These two books rewrite the history of Punk Rock by telling the story as it actually unfolded.
PUNK: The Original (Trans-High Publishing, New York: 1996)
SNIFFIN’ GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory (Sanctuary Publishing, London: 2000)
Mark Perry with Punk Magazine editor, John Holmstrom - NYC January 2001
Websites of interest
PUNK: The Original / SNIFFIN’ GLUE: The Essential Punk Accessory
The term Punk Rock these days immediately conjures up images of youths with brightly coloured mohicans wearing expensive, well-fashioned clothes who leap around violently to a loud, aggressive, anti-musical racket. But in January 1976 the whole Punk Rock culture was still preparing to explode upon the unsuspecting western world and thereby redefine the word ‘punk’. Although originally the image of punk was very much in keeping with its primary definition of “an inferior, rotten, worthless person”, it was soon to be marketed as a valuable fashion commodity, thus creating today’s very different, instantly recognised punk cliché.
Back in ’76 the New York Punk scene had already enjoyed a full two years’ advantage over the UK, boasting the likes of the Ramones and Richard Hell, before Britain finally got its first real home grown Punk Rock band, the Sex Pistols. So it is no surprise that the Americans were also the first to publish a magazine, simply called ‘Punk’, to report and document the fast, new, exploding youth culture.
But with Britain finding itself in the depths of one political crisis after another during the mid-seventies it wasn’t long before the UK’s punk scene had caught up with the States, and was soon to surpass it, forming its own very British identity as it captured the imagination of the nation’s dispossessed youth. Only seven months after the first issue of Punk magazine had appeared on the streets of New York in January 1976, a rough and ready, handmade photocopied ‘zine called Sniffin Glue… and other Rock’n’Roll Habits became the UK’s first punk fanzine. Sniffin Glue went on to document the brief history of Britain’s punk rock movement during its most influential and potent period. Both of these fanzines soon captured a large readership in their respective countries and became the blueprint for countless other publications that would soon follow.
Now these original Punk Rock ‘zines have been republished in two books and are as invaluable to your book shelf as your Ramones and Sex Pistols albums are to your record collections. Especially for people like myself who were just a few years too young to have been there at the time. As Punk magazine ran for three and a half years, the book only contains a collection of the best features from the original magazine. Whereas, there were only twelve issues of Sniffin Glue ever published, between August ’76 and August ’77, so this book has authentically reprinted every issue in their original form in the back half of the book. The front half of the Sniffin Glue book is taken up by its original editor Mark Perry and his friend, Sniffin Glue contributor Danny Baker (now a journalist and radio presenter) who explain how the fanzine started and go on to describe the ups and downs of publishing each issue, giving you a real insight. This is all illustrated with some great black and white photos of the punk scene in London from that time.
Punk: The Original is edited by John Holmstrom, the same man who drew many of the Ramones’ early cartoons including the Road To Ruin album sleeve, and features many of his brilliant cartoon illustrations drawn for Punk magazine. There are also a lot of photos from the New York / American scene by the now renowned photographers of the period, Bob Gruen and Roberta Bayley, as well as a day-to-day tour diary and photographic record of the Sex Pistols’ ill-fated American tour. Things like the Mutant Monster Beach Party issue that features Joey Ramone, Debbie Harry and Andy Warhol altogether in a bizarre photo comic strip story have probably never been seen here in Britain, like a lot of the other stuff in this book.
Both of these books show how at the time the definition of what could be described as Punk Rock, in terms of musical orientation or even what Punk Rock stood for, was very sketchy and undecided. There was no master plan or defined direction to how Punk Rock would evolve. As you read these books you get a feeling of being on the verge of a new, unknown era without any predetermined outcome or objective. In the first issue of Sniffin Glue, The Blue Oyster Cult are reviewed alongside the Ramones… And in Punk, the Bay City Rollers are featured in New York next to the Sex Pistols’ tour of America!
These two books rewrite the history of Punk Rock by telling the story as it actually unfolded and not how it is often remembered some thirty years later, after too many misspent nights of excessive, amphetamine-fuelled pogoing.