoyed with myself for sticking with this book when I learned very little that enhances my understanding or will impact my life. Also, it is all based in the UK and very little of what happens in the USA is mentioned besides the Ramones, who were influential and critical and but also total drivel and unimportant, depending on whose oral history you're reading at any point in this book. Lyrics, by the way, were not at all important within these 500+ pages, nor what any band was trying to say. But I know in excruciating detail where they played, who was swapped out for whom in forming the band, which labels signed whom and how great or horrible that was, depending on whom you ask... The performers, those involved in the original scene, narrate with very limited vocabularies and keep it very surface level...you don't really get anything deep or surprising out of this. It was a delight to see what an arrogant SOB John Lydon is, but I think everyone already knew that; I now know it even more. The book will probably be treasured by some much older people who were teens or 20-somethings in the mid-to-late seventies in the UK, but for us Americans and later generations, much of this is rubbish. I'm off to read The Story of Crass, because I imagine that will be fascinating, and in the future (aside from this book about Crass), if I learn more about punk, I will do so by watching and listening, not reading. Prepare tedious and conflicting chronicling of events, and all of the best things about punk being totally glossed over. I earned a paltry 5 points for Book Battle for reading a book about music, yay.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    Three-and-a-half stars. UK punk, with three chapters each on 1976 and 1977 and one each devoted to 1978 and 1979. UK Punk burned bright and fast. It started fashionable (or anti-fashion), arty and snotty. It seemed everyone knew each other living on such a small island. According to those interviewed in this book, it quickly became a trend and lost its edge. There are loads of names and bands I'd never heard of before who perhaps never really hit in the U.S. Or maybe time has forgotten them a bit Three-and-a-half stars. UK punk, with three chapters each on 1976 and 1977 and one each devoted to 1978 and 1979. UK Punk burned bright and fast. It started fashionable (or anti-fashion), arty and snotty. It seemed everyone knew each other living on such a small island. According to those interviewed in this book, it quickly became a trend and lost its edge. There are loads of names and bands I'd never heard of before who perhaps never really hit in the U.S. Or maybe time has forgotten them a bit. Regardless, I appreciate that this isn't just the big players. On the other hand, the book may have too much ground to cover by including so many voices. After a while it felt like "meanwhile, this happened...meanwhile, this happened;" earlier on, this gave a sense of punk taking over, but as the book went on dragged a bit. (view spoiler)[ Notes: Punk influences most noted here are: The Stooges, the New York Dolls, Mott the Hoople, MC5 and David Bowie. Also the Faces, T. Rex and Roxy Music. Malcolm McLaren ran a hip, niche clothing shop that was a hang-out spot. After numerous names, it became Sex. John Lydon frequented the shop and its fellow Kings Road shop Acme Attractions. It was Malcolm who recommended Lydon to the other band members. Lydon already wore torn up clothing and such. (McLaren, who also traveled to the States periodically, had also recommended Richard Hell, but the logistics of a singer in the States made no sense.) Mick Jones and another guy named Tony James (later to play with Billy Idol) were conceptualizing a band called the London SS. The guys met Bernie Rhodes (their manager, who had worked for Malcolm McLaren before) and the band started holding auditions. (Morrissey sent a tape all the way from Manchester. Chrissie Hynde auditioned.) Brian James (later of the Damned) was the first one they let in the group. Next came