Though it would be difficult to argue that the San Francisco punk scene of the late 1970s had a bigger impact on punk music or rock ‘n’ roll in general than the Los Angeles, New York or London scenes, San Francisco did play a sizable role in punk history (it was the site of the last Sex Pistols concert) and it was the birthplace of a few bands that remained relevant and influential for decades (Dead Kennedys).
For what it lacked in future rock stars like New York’s Blondie or Southern California’s Social Distortion, it made up for in sheer shock value, avant-garde factor and subversiveness.
Punk ’77, a new book by James Stark, documents the San Francisco punk history with a scrapbook style mix of photos and anecdotes from those who were there.
The release of Punk ’77 will be celebrated at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29th, at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice. Admission is $10.
There will be a screening of rare 1970s punk films (mostly out of print or unavailable to the public) along with a punk panel discussion of “The 1970s Punk Revolution” with Gerald V. Casale (founding theorist of the concept band Devo); Graeme Revell of the punk/industrial music pioneers SPK; and V. Vale, former publisher of Search & Destroy, a popular 1970s punk fanzine and current owner of RE/Search Publications.
Photographic prints from Punk ’77 will be exhibited in Beyond Baroque’s Project Room and will be sold at the event.
Punk ’77 chronicles the exploits of local San Francisco bands like The Avengers, Crime and The Nuns, obscure even in terms of punk bands, but unforgettable to those who experienced them firsthand in an exploding music scene known for its brash, crass bursts of musical energy and its alien antics and aesthetic.
A substantial segment of the book is devoted to classic out-of-town punk bands who visited the area and gave memorable concerts, including The Damned, Blondie and The Ramones. The legendary Sex Pistols concert at Winterland in early 1978, in which The Sex Pistols put on a brief, chaotic and amateurish performance and then disbanded a mere three weeks into their first American tour, is described in the book by local San Franciscans who were there to witness the debacle that drew over 7,000 people.
Avengers singer Penelope Houston, who performed an artful and articulate brand of punk and was the opening act for the Winterland performance, describes the event as being filled with “voyeuristic” suburbanites, who were there to cause violence at the “punk circus.”
“The first thing that happened when I went out was to slip on somebody’s spit,” says Houston, describing her entrance onto the Winterland stage. “When I did get out there, I saw all these people. If you saw someone you recognized, a second later they would disappear. People were being crushed in the front for almost 20 heads deep.”
A portion of the book focuses on the early punk days of 1976 and much of 1977, when the music style was purely an underground art scene with miles of uncharted territory to be explored.
“Then different people tried to take it over, to make money on it, to cash in,” says Jeff Olener of the band The Nuns. Others lost their sense of originality and identity as the popularity of British punk sky-rocketed, the San Francisco scene-makers lament.
Information, (310) 822-3006.