Gimme Something Better – “The Profound, Progressive, and ocassionally pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to Green Day”
by Jack Boulware and Silke Tudor (Penguin Books)

I love these types of books.  Historical, geographical and telling a punk rock stroy.  Every City has a story and more and more cities have these collections.  The style of writing is similar to John Robbs Death to Trad Rock book, or American Hardcore by Steven Blush.  It consists of quotes from people. The authors must have spent exhaustive hours trying to get eye witness accounts recorded with stories covering nearly a 30 year period.  It must have been an editing nightmare to decide what made it to the cutting room floor.  It is no surprise that to hear that it took 3 years to complete this 489 page book.

As for it’s story – well The title says it all. Even though they are not mentioned on the title this does start at the start.  Punk rock coming to town and bands like the Nuns, Avengers and Crime starting up.  An avenue I quite enjoy is where the book talks about venues.  Punk rock (and music) isn’t just about bands turning up to play.  There’s a whole network of people making things happening, people who may have never touched a guitar in their life. These people are recounting their perspectives here.  Another aspect is the energy, excitment and fear that came from attending punk shows in the 70’s.  You would most certainly be returning from a night out with more marks on you in those early punk days.

As punk rock developed in the Bay Area and people started making things happen for themselves you really get that feeling through quotes from those who made the fanzines, booked the shows, attended the shows and bought the tshirts as well as from band members.

I must admit a slight bias. Back in 1980’s Dublin I used to devour the punk zine maximum Rock’n’Roll, often called the punk rock bible MRR is still in existence today.  It was through MRR that I could find out about all those cities around the world screaming their lungs out.  I have an abiding memory of receiving a reply from Tim Yohannon (RIP) after sending questions for an interview with him, the then editor.  Tim spoke all his answers on to one side of a cassette (anyone remember those) and did a compilation of SF bands on the other side.  That type of inclusion and respect carried through to me for so much of what I did with music. Every month MRR had scene reports and tons of reviews and intrerviews. better still it had addresses where you could write to people.  Some of those interiewed for Gimme Something Better were old penpals of mine. Others were zine wirters of zines I bought regularily or of bands that subsequently played in Dublin.  Through Hope Promotions (and then Hope Collective) I was lucky to be in a postion to provide some assistance to some of the East Bay Bands.  It’s nice to hear how they started up through these pages.

Reading all the accounts it made me want to check out some bands I missed first time round, like the aforementioned Avengers and also to dust down those 7″s of bands like Winona Ryder, Econochrist and Monsula.  It also made me want to revisit those Green Day, Dead Kennedys, Victims Family and Operation Ivy records that haven’t had an airing for me in 2011.  The soundtrack will go on for ever.

My life is better for reading this book- I suggest you root it out and then make it happen in your town.


niall hope

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