Thursday, February 06, 2020


Lemme tell ya, inna world of rock 'n roll there were fanzines, and there were FANZINES!!! 

Now in my humble opinion all fanzines might not be equal, but some fanzines shine forth via their abilities to do what they could with their budgets and their own imaginations and if the results are a cheaply-produced yet spirited crudzine that delivered on the goods (like say TEENAGE RAMPAGE did) then well, something along those lines surely surpasses a well-crafted yet dry fanmag the kind you saw PLENTY of back during the days when any pouting youth with an anti-establishment (hah!) rage and a trust fund could put out a 'zine (to many, they weren't "fanzines" any mo' since a term like that conjured up an image of a buncha teenage boys slapping something together onna kitchen table and like, we're more sophisticated than that!) that had about as much spirit to it as THE MORNING FARM REPORT. Maybe money can't buy you love, but it sure can buy PRETENSION!!!!

But there were some pretty good fanzines out inna seventies that kept cranking out the good and hard news and on a regular basis at that (a fairly regular one at that given how many past-deadlines and money crunches these things tended to go through). These fanzines surprisingly enough boasted a remarkably high quality that rarely if ever slipped o'er the course of their usually limited lifespans. In the early-seventies the French PARAPLUIE, a publication which I have written about previously on this blog, came off like a combo underground radical rah-rah and a proto-NEW YORK ROCKER promoter of the rock avant garde to the point where even J.D. Martignon contributed a New York scene roundup akin to the one he later had in FEELING, another Gallic fanzine of excellent quality. (And while we're talking French fanzines who out there could ignore such efforts as ANNIE AIME LES SUCETTES, I WANNA BE YOUR DOG or ROCK NEWS INTERNATIONAL for that matter!). In the USA there was THE NEW YORK ROCKER whose early issues had that MIDNIGHT-styled tabloid approach down pat even though they seemed to flounder off on all sorts of tangents once the eighties clocked in, the mode of the music changed in directions nobody really could have predicted, and the staff decided to sacrifice a good portion of local and deserving rock acts in favor of the latest flashes that were just about as ultimately boring as the music the mag railed against for quite a long run.

But THE ROCKER was a prime example of a fanzine that could run on a large budget and get issues out on a fairly regular basis boasting a large press run and decent circulation. I'm sure that their success is what led to the creation of similar minded rags that could deal with local and counter-counterculture musics of a particularly post-Velvet Underground-ish nature. SLASH was one such endeavor and SEARCH AND DESTROY fit in there somewhat even if it was run by a bunch of art dilettantes. DAMAGE perhaps less so, and although the concept of big-budget high-circulation fanzines seemed to come to a sad and sorry end during the eighties (and really, don't you think that MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL woulda been better with the radical raves toned way down and a concentration on the title's mission statement boosted way up?) I gotta say that these seventies-era efforts are something that still make for fine rock 'n roll reading which you just couldn't find in any mainstream publication not only then but especially now!

Anyway it took me a good nine years to get this huge hard-covered collection of  the "best" of PUNK magazine (the NYC one from the mid/late-seventies, not the 1974-vintage Buffalo one that coulda been just as good of an extendo neo-pro fanzine as THE SHAKIN' STREET GAZETTE or FOXTROT had it developed a bit) because hey, I ain't made outta moolah like many of you less perceptive readers make me out to be. Besides I already had an earlier softcover tribute to the mag which I thought woulda been fine enough to keep me well and happy, but the idea of having a collection of the entire PUNK run under one cover did seem appealing enough considering the missing gaps that do exist in my fanzine collection stationed in what used to be my fart-encrusted bedroom (I moved up inna word and now sleep on the new reclining chair stationed in the tee-vee room!).

So dish out I did and as you'd expect the emotions are even more mixed 'n the time when my dog Sam was howling away at me for some perceived notion or another (perhaps due to the fact that I beat him up a lot) and I grabbed a banana from the kitchen counter and began eating it during his tirade and he didn't know whether to bark or beg that's how conflicted he was!

