ISSN 1551-8086
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   poets list
   Francisco Dominguez & Aire Celeste Norell
   Marie Lecrivain & Angel Uriel Perales
   Sheikha A.
   Steve Abee
   L. Ward Abel
   Carl Abt
   Han Adcock
   Elizabeth Addis
   Aderemi Adegbite
   Adeolu Emmanuel Adesanya
   Neil Aitken
   M.I Akande
   Shahd Al-Shemmari
   Lynn Albanese
   Alaina Renee Alexander
   Nicole Alexander
   Gwyndyn Alexander
   Scott Alexander
   Inalegwu Omapada Alifa
   Maureen Alsop
   Rafael Alvarado
   Steven Alvarez
   Keiko Amano
   Veronica An
   Zack Anderson
   Amy Anderson
   Kristine Anderson
   G.D. Anderson
   Lori Anderson-Moseman
   Grace Andreacchi
   Renae Andruse
   Arlene Ang
   Roger Angle
   Stephen Anstay
   Azure Antoinette
   Theresa Antonia
   Aurora Antonovic
   Maria A Arana
   Carlye Archibeque
   Joseph Armstead
   Feral Artist
   Baron James Ashanti
   Charlene M. Ashendorf
    Askew
   Gregory Austin
   Shawn Aveningo
   maeghanne ayers
   Goodness Lanre Ayoola
   John-Patrick Ayson
   Jim Babwe
   Sophie Bachard
   Vasile Baghiu
   Bridget Bagne
   song-hue bahk
   Michael Baker
   Prerna Bakshi
   Anna Balint
   David Banuelos
   Jared Barbick
   J. Mae Barizo
   Peter Barlow
   Matthew A. Barraza
   James Barros
   Jeni Bate
   Jonathan Beale
   Richard Beban
   Gary Beck
   Gary Beck
   Lytton Bell
   Hakim Bellamy
   Michele Beller
   Laura Bellotti
   Stefanie Bennett
   Hayley Berariu
   Lawrence Berger
   Kevin Berger
   Mike Berger, Ph.D.
   Tom Berman
   luis cuauhtemoc berriozabal
   Catherine Berry
   Nick Bertelson
    Besskepp
   Mary Rose Betten
   Cheryl Beychok
   Gwendolyn Beyer
   François Biajoux
   Heitham Black
   Jarvis Black
   Beau Blue
   Rose Mary Boehm
   Bonnie Bolling
   Julie Bolt
   Lek Borja
   Cristogianni Borsella
   Gerald Bosacker
   Amanda Boschetto
   Wendy Bourke
   Jack G. Bowman
   Jennifer Bradpiece
   Bob Bradshaw
   Marcielle Brandler
   Peter Branson
   Sumiko Braun
   Adam Bresson
   Quiana Briggs
   Jack Bristow
   paulo brito
   Alan Britt
   Michelle Brodeur
   Lynne Bronstein
   Charles Brooks
   Deborah Edler Brown
   Adam Levon Brown
   Jason Sanford Brown
   zoey brown
   Leah Brown
   Bob Browning
   Sir Mark Bruback
   MC Bruce
   Jeffrey Bryant
   Kate Buckley
   Robin M. Buehler
   Ron Burch
   Graham Burchell
   Maria Rose Burgio
   Betsy Burke
   Matt Burns
   Richard Burrill
   Zachary C. Bush
   Tony Bush
   Elissa Calvin
   Joseph Camhi
   Neil Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Dana Campbell
   Velene Campbell
   Don Kingfisher Campbell
   Luis Campos
   Janine Canan
   Lyn Cannaday
   Pasquale Capacosa
   Joey Capone
   Hélène Cardona
   Britton Laine Carducci
   D.J. Carlile
   Julia Carlson
   Alicia Carpenter
   Jonathan Carr
   Patricia Carragon
   Oscar Carrasco
   Jared Carter
   Michael Aaron Casares
   John Casey
   Lisa Castro
   Rachael Kelechi Caulker
   Nika Cavat
   Michael Caylo-Baradi
   Steve Ceniceros
   Michael Ceraolo
    Cerise
   Robert Cesaretti
   Cheryl Chambers
   Lita-Luise Chappell
   Shibani Chattopadhyay
   Lisa Cheby
   Beth Cheng
   Ralph-Michael Chiaia
   Juhi Chowdhury
   David Christensen
   Phil Clark
   Terry Clark
   Darice Clark
   Terry Clark
   Charles Claymore
   Jeanette Clough
   Kim Cochran
   Ed Coet
   Tobi Cogswell
