Amy Wallace and “Handsome Dick” Manitoba | The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists

book_punk-rock-lists.jpgWhat the book does have is an impressive conglomerate of names from the punk rock scene going back over 30 years contributing their own lists (Debbie Harry lists ten people she’d like to fuck), and an even larger variety of topics that are covered by the lists in the work.

 

 

Hal Leonard; 313 pages; $20.95

Dave Vanian of the Damned used to be a grave digger. Richard Hell from Television and former frontman of the Voidoids was once considered for the lead singer role of the Sex Pistols. The Residents named their band after the address label on one of their audition tapes that had been returned as a rejection from Warner Brothers. Are any of these bits of trivia important? Not really. But let us be honest and admit that people don’t read books with "Punk Rock" in the title because they are important works of literature. They read them as amusements, usually not expecting a lot, and so it was with this caution in mind that I read The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists.

Purists of punk rock will be angered by some of the entries in this collection. To be totally frank, I was irked by a few myself. I found it a bit too much of a stretch to claim that Jonathan Melvoin, late keyboardist for the Smashing Pumpkins, was a punk rocker. Ditto for the claim that R.E.M., They Might Be Giants, and Pearl Jam are punk rock bands. They each have their merits to be sure, but punk rock? Not even close.

One must step carefully into expositions of counterculture. In every group there are going to be those sticklers who will say "How can you have a book of punk rock lists that doesn’t mention the Dayglow Abortions?" or "What do you mean Elvis Costello was part of the punk movement? He’s clearly New Wave." If you set these things aside, though, if you approach this book as a distraction and not a serious exegesis of an entire social movement of rebellion, you might just enjoy it a little.

What the book does have is an impressive conglomerate of names from the punk rock scene going back over 30 years contributing their own lists (Debbie Harry lists ten people she’d like to fuck), and an even larger variety of topics that are covered by the lists in the work. The span of information reaches from a list of hobbies of famous punks, to five tips for punk parenting (my favorite is "wear tie-dye when you yell at them so they learn to hate hippies"), to fashion dos and don’ts, to reading lists, and even 14 foods to avoid while on tour. Much of the authorship is made up of individuals who inject a great deal of ironic humor and just plain funny self-effacement into the work, which is its saving grace.

Several of the lists have items included more than once in them in a fashion that suggests it was not intentional and there are more than a couple misspellings. This leads the reader to believe that there was not a great deal of effort expunged on proofing and editing. In most cases such an assumption would lend itself to a lowered opinion of the text, but this is punk rock. It’s supposed to be unpolished, unedited, disorganized and misspelled.

Punk is dead, say the masses. Most people who were a part of it when it was still a seminal movement will tell you that much. At least this book gives us a chance to reminisce and laugh at it again, if not breathe a little life back into the dead horse and revive it for another ride or two. | Jason Neubauer

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