Rat Scabies (named by Mick Jones, later of the Damned) on drums. They went around listening to pub bands looking for something; one r’n’b band (the 101ers) had a notable singer, Joe Strummer. After weeks (months?) of auditioning London SS dissolved. From Jan 1976 to 1979, a NY magazine called Punk covered the bands in the CBGBs scene. This is where the name came from. In 1976, Mick Jones was living in a squat with Sid Vicious and Vivenne Albertine, later of the Slits. John Lydon gave Sid Vicious his name, after his hamster Sid the Vicious…whose name was after Syd Barrett. (88) April 3, 1976, the Sex Pistols open for the 101ers. Clearly influenced, Joe Strummer quits his band afterward. The future members of the Buzzcocks journeyed down from Manchester to see the Sex Pistols. Immediately, the band they had been playing in found its direction. The Buzzcocks guys got the Sex Pistols to play Manchester. Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order) was at the gig and got a bass the next day. He met Joy Division’s first drummer there. Shane McGowan, later of the Pogues, was there. The venue played the Ramones first album before the show, released April 23, 1976. By the second Manchester Sex Pistols gig, the Buzzcocks were opening. The founders of the Fall were in attendance. In London, the Damned, the Jam and the Clash all started coming together. July 4, 1976, the Clash have their first gig opening for the Sex Pistols. Keith Levene, who was in the Clash at that point, asked John Lydon about them starting a band if the Sex Pistols didn’t work out…they later were in Public Image, Ltd. That same weekend (July 4 and July 5), the Ramones played their first UK shows. London bands started speeding up their tempos after that. July 13, 1976: The Sniffin’ Glue fanzine (which ran for a year and was selling 20,000 copies by the end of its run) was started, starting the fanzine craze. 100 Club Festival with The Clash and the Sex Pistols one night (September 20) and the Damned and the Buzzcocks the other night (Sept 21). Siouxsie and the Banshees (with Sid Vicious on drums) as well as the Subway Sect made their debuts. This festival brought punk out of the underground. The Slits are started at a Patti Smith concert. The Adverts are formed. Tony James and Billy Idol play in a band called Chelsea that later shifts around members and changes their name to Generation X, a name taken from a book on youth culture from 1964. Oct 8 – Sex Pistols sign with EMI. Oct 22 – The Damned’s “New Rose” is released. Nov 28 – “Anarchy in the UK” drops. To support it, the Sex Pistols go on a talk show and swear on TV, starting a media frenzy. As a result, most of the dates on the tour get cancelled. The Clash and the Damned are on the tour, but the Damned get kicked off. By end of 1976, the Roxy club is opened, English punk’s first club. It closes 100 days later. 1977 The Buzzcocks release a 7” EP and have personnel changes afterward. The Sex Pistols are dropped from EMI and picked up by A&M. The bass player quits and Sid Vicious joins. A&M drops them and Virgin signs them on May 12. Feb 18, 1977: The Damned release the first English punk album. They then are the first to tour the U.S. Mar – “White Riot” single April 8 – Clash LP April 22: The Adverts release their first single. May 27: “God Save the Queen” and was banned. June 7: Sex Pistols play a boat on the Thames June 11 "God Save the Queen" hits #1, despite being banned. Mid-Aug – Sex Pistols tour under fake names since they were banned from most places Oct 28: Never Mind the Bullocks 1978: Jan: On a US tour, the Sex Pistols play their final shows. There is an attitude in the book that by this point punk was just sputtering on, it’s peak behind it, what was left bandwagon fans. John Lydon puts together Public Image, Ltd. Oct: Nancy Spungen dies by stabbing. Sid Vicious arrested. 1979: Feb: Sid Vicious overdoses on heroin and dies. 1980: Ian Curtis (Joy Division) dies by suicide and Malcom Owens (The Ruts) overdoses on heroin. (hide spoiler)]