   Megan Coker
   Bruce Colbert
   Karen E. Cole
   Merrill Cole
   Christopher Coleman
   Larry Colker
   Beverly M. Collins
   Christiane Conésa-Bostock
   David Concepcion
   Christiane Conesa-Bostock
   Brendan Connell
   Alice Constantine
   Jack Cooper
   Flavia Cosma
   Rachel Coventry
   R. Paul Craig
   David Cravens
   William Crawford
   Natalie Crick
   Rosemarie Crisafi
   Carla Criscuolo
   Chris Crittenden
   Benjamin Crowley
   Susan Culver
   Joe Cyr
   Jim D Babwe
   Morgaine d'Abney
   Karen Corcoran Dabkowski
   Daniel Daian
    Dalton
   Catherine Daly
   Iris Dan
   Marie Lecrivain & Daniel Gallik
   Dan Danila
   Michelle Daugherty
   Piper Davenport
   Kathrine David
   Gareth Davies
   Holly Day
   Frank De Canio
   Gregory De Feo
   Steve De France
   J. de Salvo
   J de Salvo
   kumari de Silva
   Pijush Kanti Deb
   Shalla DeGuzman
   JD DeHart
   Diane Dehler
   Aurelius Demarco
   Darren C Demaree
   Gloria Derge
   Chris Derrico
   Lea Deschenes
   Maurice Devitt
   Theo Diamantis
   Mike Dias
   Martin Dickinson
   Edward J DiMaio
   Mark Dixon
   Peggy Dobreer
   Rosemarie Dombrowski
   Francisco J. Dominguez
   Linsly Donnelly
   Lisa Helene Donovan
   Kevin Doran
   Marvin Dorsey
   Marvin Louis Dorsey
   John Dorsey
   Laura A. Lionello & Douglas Richardson
   Doug Draime
   Donelle Dreese
   Dale Duke
   Jawanza Dumisani
   Henri Dumolet
   Max Dunbar
   t. joseph dunn
   Robin Wyatt Dunn
   Tyler Dupuis
    Durenda
   Walter Durk
   Ron Dvorkin
   Douglas Dvorkin
   Amitabh Vikram Dwivedi
   Alfie Ebojo aka alfie numeric
   Patricia J. Edwards
   Elisabeth Adwin Edwards
   Sabrina Edwards
   Miguel Eichelberger
   John Elison
   Julian Ellis
   Neil Ellman
   K. Eltinaé
   R.M. Engelhardt
   Margarita Engle
   Jon Epstein
   Sufi Erter
   Eli Eshaghian
   Michael Estabrook
   Alexis Rhone Fancher
   Richard Fein
   John Feins
   Emily Fernandez
   Melissa Fischer
   W.S. Fisher
   Jamie Asae FitzGerald
   Amelia Fleetwood
   Jake Fleshner
   John Jay Flicker
   David Flynn
   Arthur Charles Ford
   Liz Fortini
   Sesshu Foster
   Heather Fowler
   Clint Frakes
   Sarah Francois
   Amélie Frank
   Amelie Frank
   Alex M. Frankel
   Allie Frazier
   E.L. Freifeld
   M. Frias Frias-May
   Suzanne Frost
   Delia J. Fry
   Elliott Gabay
   Steven Gabriel
   Timothy Gager
   Daniel Gallik
   J Gamble
   Ishmael Garay
   Jerry Garcia
   Daniel Garcia-Black
   Gabriella Garofalo
   Vince Garofalo
   Yvonne Garrett
   Nelson Gary
   Donna Gebron
   Ulrike Gerbig
   Janice Gero
   Ursula T. Gibson
   Rebecca Gimblett
   Tony Gloeggler
   Steve Goldman
   Vesna Goldsworthy
   Melanie Gonzalez
   Jeffrey Graessley
   Allison Grayhurst
   Jeff Green
   Timothy Green
   Jeanie Greensfelder
   Rhoda Greenstone
   Amos Greig
   John Greiner
   John Grey
   Summer Griffiths
   Danielle Grilli
   Brian Grillo
   John Grochalski
   Wendy Grosskopf
   Andrew Grossman
   Ro Gunetilleke
   Kenneth Gurney
   John R. Guthrie
   Debashish Haar
   Erik Haber
   Hedy Habra
   Tresha Faye Haefner
   Matthias Hagedorn
   James Hall
   Tom Hamilton
   David Harrington
   Matt Harris
   William Harris
   Dawnell Harrison
   J. Alana Hauenschild
   Kari J. Hayes
   KJ Hays
   Ann L. Healey
   Eloise Klein Healy
   Jessica Healy
   Jim Heavily
   Dan Hedges
   Paul Hellweg
