Punk Avenue: Inside the New York City Underground 1972-1982 by Phil Marcade (Three Rooms Press)

punk avenuePhillippe Marcade was briefly drummer and then frontman for long-running New York City band The Senders, and a close confidant of many on the CBGB and Max’s Kansas City scenes.

Born in France, for the most illegally living in NYC, he rode the rock and roll roller coaster as hard as anyone in Lower Manhattan. 

“Punk Avenue” - the title is a play-on-words reference to the Park Avenue location of Max’s - is a fantastic read. There are no dead spots; Marcade tells his story colourfully, underlined by droll, self-deprecating humour. 

The Devil Won’t Take Charity - Kim Volkman (self published)

Devil Wont Take CharityIt’s been said that everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that's where it should stay. Melbourne musician Kim Volkman begs to differ.

Now, he’s not exactly a household name so you could well ask what business Volkman has writing an autobiography. If you do I’ll not-so-respectfully point out that Justin Bieber has five (allegedly) self-penned books against his name on Amazon right now.

It helps that Volkman has led an interesting musical life. Guitarist with Ian Rilen and the Love Addicts - one of the most underrated, raw and real bands to appear on Australian stages in the last 30 years - he’s also had three stints filling his late ex-band leader’s bass spot in X.

Volkman’s played with many lesser-known bands - including his own very good Whiskey Priests. Unlike Justin Bieber, he’s never had notable success. That’s probably a good thing in Kim’s case - on his own admission, it might have killed him.

Lonely Boy: Tales from a Sex Pistol by Steve Jones (William Heinemann) & Anger is An Energy. My Life Uncensored by John Lydon (Simon and Schuster)

lonely boyHere are two books from people whose names you may know that are essential purchases.  

This is from “Lonely Boy”:

… all bands are basically the fucking same. The reason I still - to this day - love watching documentaries about bands like the Eagles … is that I can totally relate to them. The personalities involved and the reasons for the tensions between them never seem to change.

The singer - because the job requires the kind of person who wants to be in the front going ‘look at me, look at me’ - will almost always be very insecure, and usually a bit of a cunt. Then there’s the guitarist, who wants to get all the pussy, and there’s always at least one weird introvert…

Lead Guitarist Syndrome and Lead Singer Syndrome are terms you don’t see in the Macquarie, or the OED. But they exist, in fact if not in print.

Unbelievably Bad zine Issue 20

ub 20One of the last Aussie ‘zines standing is setting some sort of record for durability, but issue 20 is tinged with deep sadness.

Editor Danger Coolidge’s opening column, detailing the life and tragic loss of his son, Angus Reekie, who took his own life late last year at the age of 16, is one of the most powerful things you’ll read. Cathartic in the extreme, if it doesn’t touch you, you’re not human.

On the brighter side of the coin, this issue is the usual mix of gems, surprises and obscurities. The interview with Buffalo vocalist Dave Tice is detailed and comprehensive (and we played a small part in making it happen so it’s all the more satisfying.) The chat with Link Meanie is long overdue and covers a storied and ongoing career that's taken on fresh legs wityh Sun God Replica.

As for obscurities, Unbelievably Bad invariably shines a light on acts most of the world hasn’t heard of and there are pieces on Undinism (the Geelong band - not the Donald Trump allegations), Nick Singer (of Newcastle band Brandon’s Island) and Jonah Wallis (Fucked Up.) Harriet Hudson might be a name known to the kids who follow Miss Destiny but I didn’t like Circle Pit (her other band) so I can take or leave her interview.

The Psychedelic Confessions of a Primal Screamer – Martin St John (Lulu Publishing)

primal screamerI interviewed John "Joogs" Martin for a piece on his upcoming book last year. Following its appearance on Louder Than War, the website was contacted by representatives of Primal Scream's management to respectfully request that it was removed before legal proceedings were initiated.

To be fair, the interview was helluva incendiary in parts as I'd basically given Joogs free rein to vent and some of the material (which he'd had pent up for 27-odd years) was vitriolic and, at times, verging on libellous. It was also very, very funny.

At that point, Joogs (his nom de guerre was flipped by himself to Martin St. John during the PS early days) was looking for publishing for the book that he'd laboured over in his night shift job for several years. He'd actually hand-written it and part of the problem was finding someone to transcribe it all before it was touted around.