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tim Houlton

    Superb: reminded me of gigs, venues, bands & individuals I'd seen, been to & met but had half forgotten over 30 odd years. Also confirms that the SPOTS gigs were not a figment of my imagination. Very sound on the distinction between middle class art school fashion victims in the first wave, and their dismissal of the more honest bands who reached the same place through convergent evolution. Lydon & McClaren did not invent UK punk. McLaren's voice is notable for it's absense, and Lydon still holds Superb: reminded me of gigs, venues, bands & individuals I'd seen, been to & met but had half forgotten over 30 odd years. Also confirms that the SPOTS gigs were not a figment of my imagination. Very sound on the distinction between middle class art school fashion victims in the first wave, and their dismissal of the more honest bands who reached the same place through convergent evolution. Lydon & McClaren did not invent UK punk. McLaren's voice is notable for it's absense, and Lydon still holds to his conceited “there's me, and imitators of me" line, but that's Rotten for you... Titanium balls, great charismatic vocalist/front man, but not the god he deludes himself to be. Robb's intro's and footnotes are concise, accurate and relevant, without obstructing the voices of the people who in 5 odd years gave us the biggest influence on contemporary pop/rock since the Beatles

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brie

    My second read through of this and I had the same problem as first time. I loved the book up to the Joy Division part and then my interest lagged because my interest in the post-punk after that was low. I loved the switching of stories between people in the bands. It was really interesting, fun, and often funny. I also remain a bit amazed most these people were 17-22 years old when punk came into being. I loved the people who had great memories that told their parts, Mick Jones of The Clash stan My second read through of this and I had the same problem as first time. I loved the book up to the Joy Division part and then my interest lagged because my interest in the post-punk after that was low. I loved the switching of stories between people in the bands. It was really interesting, fun, and often funny. I also remain a bit amazed most these people were 17-22 years old when punk came into being. I loved the people who had great memories that told their parts, Mick Jones of The Clash stands out in this in my mind. And not just because he was in my favorite punk band. He is like scary in memory recall of even dates, bands that played, and who was there. Just wow about him. Overall, a fun, informative read. Glad I revisited it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bfmc Spook

    It's more of a pub-rock book, it's very good but not really my scene. It wasn't a very quick read for me and I found my self not caring about the stories, this is mostly likely because I'm the product of the 80's NYC scene. I did learn a lot and was reminded about a few artists I had long forgotten about. It's more of a pub-rock book, it's very good but not really my scene. It wasn't a very quick read for me and I found my self not caring about the stories, this is mostly likely because I'm the product of the 80's NYC scene. I did learn a lot and was reminded about a few artists I had long forgotten about.

  7. 4 out of 5

    patty

    An oral history of the "punk rock" scene in the UK presented much like it's USA counterpart "Please Kill Me." An oral history of the "punk rock" scene in the UK presented much like it's USA counterpart "Please Kill Me."

  8. 5 out of 5

    catechism

    More like 3.5, I think, but I rounded up. It started a bit slow (I keep trying to care about the early pub rock scene, but I just don't) and ended a bit slow, but I thought the middle chunk was great. More splintered than Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk -- really, the more oral histories I read, the more impressed I am with that one and its strangely cohesive narrative, which is very difficult to pull off -- and faaaar more about the music than the gossip. I learned hardly an More like 3.5, I think, but I rounded up. It started a bit slow (I keep trying to care about the early pub rock scene, but I just don't) and ended a bit slow, but I thought the middle chunk was great. More splintered than Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk -- really, the more oral histories I read, the more impressed I am with that one and its strangely cohesive narrative, which is very difficult to pull off -- and faaaar more about the music than the gossip. I learned hardly any gossip! Still a pretty good read, though.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Roger Huddleston

    Those who are already familiar with the punk movement, bands, and particularly key people involved might enjoy this book. While most people likely know the Sex Pistols and The Clash, I for one was less familiar with all the individual musicians in the numerous other punk bands that came into being in the mid-late '70's, and as a result, I found the book format choppy and hard to follow. Consisting of snippets of comments from a large number of musicians, writers, managers, and producers, tied to Those who are already familiar with the punk movement, bands, and particularly key people involved might enjoy this book. While most people likely know the Sex Pistols and The Clash, I for one was less familiar with all the individual musicians in the numerous other punk bands that came into being in the mid-late '70's, and as a result, I found the book format choppy and hard to follow. Consisting of snippets of comments from a large number of musicians, writers, managers, and producers, tied together in essentially a linear timeline, it lacks the cohesiveness of a single biography, and does not have enough editorial integration to tie each of the pieces together.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ed Wagemann

    Why Everything You Think You Know About Punk Is Completely Wrong: http://generation-add.blogspot.com/20... Why Everything You Think You Know About Punk Is Completely Wrong: http://generation-add.blogspot.com/20...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brianna Westervelt

    Is it still punk rock to read a book about punk rock? Well, it's apparently punk rock to not hire a proofreader... Is it still punk rock to read a book about punk rock? Well, it's apparently punk rock to not hire a proofreader...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christine Fuentes

    Surprised at all the Morrissey references.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Kahn