   Samantha Henderson
   Jack Henry
   David Herrle
   JD Heskin
   Kenneth Hickey
   Jerry Hicks
   Marvin R Hiemstra
   Ed Higgins
   Carlos Hiraldo
   Sherri Hoffman
   Guy Hogan
   Ali Hosseiny
   Dave Houston
   Eric Howard
   Nate Howard
   David Howard
   Bryon D. Howell
   A J Huffman
   Hunter Lee Hughes
   Roger Humes
   Trista Hurley-Waxali
   Elizabeth Iannaci
   Thea Iberall
   Armine Iknadossian
   Gedda Ilves
   Alegria Imperial
   Victor Infante
   Victor D. Infante
   Augustus Invictus
   Susan Irvine
   Alexandra Isacson
   Natalie Itzhaki
   Amber Jacob
   Scott Jacobson
   Larry Jaffe
   Sonika Jaggi
   Emmanuel Jakpa
   Matthew James
   Andrea Janov
   T.A. Jennings
   Ivan Jenson
   Dani Jimenez
   Alex Johnson
   Michael Lee Johnson
   Strider Marcus Jones
   Lois P. Jones
   Tao Jones
   Georgia Jones-Davis
   Jasmin Jordan
   Quentin Josephy
   Liu Jue
   Ruth Juris
   Gary Justice
   Gene Justice
   Pete Justus
   Mikel K
   Scott C. Kaestner
   Sheema Kalbasi
   Peycho Kanev
   Rachel Kann
   Jay Kantor
   Paula Sfier Kattan
   Russ Kazmierczak
   James Keane
   Gretchen Keer
   Aaron Keller
   Collin Kelley
   Kamuran Kelly
   Bernard Kennedy
   Raud Kennedy
   Kathleen Kenny
   Stephen Kerr
   Hari Bhajan Khalsa
   Just Kibbe
   Jerome Kiel
   lalo kikiriki
   Robert S King
   Ashley King
   Franklin Lafayette King
   Sofia Kioroglou
   Rusty Kjarvik
   Kenny Klein
   LeAnne Kline
   Julia Knobloch
   Deborah P Kolodji
   Tracy Koretsky
   Edith Kornfeld
   George Korolog
   Dimitris P. Kraniotis
   Thomas KrÀmer
   Mark Krewatch
   Chris Krueger
   Amanda Krut
   Gerard Kuc
   Christopher Kuhn
   Donna Kuhn
   Len Kuntz
   Craig Kurtz
   Tammy Ho Lai-Ming
   Daniel Lambert
   Anthony Langford
   Donald Langosy
   Ray Lanthier
   Phillip Larrea
   Phillip Larrea
   Kasandra Larsen
   Wolf Larsen
   Ethan Latham
   Lisa LaTourette
   Marie Lecrivain & Laura A. Lionello
   Marianne LaValle-Vincent
   Kevin Lavey
   Judith A. Lawrence
   Eric Lawson
   Richard Leach
   Anne Lecrivain
   Marie Lecrivain
   Noah Lederman
   Pete Lee
   Kevin Patrick Lee
   Emma Lee
   N.M. Leepsa
   Alexandra Leggat
   Laura LeHew
   Gary Lehmann
   Sharmagne Leland-St. John
   Kevin LeMaster
   Michal Lemberger
   Kim Leng
   Roland Lesterin
   Tiffany Lettieri
   P.A. Levy
   Martin Lewis
   Cheyenne Lewis
   Anthony Liccione
   Cynthia Linville
   Laura Lionello
   Zachary Locklin
   Jessica Lopez
   Harold Lorin
   Tess. Lotta
   B.D. Love
   Adam Lowis
   Ron Lucas
   Andrew Lundwall
   Rick Lupert
   Suzan Lustig
   Radomir Luza
   Stosh Machek
   John MacKenna
   Sarah Maclay
   Stefanie Maclin
    Magdalena
   Gary Maggio
   Holly Magill
   Anthony Magistrale
   Marieta Maglas
   Suvi Mahonen
   Donal Mahoney
   Robert Maiolo
   Kelly Ann Malone
   Michael Malota
   Shahé Mankerian
   Angela Consolo Mankiewicz
   Chris Mansell
   H.E. Mantel
   April-May March
   Rick Marlatt
   John Marshall
   Agnes Marton
   Francis Masat
   Hyatt Mason
   Lee Mason
   Anthony Mason
   Johnny Masuda
   Mira N. Mataric
   Ellyn Maybe
   Michelle Mazzetti
   Mary L. Mazzocco
   Ted Mc Carthy
   Austin McCarron
   Terry McCarty
   Paul McConnell
   Brendan McCormack
   Deborah McCreath-Akbar
   Catfish McDaris
   Bray McDonald
   Karen J McDonnell
   Matt McGee
   Allen McGill
   Afric McGlinchey
