Punk Rocker is a terrific anthology made up of a mixture of memories and memoir, dedications and fictional short stories. So much has gone into the writing of this book that I can’t possibly do it justice in this short space but, doing what I can, here is my review.
While this book was coming together there were some huge losses to the music industry and it is therefore fitting that it opens with a dedication to David Bowie by Brenda Perlin and Scott Weiland by Jim Kavanagh. Both these writers convey that sense of loss that envelopes people when someone they idolised, though may never have met, dies.
There’s a poem from Carla Mullins called License to Thrill in which she expresses her love affair with punk rock. This is followed by the first short story from Mark Barry called Highway One. It tells the tale of Billy Idol, his beloved Harley and a trip up Highway One. Some precious time out before he sets off on a massive nationwide tour. Then, he meets a girl. Told in Barry’s inimitable style this is filled with delicious descriptions, wry observations and is a delight to read…and reread, because you’ll want to.
I haven’t come across Jim Kavanagh before but I thoroughly enjoyed his real life tales of Punk in New York City, an autobiographical account of his life at the time as he ran the streets, December 1980 which covers the shocking death of John Lennon, and finally, Sid.
Rebel Yell by Christoph Fischer was a favourite, among the many, and through his words I could feel his yearning for another life, a cooler life, a real life with his depiction of his teenage years in a Bavarian, small rural town. In a second piece, A Night to Remember, Fischer has grown up. He’s at college, loving life and protesting at every opportunity. This lifts the lid on one particular night.
Jorge P. Newbery has included anecdotes by way of a couple of excerpts from his own book, Burn Zones. This is an autobiographical account of how he was pushed to his physical and mental limits during his time of strife, and how he overcame the challenges he faced.
Caddy Rowland recalls her memories of Jay’s Longhorn Bar in Punk Paradise, Minnesota Style. I thoroughly related to her relief at being offered salvation from the disco scene and enjoyed her reminiscences.
In Memory of a Pistol Packing Reganite, is the fabulous addition to this anthology by Alison Braun and regales its readers with her experiences of the punk scene with the coolest dad ever. I was so envious reading this.
Steven E Metz was impossibly young when he got involved in L.A. Punk and in Listen to a Fifth Grader he tells the story of a night when it all went wrong. Having been brought up in the English countryside where our socialising was done rather differently and therefore never having been in a nightclub I loved reading Godzilla’s by Brenda Perlin. Godzilla’s was a punk club that opened in 1981 and it was where Perlin worked, not so much for the want of a job but so that she could get to see the bands for free. Perlin got to see some great bands and experienced the sort of exciting life every teen is seeking.
It’s so interesting to read about the experiences others had at ages you can relate to and this is as true of Godzilla’s as it is of the next, What Punk Rock Gave Me by Janet Salopek Green. Janet was a Catholic School Girl and tells of her experiences with the music and fashion of the time. I rather liked the ‘someone’s mother once pointed out that while we all thought we were so original, we had simply changed uniforms.’ Janet’s story also touches on the deaths involved and the impact that caused for her.
The Riot House by Erin McGowan was a great read. I loved the tale of this straight little girl who only wanted an early night because she had an algebra test the next day. But then she saw her sister escaping from the house and her plans changed. This story shows how by one decision one night can change everything.
The tale of An Ice Cream Calling: at The Clash Show Asbury Park Convention Hall 1982 by Alan Wynzel had me grinning. The painful memories just kept coming in this one, from the trying to be Punk thing to the joy of getting the tickets then on to the big event. Too much booze, real Punks, the unfortunate incident with the girls and of course, the ice cream…oh dear.
Brenda Perlin brings a reality check as she discusses the darker side of life in No Future both for the idols of the time, their fans and all who chose that lifestyle. This leads into the second fictional short story from Mark Barry. Titled, The Jacket, this is the autobiographical account of a jacket, a Brando, of course, and the history of its ownership which sets it apart from other jackets. It’s been there, done it and seen life as few others have and Barry is just the writer to bring you this glorious tale. I won’t tell you who owned The Jacket, that is for you to discover and as always I shall be envious of whoever is about to embark on reading Barry’s work. Enjoy.
Lastly, and most poignantly we come full circle from the first dedication as Brenda Perlin brings us The Mirror… I shall say no more on this as you need to come across it, and all the other golden nuggets that fill this book, yourself.
To get a copy of this gem for yourself here are the purchase links