    A very good history of the punk movement. I found the early-going when they're talking about their influences informative but a little repetitive, and then the middle part a little disjointed, but overall, I really learned a lot. I knew mostly the big bands - the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, UK Subs. I had heard of The Slits but didn't know anything about them, and had heard of The Stranglers but didn't know they were from the same era. Ditto for The Jam. And then there were tons of bands A very good history of the punk movement. I found the early-going when they're talking about their influences informative but a little repetitive, and then the middle part a little disjointed, but overall, I really learned a lot. I knew mostly the big bands - the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, UK Subs. I had heard of The Slits but didn't know anything about them, and had heard of The Stranglers but didn't know they were from the same era. Ditto for The Jam. And then there were tons of bands that I'd never heard of that were fairly big names. Robb does a great job of following the evolution of the movement, so you see how it became New Romantic, Goth, New Wave, etc. He did a good job of explaining Oi music - I had heard it was a right-wing, racist skinhead music and nothing else, so it was a bit of an eyeopener to hear that wasn't the reality. I really feel I've learned a lot about the scene that I never knew before - especially how small it started - the same people going to all the same shows. And it was interesting to see mention of people like Ian Astbury as being an earlier follower of Crass. I always forget that all these people would have been influenced or grown up during the punk years. I've seen Boy George talk about how punk affected him and thought really? But it makes sense that if you were living in England at the time it would have effected you. And punk's heyday was just before the dawn of the '80s, so of course it would have an impact. My only two complaints are that the final chapter, Outro, was a little too overdone - "punk is everywhere!" and that John Lydon is a prick. Obviously, you can't avoid quoting him, but I find he's so self-absorbed and full of himself that he can't give anyone else any credit for anything. His quotes were probably the worst parts of the book. I read his autobiography at one point and he was the same in that. Just a self-absorbed pretentious jerk. But those aside, I'd heartily recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn more about the English punk scene.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steve Erickson

    Robb's epic-length (almost 600-page) history of punk, published in 2006, is different from competing books in a number of ways. It begins with 1950s rock'n'roll and ends in 1984, not 1978 or 1979. Robb is refreshingly unconcerned with hipness: he interviews members of bands like the U.K. Subs, Vibrators and Stranglers, who are generally left out of the punk canon. John Lydon gets plenty of room to complain entertainingly (he doesn't even like the Fall wholeheartedly!), but he's far from the most Robb's epic-length (almost 600-page) history of punk, published in 2006, is different from competing books in a number of ways. It begins with 1950s rock'n'roll and ends in 1984, not 1978 or 1979. Robb is refreshingly unconcerned with hipness: he interviews members of bands like the U.K. Subs, Vibrators and Stranglers, who are generally left out of the punk canon. John Lydon gets plenty of room to complain entertainingly (he doesn't even like the Fall wholeheartedly!), but he's far from the most dominant voice, and members of the Damned may get more space than him. This is the only book I've read about punk to take Oi! seriously, and it's also the only one not devoted to the genre's politics to give anarcho-punk much room. But it also goes into the genre's roots; it's amusing to read about some of the older musicians' days as hippies, and Robb gives credit to British bands like the Pink Fairies, Hawkwind and Edgar Broughton Band - as well as more obvious precursors like T. Rex and David Bowie - for bridging the gap. This really should've been called BRITISH PUNK ROCK: AN ORAL HISTORY; although Robb interviews Irish, French and Australian musicians, he never talks to any Americans. Nevertheless, while Lydon and a few other artists spout off "everything from America is crap" bullshit, Robb gives credit where it's due, especially to the Ramones' first album as an inspiration to British punks (whom, he claims, immediately sped up their tempos.) It may help that Robb himself is both a musician (in the '80s indie rock band the Membranes, who declared "death to trad rock") and a critic.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ray Dunsmore

    A fascinating, entertaining history of the UK punk scene from the many horses' mouths of the scene. Comprehensive interviews with everyone from Mick Jones to John Lydon to Tony Wilson to Poly Styrene to Colin Newman to J.J. Burnell to Billy Bragg. Name any major group of the UK punk scene and they're mentioned in here, if not actively speaking for themselves. An invaluable document of a fascinating scene. A fascinating, entertaining history of the UK punk scene from the many horses' mouths of the scene. Comprehensive interviews with everyone from Mick Jones to John Lydon to Tony Wilson to Poly Styrene to Colin Newman to J.J. Burnell to Billy Bragg. Name any major group of the UK punk scene and they're mentioned in here, if not actively speaking for themselves. An invaluable document of a fascinating scene.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Kind of a sloppy book, and not totally cohesive. But Robb talks to the right people, emphasizes the importance of women throughout, and does a good job of exploring origins, setting the stage and then letting the speakers have their say.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Suzeesg