   Terance James McGunigle
   Cat Angelique McIntire
   David McIntire
   david mclean
   Isobel McQueen
   Fernando Meisenhaulter
    Mephistopheles
   Corey Mesler
   Melissa Michaels
    Mike the Poet
   Robert John Miller
   Scott Miller
   Richard Lee Miller
   Hany Haggag Abdl Mobdy
   Richard Modiano
   William Mohr
   Sonnet Mondal
   Jason Monios
   Leslie Monsour
   Amanda Montei
   Patrick Mooney
   Greggory Moore
   Carl Moore
    Albert Lee Moran
   A.J. Morelli
   Christopher Mulrooney
   Frank Mundo
   Barbara-Marie Mundt
   Augusto Munoz
   Mark Murphy
   Craig Murray
   Kristine Ong Muslim
   JL Nathan
   Nimah Nawwab
   Leslie Maryann Neal
   Jason Neese
   Raghab Nepal
   Robbi Nester
   Mindy Nettifee
   Martina Reisz Newberry
   Beth Escott Newcomer
   Peter Nezafati
   Scott Nichols
   keith niles
   Dave Nordling
   Aire Celeste Norell
   Steve Norwood
   Laura Nye
   Charlotte O'Brien
   Toti O'Brien
   Suzanne O'Connell
   Katie O'Loughlin
   Peter O'Niell
   Tom O'Reilly
   Akor Emmanuel Oche
   A.J. Odasso
   Rita Odeh
   Kirsten Ogden
   Daniel Olivas
   Maurice Oliver
   Marc Olmstead
   Philip ONeil
   Nzingah Oniwosan
   Chika Onyenezi
   Sergio Ortiz
   David Ishaya Osu
   Scott Thomas Outlar
   Holly Painter
   Lizbeth Palma
   Heather Palmer
   Greg Patrick
   Miss Natalie Patterson
   David E. Patton
   Tim Peeler
   Steve Pelcman
   Angel Perales
   Alice Pero
   Angela J. Perry
   Helen Peterson
   Brenda Petrakos
   Adam Phillips
   James G Piatt
   Rebecca Pierce
   Gareth Pike
   James Pinkerton
   Rob Plath
   Kushal Poddar
   Contributors to poeticdiversity
   Meg Pokrass
   Traian Pop Traian
   Bethany W Pope
   Wayne E. Popelka
   Elisha Porot
   Adrian Potter
   Ren Powell
   Frank Praeger
   Kristena Prater
   Luke Prater
   Shannon Prince
   Stephany Prodromides
   Hattie Quinn
   Octavio Quintanilla
   Beverly J. Raffaele
    Raindog
   Catherine Rajca
   Steve Ramirez
   Mauricio Alejandro Ramos
   Vishnu Rao
   Ingrid Rattay
   James Rauff
   Kasey Ray
   Bili Redd
   Brian Redfern
   Marie Rennard
   Luivette Resto
   E.W. Richardson
   John Richmond
   Francisca Ricinski-Marienfeld
   Kevin Ridgeway
   Lillian Ridgeway
   Dee Rimbaud
   Elijiah Rios
   Cat Risinger
   Ariel Robello
   Ebi Robert
   John D Robinson
   Paula Rodriguez
   Nydia Rojas
   Daniel Romo
   Emily Rose
   Rina Rose
   Diana Rosen
   Poet-broker Rosenthal
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   Walter Ruhlmann
   Gina MarySol Ruiz
   Cody Rukasin
   Cody Rukasin
   Ashley Rumery
   David W. Rushing
   Maryann Russo
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   Howard Sage
   Russell Salamon
   April Salzano
   Bryan Sanders
   Lisa Marie Sandoval
   Cecile Sarruf
    Sasparella
   Ethan Sassouni
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   Lorraine Sautner
   Rati Saxena
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   Frances Schiavina
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   Peter Schwartz
   Ken Scott
   Sondra L. Scott
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   Justin Scupine
   LB Sedlacek
   Lisa Segal
   Anthony Seidman
   Anthony Seidman
   Oleg Semonov
   Sanjeev Sethi
   John W Sexton
   Jack Allen Shafer
   Dahn Shaulis
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   Jake Sheff
