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Friday, November 04, 2005

Punk: Attitude

I recently watched the acclaimed Don Letts documentary, Punk: Attitude, on DVD. It's a pretty right-on look at how punk rock came into being from the late '60s to present day. You get your standard spotlights on the Velvet Underground, Stooges, MC5, New York Dolls, Ramones, Clash and others but Punk: Attitude actually gives a little more light as to what went on in the 1980s, something no other documentary on punk has. While that's great and all, there's this major gripe I have about most documentaries and books on punk - we always hear about how it started in the '60s and '70s, but rarely do we hear about what happened in the '80s and '90s. There are some great books about what happened in the '80s (like Our Band Could Be Your Life and Dance of Days) but there is barely any information about what happened in the '90s.

The story goes that author Michael Azerrad was watching the multi-part documentary, The History of Rock & Roll, on TV and was excited to see the part about punk rock since he was a fan. There was a lot of coverage of punk in the '60s and '70s but then it jumped ahead to Nirvana in 1991. Remembering what he experienced in the 1980s, he felt that he should put more light on the most crucial/influential bands and labels of the decade into a book. And that's what he did with Our Band Could Be Your Life.

Just like how labels like SST, Dischord, Twin/Tone, K, Touch & Go and others put out records by necessity in the '80s (because they didn't think anyone else would put them out), I believe the same applies to books on the continuing story of punk rock and all its offspring.

Whenever I go to a bookstore and look in the music section, I always see books on the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen and '70s punk but I'm hard-pressed to see anything covering what I went through in the early-'90s and up. Sure, there are books on R.E.M., Guided By Voices, Pavement, Nirvana and others but there is scant on punk rock post-1992. Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places, but I long for other books about the punk rock ethos that I went through as a teenager and college student. So, I'm doing something about that with Post. I can't guarantee it's what everyone wants on post-hardcore/emo/whatever-you-call-it-core, but something is better than nothing.

Is there some gap in my generation with writing books on rock music? Sometimes I think that there hasn't been enough time to warrant this stuff into print. However, it's been 14 years since Nevermind came out and plenty has gone on since then. Seeing as how certain stories (especially post-hardcore/emo) get jumbled up and packaged in a neat bow, I get a little pissy.

I love hearing stories about how someone really got into music. The people who were forever changed by a band, a show or an album is always inspiring to hear. I think that there is plenty to tell from a generation that wasn't even born when the MC5, the Stooges, the Clash and the Ramones first hit. When will it be expressed? Only by the passing of time will we know . . .

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