Tag Archive: Punk Rock


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

PUSSY RIOT , A PUNK PRAYER   directed by Mike Lerner & Maxim Pozdorovkin (Russia, 2012)

PussyRiotAPunkPrayer-PosterThis HBO documentary follows the highly publicised show trial of Nadia, Masha and Katia, the three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot who were arrested for their part in the very public disruption of the holy mass at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in February 2002 and who were subsequently sentenced to three years in a penal colony.

The film opens with a quote from Bertolt Brecht: “Art is not a mirror to reflect the world, but a hammer with which to shape it” which immediately reassures us that it will be justifiably weighted in favour of the women’s cause. Interviews with their parents help us to understand their background to the protest while humanizing their stories.

orthodoxyordeathIn the interest of balance, however, the filmmakers also give ample space to the case for the prosecution. There are interviews with angry members of the church wearing T-shirts proclaiming ‘ORTHODOXY OR DEATH’  who look like greying doom metal fans.

One web site once took Pussy Riot to mean “an uprising of the uterus” but an offended worshipper states on film that “deranged vaginas” would be a more apt translation.  Continue reading

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