   Steve Shickman
   Nancy Shiffrin
   June Shiitake
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   Rishan Singh
   Durlabh Singh
   Kalpna Singh-Chitnis
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   Apryl Skies
   Knute Skinner
   Sam Skow
   Ratpack Slim
   Lee Sloca
   Carol Smallwood
   Danielle Smith
   Clinton Smith
    smzang
   Kate Soto
   Ghetto Speare
   Jeanne Marie Spicuzza
   Richard Spuler
   Matina Stamatakis
   Jan Steckel
   Julia Stein
   Eric Steineger
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   Alex Stolis
   Karr Stratynberg
   Kevin Stricke-9
   Keith Stump
   Daniel Suffian
   Annette Sugden
   J. C. Sullivan
   Mani Suri
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   John Duncan Talbird
   Sister Taxi Hopscotch
   Barbara A. Taylor
   Jonathan Taylor
   Mark Taylor
   Allen Taylor
   Paul Kareem Tayyar
   Alene Terzian
    The Unarmed Man
   A. Thiagarajan
   G. Murray Thomas
   Lynne Thompson
   David Thornbrugh
   Kari Thune
   Sarah Thursday
   Ilona Timoszuk
   Tim Tipton
    TJungle
   Chrys Tobey
    tolbert
   Imani Tolliver
   A. TOMIC
   Anthony Torchia
   Mary Torregrossa
   Zev Torres
   Evan Traiger
   Davide Trame
   Tri Tran
   Ryan Tranquilla
   Alain Marcel Treadaway
   Pedro Trevino-Ramirez
   Ben Trigg
   Paul Tristram
   Maja Trochimczyk
    Troy
   The TruthHearse
   Tatiana Tulskaya
   Yelena and Roman Tunkel
   John Turi
   Danny Uebbing
   Amy Upham
   Amy Uyematsu
   Philomena van Rijswijk
   Gene van Troyer
   Wanda Vanhoy Smith
   Brenda Varda
   Luis Rubio Vargas
   Carmen Vega
   Ms. Veronica
   Papa Vic
   Clee Villasor
   Ajise Vincent
   Curran D. Vinson
   Jason Visconti
   Anca Vlasopolos
   Daniela Voicu
   Claire Walker
   toren wallace
   r.k. wallace
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   Sharieff Walters
   John Wariner
   Deborah L Warner
   Christopher Watkins
   Brian Watson
   Lafayette Wattles
   Charlie Weber
   Ellen Webre
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   Viola Weinberg
   Florence Weinberger
   Desmond Weindorf
   Cindy Weinstein
   Denise R. Weuve
   Rev. Dave Wheeler
   Leigh White
   Megwynn White
   Kelley White
   J.T. Whitehead
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   Claire Williams
   Patrick Williamson
   Martin Willitts, Jr
   Jessica Wilson
   Robert D. Wilson
   Amye Wilson
   Alicia Winski
   Tyler Joseph Wiseman
   Joseph Wistren
   Wayne Wolfson
   Terry Wolverton
   Nina Womack
   Seth Woolf
   Kirby Wright
   Gianna Wurzl
   Abigail Wyatt
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   MÌesser Yeniay
   Julie Yi
   Britney Young
   Gregory T. Young
   Omar ZahZah
   Mariano Zaro
   Michael Zeltser
    
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G. Murray Thomas
August 2010
   

 

Punk Rock

(Our story so far: In the previous installment, I was living in Rochester, NY, lamenting the pitiful music scene of the mid-70s. But as the summer of 1977 ended, I was catching a whiff of something new and exciting coming up -- yes, punk rock. I still hadnt heard much of it (just the 1st Blondie and the new Iggy records), but I was reading about it in the rock press, and getting eager to hear these new sounds.)
