Kevin Prested does a fine job with his detailed history of Lookout Records, the Berkeley, California-based independent record label which gave a voice and a home to punk bands of the late ’80’s and early ’90’s – most notably, Green Day, Screeching Weasel, Operation Ivy and others. There is an emotional, vested interest in the work done by Mr. Prested, which comes across and makes this an interesting read. Bands whose music I’ve never had any connection to or, if I’m being honest, interest in, did give me pause to think and become a bit curious. He tells the story as a fan and observer, yet his reporting comes across in a proper “just the facts” fashion as the label’s story unfolds, winds and ultimately implodes.
From its initial founding by Larry Livermore as an outlet for his own band, The Lookouts to the partnership with David Hayes that became strained; the signing and successes of Green Day and Operation Ivy to the legal and distribution calamities that befell the label – all of it is here. In many ways, it’s an excellent guide book on how not to run an independent label; what the pitfalls are and what the ramifications can be – the strained relationships, lawsuits, etc.
I don’t know if Lookout Records is, per se, deserving of a book; again, it’s obviously a labor of love, but other indie labels have a greater history and lineage worthy of volumes (think Stiff or I.R.S. Records (nevermind that it was distributed through a major – or even the fabled Georgia label DB Recs). But if you want a good snapshot of the turning of the punk scene in a particular time and place, this is an excellent starting point.
Punk U.S.A.: The Rise & Fall Of Lookout Records is available now