Thursday, April 15, 2010

Recommended Reading: Punk Turns 30

The history of any pop-culture phenomenon, whether passing fad or enduring style, regularly sees fact and legend become intertwined. The history of Rock and Roll and its assorted and varied subgenres has always been particularly vulnerable to myth overtaking truth (no, really, Alice Cooper did bite the head off of a live chicken and toss the carcass into the far as you know!), and Punk, which was steeped in apocryphal stories designed to generate buzz from its earliest incarnations, is no exception. It's helpful to those of us who weren't actually there in its earliest days that there are at least a few folks who were, and who are willing to be (at times brutally) honest about what really happened, to sort out fact from fiction. And, as the old saying goes, truth often is stranger - or at least as entertaining.

Theresa Kereakes was there to see the earliest days of Punk Rock in LA in the mid-to-late '70s. Working her way up from teenage ticket-booth attendant at the fabled Whisky A-Go-Go to a position as the club's talent coordinator, later landing a position at Island Records, and being the owner of an apartment with a couch that was crashed upon by seemingly just about every musician of the era you can name, Kereakes was in the enviable position to be both participant and observer as the LA Punk Scene came into being. The fact that she has been a talented and prolific photographer since her childhood and, as such, documented most of what she saw and experienced makes her a unique and invaluable historian of that time; her uncanny knack for humorous and no-punches-pulled honest storytelling sets her distinctly apart from the scenesters and hangers-on who are more inclined toward building their own legends than sharing what was really like to be there at the beginning.

In her blog Punk Turns 30, Theresa Kereakes combines samples of her stunning photography with her first-hand accounts of the era, creating a mesmerizing window to the past. Her posts often tie the past to current events: recent entries have included reminiscences of Malcolm McLaren, a 30-year-old snapshot of the New York Dolls in juxtaposition with David Johansen and Syl Sylvain launching a 2010 tour under the Dolls' banner, and some discussion of the notorious Kim Fowley in the wake of the current biopic about The Runaways. The memories she shares are always entertaining, but it is her photography which is, deservedly, the star of the show.

You've undoubtedly seen Kereakes' work, whether or not you identified it as such. Her pictures have graced record sleeves for artists like Stiv Bators, The Pandoras and The Ventures, among numerous others; her work has been featured in the pages of prominent magazines and books over the years; her touring photo exhibition Unguarded Moments: Backstage and Beyond has been welcomed in galleries across the country. Candid as often as posed, her photography reveals the real people behind the personas. Much of her work has been in black and white, and that starkness multiplies the impact of the images she has captured. Whether you are a fan of Punk Rock or not, you will find it difficult not to be affected by her work.

Theresa was kind enough to reply to the Five Questions I have asked of each blogger in this series. Here is a bit about her approach to Punk Turns 30 in her own words:

What or who inspired you to begin blogging?
TK: It wasn't blogging that I set out to do. Back in 2004, I ran into two people I knew from "back in the day" at a Christmas party in our home town of Los Angeles. We had not seen each other in 25 years and discussed the fact that punk rock (which was the phenomenon through which we came to know each other - that and being photographers) was going to have a significant birthday soon and that we should do something about it. We wanted to do a traveling exhibit and have a corresponding website. Obviously, I was the one who stuck with the plan....

Is there a story or meaning behind your blog or its name?

TK: It is self-explanatory. I started posting on it in February 2005, which for me was 30 years after first having seen Patti Smith, who changed my world. From where I stand, 1976 is the birth year of punk rock, so the whole 2005 was the build-up.

Which post would you choose from your archives if you had to provide only one that best represents what your blog is all about?
TK: I am anarchy... therefore, there is honestly no one post that represents what I do, since what I do changes - in its intent and its content with each day.... but the "required reading" posts are the ones that probably help people who want to know more about punk rock, as they offer sources and resources.
Required Reading

On the other hand.... people have also told me that they liked and learned from the "my fave punk singles" series of posts -
Fave Punk Records - Fun at the Beach - B Girls

Personally, like anyone else who has a bully pulpit/website/blog... whatever you want to call it, I like to spout my opinion:
Why Patti Smith Matters

When you first log on to your computer each day, what is the first site you go to? Why?

TK: Because I want to know what's going on in the world.

What one other blog would YOU recommend that you read regularly, and why?

TK: Read the blogs of your favorite artists or your friends! Keep up with them.

I cannot recommend Punk Turns 30 highly enough. Whether you have an interest in the history of Punk Rock or a love for outstanding photography, Theresa Kereakes' images and stories will keep you coming back for more. Visit her blog, sample a few posts, and then share your thoughts in the comments below.

My great thanks - and wishes for a Happy Birthday, one day late - to Theresa Kereakes for being a part of this series!

1 comment:

  1. I liked reading your blog and would like to offer you a free Fathead wall pin up in exchange for a blog post. Email me back if you're interested.