FUNGALPUNK - BOOK REVIEWS
 
 

SID VICIOUS/NO ONE IS INNOCENT - ALAN PARKER

Once again the tale of the spiky haired rebel is told, this time with an unbiased view that relates all of the stars failings and misdemeanours. This book, I am sure, will raise the eyebrows of the fan and the punking punter with a passing interest and create a situation where one really has to re-evaluate what they actually think about Mr Vicious. However intense the authors enthusiasm and fondness for his subject he never holds back on making out Vicious to be the good guy/bad guy in equal measure.

The book is a fascinating tale of misdirection, utter stupidity and attempting to live up to the creature other, less caring people, have made you. Sid Vicious comes across as a hero and zero in the same sentence and from a personal perspective I now look upon the one time Sex Pistol as of limited talent, easily led, an unthinking thug and surprisingly one who was indeed innocent of murder. There is no doubt we are dealing here with a complex character who really didn't give a fuck and lived out the rock and roll dream to it's sorry, tragic end.

Pistols fans and beyond will love this but the ones who deem John Simon Ritchie/Beverley a hero may be sorely sobered up with this well research factual saga. The main winning formula is that the book has many characters that you just don't know whether to love or loathe but one thing is for sure - circumstance had some fun here with several unaware victims given a real duff deal.

   

TOUCHING FROM A DISTANCE - DEBORAH CURTIS

Written by the widow of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis this is an emotional tale of psychological torment, marital strife, mental abuse and gloomy nihilism. As Deborah Curtis states this book is to lay to rest the ghost of her late husband, and may it be said, she does so with great effect.

Curtis is portrayed as something far from a hero, and the life he gives to his young and vulnerable wife is anything but blissful. The man they made a myth from is moody, overbearing, awkward and unpredicably erratic which when intertwined with his 'early death' obsession and his drug experimentation all points to a disastrous conclusion. His adulterous lifestyle is obnoxiously selfish and then suddenly Curtis comes across as despairingly caring - all contributing to a paradox of a man who still has many questions hanging over his head.

The narrator writes with great emotion and her open and honest style is really quite impressive. There is no holding back here and the authoress should be truly applauded for this great account of living with a schizophrenic epileptic on the brink of stardom.

I read this in a couple of sittings and came away with a different outlook on a man so many admire. For fans of Joy Division and Ian Curtis himself, prepare to have your dreams smashed apart.

The lyrics at the end of the book are a nice addition and the more one reflects back on the textual matter the warnings unfold.

   

THE MODFATHER - DAVID LINES

This biography of one mans obsession with The Jam and in particular Paul Weller is truly compulsive reading and for some reason of insistent fascination one can hardly wait to find out ‘what happens next’.

David Lines captures the naivety of adolescence perfectly and the whole tale unfolds with a watershed of innocence, foolishness and delightful misdirection.  Anecdotes of unattainable love, wilful drinking and cringing embarrassment are frequent occurrences as is the abundance of honest humour that make ‘Linesy’ a most likeable chap.  The text is kept simple but suitably descriptive with characters and situations easily envisioned and felt.   Fans of The Jam will adore this as will anyone who had a childhood hero (come on be honest) and anyone who likes to reminisce about the good old days.  Steeped in nostalgia the book name drops several classic brand names with Rubik's Cube, Blue Riband Bars, Um-Bongo and Betamax Video Recorders to name a few.  It’s all there and the scenes of yesteryear are painted very vividly indeed.

The author has a great sense of timing and many hilarious moments are had due to nothing more than neat, efficient penmanship.  Vital text is perfectly positioned and many emotions are dealt with which only adds to the depth of the whole story.

A choice little book and if you play your cards right can be bought for a choice price (HMV-£3) or from a bog standard bookshop for £7.99 – still a bargain.