That fall, I was back at Hampshire College, in Amherst MA, and suddenly I was surrounded by punk rock. Almost literally surrounded: one of my hall mates, Kevin, was a huge punk fan, and he blasted all the latest bands into the hallway. (I remembered Kevin from my first year; he liked to play Bowies Cracked Actor out his dorm window at full volume, something I appreciated, although I doubt many other students did.)
But Kevin was certainly not alone. The other students around me took to it far more quickly and eagerly than the general public at that time. Hampshire College, one of the most liberal Liberal Arts Colleges in the country, attracted students from the fringes of society. Its not surprising that they listened to radical, fringe music. This was not at all limited to punk, but punk had many fans there.
It also helped that Amherst, in the middle of Massachusetts, was only two hours away from Boston and four hours from New York City, the hub of American punk at the time. This meant that most of the bands came through town on a regular basis. The Ramones, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, David Johansen (lead singer for the New York Dolls) and Elvis Costello all played at one or more of the colleges in our immediate vicinity. And for those bands that didnt come to us, like I said, New York was just four hours away. During my last three years of college I saw all the bands just listed, plus the Dead Boys, Iggy Pop, The Clash, Blondie, John Cale, Pere Ubu, the Stranglers, and PiL, many of them multiple times. It was a great time for live shows.
My frequent trips to New York often included a pilgrimage to CBGBs, whether I knew the bands playing there or not. CBGBs was, of course, the home of New York punk. By any objective standard, it was not a good place to see a band. It was a long narrow bar with the stage at the far end of the room. There were a handful of tables in front of the stage; if you scored one of those, you were set. Otherwise, sight lines pretty much sucked from anywhere else in the bar. Acoustics werent much worse than your average dive bar (which is what CBGBs, in truth, was), which is to say, they sucked too.
It did have plenty of atmosphere, which was more important than sight lines or acoustics. Especially if you consider a smelly, graffiti plastered bathroom atmosphere. Or a dark bar with a ton of neon beer signs. Not to mention the wonderful neighborhood it was located in -- The Bowery, a name synonymous with drunks passed out in the gutter.
But none of that mattered, because it was CBGBs, the place where it all started. Despite the lousy acoustic, bands just sounded better there.
Over those three years I certainly saw some great shows, at CBGBs and elsewhere. I saw great moments of punk rock attitude: Stiv Bators, lead singer for the Dead Boys, tearing a huge hole in the ceiling of the (Rochester, NY! -- I was home over the summer) Penny Arcade, looking for a beam strong enough to support his grand finale, hanging himself with his mike cord. Wendy O. Williams, of the Plasmatics, sawing a live electric guitar in half with a chainsaw (one of those random CBGBs shows). Paul Simonon of the Clash smashing his bass guitar (yes, I saw the cover of London Calling happen). Elvis Costello cutting his show off at 45 minutes, although I was never sure if his anger was real or feigned, or if 45 minutes was a normal show for him.
