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Stuff for the Teen Age, Popular Music

New York Punk Rock: A Basic History


The Ramones at CBGBs in 1977 photo by Ian Dickson

The theme for Anti-Prom 2014 is New York Punk Rock. The golden age of punk rock in NYC was from 1974 to 1981. When clubs like CBGBs and Max's Kansas City ruled the scene and bands like Television, The Ramones, Blondie, Suicide and Patti Smith were its kings and queens. But it's more then that: there was the music that came before and came after: glam rock, proto-punk, art punk and no wave, new wave, hardcore, post punk etc... The bands of New York City were at the forefront of them all. They would influence the punk scene in the UK and bands like The Sex Pistols and The Clash and inspire west coast bands like Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys.

Their playground was the Bowery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Now it's filled with Whole Foods, designer clothing stores and souless hipster restaurants but back then it was at the center of everything. "New York City during the '70s was a beautiful ravaged slag—impoverished and neglected after suffering decades of abuse. She stunk of sewage, sex, rotting fish and day old diapers," or that's how punk rocker Lydia Lunch describes it in the book No Wave. But even as dirty and grubby as it was, it was still the most exciting place to be on the planet! Just 17 when she arrived, she was thrilled to be rubbing up against "...the freaks and other outcasts... of NYC," who'd all come to the city to scream "their bloody heads off," and while the toilets of CBGBs were a disgusting mess they still "sang a song of diseased lust to her raging hormones." I have to say as much as I enjoy organic fruit and artisanal cheeses, I miss the days of when the Bowery was still the Bowery and CBGB's was more then just a brand on a t-shirt.

Here's to the Golden Age of Punk!

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk ed. by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
Famous and infamous punk figures lend their voices to this definitive account of that outrageous, explosive era of NYC punk rock. From its origins in the late '60s to its end during late '80s corporate rock, the phenomenon known as punk is scrutinized, eulogized, and idealized by the people who were there and who made it happen. It's almost like being there.


Just Kids by Patti Smith
Punk pioneer Patti Smith gives the lowdown on life as a punk rocker newly arrived in New York City in the 1970s and her friendship with a young artist named Robert Mapplethorpe.



CBGB's & OMFG by Hilly Kristal
It's NYC punk-rock documented in all its sweaty, maladorous, rock-fueled glory in this photo-chronicle of the happenings at CBGB and OMFUG, the dingy, legendary music hangout in Manhattan's East Village.

End of the Century (DVD) - When the Ramones (straight outta Forest Hills) recorded their debut album in 1976, it heralded the true birth of punk rock. They gave voice to the disaffected youth of the '70s and '80s, influenced countless bands, and inspired the counterculture for decades to come.


I Slept with Joey Ramone; A Family Memoir by Mickey Leigh
Written by his brother, this is the heartbreaking tale of Joey Ramone who with his signature sunglasses and a mop of dark hair, helped define punk's early image, and his two-decade-plus tenure as the Ramones' front man made him unforgettable.


Lobotomy by Dee Dee Ramone
You want a true rock n' roll cautionary tale? Here you have an unrelenting memoir of sex, drugs and two minute songs by a man who saw it all from nights at CBGB's to the breakup of the Ramones' happy family, his girlfriend's OD, Sid Vicious shooting up using toilet water; and a pistol-wielding Phil Spector holding the band hostage in Beverly Hills.


On the Road with the Ramones by Monte Melnick
True tales from the road with one of the bands that defined the New York Punk era. And, yep, it really was the crazy.



I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell
A pioneer of American and British punk rock shares his journey, from his arrival on the streets of New York in 1967 to his rise to fame with Television and touring with such bands as The Clash and The Sex Pistols, to his full-blown descent into drug addiction.


Punk By Stephen Colgrave
The full complete story of a music revolution. A massive and visually stunning record of five years that changed the world: from 1975 to 1979 told through the words of the people who were closely tied to the mania and through hundreds of color and black-and-white photographs.

Love Goes to Buildings on Fire: Five Years in New York City that Changed Music Forever by Will Hermes
In the mid-1970s ('73 to '77) New York City was falling apart. Crime was high but rent was cheap and the city was a laboratory where all the major styles of modern music from punk, rock, hip-hop, salsa, disco and jazz were being reinvented.


I, Doll: Life and Death with the New York Dolls by Arthur Kane
Before there was a NYC punk scene there was The New York Dolls: a hugely influential proto-punk, glam rock group. This is a first-hand account of the late glam rocker's life and career. The high drama and low comedy of the band's early years, his undisciplined and extroverted style, the role of drugs in influencing his experiences and oh, yeah, how they unwittingly invented the thing we now call punk rock.


