Showing posts with label Dead Kennedys. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dead Kennedys. Show all posts

CD Review: Agnostic Front – The American Dream Died

CD Review: Agnostic Front – The American Dream Died
Nuclear Blast
All Access Rating: A-

Agnostic Front - The American
Dream Died 2015
Anger management classes would be a waste of time for the seminal New York City hardcore faction Agnostic Front.

Worse yet, they might rob them of their raison d'etre, their vitriolic rage at almost anything and everything fueling their very existence. On The American Dream Died, album No. 11 for Roger Miret and company out soon via the Nuclear Blast label, they are mad as hell and extremely focused, and a pissed off Agnostic Front is one that demands you listen and listen good.

Spitting nails amid a frenzy of fast, aggressive punk and shouted Oi! mayhem and seething crossover thrash, Agnostic Front confronts head on a litany of socio-political issues on The American Dream Died, attacking police brutality, corporate greed, environmental catastrophe, the shameful neglect of down-on-their-luck war veterans and vicious warmongers with righteous indignation.

The hardest of hardcore bands, with the scars to prove it, Agnostic Front is as battle-tested as any outfit, slugging it out in close, sweaty quarters for 30 years in a scene notorious for violence. Agnostic Front wouldn't have it any other way apparently, declaring their undying commitment to and love of hardcore in infectious, gripping anthems "Just Like Yesterday," "Never Walk Alone" and the mid-tempo bruiser "We Walk The Line" as taut and sinewy as a young Bruce Lee. In similar fashion, they lament the soul-sucking gentrification of their hometown in the stirring and strongly melodic "Old New York."

While the short, sharp busts of "Police Violence" and "No War Fuck You" thrive on angry chaos and barely harnessed speed, and the title track is a blazing, straightforward punk missile shot at a variety of societal ills, "Test of Time" sees Agnostic Front charging headlong into a metallic, grindcore scrum, where grooves as hard as prison bars are locked and loaded. And although The American Dream Died is hardly a reinvention of hardcore or even a slight detour of any kind for Agnostic Front, a track like "Enough is Enough" can spring a surprising trap, its wildly disordered beginning giving way to strong, more menacing and shadowy currents.

As furious as ever, Agnostic Front continues to hone and sharpen their sonic attack, and The American Dream Died is like getting shivved over and over again in the yard.
– Peter Lindblad

Punk rock memorabilia starts a riot

Genre is one of the hottest in the field of rock 'n' roll collecting

By Peter Lindblad

Titled "Punk Girl CBGB's 1977," this Ebet Roberts
signed and dated archival pigment evokes
memories of the New York City punk scene. 
Punk rock’s time has come – at least with regard to music memorabilia. One of the hottest genres in collecting, records, photos, clothing, fanzines, fliers, pins and other ephemera from punk’s halcyon days are highly sought after by collectors.

In demand now more than ever, the rarest and most obscure punk memorabilia can fetch big prices. But, what’s out there? What’s the history of this outsider music and what bands dragged punk out of the gutter and made it a worldwide phenomenon? In this blog, we’ll take an in-depth look at the rise of punk and what collectors can expect to find when entering this particular world of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia.

Rock ‘n’ roll had lost its way. At least that’s how the punks felt in the mid-1970s.

Reacting to the glitzy excess of mainstream arena-rock acts and the perceived pretentiousness of progressive-rock, there was an underground movement taking shape in the U.S., England and Australia that sought to make rock ‘n’ roll dangerous again, like it was in the ‘50s. The music was fast and furious, influenced by the bruising, riotous proto-punk of bands like The Stooges, The New York Dolls and the MC5, as well as the gritty, raw power of ‘60s garage bands.

Nowadays, the remnants of that revolutionary period in music history are highly sought after by collectors looking for the rarest and most interesting pieces of memorabilia that somehow survived the mayhem.

