CA$HING IN ON PUNK
Late in 1975 a small handbill was pasted all over the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village announcing - “Watch Out! Punk is Coming.” Punk, the magazine, launched their first issue from the Bowery in NYC in January 1976, and it was the first, and best, and therefore seminal magazine, or more appropriately zine, for what could loosely be called a “movement."
The New York Rocker premiered two weeks later and was a local N.Y. rock tabloid which was the brianchild of Alan Betrock; it was one of the earliest publications to exclusively chronicle the punk scene on the Lower East Side of NYC. Betrock had produced an early demo for Blondie before the band signed with a major label, and he also published The Rock Marketplace a tabloid for collectors of rock memorabilia. As Shake Books in Brooklyn, Betrock wrote and published zines and books on cult magazines, sleazy tabloids and pop culture of the 1950s and ‘60s, all of which were inspirations for Bad Mags.
Also a part of the times were the punk rock "specials" published by Myron Fass and edited by Jeff Goodman, mags such as Super Rock and Punk Rock. Many of the staff that helped to put these satiric pulp versions of Punk magazine together for Goodman became well known in their own right later on, such as writer Michael Musto and photographer Ebet Roberts. Goodman himself went on to edit and write for many adult girlie mags such as Velvet, High Society, Screw, Sluts & Slobs, Oui, and Penthouse.
Punk magazine was published sporadically until 1979 when it went belly up with issue #17. John Holmstrom, Punk’s editor, went on to become editor/publisher of High Times after the suicide death of Tom Forcade, High Times founder and a supporter of Punk magazine. Holmstrom also published a great, but short lived, rock-gossip mag in the early ‘90s called Nerve, that had Legs McNeil on board again, as editor-in-chief, which had the same sort of irreverent punk feel to it. Punk has been well covered elsewhere, and is undoubtedly familiar to most reading this, and it didn’t even cash in on itself. In recent years it has had a compilation volume of material published in book form, and in 2001 issued a 25th anniversary issue – Punk v2 #0.
The punk attitude could be likened to the anarchic antics of Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker or Heckel & Jeckel, married to garage band musical tastes and talent. It was something that had really started a few years earlier with the release of Patti Smith’s “Piss Factory” (June 1974) and Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel” on independent 45rpm singles. The Dictators Go Girl Crazy was to my knowledge the first punk album released in 1975, that was followed later that same year with Patti Smith’s debut album Horses that exposed "punk" to the public at large.
1976 saw both the release of the Ramones first lp on an apathetic rock world and the publication of Punk magazine, both of which helped give "punk" a name and followers on both sides of the pond.
Basically you either hated it or loved it. The mainstream musical media picked up on it by 1977 because of the outrageousness associated with the Sex Pistols and the English punk scene. A year later it became almost fashionable, the nemesis of established rock and the disco fad. Or, to quote from the fairly perceptive article in the below mentioned Punk Sex - “Within a few years, punk had been legitimized by feature pieces in Time and Newsweek. It was chic, it was ‘in,’ it was a salable, profitable commodity. And don’t think nobody noticed! No, siree. Ask anyone who shops at Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s. Punk started out in the streets, but it ended up mutilated between the glossy pages of slick fashion magazines.” Which is interesting as some of the mags mentioned below have their own “punk fashion” pages.
Rock ‘n roll, fashion, and porn seem to have gone hand in hand in the past few decades, so punk also showed up as a theme in porn mags, just as disco was to be found in the titles and themes of hardcore porn mags back then. Punks in porn is sort of ironic because a lot of punks, for the most part, claimed boredom with sex or asexuality, in spite of their usage of bondage gear, which was introduced through the English punk scene thanks to Malcolm McLaren's shop, “Sex”.
The above-mentioned article in Punk Sex also attributed the NY punk scene, specifically Blondie and Annie Golden of The Shirts, with being more sexual than the English punks. In any case, it put dollar signs in the eyes of certain publishers always on the lookout for something to grab hold of to churn out another magazine. In the late ‘70s certain publishers, mainly Myron Fass, had a field day with punk, the Son of Sam, the Jonestown massacre, Star Wars, Jaws, and disco, to pull a few things from the late ‘70s time capsule.
I was concerned with the spin offs and ripoffs of Punk magazine, or the “punksploitation” mags published by those generally outside of the scene to make a profit, using the word and what they perceived to be the look of punk. They knew that the actual punks on the scene weren’t the main audience they were selling to anyway. This is not to say that these magazines didn’t hire some people part of the punk milieu to write for them, as some of the below mentioned mags did, hiring college kids into the music scene, because they would work cheap and get a chance to see their names in print. In a few cases it helped some of the contributors go on to successful careers in their own right.
These mags were published into the ‘80s along with features in the girlie mags concerning nude punks etc., but by then punk had been digested by the mainstream and shit out as a parody of itself and a stereotype.
"Cherry Bomb & The Dead Boys" feature from the February 1978 issue of Cheri.