There were even great musical moments: The full body slam of the Ramones relentless beat. Jimmy Destris perfectly simple, and simply perfect, keyboard lines in a Blondie show. Patti Smith playing clarinet on Poppies. Talking Heads opening their show with the soaring arch of Big Country. John Cales hardcore attack on Fear and Pablo Picasso.
But in a way, concerts were a small part of the excitement of punk. The true excitement was that of discovery. The true excitement was hearing a new song for the first time, that moment when someone returned to the dorms with a new 45, and played it for everyone (whether they wanted to hear it or not).
45s were the currency of punk rock. A band could afford to put our a single. Releasing a 45 was, in a way, the equivalent of posting an MP3 on a website. The music was now out there for people to discover, although it did take a little more effort to discover the great ones. Either your heard about them from some other fan, or you spent hours in the record stores which specialized in punk (which often entailed another journey to New York or Boston). But that was the fun of it -- the thrill of discovery, of finding a great song and passing it on to your friends. Of hearing, for the first time, a slice of music so radical you almost didnt believe it existed.
And there was so much of it to discover. Thanks to Kevin, the halls of my dorm were permeated with new songs and sounds. Richard Hells Blank Generation, Gary Gilmores Eyes (about the transplant recipient of said organs) by Adverts, or some goofy song about buildings and civil servants by a new band called Talking Heads. There was Iggy Pop taunting his audience relentlessly on the live album Metallic K.O. The brilliant stupidity of Jonathan Richmans Pablo Picasso (Some guys try to pick up girls and get called asshole/ this never happened to Pablo Picasso) or the totally weird remakes of 60s hits on The Residents Third ReichnRoll.
Here I must make a couple of important points about early punk. The first thing (and this is no secret) is that it was energetic. It rocked hard. For a variety of reasons, the whole energy level of rock music had dropped considerably over the course of the 70s. Folk-rock and prog rock, however different they were, were both meant to be listened to, not danced to. And certainly not danced to maniacally. That attitude had infested much of rock.
Then, suddenly, there was punk rock.
Punk restored that lost energy. Energy which the bored and cynical youth of the late 70s desperately needed to burn off. That, in itself, was a huge step towards making music interesting again.
Much more important (and perhaps surprising to todays listener), punk also restored innovation to rock music. This may be hard to imagine today, when punk is one of the most rigid forms of rock music. But back then, punk wasnt just The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned -- the bands who created the blueprint for todays punk. Talking Heads, Blondie and Television were all considered punk. As were Patti Smith, Devo and Elvis Costello. And many more.
Having a D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself, just in case theres anyone out there somehow unfamiliar with the expression) attitude made you a punk band, far more than how your band actually sounded. D.I.Y. often meant putting out your own singles, and even albums, without the help of a large record label. But it also meant playing whatever the fuck you wanted to play, damn the tastes of the record companies, the critics, and even, often, the audience. That attitude lead to a huge variety of music.
Punk, therefore, embodied the two qualities I value most in music -- energy and originality. It taught me that there was a lot of intriguing music being produced on the fringes, and that it just took a little effort to find it. I was drawn to punk by the loud, fast aggressive stuff -- The Ramones, The Dead Boys, The Pistols, early Stooges (my original introduction to punk). At twenty I had a lot of angst and anxiety desperate for explosive expression.
But the truly original bands were the ones which stuck with me. Patti Smiths poetry. The intertwining guitars of Television. Pere Ubus mix of straight ahead rocknroll and pure noise. The Contortions free jazz. The amazing wordplay and songwriting ability of Elvis Costello. The way every Talking Heads album built on the previous one, but added something new to the mix.
To tell the truth, the immediate effect was to narrow my musical taste. I became quite the punk rock snob. I was proud of the fact that the only non-punk (or non-New Wave) acts I saw during those four years were The Stones, The Who, and The Kinks (all of which were considered, by punk fans, to be at least acceptable as forerunners of punk music). (Oh, and Sun Ra and his Arkestra, but thats very much a different story.) I had nasty musical arguments with my friends who possessed different tastes. I was unrelenting in my scorn for any music which did not conform to my tastes, not just obvious targets like disco and jazz fusion, but Billy Joel, Steely Dan, The Eagles, The Grateful Dead.
