Cultural Dictionary of Punk: 1974-1982 / Edition 1

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Neither a dry-as-dust reference volume recycling the same dull facts nor a gushy, gossipy puff piece, A Cultural Dictionary of Punk: 1974-1982 is a bold book that examines punk as a movement that is best understood by placing it in its cultural field. It contains myriad critical-listening descriptions of the sounds of the time, but also places those sounds in the context of history.  Drawing on hundreds of fanzines, magazines, and newspapers, the book is—in the spirit of punk—an obsessive, exhaustively researched, and sometimes deeply personal portrait of the many ways in which punk was an artistic, cultural, and political expression of defiance.

A Cultural Dictionary of Punk
is organized around scores of distinct entries, on everything from Lester Bangs to The Slits, from Jimmy Carter to Minimalism, from 'Dot Dash' to Bad Brains. Both highly informative and thrillingly idiosyncratic, the book takes a fresh look at how the malaise of the 1970s offered fertile ground for punk—as well as the new wave, post-punk, and hardcore—to emerge as a rejection of the easy platitudes of the dying counter-culture.  The organization is accessible and entertaining: short bursts of meaning, in tune with the beat of punk itself.

Rombes upends notions that the story of punk can be told in a chronological, linear fashion. Meant to be read straight through or opened up and experienced at random, A Cultural Dictionary of Punk covers not only many of the well-known, now-legendary punk bands, but the obscure, forgotten ones as well. Along the way, punk's secret codes are unraveled and a critical time in history is framed and exclaimed.

Visit the Cultural Dictionaryof Punk blog here.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

At a cursory glance, Rombes's compendium has the form of a dictionary, covering punk bands from the Adolescents to the Zeroes, but scratch the surface and you'll discover a profoundly weird document, where the notion of "punk" expands to include discussions of Angela Carter, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo and Barry Hannah-although even Rombes (Ramones) admits the last is stretching the point. The tone veers from the academic to the confessional: "How can you hesitate about a song that has saved you more than once from the black depths you are prone to fall into?" Rombes asks in an entry concerning the British band Wire. There are several forays into the fictional, including stories about imagined versions of Patti Smith and Joey Ramone, as well as entries written by "Ephraim P. Noble," who is almost certainly a fictional alter ego. If it were touted as a definitive guide to punk culture, the dictionary's omissions would be glaring-but this is something altogether different: a personal investigation into the significance of punk rock, an attempt to inject critical studies with "a big dose of chaos and anarchy" and thereby create a compelling cultural narrative. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Rombes (English, Univ. of Detroit), the author of works on punk musicians and cinema, here examines punk as a cultural movement through A-to-Z entries drawing upon fanzines, magazines, and newspapers to place media and artists in the context of history. In the author's own words, he has "allowed the content of the entries to determine their shape, format and tone." The result is an eclectic examination of the punk movement as well as the cultural and historical issues surrounding it. The book concludes with a postscript analyzing the end of the punk movement in 1982. BOTTOM LINE The author's love and knowledge of the punk era shines throughout the work. There are several other books on punk, but this one's focus on the general historical and cultural perspective of the movement, as well as its accessible and informal style, makes it a worthy addition to the literature. An excellent overview of the era for any library. [The book is also supported on the web at]—Samantha Schmehl Hines, Univ. of Montana Lib., Missoula

—Samantha Schmehl Hines
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826427793
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 7/13/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Rombes is a professor of English at the University of Detroit Mercy. His books include Ramones (Continuum), New Punk Cinema, and the forthcoming Cinema in the Digital Age. He has written for Exquisite Corpse, McSweeney's online, and CTheory.

