Here's a song, here's another song, here's a third. Now go and write a story.
Skinheads in Doc Martin boots. Leather jackets daubed with hand-painted band insignias. Piercings and studs glinting on Commercial Street. Mohawks, ripped denim, chains. Pogoing, throwing back cans of cheap lager at gigs, buying bootleg cassettes. Punk. Here's a chord. Never mind the bollocks. Here's another. We don't care. Here's a third. Now go form a band.
I stumbled across this new anthology, a tribute to the punk that dominated my teenage years in the early 2000s - almost two decades after it all began - quite by chance. I was seduced by the concept - thirty-one short stories written by an elite selection of writers and musicians of the post-punk generation, inspired by the movement that swept first the UK, then the world in the late seventies.
The contributors worked for free, and include musicians such as Billy Bragg, Billy Childish, Kele Okereke (Bloc Party), Kate Jackson (The Long Blondes), Alison Mosshart (The Kills), and writers like Kate Pullinger and Joolz Denby (although that really is just scratching the surface) with a forward by Johnny Marr of The Smiths, and afterward by John Robb, iconic journalist and vocalist of Goldblade.
Each piece is tied intrinsically to the punk scene of the late 70s-early 80s and inspired by a plethora of punk songs - The Buzzcocks, The Ramones, The Ruts, Talking Heads, Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, The Slits and Patti Smith all feature (to name but a few).
The stories vary wildly in style and subject matter, depending on the author's experience, preference and point of inspiration. Some remain staccato-short. Some are memoir, based on real events; Joolz Denby describes the best gig of her life; Kele Okereke talks of his flirtation with shoplifting; John Nevin laments, quite beautifully, the passing of an old friend. Others are entirely fictional, like Alison Mosshart's Natural Born Killers-esque short, Psycho Killer. The variation gives the volume an incredible page-turning addictiveness, like the incessant riffs of the punk rock music that influenced the writers.
Punk Fiction is simultaneously raw and polished, it throbs with dirty rotten style and thrashes with the collaborative, ripped-denim aesthetic of the original 70s punks. It is a celebration of the genre, a nostalgic gateway into how things were, and it mourns the casualties, paying a respectful tribute to those that didn't make it.
An essential read for punk fans and non-punk fans alike. If you only buy one short story anthology this year, make it this one. Smash it up.
£1 from each book sold will be donated to the Teenage Cancer Trust.