    LOVED reading about the bands' early musical influences, and what the music scene was really like in the late 60's, early 70's. LOVED reading about the bands' early musical influences, and what the music scene was really like in the late 60's, early 70's.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lisa S

    a chill read about a pretty fascinating moment in rock music history, I enjoyed the focus on different cities, different countries and the wealth of influences of punk

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A fascinating, engaging yet comprehensive history of the all-too-brief punk rock movement, its influences, and its legacy edited by someone who actually was there. A must for any music fan

  20. 4 out of 5

    Donald

    A look at punk rock in Britain a great read for those of us who love the music

  21. 5 out of 5

    Noah Switalski

    weirdly almost as long as Gravity's Rainbow and it took the same kind of dedication to the subject to continue through the end but pretty good, nice work John Robb weirdly almost as long as Gravity's Rainbow and it took the same kind of dedication to the subject to continue through the end but pretty good, nice work John Robb

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lora Yorke

    This is my favorite book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jill Miller

    I had a vision for a story that I wanted to work on and went to research when I came upon this book at the library. I was glued to the book the moment I held it. It was with me at work, in the car, in bed and at four in the morning. I enjoyed it so much that I bought my own copy. The Clash were among the top five bands that was required listening in my household growing up. They were my dad's favorite band and I will always trace the band back to him. He concentrated on me liking their music mor I had a vision for a story that I wanted to work on and went to research when I came upon this book at the library. I was glued to the book the moment I held it. It was with me at work, in the car, in bed and at four in the morning. I enjoyed it so much that I bought my own copy. The Clash were among the top five bands that was required listening in my household growing up. They were my dad's favorite band and I will always trace the band back to him. He concentrated on me liking their music more than telling me stories about them, from what I can remember. I can thank my dad for the music, but I can thank John Robb for writing Punks entire history in one book. I could only remember very little of the band and since my main focus was the Clash, I began seeking out their story. But you can't learn how the Clash started without knowing where Joe Strummer came from or how Keith Levene and Mick Jones were in a band before the Clash came together. Like every story, you start at the beginning. Everything is intertwined and I learned so much more that I already knew. The bands feed off each other's music and fashion sense. It's amazing to see that then and today. I learned that Joe was in a band that was rising pretty quick but left to join Mick and Keith to form the Clash. I learned the tours they did, the recordings and all the bad fucking ass things in the mix that not only them, but everyone in the scene set the lifestyle of music today. This is a book you can't find on the internet and read quickly up on Wikipedia. This book is like gold to all that enjoy music and Punk Rock, and should be treasured while reading. It's like a time machine that I wish I had so I could go back to the Shea Stadium show. The style of the book is also interesting. It written in sections by the eras/years/moments, setting up each story and told by musicians, photographers, reporters etc. who were there. It's different and refreshing from any biography I've ever read. If you love Punk then this is for you.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark Russell

    For readers interested in the British punk movement of the late 70's and early 80's, and in particular the London scene, this oral history is definitive. The entries compiled by John Robb (himself formerly the lead singer of The Membranes) represents a masterfully assembled range of stars, forgotten sidemen, journalists and fans. The result is an exhaustive yet intimate look at what is arguably the most influential period of rock and roll history. The fact that he got to interview Ari Up and Pol For readers interested in the British punk movement of the late 70's and early 80's, and in particular the London scene, this oral history is definitive. The entries compiled by John Robb (himself formerly the lead singer of The Membranes) represents a masterfully assembled range of stars, forgotten sidemen, journalists and fans. The result is an exhaustive yet intimate look at what is arguably the most influential period of rock and roll history. The fact that he got to interview Ari Up and Poly Styrene before they died makes this collection that much more invaluable. What I really like about the oral history approach is that you not only get first hand accounts of the movement's major and minor players, but also a very real sense of their personalities. Ari Up, like her step-father John Lydon, comes across as curmudgeonly, but also hilariously blunt and unswervingly honest. I can't even begin to imagine what those family dinners must have been like. Captain Sensible plays the aging madman who never quite outlived his party-boy past. And Mick Jones is the affable guy who has fond memories of everyone. You kind of imagine him in his spare time sitting in a park and feeding ducks. If I have one criticism of this book, it's that its momentum fades as the first wave groups flame out and punk factionalizes into Oi, Ska, New Wave, etc. Little known fun facts: Chrissie Hynde was alternately engaged to both Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. reportedly they had agreed to marry her so she could stay in the UK, but Rotten got spooked by the media attention following the Bill Grundy interview and Vicious, with the better excuse, moved to America and died of a heroin overdose. Sid Vicious was the original drummer for Siouxsie and the Banshees. The punk anthem "Alternative Ulster" was written as an advert for the short-lived fanzine Alternative Ulster.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kurt

