ALL THE YOUNG PUNKS - GEORGE BERGER
The thing is, what I want to know is how this book ended up in an Oxfam shop in Exmouth, which is where I found it? I think we should be told and I think George Berger, the author/editor should be told also. Firstly, however, just who is George Berger?
Well, according to his Goodreads profile he's 'a freelance writer, with Punk rock DNA. He's written for Sounds, Melody Maker and Amnesty International among others. He's published two books: Dance Before The Storm - The Official Story Of The Levellers, and The Story Of Crass. George is the founder of Flowers In The Dustbin. He lives where the mood takes him and funds allow.'
A further Internet search also reveals that he was the hippy leader in the film Hair.
All The Young Punks - Punk Rockers In Their Own Words is a book that poses just eight questions to what looks like a number of George's friends from his Facebook page. Those questions are: Where were you when you discovered Punk? How did it feel at the time? Your fondest memories? The best Punk gig you ever saw? What's your favourite Punk B-side? How did Punk change your life? What lasting legacy did it leave on you? Where are you now?
All well and good and all very interesting but the answers we get contain no real surprises. All who answered are obviously old fans of the Punk rock genre and all wax enthusiastically about the good times they had and the positive influence Punk had upon them. None of them come out with it and just admit that actually, Punk rock fucked up their life.
It's one of those things, isn't it, where there's no real way of knowing whether their lives would have turned out much better without Punk or not? At the tender age of 13 or whenever it was they got into Punk, they might have thought their lives were mapped out before them or that society was a drag and saw Punk as an alternative to what was on offer. So, having taken the Punk rock path they've ended up where they are today with a mindset forged in the fires of the Sex Pistols, the Clash and Crass. Would they have ended up somewhere different, in possession of a different mindset were it not for Punk? Who knows? What is there to judge it on?
At the end of the day, however, whether or not Punk ruined their lives or enhanced it, there's no suggestion or hint of regret either way and it's just as the Butthole Surfers once postulated: "Well, son, a funny thing about regret is that it's better to regret something you have done than to regret something you haven't done. And by the way, if you see your mom this weekend would you be sure and tell her: SATAN! SATAN! SATAN!"
I'll admit here that some of the people quoted within this book I actually know, either through association or having encountered them over the years. Mark from The Mob, Phil from PAIN, Louise from Hysteria Ward, Bob Short from Brigandage, Alastair Livingstone from Kill Your Pet Puppy. I even actually know who George Berger is, if truth be told, and in his introduction he writes: 'Every book seems to be about the bands, about the 'faces', about the music. But being a Punk back then was only punctuated by these things, however often. Here are a few stories from the frontline, from the trenches. Stories from the footsoldiers who made Punk what it was without turning it into a career. Think of it as correspondence from an unreported war. Just as generals are celebrated in wars, so only the opinions and memories of the 'stars' are sought for Punk books. This book tries to widen that out to include the thoughts and reflections of normal, everyday Punk rockers.'
The problem with this (and to his credit, George recognises it) is that Punk was an arena where every man, woman and child was a star (or anti-star), and not just those with a public/media profile. Whose fault is it then that Punk is always defined by the same old people, as in those with the biggest profiles? The writers, reporters and translators of those definitions or the punters for continuously gobbling up without question these repetitive definitions, documentations and histories?
I applaud George for what he's done with this book and for his original intention though I frown upon the way it's been exercised. I'm a bit baffled, actually. George's band, Flowers In The Dustbin, have always been innovative and imaginative with a lot of care and consideration put into the songs. His books, however, are a different matter. His book on Crass, for example, contained so many editing mistakes that I wondered if it had been proof-read at all?
All The Young Punks is the same. Besides a lack of editing and proof-reading there's a total lack of any detail in it. People reply to the questions he's posed but there's a lack of information as to who these people are and I can guarantee that most of them would have played in bands in the past but unless they mention this themselves in their answers, then we're none the wiser. It's quite frustrating.
I presume this is a self-published book as well, as there's no information on or in it as to suggest otherwise? There's no date on it to advise when it was published and no price on it either.
If anyone wants a copy then all I can suggest is they look in the same place I found mine, as in a charity shop in Exmouth...
Spot the Punk anti-stars: Members of Lunatic Fringe, Chaos UK, Disorder - and moi!