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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2006
This is a must read for any arts student. It will take whatever interest they may have in "punk" and present the phenomena in a new light. This is a far broader (and more "artistic") context then the gritty social history of Savage's England's Dreaming.

Marcus' original thesis is that the Sex Pistols were heirs to the theories of the Situationists - and were, perhaps, the concrete manifestation of their obtuse and impenetrable philosophy. This realisation of situationist thinking - it is argued - took the form of a pure 'revolt' by the disenfranchised punks. This articulated their desire to live as the "subjects, and not the objects of history".

Taking this as his Thesis, Marcus proceeds upon a fragmented "secret history" of the twentieth century - connecting the threads which led from the Free Spirit Brethen through radical "left bank" groups down to the punks. This "secret history" is that of marginal groups holding out for "impossible freedom" against the dominant discourse which would crush it. Marcus reproduces some Situationist artwork and I must confess that, for me, the Punk stuff is the shallow stuff in here. You might be drawn by the unique perspective on punk but you will leave an aspirant situationist.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 1998
This is not your father's music history book.
If you are expecting a book about punk rock, read it. It is about punk rock in a manner of speaking. But even if you aren't a punk rocker, still read it. I know they always say this and then you think to yourself, why would I want to read a book about something I could care less about? But this book only uses punk as a kind of centerpiece or metaphor. But this book is about everything--Dadaism, revolution, Situationism, even a medieval religious fanatic who walled himself into a city with a group of followers resorting to canabalism and self-annihilation. See, it seems interesting. It is scholarly, but quite readable (and God knows, most aren't). Sometimes a little unfocused, but if it had too much structure, it wouldn't be punk.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2002
This book is divided into 2 parts. The first bases history around the Sex Pistols, and the second gives a more sensible (but less quirky) overview of 20th century history. Margin notes instead of foot notes, the relevent information is easy to find. A hopeless refrence book, but a great read nevertheless. The originality of thinking, and the illustrations come together to give a new relection of the recent past. I suppose one could call it how punk came about, but it wouldn't give the book justice; as in no way does it concentrate only on punk. It is used as a familiar ground to base everything else around. How did anarchy come about? Written sensatively and with many little gems. I would recomend this book to people with an interest in humanities, whether practising artists/musicians, or lovers of theory, this book gives an origional slant, and explains everything from the begining. Great for GCSE/A-Level to make things fun, or for people with a wider knowledge, who've got bored with reading the same old opinions.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 1999
I bought this book about a year ago and have read it 4 times since. Despite being a huge, scolarly, intellectual work, it still manages to exite at just the same level as the music about which it speaks. Facts and ideas appear and disappear again only to resurface generations later in a different, often more potent and subversive context. Some of the ideas covered are self-evidently unworkable (as Marcus knows as well as his readers) but they still excite and energise the imagination through their sheer radicalism. Like the best Punk Music they prompt the reader to a paradoxical reaction: "I can't condone any of this intellectually, but I feel like fighting in the streets to defend it". Read it, and it will remind you how pitifully dull and conformist your life is. Obviously, you won't be manning barricades on the street, but your first reading of this towering work will blow your assumptions and preconceptions apart and regular helpings thereafter will keep your sense of intellectual radicalism alive, kicking and screaming "Destroy!!"
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 1997
Is it just me, or does it just go a bit too far? I admit, I never did get to finish the book, and probably didn't get to see the whole "point" of it all...

Engaging and eclectic, but I kinda lose track when he gets just a bit too far from rock and roll itself.

(I don't wanna compare, but "Psychotic Reactions..." by Lester Bangs [w/c marcus edited] is more "unputdownable" and didn't require me to brush up on my 20th century avant-garde theory)

The CD of this book is just as strange. (did they ever release it as CD/book combination?) Check out that sound poetry!! Marie Osmond too! And the last song, "Lipstick Traces" is just WONDERFUL.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 12 May 2005
Naysayers, refuseniks, weirdos, anarchists, modern artists, punks. They have shared values, and Marcus makes us see the links between their seemingly separate movements. So we go from a Sex Pistols gig to Dadaist art, then to the 1968 Paris riots.

It's unstructured, but heady stuff. It's not the Mojo magazine 'just the facts' style, it's more like Simon Frith music theory after a William Burroughs cut-up, the work of a graduate student talking and free associating in the bar, rather than his actual thesis.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 1998
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 1997
this book is amazing. it's tough though. for one, you won't want to put it down, but it makes you wanna go do stuff. it's a must read for those who like punk. marcus puts it all in a beautiful perspective. i keep wanting to go visit him and have a beer and talk about all the stuff he covers -- only take a year or so. . .
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6 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2009
Perhaps the subtitle "A Secret History of the Twentieth Century" should have alerted me, but with the name Greil Marcus and a picture of Johnny Rotten on the cover, I presumed that this book was about music. Not so: taking punk as his starting point, Marcus spends the vast bulk of this book talking about Dadaism, Situationism and various other philosophical/political/cultural movements I had never heard of, citing similarities between them and 1970's punk, though not suggesting the punks had any awareness of these movements.

Lipstick Traces is a tough read, making little allowance for the fact that most people will never have heard of the subjects discussed, many of which are nebulous, ill-defined and self-contradictory. I still don't quite know what Dada means, if anything. Admittedly, I skimmed rather than scrutinized much of the book, as I did not develop any interest in the subjects and felt that Marcus was ascribing more importance to them than they actually possessed, and imposing a coherent ideology on what sometimes seemed little more than juvenile bluster and meaningless soundbites. It is characteristic of Marcus to over-intellectualize the subjects he writes on, but in other books when he is speaking of subjects I was already interested in this did not bother me, as he is a good writer; here, though, some of his theorizing seems quite fanciful and the entire concept of the book is questionable. What is to be gained by seeing Punk through the prism of situationism? Is there really any link, outside of the author's mind?

I cannot condemn this book as I did not fully understand it, however I would say that it definitely has very select appeal and will not necessarily appeal to fans of Marcus's other works.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 1998
I'm in the midst of reading this badboy at this very moment. And though the likelihood of my reaching the end of it is slim, the book has proven beyond doubt, its ability to "muss" with my head. Like the topics with which it deals, one finds that after encountering it, if only a little teeny-weeny bit, things are different. What else could you people want from a gosh darn book!
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