From the archives of the photographer
Godlis comes this vintage print titled
"CBGB's Bathroom 1976." 
Pinpointing exactly where or when punk started is a matter of intense debate. Some have said the U.K. punks were influenced by what was happening in New York City, where a grimy little club called CBGB’s played host to Television’s avant-garde guitar orchestrations, the Talking Heads’ arty funk, the Ramones’ supercharged blasts of fast, infectious pop-punk and Patti Smith spitting out evocative, highly literate street poetry against a back-to-basics backdrop of tense three-chord rock.

Overseas in England, a perfect storm of DIY, anti-conformist fashion, economic hardship, political and social anger and musical anarchy was coalescing around a snotty band of young men known as The Sex Pistols, who were managed by the master of the shocking publicity stunts, Malcolm McLaren. Seeing their sound and fury live was a life-changing experience for another one of Britain’s punk icons, Joe Strummer, who would go on to form The Clash with his future songwriting partner Mick Jones of the band the London SS. While the notorious Sex Pistols practically set the world on fire with their confrontational, and sometimes bloody, gigs and a debut album in Never Mind the Bollocks that blazed with white-hot intensity, it was The Clash who endured longer.

Imploding from within, as bassist Sid Vicious departed and then succumbed to a drug overdose after being implicated in the murder of his girlfriend, the Sex Pistols ground to a halt on a tour of America, while The Clash carried on, expanding the strict boundaries of punk to include elements of reggae, early hip-hop, and rockabilly, among other musical styles. They made classic albums like London Calling and their U.S. commercial breakthrough Combat Rock, before tensions between Strummer and Jones came to a head and Jones was fired. U.K. punk certainly didn’t die with the Sex Pistols or The Clash, as the U.K. produced a slew of exciting acts like The Buzzcocks, The Slits, The Adverts, Stiff Little Fingers, Chelsea, The Damned, Magazine, The Raincoats, Sham 69, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and other rabble-rousers. Post-punk outfits such as Joy Division, The Smiths, The Cure and more would add more gloomy atmospherics to the punk lexicon, and new wave acts added synthesizers to the mix for a more stylish sound.

This photo of former Black Flag
front man Henry Rollins was
taken at Toronto Edgefest II.
In the U.S., scenes were popping up in different cities all over the country. Los Angeles had the stridently political, uncompromising Dead Kennedys and X, a band that married outlaw country and punk in their own sort of musical shotgun wedding. Bands like The Germs and The Weirdos continued the L.A. tradition of wild and wooly punk rock, and gradually, the scene became more violent as punk morphed into hardcore and bands like Black Flag challenged their audiences with their fists as well as their guitars. The same thing happened in New York City, as punk’s originators fell by the wayside, and bands like Blondie were scooped up by major record labels and became part of the mainstream, with the advent of punk’s cousin, New Wave, sanding off some of punk’s rough edges to make a sound more palatable for the masses. Cleveland’s Pere Ubu established itself as one of the more innovative bands the genre has ever seen, and it was where The Dead Boys got their start, before migrating to New York City. Then, there was the Washington D.C. area, which had the Dischord house [actually in Arlington, Va.], the label formed by Fugazi and Minor Threat leader Ian MacKaye.

Other countries had their own burgeoning punk scenes, including Australia, where The Saints and Radio Birdman offered an edgy alternative to AC/DC. Canada had the politically charged D.O.A., led by Joey “Shithead” Keithley, and The Diodes. And there were plenty of other nations that had less-publicized punk scenes sprout up. Over the years, punk has assimilated itself into popular culture, with bands like Green Day, Rancid and the Offspring selling scads of records in the 1990s and the 2000s, leading purists to accuse them of selling out. Seattle’s grunge scene also had its day in the sun, with Nirvana, Soundgarden and others slowing punk’s full-steam-ahead aesthetic and making it heavier.