Know Your Product: The art of Australia's underground 45s

dave faulkner 45

Hoodoo Guru Dave Faulkner adds his autograph to a copy of "Product 45" at the Sydney Spencer P Jones Benefit.                       Emmy Etie photo

It was a few weeks ago that a parcel was waiting for me on my veranda. This is not unusual as I often order my vinyl from overseas. I even get the odd review copy of a record. This package was much larger and there was much more weighty. It was the stunningly beautiful book Product 45 Australian Punk/Post-Punk Single Record Covers”.

I sat down and carefully unwrapped the packaging, opening the first few pages, and my first impression was the high-weighted GSM quality silky paper.  This was not the standard book that you would pick up at Dymocks. It had the sense of a limited edition, extremely high-standard production by people who had taken so much care and pride with their talent invested in the design.

Road Series by Hugo Race (Transit Lounge)

road series coverFrom the first sentence in "Road Series", you’re in Hugo’s world, his past, present and by implication, future.

“Road Series” is one of the main reasons that a poor bloke like me can’t ever get history quite right: we have the dates, the events, the chronology lodged and squared away. But people like Hugo carry the emotive rationale, the anti-rationale, and the … moving finger writes inevitability of their lives locked inside them.

I suppose we could all say we have that, but few, very very few of us could write it out and get it right, express it right, show us who warn’t there just how it wuz.

We instantly inhabit Hugo’s world because, first and foremost when you’re reading a memoir, the writer is telling their story. Second, “Road Series” possesses a vividness, a real-in-colour sensation to it which so many memoirs of the punk and musical new wave period completely miss in their hurry to put down their rivals, tell juicy anecdotes and, basically, gossip.

And I’ll just say this, for an autobiographical account of a significant St Kildan musician from this rather bitchy, backstabbing period, there is an astonishing absence of tittle-tattle, knife-wielding and general spite. Hugo is remarkably matter-of-fact about things, and (again, from page one) the maelstrom continues like that whirling Tasmanian devil from the Warner Brothers cartoons.

Neon Angel. A Memoir of a Runaway by Cherie Currie with Tony O’Neill (Harper Collins/Itbooks)

neon angel coverIf medals were given out to musicians who’d somehow survived to succeed in the face of horror, The Runaways would be instant recipients. Cherie Currie’s book is a damn fine read. It’s worth four out of three McGilvrays or whatever iconic ‘70s TV star The Barman uses to denote: cracking r’n’r book. Four out of three: you with me so far?

First, let it be known that we have too many books on ’60s rockers who turn out the same old wan sludge with a smirk and a wink. There are plenty of ’70s and ‘80s rockers who’ve done the same. Once you reach a certain level, you can wet-fart in your audience’s face with impunity and thousands will pay for the privilege.

Step forward and take the bouquets of flowers, Cherie Currie. Tony O’Neill has probably done the horrible typing, editing and transcribing, but Cherie’s story is told with verve, honesty and … yes, more than a tinge of bitterness. Although bitterness is not the prevailing theme; the themes are abuse, self-abuse, self-awareness and basic morality.

For all those who think The Runaways had it sweet, “Neon Angel” will disabuse you of that notion. Cherie’s story is unpleasant and horrific in many ways; and as members of the Blank Generation we can all make a few guesses. But the truth is vile (there were moments where I found myself pointlessly looking away from the page), and beneath all the glam rollercoaster of success was the greedy, ugly industry (personified by Kim Fowley, whose depiction will turn everyone’s stomach. Picture a moist tall slug in a dirty orange jumpsuit, that’s how I’ll always remember him).

MDC. Memoir From a Damaged Civilization. Stories of Punk, Fear and Redemption by Dave Dictor (Ma nicD Press)

DaveDictorbookDid you ever see The Decline of Western Civilization documentary? The first one?

Pretty uneven, isn’t it? And by god, there’s a lot of indifferent stuff in there. The Germs are horrible, but rather wonderful. Fear are also quite nasty, and funny, and wonderful. The rest … well, it’s kind of interesting. But Decline (Mk I) is not a film I readily return to.

Even so, because it captures a scene in a scattergun style, it’s significant. By no means was that every significant band. By no means known to man, woman or beast.

But when it first came out here in Australia (1984, I think) it made and confirmed a huge impact. The wave of US hardcore and secondary punk was finally breaking into our homes (well, not if you listened to mainstream radio and watched TV, granted. I mean, us in the alternative scene.

You remember that…) and gentle young souls with spiky hair, the right jeans and Doc Martens and leather motorcycle jackets with UK punk band names and patches all over them? (I was always reminded of my school exercise books when I was about 13; I figured I’d done that already, I didn’t need a jacket that reminded me of school.) When, in 1983, we tried to explain to these gentle souls that, you know, it was the American punk bands which were amazing, they were aggressively dismissive.