   

GODS LONELY MEN - PETE HAYNES

With the same title as The Lurkers second album release this book is a factual account of what it was like to be in a punk rock band in the late seventies despite being at odds with society and people in general. Bordering on the misanthropic but remaining charmingly honest throughout Pete Haynes (aka Manic Esso) gives us a retro peek into the grimy pub and pogo circuit and its place in a divided society where, as is the norm, if your face don't fit then its tough fuckin' shit.

The characters we meet along the way are given true life as the author relates his innermost feelings towards these passing persons in The Lurkers journey. Similar to his drumming role Haynes sits back and watches events unfold then coolly, yet passionately, assesses each situation thus revealing, more often than not, a shit grained undercurrent steeped in prejudice, dishonesty and hatred. No favourites are played here and the main lure of the text is found in the way the author overcomes the depressing attitudes of the masses.

Mr Haynes has his mental hang-ups, but hey don't we all, but the survivor shines through and I feel a small victory for the everyday man is made as connections are made and opinions stood by despite the constant downpour of doubt and external negation.

Subtle, sweet, sobering and straight - and - a solid read throughout.

   
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77 SULPHATE STRIP - BARRY CAIN

An eyewitness account of the famous punk year with some of the key players re-assessing comments and emotions during interviews both then and now. The style can sometimes be a bit to arty but the authors unique style of writing shouldn't be cast in a bad light as the wordage used is what gives the book both character and realism. It is though a tome filled with many an anecdote that isn't so well known and I am sure everyone who reads this will raise an eyebrow or two at some of the more revealing moments. The fact that it's not just an arse-licking narration of the more known bands and includes one or two lesser known acts only adds to the convincing reading material.

The main ensnaring theme of this book is the final interviews that bring together some famous names from the glowing punk year and gets their reflections on all what transpired and how it has effected their lives. It kind of tidies everything up along the way and gets the reader abreast of things in the spit and puke arena. Cain is downright honest throughout and despite being a jounalist for Record Mirror seems to throw off those limiting shackles and unashamedly throws in his own passion and joy albeit sometimes a little speed induced.

The contempary interviews with Lydon, Scabies and Cornwell are particularly interesting and from start to finish this book gives you plenty of entertainment.

   
SEX PISTOLS, THE INSIDE STORY - FRED & JUDY VERMOREL
 
A book that regurgitates the history of punks most well known band from their earliest years to their eventual demise and beyond.  Even though the story is more than well known to the punk populace there are still one or two anecdotal snippets here that I am sure will have the most keen connoiseur raising their eyebrows in disbelief.  The first half of the book is primarily taken up with diarised notes from Sophie, the Pistols secretary, and her sobering view on the whole proceedings.  This is a very interesting angle and is neatly interspersed with interviews, rare photos and newspaper snippets that I remember reading at the time of their happening.
 
30+ years on from the outrageous episodes and all seems diluted and somewhat unbelievable yet it all happened and in someways highlighted the closed company that the record business is as well as the manipulative force of the press.  The Pistols were not what they seemed in a variety of ways but the impact they made was well timed (albeit luckily or by foresight) with the repercussions of the punk revolution going far and wide in both negative and positive terms.
 
'The Inside Story' is accurately entitled and both the authors have done well to compile such a comprehensive data file on a tattered and nebulous tale.
   
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DRUNK AND INCAPABLE - CAYN WHITE

I paid £3 for this collection of poems and did so, with pleasure, in advance of its release. Why? Because Cayn White is a likeable lad who has got off his arse and had a go and participating in this scene that is ideal for anyone willing to chance their arm. The previous time I'd seen Cayn strut his stuff was at The Yorkshire Punks Picnic in Halifax where he was amiable and most importantly - pissed as a fart! The obvious influences are indeed just that - obvious - but Cayn does things his way and throws in many of his efforts with a complete DIY attitude. That, my dear reader, will do for me and after receiving my copy of this book and reading almost immediately I am more than convinced it was brass well spent.