No Wave: Post- Punk, Underground, New York, 1976-1980 by Thurston Moore
A visual and oral history chronicle of the collision of art and punk in the New York underground of 1976 to 1980. Put together by Moore who was there to see it all happen before he would go onto to found the seminal alt-rock band Sonic Youth.

My First Time: A Collection of First Punk Show Stories ed. by Chris Duncan
Everyone remembers their first punk show... Blag Dahlia (The Dwarves) "I started talking to a girl I met outside the liquor store. She had a haircut that looked like a comma balanced on her head and a drunken scowl on her face. When her older boyfriend came out of the liquor store he told me to f*** off with a mouth that smelled like old carpeting moldering in a dumpster." Good times.


Punk Revolution NYC (DVD)
Clocking in at over 3 hours, traces the entire history of New York's punk movement. From the Velvet Underground, Warhol, the Doll's reign to the handover of power to the bands that would go on to define the era: Television, Suicide, The Ramones, Blondie. Interviews and rare performance footage make this a must-see!


The Rough Guide to Punk by Al Spicer
A fun, sneering look at the musicians, fashions, icons and record labels behind the subculture that revolutionized pop music. Gives the lowdown on everything from safety pins and bondage trousers to venues like The Roxy and CBGBs and comes complete with recommended playlists of the best, loudest and angriest slices of punk waiting to be downloaded to your iTunes or Spotify app.

Spray Paint the Walls: The Story of Black Flag by Stevie Chick
Are you hardcore? Formed in 1976 in Southern California, this seminal hardcore punk would define and innovate the sound and punk sub-culture for the following decades to come.



Dead Kennedys: The Unauthorized Version by Marian Kester
Formed in 1978 in San Francisco, this influential hardcore punk band is best known for its sociopolitical themes and being embroiled in a famous obscenity trial for the artwork for their album Frankenchrist. They were charged with "distribution of harmful matters to children." The trial resulted in a hung jury.


Pretty Vacant: A History of UK Punk by Phil Strongman
A definitive account of how UK punk acts the Sex Pistols and the Clash, along with their contemporaries took rock ’n’ roll closer to the edge than any band before them and moved the punk movement from the underground to the mainstream.



Punk Rock: An Oral History by John Robb
Punk rocker John Robb interviewed more than 100 contributors to bring the inside view on the landmark events of the radical Punk Rock movement that exploded in '70s Britain.



Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk, 1980-1984 by Ian Glasper
Most people think that the underground punk scene in the UK died when Sid Vicious died and The Clash hit the big time. This is the true story of the UK punk scene from 1980 to 1984 told for the first time by the bands and labels who created it.



Punk: Attitude (DVD)
Explores the music, fashion, and attitude that came to define 'Punk' and the impact it had on pop culture.


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'Please Kill Me' is a great

'Please Kill Me' is a great Punk Rock education...gave me a better understanding of the Ramones 53rd and 3rd.

Inexplicably they left out

Inexplicably they left out "Death of a Punk", by John Browner, one of the major (as well as only) works of fiction to contemporaneously come out of that scene. Tsk-tsk. It was probably too expensive for the library to acquire, the cheapest copy available at the moment on Amazon being close to a C-note. More funding for the NYPL!

Heylin's Book Belongs Here

If you're looking for more to read on this subject, check out Clinton Heylin's "From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World." It primarily covers the nascent NYC Punk scene, but dedicates a fair number of pages to Detroit (The Stooges, MC5), Cleveland (Rocket From the Tombs, Electric Eels, Pere Ubu, Mirrors), and even Boston (Modern Lovers). It's often said of the Velvet Undergound that "they didn't sell many albums, but everyone who bought one went on to form a band." This book is about those bands.

When I created this list

When I created this list there was so much I wanted to put on it but I decided to keep it to just items that readily available for check out and that would appeal to teen readers. If you are looking for more information there are plenty of reference materials at the Library for the Performing Arts.

The photo of Johnny Ramone

The photo of Johnny Ramone was taken during their first tour of England. It was NOT taken in CBGB's. Even the Wikipedia info is incorrect. CBGB's never had a railing in front of the stage.

Johnny Ramone stage shot

You're quite correct. That image was taken at Eric's Club, in Liverpool in 1977,as was the shot of Joey on the cover of Mickey Leigh's "I Slept With Joey Ramone". Both are mine.

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