Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Punk Summer Reading List

With the renewed interest in the history of American punk, there are many new books popping up, so many that it can be overwhelming and confusing at times. As with any history, getting the most complete and balanced information means seeking various sources rather than relying on just one or two "experts." Some of the books that I've come across lately are worth a special mention because they tell the story of the very early and very unique punk scene in Los Angeles.

A while back, a couple of friends brought over their copy of Live at The Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley, which was written by Brendan Mullen and features photos by several of the original scene photographers. As I flipped through the pages of this punk year book, I was transported back to my crazy, fun teen years. There are lots and lots of candid photos and the general mood of those first few months of the Hollywood punk scene really comes across. Brendan and I have had our differences lately and even though I'm mad at him right now, I have to say that this is an excellent book and a must have for anyone who was there or who is interested in understanding what went on at the Masque when we thought no one was looking.

Punk Pioneers by Jenny Lens is far and away the most awesome coffee table quality book about the early punk scene. The book, published by Rizzoli/Universe, contains an incredible range of artists that were around during punk's conception, birth, and childhood. Its scope is much broader and helps the reader understand where punk was coming from and what was going on in the parallel musical universes of bands like Van Halen and artists like Bob Marley. I think this aspect of Jenny's book is really important, because as I've said time and time again, seeing early punk in isolation does not really convey how far it was from the mainstream nor does it acknowledge the influences of what came before it. Jenny's book acknowledges the New York punk and early glam bands that set the stage for what would become a unique West Coast cultural movement. Punk Pioneers cements Jenny's status as punk photography's Alpha Bitch.

Finally, I'd like to say a little about a book a friend of mine made. Louis Jacinto is a talented photographer who has the largest collection of Bags photographs that I've ever seen. Louis approached me several times about collaborating on a book with him and although I love his photos, I just never found the time to sit down and write a book. But Louis would not give up. He kept writing to me and finally I suggested that he write his own narrative and takes quotes from my blog for his book. Well, at my Eastside Luv show a couple of weeks ago, Louis surprised me with the book he self-published. I love his D.I.Y. attitude! The book contains great photos of The Bags with quotes from my Diary of a Bad Housewife blog and various interviews I've done. The blog excerpts are odd for me to read because I know there is a complete blog entry that goes with those quotes. Luckily, Louis does send people to my website (thanks Louis!) so they can get the whole story if they feel like it. But to tell you the truth, the real stars are the photos. Louis deserves all the credit for making this book happen. So, if you want to see some cool Bags pictures, check out his book The Bags, from Onodream Press.

I know I've mentioned Punk 365 before, but it also features several of the best photographers of the time and is well worth investigating.

Book Reports are due at the end of summer : )


Anonymous said...

Looks like I'm going to be spending some of my summer cash at the bookstore...

LouisJacinto said...

Like I've mentioned here before, by the end of 1980 when John Lennon was murdered everything just stopped for me. But waking up 30 years later it was clear that The Bags remained the best band! And Alice Bag the best voice! I was lucky to have seen The Bags at so many shows for so many years! - Louis Jacinto

Anonymous said...

I have 2 of those books and I LOVE Louis' book! It is one awesome book.
The Masque is cool too for all the photos.
Thanks Alice for sharing the list with us!

Jenny Lens said...

From one Alpha Bitch to another, I LOVE YOU ALICE BAG. Oh the stories we could tell that we haven't yet! We go waaaay back, and the party and off-stage pix I have of you, well, I pray I live long enough to scan and share those!

Louis: I'm gonna order your book as soon as I finish this comment. Thank you so much for creating this! What a great idea! YOU ROCK!

Time to give a great big shout-out to the man who made "Live at the Masque" possible: ROGER GASTMAN of Swindle mag and Red Rock Publications.

Roger Gastman is the HERO of "Live at the Masque." He worked with all of us photographers, Brendan, others and was heavily involved in the design: oversaw it all.

Quite simply put: Roger Gastman produced the book. No one has any idea the hours and money he put into that book!!

Roger is one of the NICEST, MOST PROFESSIONAL persons I have had the pleasure of working with!

Any success of that Masque book is due to Roger and his tireless energy, his willingness to help with lab/scanning/printing and other expenses, while balancing many egos and thousands of photos and flyers. The book is a work of art and we all must bow down to him!

But I thank Brendan for having the foresight to bring the book to Roger, who interviewed him for Swindle mag. And for saving so much archival material.

We couldn't have done this book without everyone in the book, or who created/provided the visuals (photos and flyers) or the people buying and writing about it.

And thanks to Holly George-Warren for casting such a wide net and finally including LA in a punk anthology, Punk 365.

The reality is: these books would never have seen the light of day or night if not for the people who took the photos, wrote the words, designed the flyers, stashed these invaluable documents away for years, and through a lot of sacrifice, focus, dedication, passion and sheer determination, brought countless people so much joy and inspiration.

Plus of course all the people we photographed, cos without you, who would we have captured on film?

And thanks to the long-established, high-end art publishers, Rizzoli/Universe and Abrams, for having faith people will buy books about the LA scene, plus Gingko and Onodream Presses.

I am proud and pleased to be amongst such company.

Actually, I'm still a bit stunned. It hasn't sunk in yet. I'm too busy trying to get back into and stay on my raw foods and yoga regime, constantly raise funds and respond to great ops coming my way to sit back and think about all this.

Rosemarie (Wynette) wrote she felt as if I had a baby. I agreed, saying but this baby is in college, off on its own. I'm busy doing other things. LOL!

Now to eat my amazing raw salad of summer squash, cucumbers, avocado, cauliflower, beet root, freshly dried mint, herbs and fresh lemon juice, all thrown into the food processor. Great in a romaine or collard green wrap, but no time for finger food. Oh I love summer produce!

Happy summer everyone! Get out every day, take a walk, support your local farmer's markets, eat raw at least once a day (and not just summer fruit! Have you ever tried plain but sweet raw corn, fresh from the farm stand? OMG), breathe deeply, and rejoice that we have lived another day to read, write, create and inspire and be inspired! Namaste!

Jenny Lens said...

Blurb: I am excited to see Louis used Blurb to publish his book. I met them at the recent photoLA in Santa Monica. It was closing night, a long talk with the rep, and after being impressed with the company's policies, she gave me a few books.

Anyway, everyone, BUY Louis' book. I can't wait to get it and am soooo glad I have money so I don't have to wait to order it!

Blurb is a great publisher, cos it costs a lot to self-publish. My only comment is they don't offer a variety of paper sizes. Believe me, I would love to do a very limited, special edition of "Punk Pioneers" with ALL the text my editor chopped up and discarded and ALL the correct crops (unlike my slightly-mutilated Screamers on bus bench). At least just one copy for me. But my paper size is different.

Some day when I have a few days to do nothing but resize every single photo, dig up and reconstruct the text and lots of spare change . . .

So stop reading this and order The Bags book already!

Anonymous said...

I bought Louis book when it was available. He has other books as well as The Bags. PunkLosangeles is another one. go to his website www.onodream.com can you can just see HOW talented and gifted this awesome guy is.