Tag Archive: Punk Rock


A NEW DAY YESTERDAY by Mike Barnes (Omnibus Press, 2020)

book cover

The decision to undertake a full survey of Progressive Rock music in the UK up to the mid-1970s is as bold and bonkers a project as a band embarking on a triple concept album. Yet, it works for me.

Progressive (Prog) Rock evolved in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of what Wiki defines as a “mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility”

Mike Barnes challenges the common prejudices surrounding this much maligned genre.

In setting the record straight, he immediately dispels the myth that Prog songs were mostly about wizards, elves and hobbits. He also shows that, contrary to common belief, bands were not universally trying to bridge the divide between classical music and rock. Rather, jazz, blues and psychedelia were key influences. Continue reading

1966 – The Year The Decade Exploded by Jon Savage (Faber & Faber, 2015)

1966“It’s pretty obvious that contemporary music reflects contemporary life. And vice versa” wrote Tony Hall in Record Mirror in 1966. What is taken for granted now needed to be spelled out then.

Nevertheless, there are still precious few writers who able to contextualize music as expertly as Jon Savage.

When writing about Punk in 2004’s ‘England’s Dreaming’, Savage was able to draw directly from his own experiences but, as he was just 13 years old in the Summer of 1966, he is not able to rely solely on first-hand knowledge for this book. The 55 pages of source references illustrate the substantial research that lies behind this authoritative and illuminating study.

I was just 8 years old in that year so I remember even less than he does but I do recall the impact of some TV shows (e.g. Batman, The Monkees, Time Tunnel etc.) and music like The Beatles, the Motown acts and Dusty Springfield. But as far as historical events go, only England winning the soccer world cup sticks in the memory.

Most articles about the sixties paint a superficial and idealised portrait of swinging London, sexual liberation and the birth of the Woodstock generation. Savage goes deeper and reveals the darker aspects of this era and shows that it has definite parallels with the world we inhabit today.

Far from being a time of hedonism and freedom, this was a year lived under the shadow of the atom bomb and the cold war. In addition, the black civil rights movement, growing opposition to the Vietnam war, the demand for women’s liberation and the struggle for gay rights were just some of the causes that led to politicization of the youth both in America and in the UK. Add LSD to this heady cocktail and it’s easy to understand why this year was so musically explosive and accounts for how “1966 began in pop and ended with rock”. Continue reading

M TRAIN by Patti Smith (Bloomsbury , 2015)
smith

If you have lived in a cave for the past four decades or spent too much time listening exclusively to crappy chart pop you wouldn’t know that Patti Smith is a Rock’n’Roll star.

You wouldn’t necessarily be any the wiser from reading her second autobiographical work either since there are practically no references to music making.

What you do learn from this collection of short loosely connected essays is that she is addicted to coffee, hates housework, loves visiting the graves of dead poets, likes taking black and white photos with a Polaroid camera and spends a good chunk of her free time binge-viewing TV shows (The Killing is a particular favourite). Continue reading

RENEGADE : THE LIVES AND TALES OF MARK E.SMITH by Mark E. Smith with Austin Colling (Penguin Books, 2008)
markesmith_renegade

I can visualise ghost writer Austin Collings lining up the pints of beer and whisky chasers in a Manchester pub then setting up a recording device in front of Mark E.Smith.

I doubt that any overly active conversational skills would have been required since one gets the distinct impression that his subject operates best in monologue/ranting mode.

In more or less chronological order, Smith catalogues his life and times as chief hirer and firer of The Fall “for people who are sick of being dicked around”. Continue reading

viv_albertineCLOTHES, CLOTHES, CLOTHES. MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC. BOYS, BOYS, BOYS by Viv Albertine (Faber & Faber, 2014)

I started this autobiography expecting a fun but frivolous account of the punk era. It is all that and more.

Viv Albertine was at the heart of the heady period in the late 1970s when the British establishment were running scared. The Slits were one of the many bands that were inspired by the so-called ‘filfth and fury’ of The Sex Pistols; four feisty females who were not about to let a lack of musical expertise hold them back.

Albertine was the guitarist in that band’s early years. I regret to say that I never did see them play live but I treasure the memory of first hearing them on a John Peel session – four tracks recorded in September 1977 that captured their ramshackle brilliance.

The book contains plenty of fascinating insights into the ordinary world that preceded and followed the extraordinary explosion of rebel yells. Continue reading

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