It seems like one cultural critic or other is always declaring something dead. In recent years, print media has been declared dead. In the past, punk was declared dead, though many still maintain that punk’s not dead. The new book Punk Press: Rebel Rock in the Underground Press 1968-1980 returns us to a time where newspapers, leaflets, newsletters, and flyers were a dynamic way for the punk community communicate. More than just informative, these communiqués allowed punks from all over to covey their ideas and share their city’s scene with others.
Punk Press is no kind of exhaustive anthology, but rather collection of fanzine covers, show flyers, with a few articles reproduced for good measure. Mostly this book is about images. What surprised me is that some of these images must have become immediately iconic. I remember a few in this collection as reproductions in fanzines of my own youth.
The title pushes the early date of punk to 1968, but articles inside the magazine challenge that date back even further to 1964, which made me think that trying to pinpoint the birth of punk might be as difficult as pinpointing the beginning of jazz. Most of the works are from the New York, Paris, and London scene. And because the upper period is 1980, by extension we don’t get much if any from the West Coast hardcore scene, which came to dominate punk thereafter.
Compiled by Vincent Berniere and Mariel Primois, Punk Press is an interesting look back to a time when the printed word connected and energized an entire subculture. Punk Press is a larger format book, 9 x 13 1/4 , which makes it possible to read the text reproduced within. (This large size also prevented me from scanning these images for you, which is what I usually do. Sorry.) The pages are matte and mimic the original pulp that most of these missives were printed on. Though there is little editorial insight by the authors, the collection of images that they complied do an excellent job speaking for themselves.
Punk Press: Rebel Rock in the Underground Press 1968-1980
by Vincent Berniere and Mariel Primois,
240 pages, paperback
Harry N. Abrams, 2013