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From the Velvets to the Voidoids: The Birth of American Punk Rock Paperback – 30 May 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Helter Skelter Publishing (30 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905139047
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905139040
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.4 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,036,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Clinton Heylin sorts the conflicts and the conflagrations with a critic’s eye and a fan’s heart. -- Lenny Kaye

Extraordinarily thorough. At over 400 pages long, it's simply one of the best books available on the subject.
**** -- Q Magazine, September 2005

No other book I’ve encountered succeeded so well in accurately bringing the period to life. -- Richard Hell

With the Cleveland story at its heart, this is a great story, and before Heylin no one saw it whole. -- Greil Marcus

About the Author

Clinton Heylin is one of the country's leading rock biographers, with acclaimed tomes on Dylan, Van Morrison and Sandy Denny to his name. "A formidable rock historian." - The Australian. "Arguably the world’s greatest rock biographer." - The Irish Independent. "The maddest muso currently writing." - Time Out.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Jun. 2006
This engaging and informative work explores the origins of the American punk and art rock scene, covering artists like Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell & The Voidoids and The Ramones, all of whom contributed to the innovations or the were the originators of many stylistic and musical traits evident in later bands.

The book is an American punk Who's Who and a rock 'n roll What's What, a detailed history and a valuable reference work. It would make an excellent companion volume to Roni Sarig's The Secret History Of Rock and In The Fascist Bathroom by Greil Marcus, especially since Marcus' book mostly ignores the New York side of punk rock.

Starting with the Velvet Underground, it also deals with The Stooges, MC5, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, The Electric Eels, Alan Vega & Suicide, The New York Dolls, Wayne County & The Electric Chairs, Blondie, The Heartbreakers, The Talking Heads, Pere Ubu, Lydia Lunch and other seminal artists.

The text consists of interviews with the artists concerned, so you hear about those glory days in their own words. The famous venues CBGB's & Max's Kansas City also get their due. The bibliography provides a cross-section of the most useful published sources on American punk and there's an extensive discography. Black & white photographs (some very rare, like a pic of Patti Smith's graduation) enliven the text. Highly recommended for fans of intelligent rock music.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 2 reviews
Superb history and reference work on American art rock and punk 29 May 2006
By Pieter Uys - Published on Amazon.com
This engaging and informative work explores the origins of the American punk and art rock scene, covering artists like Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell & The Voidoids and The Ramones, all of whom contributed to the innovations or the were the originators of many stylistic and musical traits evident in later bands.

The book is an American punk Who's Who and a rock 'n roll What's What, a detailed history and a valuable reference work. It would make an excellent companion volume to Roni Sarig's The Secret History Of Rock and In The Fascist Bathroom by Greil Marcus, especially since Marcus' book mostly ignores the New York side of punk rock.

Starting with the Velvet Underground, it also deals with The Stooges, MC5, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, The Electric Eels, Alan Vega & Suicide, The New York Dolls, Wayne County & The Electric Chairs, Blondie, The Heartbreakers, The Talking Heads, Pere Ubu, Lydia Lunch and other seminal artists.