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Table of Contents

400 Blows / Adolescents /Adverts / Against Method / Agnew, Spiro / 'Alternative Ulster' / 'Anarchy is Dead' / Angry Young Men / Art and Fear /'Art of Noise,' / futurist manifesto / 'Art Rock' / Ashbery, John / Ask the Dust / Avengers / Bad Brains / Bad Taste in 1974 / Balm, Trixie A. / Bangs, Lester / 'Biafra: 6,591 votes (3%)!!' / Blank1 / Blank2 / Blank3 / Blank Generation / 'Blank Generation' / 'Beat Generation' / The Bloody Chamber / Boredom / Brando, Marlon / British National Front / Buffalo, New York / Callaghan, James: Prime Minister of Great Britain / Carter, Jimmy / Carter, Jimmy—and the new wave / Cassidy and Bangs in 1977 / 'Cindy' / Cities, decay and beauty of / Clash, the / Class / Cleveland, Ohio / compact audio cassette / Cooper, Alice / Cox, Alex / C.P.O. Sharkey / 'Punk Rock Sharkey' / Cramps: Live at Napa State Mental Hospital / Criticism, rock / Dancing / 'Death of Punk' / Dead Boys / Demics, the / Destroy All Monsters / Dhalgren / Dickies / Dictators / Dils / Diodes / Dogs / 'John Rock 'n Roll Sinclair' / John Sinclair / 'Dot Dash' / Down-and-out during the punk era, the fun of being / East Village Eye / Eater / Ejectors / electric eels / entertainment! / 'Experts Propose Study of 'Craze'" / Feelies / Fifties, nostalgia for / The Foreigner / 'Frankie Teardrop' / 'Full Speed Ahead' / Further Temptations / Generation X / Germs / Germ Free Adolescents / Gibson, William / Glass, Philip / 'Going Underground' / Graham, Bill / Gravity's Rainbow / Great Jones Street / Gulcher / 'Gunning for Sex Pistols' / The Gun Rubber / Hannah, Barry / 'Happy Birthday, Stephanie' / Headlines, 1977 / Helen Keller / Herman's Hermits / High-Rise / Hippies, Johnny Rotten comments about / 'Horror Business' / Horses / 'How Could I' / 'I Got You Babe' / The Ice Age / implied velocity / 'I waste hours keeping my soul out of the cauldron' / I'm OK—You're OK / Jarmusch, Jim / Jim Basnight and the Moberlys / Jungle Rot / 'Keep Yours Dreams' / Kentucky Fried Movie / 'L.A. Punk' / Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains / La Guardia, Fiorello Henry / Leon, Craig / Lowell, Robert / MTV / Mad Magazine, punk and / Marbles / Meltzer, Richard / 'The Menace and Charm of Punk Rock' / Milk 'n' Cookies' / Minimalism / 'Mistakism' / Mo-dettes / 'the most absurd year in the history of rock 'n' roll' / 'Neat, Neat, Neat' / Nervous Breakdown / Nervus Rex / 'New Dark Ages' / 'New Music, The' / The New Wave / New Wave Theatre / 'New Way' / Nirvana / Nixon, Richard / Nobody's Heroes / Non Compos Mentis / No Policy / No Wave / Normals / Nostalgia / 'Notes on the New American Cinema' / 'not exactly what you would consider melodic' / Nuns / Oblique Strategies / Only Ones / 'Ottawa Today' / Out of Vogue / Outsider, The / Pagans / 'Paint it Black' / Para-Punk Cinema / Patti / Penetrators / Pere Ubu / Pettibon, Raymond / 'Police State' / Punk, alternate meanings of / Punk, as 'honored' / 'punk is inconceivable without the bleak failure of the Sixties' / Punk, its influence on something other than music or fashion / 'Punk rock is a put on' / 'Punk Rock: the arrogant underbelly of Sixties pop' / 'Punk Rock Rises Again!!', Creem headline / 'Punk Root' / 'Question of Degree, A' / Radio On / 'Radio Wunderbar' / Raincoats / Ramones [1974- ] / Ramone, Joey (and Joey Miserable and the Worms) / Ramones, the first album in ten tracks / Ramones, as 'trivial' / as 'great' / Ramones, first lines of songs on first three albums / Reagan, Ronald / 'Read About Seymour' / Real Life / Rebel Without a Cause / 'Receiving End' / Rent Act / Rimbaud, Arthur / Road Warrior, The / Rocket from the Tombs, four sentences about / Rocket from the Tombs, two songs by / Rockwell, John / Rombes, Kori Ann / Saints / Screamers / SCUM Manifesto / Second Extermination Nite / 'See No Evil' / self-referential, punk as / 'Seventeen' / Shirkers / Shivvers / 'short-lived fad, a' / 'Singles reviewed / 'Sister Ray' / Sixties, punk as a rejection of / Sixties, punk as an affirmation of / Six Million Dollar Man, The / Skunks / Sleepers / Slits / 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem' / 'So Cold' / social threat of punk, the / 'Something's happening' / 'Sonic Reducer' / Sonic Youth / Speedies / Spheeris, Penelope / Spock, Benjamin / Starburn: The Story of Jenni Love / Static Disposal / Sterling, Linder / 'still bewildered by the death-machine' / Stooges / 'Strange' / Student Teachers / Suicide / Survival Research Laboratories (SRL) / Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) / Target Video / Teen Idles / 'That's Entertainment' / 'The music is primal, mindless, without climaxes' / 'The ongoing force of me' / Theoretical Girls / theory, punk as a form of / 'There are Only Three Rock Groups in America' / 'There is nothing inherently wonderful about starkness' / 'The World's a Mess; It's In My Kiss' / Troggs / Truth about punk, the / 'TV Babies' / Undertones / Vast Majority / Vertigo / Vibrators / Vietnam War / Viletones / vinyl / Wallace and Ladmo Show, the / Warhol, Andy / Weirdos / 'When You're Young' / Whistle Punk / Who Killed Bambi? / 'Why?' / 'Write Down Your Number' / 'Xerox Days' / Zeros

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    Cultural Dictionary of Punk.....informative and accurate.

    Thorough and provoking. Can be considered contoversial....always entertaining.

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