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PUNK + BY SHEILA ROCK - BOOK REVIEW BY MURRAY FENTON (First Third Books)

 
Sheila Rock, best known as photographer for THE FACE and her vast and varied work which sits in some of the finest gallery collections in the World, reveals some of her early lost treasures in this book documenting Punk Rock from its very inception. Opening with some wonderful pictures inside the shops SEX and Acme Attractions, with Jordan and Don Letts cutting equally intimidating figures, resplendent in white mohair and black tights, and leopard skin and shades, respectively. Acme changed its persona and became BOY a year later, belying its resurgence as a mainstream fashion label of today, with its crude attempts to rival Westwood and McLaren in both clothing and outrage. Charming snaps from Beaufort Market, with its derivative attempts at punk ‘fashion’, close the first chapter.

For me, the most interesting part of the book follows, as the pictures focus on the people who were ‘there’, the early gig and club going youth. Whilst many sport the wares of SEX, many more are decked out in re-assembled school blazers, lengths of lavatory chain and badges so big you could serve dinner on them. While the general public’s image of your typical punk rocker is someone with a foot high, rainbow coloured Mohican, the photos show the wonderful DIY ingenuity of Punk in its original form, the days when a striped tie with a tiny knot around ones neck could provoke almost apoplectic outrage in the man in the street.

Some of the lesser revered catalysts of the scene are paid homage to, the likes of artist Jon Savage, club owner Andy Czezowski and Don Letts pops up again, exchanging retail for the DJ decks, introducing dub to the masses between bands at The Roxy and Patti Smith to Tapper Zukie. Although a few of the photos have been published before, intimate yet simple photos of the a pre-fame Siouxsie and Severin and other punk luminaries hanging around at gigs looking (genuinely) bored capture the era beautifully, The Clash outside their legendary gig at the ICA, Sid not looking particularly vicious in The Roxy, making a lovely change from the ever-regurgitated photos which adorn book after book on the subject.

Rare photos of the original Subway Sect, Steve Stranges abortive attempt at early mega-stardom the Moors Murderers, Eater (barely pubescent drummer Dee Generate in Garry Glitter tee shirt the books “oh-the-irony”  moment) and Chelsea with Billy Idol in the line-up open up the section on the bands of the day, mixing with some of the more famous acts of the era sporting their earliest ‘looks’ with The Clash in their Pollock-splattered designs and Generation X’s pop art, looking much more exciting than the Jam’s hideous deckchair jackets and a photograph of Paul Weller looking remarkably like Mickey Pierce from ‘Only Fools And Horses’.

The death of the original scene, far from lamented, is marked by some great photos of the next wave of fashion leaders, the revamped Worlds End, Robot and Johnsons herald the end of the 70s as does photos of the next wave of bands about to emerge, not least a very understated looking Robert Smith and the three-piece original Cure line up. The 272 pages are peppered with quotes from names you’ll know and love.

Launched at Browns in London on Thursday April 25th and priced at £50, in a limited edition of just 2000. www.firstthirdbooks.com/books/punk

Review by Murray Fenton
All photos by Sheila Rock