Well, you can say that I WAS kinda stomach-gurgled when I discovered that this indeed was more of an "anthology", yet another "best of" as they say, of that venerable rag. I sure was hopin' that this would be like a complete bound-like collection of each and every page from that mag from beginning to end with alla the things kept nice and intact for us in the here and now, sorta like the recent RIPPED AND TORN as well as DENIM DELINQUENT books that are proudly hidden in a few piles of books here in the abode. Nada like that is to be found what with huge patches from the originals missing and even things I woulda sworn woulda been "best of" material unceremoniously tossed aside. No interview with Sluggo pops up, and I guess that the review of METAL MACHINE MUSIC will have to wait for a future PUNK collection because it sure ain't here! Shee-yucks, and there are a whole slew of comics that have gone missing as well making me wonder exactly what editor John Holmstrom was thinkin' when he slapped this thing together.

It couldn't be that he didn't want to "upset" that special breed of homo superior (make that homo erectus...more fitting!) who complain about every slight against their precious petunia existence while battering the living daylights outta anyone who comes their way. After all, enough of that ALREADY appears in this collection and especially in these sorry times what has been deemed suitable enough for modern day consumption (yech!) is already bad taste enough to get those sensitive souls to do an ACT UP-styled rampage right in front of Holmstrom's very abode! But anti-PC or not, we wouldn't want anything like that to happen to the man, right?

But even with the somewhat glaring omissions there's still there's enough good classic PUNK here for any proud suburban slob to devour. The interviews are a howl especially in the way where the subjects really let loose and tell ya what they think of the competition (and lemme tell ya, there was no hand-in-hand brotherhood among the punk crowd which I think is GREAT!), while the standard stories, sagas and cartoons kinda make these mags look like a three-way splodge of HELP!, NATIONAL LAMPOON and early CREEM the way all of those holy and sanctified liberal notions of the fifties and sixties are tossed right out the window landing straight into a nice pile of turds. And the visual surprises are plenty as well...gals, if you always drooled over the thought of seeing a snap of R. Meltzer posing seductively in his shower well NOW'S YOUR CHANCE!!!

The flippancy also puts a smile to my fractured face especially given how much ya know stuff like this'll "offend" the same offenders of people like myself, totally deviant types who surely do deserve that lit stick of dynamite shoved up whatever orifice is handy available. Yes, all of those people we used to think of as CREEPS yet are now lionized with capitalistic push behind 'em get the PUNK treatment and get it good, and after years of being hammered by these same bastions of "morality" for my own proper if not mainstream anymore opines lemme tell ya it sure feels GREAT seein' 'em get the short end of the turd for once!

Best of all amid the definitely non-pious portrayal of downright jerks and scammers who have plagued normal people for ages you'll read and see shards of obscure and heretofore forgotten yet important rock information that you never thought you'd know about before! Y'know, things you probably could not care one whit about yet fit into that jigsaw that retentives like myself have been piecing together for decades on end. Didja know that PUNK mascot Legs O'Neill actually worked lights for the Honolulu-transplanted-to-New York psychedelic rock/acting troupe group Theatre of Madness (they were "thee" act to get if Hendrix or the Dead were playing though once they moved to NYC the Theatre pretty much ended their career at CBGB before somewhat coming back to life heavily remodeled as Startoon---there just might be a parable in there somewhere)??? Or that Peter Criss once sat in on drums when local heavy metallics Riot were playin' at Club 82, Criss destroying all of the cymbals in the process? And yes, that is Hackamore Brick's own Tommy Moonlight inna background playing piano in the "Nick Danger" fumetti which goes to show you there's a whole lot more of this ephemera out there than we ever knew existed!