At its core, however, punk was always about thumbing its nose at the establishment and trying to do its own thing without corporate help of any kind. It flourished because of the passion, determination and intellect of writers and entrepreneurs who established their own magazines and independent record labels. As the title of a great documentary film on the life of Joe Strummer makes perfectly clear, the future of punk is unwritten. However, music like this always seems to find a way to survive.

Punk Memorabilia Collecting Overview
Here’s the thing about punk: It was never meant to last. It was all about burning as hot as possible for however long it was meant to exist, and when there was nothing left but embers … well, that’s life.
So, much of what punk produced – from clothing to gig flyers, promotional posters and cheaply produced 45s – was either destroyed along the way or greatly damaged, oftentimes intentionally by those owned the stuff.

Perhaps, that’s why the market for punk memorabilia has grown increasingly hotter in recent years – as proof of punk’s fairly recent growth as in the collectibles area, the venerable auction firm Christie’s held a punk/rock sale in late 2008 that generated $747,300 in earnings. Collectors have always chased mint-condition rarities, which, in turn, come with relatively hefty price tags. Not everything, however, is hard on the pocketbook. There are plenty of bargains out there for collectors who don’t want to blow the rent money on hard-to-find t-shirts or obscure 7” singles.

Buttons and badges are popular items, and even those of acts such as The Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, and newer acts like Screeching Weasel come at reasonable prices – even if they’re in collections of individual bands. You might expect to pay between $10 and $20 for some. The money shelled out for gig flyers and promotional posters is also not completely outrageous. Though many didn’t make it through the madness, others did despite being so disposable. Early posters from the New York scene can go for $100 to $200, while flyers can range from $10 to $60 or more.

An exceptionally rare X-Ray Specs' promotional
album from 1978 that boasts 16 demo,
rehearsal and live songs.
Records are an interesting area. Some of the artifacts from the U.K. have actually been devalued by their appearances on CD collections and compilations. Still, there are a few that can go for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Being poor, punk bands and indie labels didn’t have the money to press more than 500 or 1,000 records at a time. With such limited runs, there simply aren’t many of these records around.

Other items of note include photos from the early days, magazines and fanzines, and perhaps the most expensive items of all, pieces of clothing. With its safety pins and Mohawk haircuts, punk was as much a fashion movement as it was a musical one, and the provocative designs worn by icons such as Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious and Joe Strummer, among others, are prized by collectors. Authenticated signatures of artists and band members will increase the value of pieces. As with everything, however, condition is critically important to the value of any piece.

Here’s a closer look at punk items that have collectors salivating:

An authentic "DESTROY" shirt from
Boy London, made famous by Johnny Rotten. 
430 King’s Road in the Chelsea district of London is one of the most famous addresses in punk. It’s where Malcolm McLaren opened the notorious store SEX, which sold bondage equipment, fetish gear and t-shirts that shocked the sensibilities of conservative Londoners with Nazi imagery and gay cowboys, among other things.

In 1975, McLaren took on the task of managing the Sex Pistols, and a year later, the shop was renamed as Seditionaries. From the beginning, when McLaren took over the 430 King’s Road storefront, he sold t-shirts designed by his then-girlfriend Vivienne Westwood. The Sex Pistols were often seen wearing Seditionaries clothing, as McLaren took advantage of the Pistols’ growing popularity. Other big-name punks such as Adam Ant and Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders were frequent guests. However, the couple eventually split, and they closed the Seditionaries store in 1980.

Westwood designs – shirts with the word DESTROY and swastikas splashed across the front being perhaps the most famous of them all – sold in the Seditionaries store are in high demand and t-shirts can go from $100 to $1,000 or higher.

SEX wasn’t the only King’s Road shop vying for attention from punks. Around the same time, Stephane Raynor ran Acme Attractions with John Krevine. The legendary punk filmmaker Don Letts ran the store at one time and it catered to people like Bob Marley, Boy George, Hynde and Patti Smith. However, Raynor and Krevine closed the store in 1976 to focus on their Boy London clothing line, which had its own King’s Road store. Boy London designs are also highly sought after.