    Set up in the told-through-first-person interview style, this is a good, interesting account of the early phases of the British Punk movement. I really like the fact that it gives so much background information on where Punk came from, and that it shows that it didn't just spring from nowhere full blown. The different players all discuss their influences and how they ended up getting together. The story of the great lost pre-Punk band London SS (containing future members of The Clash, Generation Set up in the told-through-first-person interview style, this is a good, interesting account of the early phases of the British Punk movement. I really like the fact that it gives so much background information on where Punk came from, and that it shows that it didn't just spring from nowhere full blown. The different players all discuss their influences and how they ended up getting together. The story of the great lost pre-Punk band London SS (containing future members of The Clash, Generation X and The Damned)is told in great detail. If you're interested in how Punk started and came to be, this is a great resource. There are a lot of great stories scattered throughout (how Johnny Moped got his name!) and you get to know some of these folks personalities a bit; Captain Sensible is a funny bastard...My interest in such things probably runs deeper than most and this is my second time reading the book. Recommended. Interestingly, as I was reading the section on The Stranglers, Hugh Cornwell, their original singer, came into town and played the entire first Stranglers album, as well as some other great Stranglers tunes (Blondie drummer Clem Burke pounding away on drums). Also, as I was reading a part about The Slits and went back and was listening to some, Ari Up, their singer died. Towards the end of the book it discusses the rise of Killing Joke, who happen to be coming through town in December, with their first line-up reunited for the first time in years. I may have to go to that.It's the same night that Peter Hook will be in town performing Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures in its entirety. The Birthday Party is also mentioned in the book and Nick Cave just came through and played a rollicking Grinderman set. I guess there's still life in the old monster yet.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sirbriang2

    One thing readers should know is that this is focused on British punk rock until 1984. Little to nothing is mentioned of American bands. That's ok, but the title doesn't really explain that fact. At its best, this book takes interview snippets from dozens of people that were actively involved in the first and second waves of punk. Most of the interviewees are candid and it can be fun watching them reflect. This book does a good job recontextualizing the music, explaining why bands were important One thing readers should know is that this is focused on British punk rock until 1984. Little to nothing is mentioned of American bands. That's ok, but the title doesn't really explain that fact. At its best, this book takes interview snippets from dozens of people that were actively involved in the first and second waves of punk. Most of the interviewees are candid and it can be fun watching them reflect. This book does a good job recontextualizing the music, explaining why bands were important at that moment in time. I came away from this with an enormous "must listen" list of bands and songs that I either had never heard of or never valued because I didn't know what the song/album/band was about. On the whole, though, I was underwhelmed. Most of it stems from the contributing interviewees; some bands have multiple band members offering insights throughout the book, while other important bands have one member showing up only once or twice, or else there are odd inclusions or omissions. For instance, the entertaining Irish punks Rudi are mentioned more than the far more successful Stiff Little Fingers, from the same area and period. No member of the Clash is featured in the book to talk about the band's success or the scene (Mick Jones does talk about the bands that influenced him and how the Clash formed). Instead, we are given a lot of quotes from the Damned and Stranglers. Sometimes, there will be substantial space given to interviewees talking badly about a band, and the only positive notes are the author's footnotes! I would complain about John Lydon's arrogance, but that's just how he works. Am I glad I read it? Yes. I am certain that I will find new music to love from these stories. It wasn't good for a whole lot else, though.

