Punk, Folk…and Postcards
The purpose of this column is to share some personal opinions from an AK Press author (and collective member), report on events AK does on the East Coast, share some book trade news, and of course give Punk Rock credentials to what is nothing more than another passing fad (the internet that is). Since this is the first blog, and I know the website will be full of political books, discussions of political books, debates about political books, ideas for political books… this one is going to swerve away from political books. Or texts at all, really. Please click on the links if you have time and a good internet connection, they all take you somewhere worthy of a visit.
It serves no purpose to review the “books on Punk” that AK carries. Because AK Press came out of the Punk scene, I can safely say that AK carries all the best ones, none of the really lousy ones, and only a couple of mediocre ones. AK may tend to define Punk literature a bit too broadly (everything from animal cartoons to train hopping to vegan cookbooks) but there’s a nice listing of the ones brave enough to use the word “Punk” in their title HERE
So, since we carry Punk books but mostly non-Punk music and video here at AK, what’s good that you don’t have to read? Well for this installment, let’s pay respect to my elders (and except for Utah, alive and kicking at over 40 years old!).
Our friend and elder in the struggle of memory against forgetting, Utah Phillips passed away this summer. Luckily for all of us, AK along with Daemon Records and John Smith from Trade Root Music were able to work with Utah to document some of the highlights of his long career as a radical historian, storyteller, musician, and Wobbly. A lot of folks came to know Utah, along with his traditional hobo garb and Santa-like appearance, through collaboration with Ani DiFranco. While I am forever grateful to Ani for exposing Utah to a large audience of impressionable young women, you have to hear the songs and stories delivered straight from Utah on the wonderful Starlight on the Rails box set. Here’s an audio sample of Utah’s long memory in the story behind Yuba City as well as the song Yuba City. Here also is the all too familiar story that produced the rollicking tune Talking N.P.R Blues. And since I’ve been bludgeoned with many piss-poor versions of the Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia since I’ve moved here six years ago (please don’t mention the 4-H Camp Girls Sing-along), the pricey box set is worth the cost for this original song alone.
Following in the footsteps of folky troubadours spreading the stories of unknown heroes, villains, rebels, and our “fellow workers” is the mighty Chumbawamba. (Yes, that Chumbawamba) Luckily for us they have given up on Tub-thumping and have reincarnated themselves as a righteous sing-along, drink-along, cry-along band of serious talent (but not always serious lyrics). You can see everything we have that includes them or even mentions them Here. It’s all good stuff, but the best is the latest, The Boy Bands Have Won, check out a bit of the cut El Fusilado.
As mentioned earlier, AK’s co-conspirator for the Radical Folk Music series was the mighty Daemon Records headed up by the unstoppable Amy Ray. (Yes, that Amy Ray). Amy has put together a kick-ass backing band for a trio of solo records with a new one on its way. AK carries her second release: Prom. Enlisting some Butchies in the band, the CD just plain rocks. And equally important for Punk Rock listening enjoyment, puts out the evil eye of the racist, gay bashing, upper class pricks we’ve all had the displeasure of knowing. Amy’s other musical project, The Indigo Girls, issued perhaps the only major label release with a “thank you” to AK Press in the fine print. And now that they have been ditched by their major label, most likely the last! They are releasing their next CD independently in February 2009, so pick it up. Our family had the pleasure of seeing the Indigos recently in VA, here’s a pic of my sister-in-law Andrea with rockin’ Amy Ray.
Just like AK doesn’t carry many Punk music CDs, we have never been interested in carrying “live” Punk band DVDs. You were either there or you were not, period. We do have a couple of interesting docs like Afro-Punk and The Day the Country Died, both much better for the content and context of the subject matter than the music/performances featured. The one exception to this rule being from our homies, the current and ex-Subhumans, Citizen Fish’s Gaffer Tape DVD (Gaffer Tape is what we in the states call Duct Tape). Having done countless tours with the AK Press Bookmobile (including the original Can Punks Read? tours of 1995-96) these road dogs have put together a fun and funny compilation of their (endless) life on the road. If you like em at all, it’s worth a view. If you don’t like em, have a beer with any of them next time they come to your town and I guarantee you WILL like them.
And finally, what would Punk or protest music be without its graphics? And who is doing the most rebellious art around? Mr. Eric Drooker, that’s who. His paintings, drawings, and etchings, refuse to sit still on the page. His latest Slingshot: 32 Postcards by Eric Drooker has the distinct advantage of being a book of postcards. Rip it out, inscribe a long, heartfelt note to a pal on the backside (or a short impassioned threat to an enemy), and let it fly. Some of the Punk printed and collated versions of the rapidly diminishing first printing may even feature an extra postcard! To learn more about the man and his work, check out this link to a recent interview in Oakland’s East Bay Express.