Vintage original band t-shirts from the likes of The Clash, The Ramones and other more iconic punk acts are also prized by collectors; if it can be proven that they worn by any of the members or any other big-name artists, the price goes up.

Of course, designers didn’t just splash controversial slogans across t-shirts. They also made custom blazers, leather jackets, patches, and dress shirts, which featured taboo images like swastikas, blood and anarchistic sentiments. Much of it, of course, was ripped and torn and shredded beyond recognition, but you can still find punk clothing items from punk’s heyday.  

A rare 7" pressing of The Dictators' 1977
"Hey Boys"  single from Asylum Records.
Indie labels with little financial backing have always had to spend their money wisely. To that end, often when they pressed punk rock records, they often only produced 500 to 1,000 at a time, most of the time releasing 7” singles or 45s.

Bands like horror-punks The Misfits made good use of this business model. Their 45s are some of the most valuable around, often going for as much as $500. Others by bands like Black Flag and the Circle Jerks can also be worth hundreds, as are some records from labels like Touch & Go, SST and Dischord. Seattle’s Sub Pop label did the same thing, but went one step further by starting a singles club, where members would receive a 45 in the mail of bands on the label. Some were on colored vinyl or featured artistic sleeves. Early releases by Nirvana are sometimes worth hundreds or even more than a thousand dollars.

Going back to punk’s beginnings, some of the most expensive and rare records are relics that era, including one of the true holy grails among punk records, the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen/No Feelings,” which had gone for six figures – the AM and Town House pressings fetching $17,000 and $23,000, respectively. In 2012, a rare 7-inch promotional acetate of the single put out by the LTS label went for an astounding $20,000 on the U.K. eBay auction web site. In part, what makes Sex Pistols’ singles so valued is the fact that were continually given the boot by a number record labels, who pressed only a handful of their singles.
There are other valuable punk records out there, including XTC’s unreleased picture sleeve for “Science Fiction/She’s so Square” (Virgin 1977 VS 188), which has brought in more than $2,500. Going for under $1,000, Joy Division’s An Ideal for Living EP (Enigma 178 PSS 139) and Generation X’s unreleased picture sleeve for “Your Generation/Day by Day” (77 Chrysalis CHS 2105) – featuring Billy Idol, before peroxide – have fetched $800 and $500, respectively.

When it comes to records, the real money is in original recordings, not reissues. There are some characteristics of original recordings that set them apart – non-glossy sleeves, the lack of distributor names on record backs, and cheap plain labels. Early non-major label releases and obscure 45s are worth the most.

Photos and art prints
Visually, punk has provided some of the most compelling pop culture images ever, and those who documented early scenes in New York City and the U.K. with their cameras have gained fame for their work. Bob Gruen, for example, has taken some of the most iconic rock photography ever, including well-known shots of John Lennon. Being a New Yorker, he also was a fixture on the Big Apple’s punk scene, snapping classic black-and-white and color images of The Ramones, Jayne [or Wayne] County, Blondie and other New York City punk acts, as well as artfully shot images of The Clash playing live.

Stiv Bators of The Dead Boys
is the subject of this archival
pigment print from Ebet Roberts.
Gruen had competition in New York City. Eileen Polk, Godlis and Ebet Roberts also produced some of the most compelling punk photography to come out of that scene, with Godlis famously framing the graffiti-scrawled CBGBs bathroom for posterity. While they had the New York City scene covered, Edward Colver focused his lens on California’s vibrant punk community. One of the most famous punk rock photos ever was taken by Colver. It shows a stage diver doing a flip into a crowd of punks and was featured in the movie “American Hardcore.”