  27. 5 out of 5

    V

    If you're like me and love to read about punk, you will find this book extremely interesting! It calls itself an oral history, and the information for the book centers around first-account interviews with people from the scene. In fact, this book would have gotten at least four stars if it had not been for a few minor issues: 1. It was very choppy, and the organization threw me off a bit. I almost wish that every interview would have been a different section, which would have allowed it to flow m If you're like me and love to read about punk, you will find this book extremely interesting! It calls itself an oral history, and the information for the book centers around first-account interviews with people from the scene. In fact, this book would have gotten at least four stars if it had not been for a few minor issues: 1. It was very choppy, and the organization threw me off a bit. I almost wish that every interview would have been a different section, which would have allowed it to flow more smoothly. 2. It's focus was primarily on the punk scene in Britain, and aside from mentioning Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the New York Dolls, and the Ramones, it did not even touch on the music that was happening in America. I would have liked to hear about the Germs, the Dead Kennedys, and other bands in L.A. 3. (This point cannot be helped, but it was one of my issues with the book, so I'm going to say it anyway) The footnotes were distracting. However, as far as punk non-fiction goes, it is a great primary resource with loads of dense, interesting material about the rise (and somewhat fall) of punk rock in Britain in the 1970s through the early 1980s.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sheba

    What a simultaneously exciting and frustrating read. So much information to take in, but the "punk rock" editing of these quotes was often maddening and chaotic. A subject would be introduced and discussed for a page, only to be unceremoniously dumped, then picked up much later under a different introduction. Maddening! But it's still an amazing book. Particularly in that the subjects draw the links between other movements and punk so precisely that these links--between reggae and punk, between What a simultaneously exciting and frustrating read. So much information to take in, but the "punk rock" editing of these quotes was often maddening and chaotic. A subject would be introduced and discussed for a page, only to be unceremoniously dumped, then picked up much later under a different introduction. Maddening! But it's still an amazing book. Particularly in that the subjects draw the links between other movements and punk so precisely that these links--between reggae and punk, between glam and punk, between pub rock and punk, between politics and punk, between fashion and punk, etc.--can no longer be subconsciously or consciously ignored by those who prefer to gloss over these aspects, thankfully. And Robb managed to gather some pretty significant quotes from folks that don't come across as cleaned-up, which is refreshing. One can clearly see the pettiness as equally as one can see the passion in the early progenitors thoughts. It's a weighty chronicle because of this, but it's so, so worth the almost 600-page slog.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Thanks to Chris for giving me this book read idea. It interesting to hear all the old punks saying how the Sex Pistols really were something new and fresh at the time. I was certain people were going to say how they were fashion victim sell outs from the start - but apparently they were something to pay attention to in the early days. I've always been a John Lydon fan - with his quick wit and perfect one-liners. I'm quite confused by The Jam being placed in the punk category, but I've just reach Thanks to Chris for giving me this book read idea. It interesting to hear all the old punks saying how the Sex Pistols really were something new and fresh at the time. I was certain people were going to say how they were fashion victim sell outs from the start - but apparently they were something to pay attention to in the early days. I've always been a John Lydon fan - with his quick wit and perfect one-liners. I'm quite confused by The Jam being placed in the punk category, but I've just reached that chapter so let's see if they can convert me..

  30. 5 out of 5

    Philthy Free Brown

    Fantastic book. The best book on the subject along with 'England's Dreaming' What shades this book is that it's a far less narrow look at punk that 'Englands Dreaming' and covers lots of the other bands that made up punk. Brilliantly researched there are countless stories in here you won't have heard before as well whole new ways of thinking about punk. The author certainly knows his stuff, he's the frontman of the Membranes and Goldblade and a key part of the UK punk scene and been a music writer Fantastic book. The best book on the subject along with 'England's Dreaming' What shades this book is that it's a far less narrow look at punk that 'Englands Dreaming' and covers lots of the other bands that made up punk. Brilliantly researched there are countless stories in here you won't have heard before as well whole new ways of thinking about punk. The author certainly knows his stuff, he's the frontman of the Membranes and Goldblade and a key part of the UK punk scene and been a music writer for years.

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