Living

Three books explore the past with some good music

Punk
Punk

This week’s Sound Check features reviews of older Microcosm books: a three-year volume of Snake Pit comics, and Parts 1 and 2 of their great Scene History series. Enjoy!

‘My Life In A Jugular Vein: Three More Years Of Snakepit Comics’ Ben Snakepit (Microcosm Books, 1/2)

This book, which contains daily strips for 2004-2006, shows Ben at different challenging periods of his life. Each comic strip references a song, and this time, a CD featuring 18 of those songs is included, with two from 2004, six from 2005 and the rest from 2006. My favorite tune is the twangy “Symbols, Slogans, Lies” by The Observers (2/26/05).

The year 2004 was difficult: a break-up early in the year, followed by further romantic troubles, housing problems, touring, band break-ups and more. My Mom passed away Sept. 28, 2004, so 2004 wasn’t wonderful for yours truly. The other two years had both good and bad; but I’m out of room for spoilers.

This volume is an enjoyable hop into the “way-back machine.”

‘Punk in NYC’s Lower East Side 1981-1991,’ Ben Nadler (Microcosm Books, )

This slim volume, “Scene History Series Volume 2,” covers a period that few people outside the scene at the time were aware of. The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Television and others had either moved onto the bigger touring circuit, broken up or become massively successful.

Politically driven punk bands like Reagan Youth gave way to sometimes racist/homophobic hardcore outfits before the scene imploded thanks to an over-zealous police force, yuppie gentrification of older buildings and heroin abuse. In other words, Nadler was prompted to write the book because of his admiration of some scenesters; but it’s a fairly disturbing chronicle.

‘Rock & Roll of San Francisco’s East Bay , 1950-1980,’ Cory M. Linstrum (Microcosm Books,)

This happier slim book, which is “Scene History, Volume 2,” also has the front-cover subtitle “All The Hits & Misses.”

Famous 1960s-1970s bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and Quicksilver Messenger Service are mentioned but not dealt with here because their stories have been told in other places.

Starting with the 1950s, the book’s divided by decades, revealing Johnny Fuller, future Coasters guitarist Adolph Jacobs, Johnny Heartsman along with “Boney Maroni,” “Dizzy Miss Lizzy,” “Slow Down” rocker Larry Williams and others.

The 1960s brought a garage/psychedelic explosion, with bands like Johnny Cicero & The Playboys, the surfing Offbeats, The Marbles and The Golliwogs, who name-changed into Creedence Clearwater Revival.

The 1970s produced Loading Zone, Earth Quake (who profited by Quincy Jones over-paying them for using a snippet in a movie), Beserkley and 415 Records and the extra-cool Rubinoos.

This book was more enjoyable to me, but both are good representations of scenes gone by.

Ricky Flake, a former punk rocker and current music fan, lives in Biloxi. Reach him at flakericky@gmail.com

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