Moreover, punk became the first (and only) time I found my identity in a form of music. All the time I was a big BOC fan, I was never a metal head, or anything resembling it. But for my last couple of years of college, I was a punk. That is how people knew me, as that scary punk rock guy.
Becoming a punk rock guy was easy. I declared my love for punk every chance I got. I blasted punk rock in my dorm. I slam-danced to everything they played at college dances, punk or not.
And I dressed the part. At this point, I need to make a quick comment about punk fashion. Just as the rigid style of the music had yet to solidify, the notion of punk fashion was still pretty fluid too. Although the various fashions we associate with punk were starting to appear -- Mohawks, studded leather, dog collars -- all it really took in those days was a pair of torn jeans and you were punk. (And you had to actually rip them yourself; no one sold already ripped jeans back then.) It also gave all us ex-hippies an excuse to cut off our long hair, which, frankly, we were getting pretty tired of anyway. Or maybe that was just me. Anyway, if I wore ripped jeans, old t-shirts and a couple of strategically placed safety pins, I was set.
As for the scary part, well, I did like to break things.
Of course, much of this was a front. People who knew me would say stuff like, Youre not a punk. Youre a romantic.
But the key is I accepted it. I was perfectly happy being the punk rock guy, even the scary punk rock guy. Why? Frankly, because it was better than being nobody. I was still unsure, or insecure, about who I really was, so I gladly took an external identity. At least people recognized me as I walked across the campus.
The punk explosion lasted pretty much through my college years (1977-1980). There was a near constant stream of new bands and new styles to discover. However, after about the first year, one major change occurred. It was merely a matter of nomenclature, yet it made a huge difference. Someone invented the phrase New Wave to cover all the punk bands who werent playing punk music.
Although it took a couple of years to play out, that effectively killed punk as a broad and innovative musical force, and made it into a narrow and rigid genre. Sure, some great punk bands arose in the years ahead (especially in Southern California, which got a little later start on the whole things than the East Coast), but most of them were following the now established punk rock blueprint, rather than creating anything truly new.
Meanwhile, the New Wave bands were freed to follow their more commercial instincts. Many of them (The Cars, Blondie, The Police) became the dominant pop bands of the early 80s. And the truly interesting and original stuff -- The Residents, Pere Ubu, PiL, The Contortions -- faded back into obscurity.
As for the D.I.Y. attitude, it faded from prominence, but never went away. Throughout the 80s it continued to produce such bands as R.E.M., Sonic Youth, The Pixies, and, yes, eventually, Nirvana. The fact is, D.I.Y. has always produced some of the best rock music, including the garage bands of the 60s, and going all the way back to the original blues recordings of the 20s and 30s which eventually birthed rocknroll. Remember, at least in the beginning, Sam Phillips Sun Records (which started the careers of Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, among many others) was a D.I.Y. enterprise.
Over the next few years, I too moved on from punk rock. But I cannot overstate the importance of punk rock to my musical taste. The classic rock of the 60s is the bedrock I built my taste upon, but punk is the lens through which I have interpreted everything since. It not only introduced me to new music, but new ideas about music (including some, frankly, discordant ideas which, for whatever reason, I took to immediately). Punk rock was the first music which really spoke to me (that is, to the frustrated, insecure, energy-to-burn me).
It was an exciting time to be a music fan. I could actually feel like I was part f this new music trend. There was that thrill of discovery, and the thrill of seeing bands while they were still fresh, while they played dive bars.
One of my favorite memories of this time has nothing to do with the bands I saw, or 45s I found, or anything like that. One of the local bars tried out a Punk Rock Night despite the fact that their regular clientele had not interest in it. A group of my friends would take over the bar, and especially the dance floor, on those nights, slam dancing wildly, appalling the regulars, and having a great time.
Punk rock was fun!

copyright 2010 G. Murray Thomas