Lo-Fi Mojo’s Book Nook: “The Encyclopedia of Punk”

Written by Books, Lo-Fi Mojo

In what better ways could musicians reject the status quo of Led Zeppelin, the musical bollocks of disco, and the pop pablum du jour like Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” than to rip your clothes, dye your hair, stick a safety pin up your nose and play a guitar at top volume even though you might only know a chord or none?

“Brilliant!” as the professorial whackos from the Guinness commercials might say.

Flash forward 30 years, and one can still see why the poorly executed, sometimes ugly and definitely very smelly genre of punk rock and its power-pop, new wave, post-punk progeny–and all the other disciples of Joey Ramone and Johnny Rotten–hold such hallowed places in our collective rock-n-roll heart.

For those uninitiated in the tales of yore–or old fans who want to take a brutally vivid walk down memory lane (if you’re a punk, that’s actually some unnamed glass-strewn service alley smelling of urine and vomit)–Brian Cogan’s brand-new Encyclopedia of Punk does a fantastic job of rehashing the old stories and shedding new light on some topics, such as the history of CBGB’s and the Clash, taking a 30-year view from the mountaintop not afforded to previous books that tackled the subject in the 1980s and 1990s.

Sterling Publishers spared no expense on this LP-cover sized book with this pages, stunning graphics and gorgeous color layouts featuring photos both well-known and hitherto unpublished. It’s laid out alphabetically from ABC No Rio to Youth of Today, with well-put-together history/overviews of bands, clubs, record labels, important cliques and maps of the major scenes. Even whole subgenres like Queercore and nonmusical topics like tattoos get their entries.

You’d think that there was no more to say about the legendarily lo-fi, mostly self-recorded junk that was punk rock. But from that one music-cultural period that, really, peaked well before 1980, so many new bands, solo albums, spinoffs and posers have come and gone since…there will always more to say. For instance, Green Day, here, is put into context that its fans probably haven’t seen before next to the Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks and Ramones.

This book says it beautifully, concisely, and with a refreshing lack of nostalgia-cruise flava. The writing of Cogan, a communication arts and sciences prof at Molloy College on Long Island, makes this hefty book worth the $25 cover price. It would make your best punk pal hit you up side the head with much bloody affection if it were to show up under the tree–or whatever your house has–this holiday season.