From the Velvets to the Voidoids: The Birth of American Punk Rock
Similar to Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s entertaining Please Kill Me, Heylin’s book focuses on the late-’60s/’70s origins of punk rock in America: Television, The Ramones, Patti Smith, The New York Dolls and The Stooges, among others. Unlike McNeil, Heylin emphasizes the importance of Cleveland’s influence on punk. Featured are The Mirrors, The Electric Eels and the historically relevant Rocket from the Tombs, whose members split to form dueling underground rock philosophies—the “Fuck Art, Let’s Rock” aesthetic spewed forth by The Dead Boys, and Pere Ubu’s more intellectual art-damaged approach. While all of the bands in this volume owe a great debt to the Velvet Underground, the ones truly expanding the boundaries of the form—New York’s Television and Detroit’s MC5—were more or less interpreting rock and roll through the lens of their free jazz heroes: Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane. From the Velvets may not dish the dirt as salaciously as Please Kill Me, but it did reveal to me that Patti Smith once dated a member of Blue Oyster Cult.