Books - W

WHEN PUNK ROCKED - Andy Francis {132 pages, Whymer Publishing}
Everything about this, from the rather cheesy title, to the very crass cover of SIOUXSIE standing in front of a huge, fluttering Union Jack pretty much yells "CASH-IN!!!". Reading the book’s text, that is unfortunately reinforced.
OK - the facts. This is an A4-sized book consisting of high quality photos printed on glossy paper with a diary timeline dating from January 1976 through to December 1981. The time line entries not only indicate pivotal Punk releases during the era, but also significant gigs, label signings and cultural and political events that occurred. These are all in soundbite form, reproduced on what appears to be lined diary pages and in a font that mimics (neat) hand writing. It’s a method that has been used before but is executed rather well here, with background images, the diary fragments, photos, press cuttings and gig flyers all slapped together giving it a high-sheen cut ‘n’ paste feel. Each year starts with a double-page spread of a band with the year emblazoned on the photo.
Unfortunately, there are multiple errors throughout the book. Most glaringly, both 1979 and 1981 use same live photo of BOOMTOWN RATS. The narrative of Francis only spews forth more errors. The most obvious example is as follows: 1 January 1977 - the opening night of The Roxy featuring THE CLASH and THE HEARTBREAKERS we’re told. The fact the club’s opening night was 14 December with GENERATION X should be embarrassment enough. Unfortunately, whoever proof read this screwed up hugely as, immediately below the diary entry is a flyer for said gig and yes, THE CLASH are there - but the other band was actually CHELSEA. I mean really? If shit research isn’t bad enough, Francis or whatever lackadaisical school boy intern who put this together should have at least picked up that the flyer is different from what the text states!
As for the photos, they do save the book. There are several here I have not seen before (particularly THE STRANGLERS and also THE ADVERTS) and apparently they were taken by either Steve Emberton or Alan Perry. Unfortunately, in keeping with the cash-in feel of the book, none of the photos are credited individually, nor are they captioned. Admittedly, the photos are of the major Punk players of the day so are readily identifiable but location, dates etc would have been hugely beneficial. The reproduction of those photos is also of high quality, being sharp, full colour and on high sheen paper.
Andy Francis writes a rather sterile preface and even states, "Choosing the timeline style requires lots of research and verifying of dates." Too right it does mate - bet the words "Must try harder," were often on your school report huh? He also states at the end of the same paragraph that the reader should not, "get too hung up if you spot a few errors." Thankfully he’s just a journalist - not a surgeon.
I can’t say a great deal more unfortunately. The book is definitely worth a cursory flick through as some of the photos are excellent and, if you don’t have any other photographic documents of the era, this would be a decent one to start with. Unfortunately, the rest of the product (which is how this comes off - a commercial product without too much sincerity) is sorely lacking. (11.01.18)