Larry Hosken: New: Book Report: Gimme Something Better

This book was interesting, a lot more interesting than I expected. After all, I'm not a punk. I didn't grow up a punk. So why would I read—brace yourself—an oral history of the SF bay area punk scene? I learned plenty.

OK, here's what I love about punk: the DIY thing. Instead of worshiping some band, remember that you and your friends can start your own band. This book gives an interesting view into how this played out (and plays out) in the bay area. (The bay area isn't the only place this happened. If there are similar books/websites/whatever about this in similar areas, I'd to know about them.) Punk didn't really start out as a DIY thing, after all. It started out as a bunch of me-too kids who dressed up like the Sex Pistols, Ramones, or... yeah.

The DIY attitude was popularized by some dude named Tim Yohannon. He ran a magazine called Maximum Rock & Roll. I'd heard of the magazine but never read it; from the title, I figured it was full of hair metal cock-rock garbage. But, from this book, I find out it's all DIY and lefty and promoting little bands. (There's also a lot of more-correctly-liberal-than-thou "that band signed with a major label therefore they sold out" tall-poppy-cutting crapola; ...but maybe that's worth putting up with.) Tim Yohannon was also one of the founders of Gilman St, though he got out of it later and wasn't so happy at first when the generation of kids self-organized and ran the place.

How did people organize before there was an internet? How did social networking work before there were social networking sites? If you were a band in Arkansas trying to put together a national tour of underground places, how could you find out where to play, who to talk to? How do you organize that kind of word-of-mouth; what kind of society needs to be in place to nurture those connections? Shows, 'zines, phones, community, trust in foafs...

Anyhow, the book. The book consists of snippets from interviews. They're organized into chapters. Most chapters are about some band or about some institution. There's a chapter about, say, Green Day, with quotes from various folks, roughly arranged so that they're talking about things chronologically. It works well.

It makes me kinda glad that I wasn't part of the punk scene. It gets scary violent. Some of these kids were out living on the streets because they were trying to get away from bad situations. Some of these kids were bad situations themselves. What do you do when nazi skinhead assholes decide that your music is appropriate accompaniment for fights? Yeah, some of this stuff, I'm glad I'm getting through book-larning.

Some fun nuggets along the way:

Oh, I see the book has a web site, with some material that didn't make it into the book: Gimme Something Better. I wanted more after reading that book, so I guess I'll go read the site.

Tags: book social networks
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