Book Review: “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout”

“Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout”

Author: Laura Jane Grace w/ Dan Ozzi
Hachette Books
Hardcover 320

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Tranny” is the intimate story of Against Me!’s enigmatic founder, weaving narrative of the band’s history, as well as Grace’s, with dozens of never before seen entries from the piles of journals Grace kept. More than a typical music memoir about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll “Tranny” is an inside look at one of the most remarkable stories in the history of rock.

Like the in your face title suggests “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout” pulls no punches and is direct and extremely real in its approach. First time Author Laura Jane Grace paints a gritty picture of her unique journey not only through her transition from male to female but also the path her and her band mates took as they navigated a completely different type of transition being that of moving from small independent records labels to the major label markets. From an outsider looking this may seem like a no brainer however Grace does a great job of describing the bands hardships as it clearly was not all big checks, fancy cars and massive notoriety.

“Tranny” is a real life account of two very different types of transitions. The two run parallel with one another providing an interesting continuity which keeps the reader’s attention page after page. The realness taken from Grace’s journal entries do a tremendous job and showcasing the inter turmoil she felt not only as an artist in a changing music market but also on a direct personal level as it relates to her own internal and external transformation from male to female. You will be extremely hard pressed to find another story like that of Laura Jane Grace’s “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout”.

Book Review: Keith Morris’s “My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor”

“My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor”
Author: Keith Morris w/ Jim Ruland
Da Capo Press
Hardcover: 309 pages

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Keith Morris is known the world over as the real deal, a seminal figure in hardcore punk, revered by any fan of the genre. As a co-founding member of Black Flag and as the front man for the seminal west coast punk band Circle Jerks “My Damage” is a memoir that covers not only covers Keith’s forty-year history in music but also his struggles with his health and drug use, told straight through the eyes of someone who shared the stage with just about every major figure in the industry.

From page 1 to page 309 “My Damage” keeps the reader’s attention making this a hard book to put down. Through candid accounts of Black Flag/Circle Jerks front man Keith Morris’s early struggles within the Hermosa Beach community to the reincarnation of “FLAG” close to 40 years later the book covers immense ground in an easy to follow format which for readers who may not be as familiar with Morris’s work is a great feature. The books drive matches that of the author as it moves quickly and is unrelenting in details. No matter how edgy or unsettling the story may be Morris pulls no punches and tells the story as it was from his perspective. No phony names or reader friendly versions here folks.

The sheer realness of “My Damage” makes this book appealing to not only punk rock music fans but to readers looking for a candid takes-no prisoners approach to storytelling. Keith cuts out the unneeded drab and quickly gets to the guts of his life and his experiences in the music business. At times over shadowing those story is his struggles with drugs and alcohol which at several points made me question just how the author is still with us and able to recount his journey in detail he does. “My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor” is a must read for biography and music fans.

Film Review: “A Fat Wreck: The Punk U Mentary”

“A Fat Wreck: The Punk U Mentary”
Director: Shaun M. Colon
Writer: Greg Pratt
Open-Ended Films/ Leaders & Flares/Charlie Uniform Tango
Runtime: 84 minutes

Our score: 5 out of 5 stars

“A Fat Wreck: The Punk U Mentary” is half inspirational story of chosen family and community and half debauchery as it tells the story of Fat Wreck Chords founder Fat Mike (bassist for the band NOFX) and his ex-wife Erin-Kelly Burkett. “A Fat Wreck” has it all from the birth, growth and struggles the label has endured over its 25 years to the thriving label we know today who continues to put out some of the best punk rock albums year after year.

If you were into punk rock in the 1990’s then chances are you at one time or another listened to a Fat Wreck Chords released album or band. Group’s such as Strung Out, Lagwagon, No Use For A Name and Propagandi and many others were fortunate enough to call Fat Wreck Chords their home while at the same time making a phenomenal impact on the evolution of punk music. “A Fat Wreck: The Punk U Mentary” is the story of that monumental label and the bands who helped define 90’s era punk rock. From candid interviews with label founders NOFX bassist Fat Mike and his ex-wife Erin to clips and interviews with the multitude of bands who have made up the labels roster during its past 25 years through today. For the first time in one spot the entire story of how this small independent label grew from a bay area basement to one of the most recognized and respected labels in punk rock. It’s all here!

How can you not like a killer punk rock soundtrack, fresh interviews and puppets!? Yes I said Puppets! “A Fat Wreck” from beginning to end is pure gold. If you were/are a fan of 90’s era punk rock then you owe it to yourself to watch this. The film is more than just another documentary about a group of musicians and a label that kick started a lot of careers, Underneath all of that is a refreshing story of family, unity and fun that everyone needs to check out.

Book Review: Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk”

“Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk”
Author: John Doe w/ Tom DeSavia and Friends
Da Capo Press
Hardcover: 227 pages

Our score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk” was written by X vocalist/bassist John Doe along with help from Tom DeSavia and laundry list of who’s who from the late 70’s and early 80’s L.A. punk scene. For the first time in one place the true story of a scene often overlooked is told in all of its gritty and grimy detail by none other those who experienced it and by those who helped create it. This is not your typical memoir however as this book tells not only of how the scene began and developed but also how it went on to change music forever.

Before I get into my review of the book I want to point out that if you are unfamiliar with the scene this book documents or the bands that appear grab a copy of Penelope Spheeris film “The Decline of Western Civilization” as a majority of the people’s names and a lot of the places featured in the film coincide with those who are also in the book. After a very brief forward by Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong we are quickly whisked back to the not so glamorous side of Los Angeles. Just a few brief years before hair metal would dominate the sun set strip bands like X, Black Flag and the Minute Men were the bands to go see. John Doe does a great job recounting his stories from this era with vivid detail and truthfulness that make you want to keep turning the page. As an added element to Doe’s story there is often even more colorful commentary provided by other musicians or friends who were there to experience everything as well. Not only does this add different angles to a previously told story but it fills in gaps with intricate firsthand accounts. For me this only pulled me further into the already captivating story. To go along with the stories there are several black and white photo sections which are chocked full of rare photos that by themselves are worth the price of the book.

From cover to cover Doe and DeSavia and crew nail it. Aside from actually being around during this specific time I don’t think you could get any closer nor could it be anymore real. There were a few times when I wished Doe had kept going from his perspective as sometimes when the story teller switched you were in a sense re-reading some of what was just told however, that aside “Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk” is a great book for not only punk rock fans and music but for those wanting to learn about a period of time in Los Angeles that isn’t sugar coated with all the normal glitz and glamour LaLa Land is often associated.

Book Review “Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone”

“Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone”
Author: Marky Ramone w/ Rich Herschlag
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Touchstone

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When punk rock reared its spiky head in the early seventies, Marc Bell had the best seat in the house. From his early days with one of America’s first metal bands Dust to CBGB’s staples Wayne County and Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Marc was there. In 1978 Marc Bell joined The Ramones becoming Marky Ramone and that’s where the real story begins. “Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone” is an honest look inside the world of a punk icon.

Over the course of the books 400 plus pages Marc/Marky takes us on a journey like no other. From his early years growing up on the mean streets of New York City to his countless adventures around the globe with The Ramones it’s all here. Sure there have been several other books from Ramones members recounting their times with the band but for me those stories took more of a back seat as Marky’s tales of getting his first record deal to performing with the transsexual Wayne County during the early seventies when even the mention of transsexual behavior was something that was just not done, were the ones that grabbed my attention and made this book really stand out. T hough I questioned some of the books editing its 15 pages of color photos and the books straight forward approach makes this a must have for not just Ramones fans but for fans of music in general.