Liz Worth’s excellent “Treat Me Like Dirt”, An Oral History Of Punk In Toronto And Beyond, 1977 – 1981 has just been published by Bongo Beat Books.
Photo: Liz by Alyssa Faoro
“This is an uncensored oral history of the 1977 Toronto punk explosion as told by the bands who were there... ‘Treat Me Like Dirt’ is the first book to document the histories of the Diodes, Viletones, and Teenage Head, along with other bands (B-Girls, Curse, Demics, Dishes, Forgotten Rebels, Johnny & The G-Rays, The Mods, The Poles, Simply Saucer, The Ugly, etc) and fans that brought the original punk scene to life in Toronto and beyond (Hamilton and London).
It is the ONLY book on the 1977
The book was written by music journalist and author Liz Worth (Exclaim), edited by pop musicologist Gary Pig Gold, and designed by Ralph Alfonso. Gary Pig Gold and Ralph Alfonso are veterans of the Toronto 1977 scene; Gary ran the legendary Pig Paper zine and released the first single by Simply Saucer; Ralph ran the Crash'n'Burn club that the scene revolved around, manages The Diodes, and is a former rock journalist/photographer (Bomp, Cheap Thrills, New York Rocker) in addition to his current role as owner of Bongo Beat Records (and Books).” - Bongo Beat.com
JEREMY: What was your chief motivation for creating “Treat Me Like Dirt”? It strikes me as a classic “labour of love”. How long did it take to write? And how did you hook up with my old friend Ralph Alfonso?
LIZ: I had started getting into bands like the Diodes and the Viletones after reading a novel called ‘1978’ by a
You’re right in assessing it as a “labour of love.” Once I got started, I let it take over my life for two years straight. I worked on it every day during that time. Every time I went out to hang out with friends or whatever, I would feel guilty because I didn’t want to be away from it for too long. I think it would have taken longer to put together if I hadn’t have been so obsessive about it, but when you get that kind of a feeling with a project you’ve just got to go with it. I did 200 interviews for it altogether. After I’d handed in the final manuscript, there was about another year of it being in the hands of Ralph Alfonso, my publisher, and it went through its proofreading and design phases then.
Ralph is actually one of the interview subjects for TMLD. I did three or four interviews with him, and during one of those conversations he said that he would be interested in considering TMLD for publication once it was completed. So when the manuscript was ready, I sent it off to Ralph and we moved on from there. It was an ideal situation because Ralph was, and still is, the manager of the Diodes. He also helped run the Crash ‘n’ Burn, a really important venue in the history of
JEREMY: Outside of Toronto and Canada what significance does your book, and the bands and scene it documents, have? What awareness of them is there in Europe and
LIZ: There is a lot of obscurity with some of the bands in TMLD, but there is also reach well beyond the city. The Viletones can name people like Daryl Jenifer of Bad Brains as a fan. The Diodes did a couple of tour dates in
JEREMY: The Viletones were one of the great punk rock bands of all time, in my humble opinion. What was the main reason that they failed to make it outside of
LIZ: Well, they didn’t actually get out of
The original line-up of the band didn’t last very long, either, and it can take a while for a band to break out. Especially in
But if they’d had a label behind them, pushing the band to get an album out there, would it have gone further? I don’t know. All anyone can do is speculate at this point. A lot of punk bands, not just in
There is awareness of the Viletones outside of
So they did make it, in some ways, when you consider things like that.
JEREMY: To what extent are the recordings of the bands you’ve documented available now and would it be right to say that their legacy has been an influence on Canadian music in general?
LIZ: In the 1990s, a local label called Other People’s Music started releasing a lot of
So there is music around, but it can still be hard to find, although there’s been a strong resurgence around
I think you can say that they have left a legacy on Canadian music, although I don’t think that their influence has been so obvious. In
I can’t speak for other cities in
JEREMY: I’ve been away a very long time. What is the punk scene in
LIZ: There hasn’t been a Viletones gig in a few years, but Steven Leckie did play a show back in the winter, but it was a totally different thing. The Diodes just wrapped up a tour in southern
There’s also always a lot going on in
JEREMY: Which of all the bands you’ve documented do you like the best yourself? Whose music stands up still? Who was, in hindsight, overrated? Underrated? Simply useless?
LIZ: I always liked the Diodes. They were the first
It's hard to say that any of these bands were overrated, considering that no one made millions. There were a lot of bands that never even put out a full-length record. So it's hard to say anyone was overrated or underrated in a scene where not even the more known bands can be considered household names.
Front cover image: Don Pyle (also the photographer) and the mysterious Virlana Back cover photos: Ross Taylor
Interview by Jeremy 27/06/10