Holmstrom's own personal stories behind PUNK, along with the rare and unpublished snaps and artwork that didn't make the final cut, really do round this more rock than THE ROLLING STONE COMPLETE HISTORY OF JANN WENNER CONTRADICTING HIS WRITERS ever could. Holmstrom really does give us the down and dirty inside saga which reads as free flowing and as engrossing as your favorite non-fiction, and thankfully he names and re-names people, perhaps not enough, in his bid to SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT as to what really happened and was said and not via the mouths of hateful jerks who have axes to grind probably weren't even there. You might shudder, you might faint, but as the old moom pitcher come on said THESE ARE THE FACTS OF LIFE!!!!!

Especially eye opening is the Lester Bangs connection which weaves in and out of PUNK's own saga revealing about the guy that I never knew about before and probably wish I didn't know about at all. Bangs' behavior as recounted here seems somewhat true to form what with him liking and then almost suddenly rejecting the PUNK ethos (before liking and hating it again!) pretty much in the same fashion as when he'd say groups like the MC5 and Suicide were turdburgers before miraculously changing his opinion. Perhaps even you recall the times when Bangs would champion everyone from Lou Reed and Nico to Wayne McGuire before turning extremely acrimonious usually due to some personality flaw, on Bangs' part that is. Well, if that's the Lester Bangs that comes to your mind you'll be more'n interested in giving this book a go!

Lou Reed told Holmstrom to watch out for Bangs and what eventually happened between the two did bear Reed's warning out, first with Bangs writing a defense of Handsome Dick Manitoba after the infamous Wayne County brouhaha then suddenly wanting it suppressed in fear of "The Gay Mafia" (after all, he was moving to New York and wanted to be able to work there without that stigma of Political Incorrectness which ruined many a righteous type). A few years later the famed rockscribe struck again, and once again in a definitely career-shattering way, with the legendary "White Noise Supremacists" piece in THE VILLAGE VOICE which ultimately was just a nice BIG and grossly unsubstantiated dig at some locals (including the staff of PUNK magazine) who Bangs had some beef with that might have been exacerbated by Bangs' then-recent foray into opiates. I shouldn't have to tell you that the entire incident was egged on by none other than Robert Christgau who was then still firmly ensconced as that Great Big Opinion Maker who could ruin people's lives just for the mere pleasure of it! Sheesh, don't you wish you had that kind of power?

Maybe I shouldn't get into it as much as I'd like to. Jim Marshall said enough about that sordid episode a long time back on his late and lamented HOUND BLOG, but maybe I will add this little addendum so-to-speak. The "White Noise Supremacists" episode, along with a few other unfortunate bits of spittle ranging from punk rock as an entity getting a bad image after the Sid Vicious/Nancy Spungen affair to a printer reneging on a signed contract, pretty much put PUNK magazine unexpectedly right outta biz 'n at a time when it sure had a lot more quality rockspeak to offer us. Sheesh, those downright LIBELOUS comments, especially when spouted from the mouths and minds of some rather powerful if downright chickenshit types, can really do a relatively innocent feller in as I should know (and like, I sure yearn for that kind of power in order to dish some back!). And although I've been told it was a long time ago and I should forget it (which might be like telling the Irish to forget the potato famine) I just can't drop my own similar happenstance outta my own bean because things like this can really not only wipe out a guy's chances to succeed somewhat with his life mission (and I do mean that!) but it sure takes a lotta the wind outta his sails to the point where he figures WHY??? Reading about Holmstrom's own travails sure does dredge up a lotta the bad memories in me regarding the chortles of a few downright evil souls out there, although I will admit that Holmstrom had way more at stake to lose and put in way more to his publication than my measly efforts could ever come up with and for that I SALUTE HIM like the Fourth of July! An' I do mean it!!!!

Maybe you should too...I think its' remaindered so check your local Goodwill.


Anonymous said...

lol try circus or the stone lol

diskojoe said...

I did the exact opposite to you in getting the earlier book after I bought this one for more material.

Although I enjoyed the funnettis of Nick Detroit and the Monster Surf thingie, the one thing for me that really popped out was the contributions by Robert Romagnoli, which were pretty funny. I wonder what happened to him?