Punk rock memoirs provide an intimate glimpse into a world many of us have dreamed of entering. It’s a rough, in-your-face, and alternately welcoming and alienating place filled with huge personalities. While biographies can provide a great deal of information on punk scenes and their history, memoirs let you see that particular time and place through the eyes of those who lived it. These five books span various times, scenes, and situations and ultimately show the reality of punk.
1. Clothes Clothes Clothes, Music Music Music, Boys Boys Boys by Viv Albertine
The guitarist for The Slits released this memoir of her time in the 1970’s English punk scene in 2014. A respected influence on later rock and roll, Albertine shares her stories from both the beginning of punk rock and her recent return to music after twenty-five years.
2. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
Among those influenced by Viv Albertine was Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein. Her long-anticipated memoir came out a year after Albertine’s. In this book, Brownstein traces her escape from a turbulent childhood and her rise among the 1990’s underground feminist punk-rock movement in sensitive, thoughtful prose.
3. Punk Rock Dad by Jim Lindberg
Though he does try too hard at times to prove his cred throughout his book, Jim Lindberg shows that punk rock and parenting are not mutually exclusive. As lead singer and guitarist of the California punk band Pennywise and the father of three young girls, Lindberg shows the difficulties and rewards of balancing the two most important identities in his life.
England wasn’t the only place where punk rock was thriving in the 1970’s. Alice Bag, the lead singer of 70’s punk icons The Bags, tells her story of growing up among the violence in her East L.A. neighborhood and in the earliest American punk scenes.
5. Just Kids by Patti Smith
Patti Smith is a legend of punk and her first memoir, Just Kids, won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction in 2010. This is the story of Smith’s early years in New York City, living in the Chelsea Hotel and finding her place and her passion alongside dear friend Robert Mapplethorpe.
These memoirs are among many that reach across time and place, providing insight into scenes that may have been romanticized, exaggerated, or forgotten. What other punk rock memoirs would you recommend? Let us know!
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