Hey, looking for that perfect holiday gift for the little sibling in the family who’s just discovering punk rock via the Brand New reunion? Well, there is a pretty amazing new book that won’t require too much of that pesky “reading.” Punk 45 – The Singles Cover Art Of Punk 1976-80 (Soul Jazz) brings together the incredible 7” single art (and some smart commentary) of a plethora of puke-addled aggravators, many, thankfully, from far-aflung locales not usually given props in the umpteen punk history books out there. It’s true kid, Cleveland is the birthplace of punk.
It’s expertly edited by Stuart Baker—the founder of the great reissue label, Soul Jazz—and Jon Savage who pretty much wrote the book—literally, England’s Dreaming—on the myriad distant and undisclosed sub-cultural influences on punk rock. There’s also a killer CD/2xLP compilation concurrent to the book: Punk 45 – Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young: Underground Punk In The United States Of America, Vol. 1. 1973-1980. It’ll be a bit redundant to those who know what “Killed By Death” means. But for that Brand New kid, it’ll be a life-changer.
Should reading not be a hindrance, definitely grab the lil’ tyke a copy of Punk: An Aesthetic. Released last year via Rizzoli, it’s only recently made the rounds to your tonier shops. And yes, it’s one of those books about drunken, gut-basic, animalistic music that treats it like a master’s thesis on The Wasteland. As well it should. Editor Johan Kugelberg and the other contributors (Jon Savage, William Gibson, and more) seem aware that too much inspection can kill the spirit, hence this book concentrates mostly on visuals, utilizing consistently jaw-dropping images—old fliers, single covers, pamphlets, Situationist tracks, protest posters, etc.—that not only expose the word “punk” being used as a musical descriptive as far back as the 1950s, but, through the course of this beautifully rendered tome, suggest all sorts of unbeknownst connections between the snotty jokesters who’ve dotted pop culture since time in memoriam. One of the better lines: “History is written by the winners. And then the losers 30 years later.”
It’s a festering branch off the tree sprouted from the seed planted in the hidden history classic, Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces, and updates it with, yes, more references to Ohio. They ain’t cheap, but neither are the rewards you get from digging into these essential volumes.