Who were the good guys? Who were the bad guys? Who started what? The answers to these and other questions are in this exciting book by James Stark. With over 100 photographs, PUNK '77 covers the San Francisco Punk Rock scene from its beginnings in January 1977, to the Sex Pistols concert at Winterland a year later. In conducting the interviews, James would ask a few general questions and show photographs to the person being interviewed recording their comments and reactions. The photographs often reminded people of forgotten times and places and gave the text a relevance which might otherwise be lacking. The result is an interesting story of how a scene was created and how people were affected by their participation.
What happened in the San Francisco Punk Scene occurred simultaneously in cities all over the U.S. and in Europe. The creation of culture by youth is an important phenomenon, and one which never loses relevance.
PUNK '77 began as Xeroxed booklet of photographs taken in and around the Mabuhay and elsewhere on the punk rock scene in 1979. In 1988, James began adding text in the form of interviews with the people who were there and made it happen.
James was one of the many artists involved in the early punk scene. His photos were published in New York Rocker, Search & Destroy and Slash, among others. His posters for the band Crime have become classics and highly prized collectors items.
If you were in a band in 1975 or 1976, you had to be in what the 'local scene' was at that time or there was nowhere to play. That's why we started the Mabuhay. There was nowhere for anybody to go. We had to create our own place to hang out, so that's what we did. Before Mabuhay I never hung out in clubs because there wasn't a club scene. With the Mabuhay, you just went there. You didn't care who was playing because you went to hang out.--Jeff Rafael, Nuns
There was no music scene going on in San Francisco when me and my friend, Steve, moved out here from St. Louis. We moved into this little apartment by Cala Foods on Hyde Street. We couldn't play in the apartment because of complaints, so we would go down to Polk St. and play for tips. That's where I met Kowalsky and one of the guys from Crime, and other people who later became part of the Mabuhay scene.-- Jimmy Wilsey, Avengers
In the late Seventies before Punk, it was easier for record companies to put out Donna Summer-type canned music, disco, "Love to Love You Baby" kind of stuff. Club owners felt that as long as they could get people to pay a door charge to dance, then why should they have to deal with the expense of presenting live entertainment?
The places that had live bands were booking hippie bands, more or less. When the Mabuhay opened its doors to people like the Ramones, Dammed, Blondie and Wayne County, people who started out in New York, it was exciting for everybody. There had to be more than just a handful of people who didn't want to go to discos. They had no other place to go, so this was an opportunity. It help prove to the city that not everything had to be canned music. Bands like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols came through with a kind of rebellious sound. It was something new. It wasn't the same old Savoy Brown, Sixties kind of bar band. It was a relief not having to hear, 'Love to Love You Baby'.--Ginger Coyote
When the part of the past you feel you know turns out to be of general interest and, better yet, you've held on to a mass of striking photographs, you sit down and, make a book. James Stark was a photographer, poster-maker, and scene-person the year a certain club on San Francisco's tiny strip of night life began offering punk shows one night a week.
The photos themselves, a generous 115 of them, are richly satisfying. They're the kind of photos one wants to see, straight forwardly showing dramatic personages doing what they do, whether it's singing, playing, displaying their costumes, manifesting the effects of various substances, or just trying to talk their way in the door. Stark understood their theatrical beauty. And he knew when to press the shutter.
But the artistic ferment of the late '70s shows us that things of beauty, power, and inspiration can arise from within the walls of a couple of crummy clubs. Punk '77 is a testament to a grand moment occurring in an eyeblink of history.--Kit Drumm, Puncture; Issue 25, October 1992
There are good insights into the origins of SF punk, the gathering together of misfits who were dissatisfied with the degenerating of 60/70's music culture, who gravitated together under a yet-as-unnamed umbrella to be self supporting and stimulated.
I would recommend this book not only for old-timers looking for nostalgia, but especially to young Punks who have no idea how this all got off the ground, who take today's Punk for granted, to see how precarious it was at birth, what a fluke it was, and to perhaps be able to get a fresh perspective on today s scene needs especially vis-a-vis major label intervention. The value In such a history lies not in bemoaning bygone days but in learning from that to improve things now.--(TY), MAXIMUMROCKNROLL; Issue 114, November 1992
Although I didn't experience anything in this book firsthand, it brought back a lot of memories, since Frisco's earliest punk scene was a lot like New York's. It might surprise a lot of todays hardcore youth to learn that the original punkers weren't teenagers but bohemian artists and musicians in their mid-20's and early 30's. In New York, it seemed like everybody who liked punk in 1977 was either Jewish or Gay (or both) and from this book, San Francisco was pretty much the same deaI.
Anyway, Punk 77 is not another coffee-table mainstream media ripoff but an engrossing chronicle of what went down from somebody who was really there. Sure it's history, but if you're into punk rock, it's part of YOUR history, And that alone is a good reason to check it out.--Jim T., Jersey Beat; Issue 47, Fall 1992
I really like these books, you know the nostalgic look back...
Ah the memories, and that is what makes me laugh. Anyway, the lunacy and
retardedness of those days are brought back to life in a series of short
stories and photos of the people that made it happen. Well done.--Al,
Flipside; Issue 81, November 1992