The text consists of interviews with the artists concerned, so you hear about those glory days in their own words. The famous venues CBGB's & Max's Kansas City also get their due. The bibliography provides a cross-section of the most useful published sources on American punk and there's an extensive discography. Black & white photographs (some very rare, like a pic of Patti Smith's graduation) enliven the text. Highly recommended for fans of intelligent rock music.
Credit Where It Is Due 15 Jan. 2010
By ihasch - Published on Amazon.com
In discussing this book, some appreciation is definitely in order. This book was published in 1993 and the author's research for the book began in the 1980s. In the book's preface Heylin noted that his motive in writing the book was to give due credit to the music and musicians that comprised American punk rock, both of which had been overlooked when punk rock was initially discussed in favor of the more visible British acts. While the history of American punk rock and the bands that comprised it now seem to have established a secure position in our cultural consciousness, it is worth remembering that this was not always the case. Regardless of whether Heylin in writing this book had anything to do with changing this perspective, the fact that he wrote a book devoted to what was potentially a forgotten musical history is something that deserves to be recognized, especially if like myself you are a fan of this type of music.
As to the contents of the book, it is a solid history of American punk rock, both its musical precursors-The Velvet Underground, the MC5 and the Stooges, the Modern Lovers, the New York Dolls-and the bands that were part of it. Heylin also does a nice job discussing the Cleveland scene, and bands like Rocket From The Tombs and Pere Ubu. Additionally the author discusses the discography for the bands at issue, including important bootlegs. A reader coming to the subject without any background will get a good working understanding of the topic.
All of this said there are a few cautions. Any writing of history involves the author's personal editorial choices and points of emphasis. For Heylin it is clear that in writing a history of the subject, certain bands figure more prominently than others in his thinking. In particular Heylin is obviously a bigger fan of Patti Smith and Television than of others. The result is a seeming imbalance: Patti Smith is discussed in three full chapters and part of another; Television (or its precursor the Neon Boys) also receives three full chapters and part of two others. In comparison The Ramones are discussed in one full chapter and parts of two others, as is Blondie (who, I should add, the author does a nice job with and demonstrates a good appreciation for the band's music). The Talking Heads are discussed in parts of three chapters, and the Dead Boys and the Dictators share part of a single chapter. In discussing sources Heylin relies on many more sources for Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell than others: 23 articles on Patti Smith; 10 articles on Tom Verlaine; 10 articles on Richard Hell. By comparison there are 4 articles in total for the four original Ramones. Thus in the divide between the supposedly "artistic" acts like Patti Smith and Television on the one hand and bands such as The Ramones on the other, Heylin very much considers the former more significant, and this history reflects it. This is of course a matter of the author's personal musical tastes and judgment, but it should be recognized as an interpretation that while not necessarily wrong, is subject to challenge. Other books, such a "Please Kill Me", took a different view.
A point should also be made about the author's view of Patti Smith. To put it mildly, Heylin is a big fan. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, but fans are not always the most objective about the musicians they love. In the book Heylin quotes Patti Smith at length (by my count, 39 times), and often in a manner that is not effective. And as a devoted fan, he sometimes tries to exaggerate Patti Smith's importance. Thus in his chronology about CBGBs he points out that Patti Smith was in the audience for an early Television performance, an attempt to give her priority over acts such as Blondie and the Ramones that played CBGBs before her. Yet it is just as easy to point out that Chris Stein (Blondie) saw his friend Eric Emerson and the Magic Tramps play CBGBs when it was still called Hilly's On The Bowery, which by Heylin's logic would give Blondie priority even over Television, and shows how easily such logic can be manipulated for partisan purposes.
This leads finally to the Postlude that was added in the updated editions. That Heylin was on notice that this addition would operate to alienate fans of the original book is stated right in the subtitle for the Postlude. In the Postlude Heylin expresses opinions about a number of performers and defends his view of the history of American punk rock. He asserts (I think very reasonably) that it is unfair to claim that British punk rock bands derived from the American punk rock bands, but that they developed independently. He also attempts to defend Patti Smith against what he views as unfair criticism, such as in "Please Kill Me" where she came off somewhat poorly. This is fine except Heylin sees unfair criticism of his hero so often from enough sources that he comes off as somewhat blinded. At worst, the criticisms he objects to reveal nothing more than a flawed human being, but Heylin will have none of it.
A related but more fundamental objection is his attempt to reassert his own view of American punk rock with "artistic" bands like Patti Smith and Television at the forefront in light of conflicting interpretations that have arisen in the intervening years. Of particular frustration to Heylin is that today The Ramones have moved to the forefront of the history of American punk rock at the expense of bands that he feels are more deserving. I should say that while I am a Ramones fan, I actually sympathize somewhat with Heylin's view. It could be argued that from being unjustly overlooked, The Ramones have now been mythologized to the point where they literally take the oxygen out of the room where their contemporaries are concerned. If, as Heylin believes and states, Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell and Pere Ubu are the epitome of American punk rock, then The Ramones being moved to the front of the line, a process which he attributes not to their music but the skill of their apologists in the musical press, can only be a matter of pure exasperation. It is with this sense of profound exasperation that he endeavors in the Postlude to derogate the Ramones's music, to compare them unfavorably to the Clash and the Sex Pistols. This is again a matter of taste, but to the extent that the reader doesn't fully buy this take on musical history (I don't), you are left not with a compelling argument but with a bitter screed.
All in all, however, with reservations aside, this is a book worth reading and a subject matter worth exploring. If as I have noted there are other interpretations that differ from Heylin's, this simply means that the exploration should go deeper. But this is still an excellent start.
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