Ray Stevenson, Erica Echenberg, Denis O’Regan and Adrian Boot are some of the biggest names in punk photography in the U.K. Prints, negatives, and slides are all sought after by collectors.
Certain punk artists also achieved notoriety, including the subversive Jamie Reid, who may be best known for the ransom-note style lettering associated with Sex Pistols’ records and his “God Save The Queen” design, which featured a safety pin through her royal highness’s nose and swastikas over her eyes. Some of his murals are exceedingly rare.

Gig flyers and posters
This original D.O.A./Frightwig 1985
 German/Swiss tour poster is a rarity.
One of the most affordable options for collectors, gig flyers and posters were subject to all manner of destructive forces. Stapled to bulletin boards, telephone poles, kiosks, walls and any other places bands could think of to promote punk shows, flyers were often crudely drawn, Xeroxed or designed with stark, outrageous images intended to provoke reactions. Many, however, were damaged beyond repair.
U.K. flyers for the likes of The Slits, Generation X and the Pogues are in demand, while ones created for the aborted Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” tour are highly prized and worth several hundred dollars.

When it comes to availability, U.S. punk flyers might be somewhat easier to find. In true DIY fashion, many were designed by the band members themselves, although some artists found their own niche in flyers. Raymond Pettibon, responsible for many of the shocking and sometimes humorous flyers put out for Black Flag shows, is one of them. Others for bands like The Misfits, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Samhain, Agnostic Front, Youth Brigade, TSOL, Fear, The Germs, Crime, Negative Trend and more certainly are attractive to collectors. One for The Germs designed by their drummer for a show at the Whisky that featured a controversial Hitler Youth image is considered among the most sought after flyers around.

More expensive generally, and often featuring more sophisticated art work, punk posters of such acts as The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, Adam and the Ants, The Damned, D.O.A., The Buzzcocks, Blondie, The Ramones, TV Personalities, Elvis Costello and hundreds of other punk acts were used mostly to promote new records. So, they were often posted on the walls of record shops, but many were often tossed away over time. Still others could be found at bus stops and concert venues. Whatever the case, flyers and posters are pieces of history that reflect the rebellious and challenging artistic impulses of punk.

Magazines and fanzines
Issue No. 11 of the U.K. 'zine
Ripped & Torn.
Swept up in the frenzy of the punk movement, many fans and devotees wanted to become part of the action. True to the DIY aesthetic of punk, many started underground magazines or fanzines as a means of documenting what was happening in their respective scenes.

In the U.K., Sniffin’ Glue, founded in 1976, was one of the earliest and most outrageous ‘zines, and though it was only around for a year, it made an impact. Grammar wasn’t much of a concern, and swearing was common, but it is remembered more for its chronicling of the early U.K. scene – mostly through its pictures. And there were other U.K. ‘zines, many of the cut-and-paste variety, that left their mark, including Zig Zag, Dangerous Logic, International Times and Ripped & Torn.

The U.S. had its share of ‘zines as well, with Search & Destroy and Paranoia covering the L.A. scene, while in New York, the aptly named Punk kept an eye on what was happening there. One of punk’s most well-known literary figures, Legs McNeil, helped found the Punk ‘zine.

From the 1977 Dutch "Monty" punk series comes this
collector's card of the Sex Pistols.
Like other musical genres, punk produced its share of unusual promotional items that were designed to market the bands. Along with the aforementioned buttons, pins and badges, all sorts of weird oddities are out there just waiting for a home. Finding them requires a little research on eBay and the Internet.

While there are far too many to mention here, a few of the more rare and interesting pieces include a mini baseball bat that served as a promotional piece for The Ramones’ “Beat on the Brat” single and a letter opener for the band’s second studio LP Leave Home – both of which can go for $500. Another fun item is a jigsaw puzzle that was made for The Clash’s Give ‘Me Enough Rope album. Collectors’ cards also were popular items.

Overall, punk continues to explode as a rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia market. As with most collectibles, rarity and condition set the price. No matter what you collect, however, the hunt is always the most enjoyable part of the hobby. 


Backstage Auctions: Featured Punk Rock Memorabilia Available For Sale