What do you get for your money though? Well fuck all if you ain't already got a copy because this was a limited run that has now sold out. That'll teach ya! If you did get a copy then you get 18 easy to read and relate to rhymes that will raise a smile and many a titter. Cayn has many a good point to make and does so with a sense of the perverse and idiotic never far away. Tales of bird flu, biscuits falling into cups of tea, being trapped in a porn shop and dating a psychopath all seem fantastical but the hard edged stuff is in there as well with the poignancy and heartbreak of 'For A Friend' and 'A Glimpse Of God' certainly noteworthy.

I have no favourites here as I enjoyed each and every scribbling and I accept it isn't the most profound prose to hit the shelves but it is very fuckin' real and done by someone who ain't afraid to commit to the cause and have his say. Volume 2 should be on the way soon so get them coins ready to roll Cayns way.

   

THE STORY OF CRASS - GEORGE BERGER

A bohemian household is set up as an open house and over a 40 year span a whole host of drifting 'erberts pass through, each one on their own personal road.  Amidst these many lives another adventure happens - an adventure based around a band called Crass.
 
Borne from the loins of anarchic thinking and the punk movement several artistic thinkers and general outsiders come together to pool their thoughts and puke them forth via a musical montage of black and white rage.  The impact Crass made within the music scene should not be under-rated, especially by the punks of the time, and this book tells of all that transpired before, during and after the events.  The way Crass helped other bands, refused to sell out and doggedly stuck to ideals that pissed in the face of tradition was, and still is, admirable as is their unique experimental approach to the way their music was created and passed on.
 
The band were very much within their time and at odds against a government and system that stood for everything they despised.  What Crass did meant so much to so many and deservedly so, and even though this book is well researched you get the feeling there is a whole lot more to tell.
 
The recent reformation for me has shit on a lot of points the band made but many would disagree I am sure.  One thing is for sure though a lot of the verbology created excitement and belief and that can be recaptured somewhat by a cruise through this well presented tome of which my only gripe is there aren't more images of a fascinating period.

   

VICIOUS: THE ART OF DYING YOUNG - MARK PAYTRESS

A bleak tale of negativity, despair and all round idiocy. Even when one tries ones utmost one can't help but get dejected by this tale of one of rocks biggest losers. Vicious came, cocked up and was carried off in the relative twinkling of an eye and the legacy he left is not one to live by. The book is smartly written with eye-witness accounts and in the know participants all adding to the downward spiral that one feels drawn into. Despite the moribund ambience the book holds attention and that is solely down to the author in the main but I guess some small part must be blamed on nothing more than morbid fascination.

Whatever your opinion Vicious did look the part and no one can argue that he was the greatest self destruct artiste of the modern rock era. Don't forget this is a true story of a clinically depressed misanthrope who liked to press buttons, push boundaries and piss on procedure. In many ways he encapsulated the danger that punk so deliciously toyed with but alas fell victim to his own ill-will and over-indulgent appetite for all things sordid.

If you hold Vicious in high esteem this should shatter your dreams and I for one am all for the realistic approach that doesn't flower things up for spurious reasons. Worth a browse by punk zealots and people fascinated by the dark side.

   

THE CLASH - TALKING - NICK JOHNSTONE

Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon were the quintessential group of vocal punks who remained committed to spreading a message of social justice via their mix and match style of noise. Experimental, never afraid to chance their sonic arm and always pushing, pushing, pushing the Clash had many things to say and wouldn't rest in the meantime. The explosion into the popularity stakes was hard earned and no sooner had the ball really started rolling than it somehow got punctured and became deflated equally as quick.

This book is a simple idea. Get the views of the band before, during and after their main 5 year hayday and publish all important quotes in some loose chronological order along with several photographs of the band at various stages of their development. For some reason this does indeed work and a basic picture of the members emotions is painted without going into too many verbal wanderings. The strain, the attitude, the successes and the failures are neatly caught and although it won't take you more than a few hours to rattle through this it is one you can browse through again and again at your leisure.

The Clash, it is without doubt, were influential and if you are a hardcore fan or a passing admirer this is worth a mooch. If you look hard enough it is more than likely a sub £5 price tag can be found too so there can be no excuses to pick up a copy and enjoy!

   
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