It’s a painstakingly inclusive record of records invaluable to any collector or fan of punk rock music and its history.
Dennis Jones & Associates; 407 pgs.; $90.43
The youth in the U.S. and U.K. have had a standing feud for some four decades over who invented punk. Was it the garage bands à la the Sonics leading up to the Ramones in cultural meccas like New York? Or was it the seminal pub rock bands à la Eddie and the Hot Rods leading up to the Sex Pistols and the Clash in cultural meccas like London? We both became so wrapped up in this schism that, like people are often wont to do under such circumstances, we largely overlooked the fact that, just as early on, there was an entire world of creation happening in a third locale.
The early days of punk rock were incendiary for America and Britain, there is no denying. But they were just as incendiary and extant Down Under in the similar economic and social backdrop of Australia. One of the very first punk scenes in the world, in fact, sprang to life in Brisbane alongside London and New York. How big was it? How big did it become? Big enough to fill a tome the size of an advanced physics college textbook with 7-inch single artwork and autobiographical blurbs by many of the names known to those in the Oz scene.
At the mention of Australia, any American punk fanatic will instantly think of the Saints; indeed, they figure prominently in this very well-executed stock-taking of punk history, racking up 17 entries with various singles beginning with the godhead “(I’m) Stranded.” They may think of a few others glory names. Radio Birdman was certainly at the forefront early on in the early 1970s; Mental as Anything, with their pop-punk, meshed into alternative sound and rang in the early new wave for Australians; and Sports certainly had a seat at the table, coming in second in the book with 11 entries. In addition to these three, though, many of us here in America probably don’t think of the 215 other (yes, I counted) bands receiving honorable mention in Product 45.
The other common mistake a lot of people make about punk rock is attributing it all to the music. They forget (or just don’t care) that it was an entire, inclusive social revolution that included a state of mind and a reactionary politic, yes—but also that it included art. The amazing photos that make up the bulk of this historical document show the imagery that accompanied the music, without which much of the message the bands behind them were trying to put out would have lacked punctuation. Glenn Terry of Australian landmark record store Vicious Sloth comments as much:
With some of the packaging it was the crudeness of the presentation or the hand made aesthetic that stood out, or the individually numbered screen printed sleeves, the carefully photocopied covers and inserts…which made them a totally worthwhile acquisition in a sea of dross as most mainstream music simply slipped away over the horizon with regard to the realities of the world.
The point is, as with most world-influencing movements, we must remember that the whole world was included. No understanding of punk rock approaching completeness can exist without the Australian element. For those who don’t know it—as well as those who already do—Product 45 is a painstakingly inclusive record of records invaluable to any collector or fan of punk rock music and its history. | Jason Neubauer