Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution
By Stephen Colegrave and Chris Sullivan
Super quick story time: When I was fourteen, I took a trip to California with my high school chorus. Our travel package included breakfast at the hotel every morning and dinner at a different mid-grade restaurant every night. I brought along a pre-loaded debit card for drinks, snacks, lunch, and souvenirs. I should preface this by saying that I am/was very responsible with money and saved up thousands of dollars in high school from part-time waitressing.
The second day/first full day of the trip we were around Los Angeles and got dumped out of our bus at a pretty impressive mall to wander about before our next stop. My friends and I were immediately drawn to a three-story Borders bookstore, something we had never encountered in our small area of Florida. We all left with books, but I left with books and…no food money left for the rest of the trip. I bought a language book and two books on this list at their full MSRP and even got talked into a rewards cards despite the lack of Borders in central Florida. That's how important these two books are to me.
First, Punk: The Definitive Record of a Revolution. In my defense, this book had been on my nascent Amazon wish list for at least a year before I set eyes on it for the first time in real life in that California Borders. It’s a fantastic coffee table book of original photos and writings of the heyday of '70s punk, primarily focused on the London/King’s Road scene that led to Sex Pistols and The Clash. It talks fashion, politics, scenes, court decisions, record labels, and the strange changemaster who is Pistols’ former manager Malcolm McLauren.
Highlights include proto-punk backstory of the Stooges and MC5, a full story on the fashion side of UK punk featuring Vivienne Westwood, and so so many interviews from just about everyone who was around at the time.
I adore this book. It’s one of those books that has somehow become a part of my personal psyche, like the movie Clue or Beatles music. Even after losing my first copy (which is ridiculous because it’s a pretty big book), I just had to rebuy it on Amazon to experience it all over again.
Fans of British punk music, people who say punk began in the UK, history fans, photography people, people who really like Sid Vicious, artsy and fashion people, people who do not mind having a book that includes graphic imagery on their coffee table
Turning Points in Rock and Roll
By Hank Bordowitz
This was the second book for which I willingly spent five days’ worth of lunch money while visiting the price-inflated land of Los Angeles. I read the entire thing on the two plane rides home and have never once regretted the decision.
While this book isn’t specifically about punk, it is another key book in understanding the history and evolution of music from the rhythm and blues that predated rock all the way to the grunge movement. Each chapter marks a specific “turning point.” For example, the movie Blackboard Jungle coming out in 1954, Beatlemania, or MTV’s original launch. Each point in time does something to change and propel the popularity of rock music.
Punk gets its own chapter mostly centered on the US tour of Sex Pistols in 1977. This “turning point” after the metaphorical death of the 1960’s ideal at Altamont transitions rock from the twenty-minute keyboard solos of arena and prog rock back to the basics of the three-piece band and three-minute song. For the book, it also straddles the line from live music to the MTV era of music videos and graphics competing for attention. Despite only committing ten pages specifically to punk music, Turning Points in Rock and Roll helps to put the explosion of ’76-’77 punk into a larger musical and cultural context. After reading from cover to cover, one can really pinpoint the influence of Robert Johnson’s blues, Les Paul’s solid-body guitar, the death of Buddy Holly, and even the influx of rock journalism in punk culture as a whole.
Music history buffs, people who may not understand how punk is/was important to the story of music, people who want to read random chapters of a book without committing to the entire read, people who would gladly put aside a few hours to read a great book cover to cover
Stay tuned for more book reviews concerning the philosophy and politics of punk culture.