Category Archives: books

Dave Dictor – MDC: Memoir from a Damaged Civilisation (Stories of Punk, Fear, and Redemption) (Manic D Press)

Squats, cops and nazi skinheads – Memoir is part band-biog, and part collection of Dave’s Maximum Rocknroll columns, recounting anecdotes of one of the most abrasive anarcho-thrash bands to have emerged from the west coast US scene in the early 1980s.

Dave tells of his early punk days fronting the Stains as part of the vibrant Austin, Texas, scene and the west coast’s magnetic pull that put them alongside the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag et al, and from where they unleashed their furious first album – the anarcho-thrash classic Millions of Dead Cops.

San Francisco in 1981/1982 was truly a land to behold,” says Dave, “a countercultural oasis attracting youth of all stripes to its bounty; teenage runaways, punk rockers, industrial art types, college art types, and just young people everywhere we turned.”

One of MDC’s triumphs was that they took fast, aggressive anarchopunk to places that hadn’t experienced it before. The reaction of a crowd in Barcelona sums it up: “They were frozen in space trying to make sense of a style of music they weren’t used to,” Dave says. “The next night we played again; it looked like exactly the same crowd. Everyone was in place, standing, waiting, but this time from the very first note to the last they went absolutely apeshit bonkers, like we were returning conquerors.”

MDC suffered a shifting line-up, and some albums suffered. And Dave isn’t shy of talking about his personal disintegration into drug addiction and how he bizarrely wound up living in Portland, hanging with Poison Idea’s Pig Champion and making a living by dealing amphetamines. His path to redemption is slow and fraught with pain, but Dave, and MDC survive.

MDC’s recent tours have given back these ferocious and funsters the credit they deserve and Memoir shows how they spurned the mainstream to evolve their own music and develop their own voices. If the book lacks anything, it’s a couple more drafts to flesh out the band’s story even further and to give it more coherence in the tale of one of anarchopunk’s most significant and influential bands.

Available through Active Distribution

Merrick Badger – The Story about Peter Wells (Glad to be Gay/Purple White and Green)

Tom Robinson’s sardonic masterpiece Glad to be Gay (on his Rising Free live EP) peaked at Number 18 in the pop charts in 1978, just 11 years after homosexuality was “decriminalised” in the UK, and during an era when it was still openly and habitually persecuted. Robinson’s song contained a verse dedicated to Peter Wells – a 21-year-old who served two years in prison for a same-sex relationship with an 18-year-old, which destroyed his life. Merrick delves into the culture and attitudes of 1970s Britain to uncover the story behind Wells’s persecution. He talks to the people who knew him, and even interviews his lover. In late 2016, the UK government still couldn’t apologise to thousands of men convicted of same-sex relationships. Peter Wells’s story highlights how the law is used to cosh what the government identifies as unacceptable outsiders.

Audio book also available, narrated by Tom Robinson himself: HERE

Sue Coe – The Animals’ Vegan Manifesto (OR Books)

Equal parts beautiful and disturbing, The Animal's Vegan Manifesto draws heavily from Orwell's Animal Farm in a tale of animal and human liberation over 115 intricate, painstaking woodcuts. Sue says she grew up next to a slaughterhouse in Liverpool, which informed her work and inspired her veganism. That her creative process is so scrupulous, but subject matter often so often distressing, makes this book a labour of much devotion from a committed animal rights activist. Each panel is carved from the wood of wild cherry in a cacophony of different voices, which reach a joyful conclusion. The Animals' Vegan Manifesto keeps drawing you back to revisit its sometimes outstanding beauty.

Review: The Spitboy Rule

Michelle Cruz Gonzales – The Spitboy Rule: Tales of Xicana in a female punk band (PM Press)

Reviewed in Cubesville #20

As a female in a male-dominated punk scene, as a small town working class punk in the San Francisco hardcore scene, and as a Xicana Mexican in a predominantly white scene, the Spitboy Rule is a voice straight out of DIY punk – from a drummer in a feminist hardcore punk band, who toured in the late 1980s/early 1990s, and and an account of the role Spitboy played in her personal development.

Many 1990s DIY bands have been overshadowed by punk’s surprising commercialisation during that decade. And as Lookout Records labelmates with Green Day and scenester friends of Nirvana, Spitboy faced that mainstream/DIY argument.

As a feminist hardcore punk band, Spitboy made what would today sound like a surprising step away from the emergent Riot Grrrl movement. But Michelle recounts the band’s position with honesty – an established punk band with deep roots in the Bay Area scene.

Allegiances between band members, and Michelle describes the micro-politics of how people with very different backgrounds fitted together in a touring band.

Michelle’s writing is always succinct, hitting the nail on the head time after time in short, fast, loud chapters of this inspirational feminist punk memoir.

Review: Some of us Scream

Various – Some of us Scream, Some of us Shout (Monkey Press), edited by Greg Bull and Mike Dines

Reviewed in Cubesville #20

This collective autobiography of writings and reprints is a piece of history in which to lose yourself. It catalogues a barely chartered era in the early-to-mid 1980s; gathering together first-hand accounts of gigs, zine interviews, Xeroxed handouts, creative writing and artwork.

The punk scene is often guilty of being so lost in the moment that looking backwards would kill its creative energies; it leaves its brave, resourceful, innovative past to be picked over by those without the desire, fight or vision to seek new means of expression.

But Some of us Scream has an infectious sense of urgency that sends a letter of hope and support to DIY punks 30 years into the future; bands practice, zines are glued together and homebrew is drunk despite a bleak backdrop of impending nuclear war, animal suffering and government brutality from Thatcher’s Conservatives.

Throughout, this 270-page collection gathers together personal tales from what we’d later call anarchopunk; Chris Butler gives a fan’s-eye view of his first Conflict gig, while Vincent Learoyd remembers Dirt’s tour supporting Crass. Anth Palmer relates being a teenage vegetarian in West Yorkshire, while Alastair Gordon recounts the birth of UK hardcore. Rudimentary Peni booklets are reprinted in their original, barely-legible glory, while Antisect fanzine interviews are presented with their original, daring honesty.

Whether you were there at the time or are fascinated by a musical and social movement that lost itself in its own moment of creation, Some of us Scream will be your bedtime reading for some time to come – and kindle our dreams of better worlds to come too.