My Punk Rock Life – Marla Watson (Earth Island Books / Punk Rock Life Press)

For a lot of the malcontents and outsiders who stumble into and find the punk scene, it isn’t just another rung on the ladder of life that we linger on for a while, and then forget about as we continue to climb toward whatever our glass ceiling is. It becomes our life, it helps us to find a direction and guides us to where we need to be, and enables us to discover our potential and who we really are, and can be. It sounds like I’m blowing the scene up and making it sound far more important than it is, but trust me, I’m not. If anything, I’m under-selling it, because without the scene there wouldn’t be any bands, and punk rock would be nothing more than a seventies curio that came, saw, conquered and flickered out in a rundown hotel room in New York. And without it, I probably wouldn’t be here, and you wouldn’t be reading this review of your soon to be favourite new coffee table book.

Marla Watson knows exactly how important punk rock was, and is to her, her friends and the bands that comprised the fledgling Los Angeles scene of the early eighties, and My Punk Rock Life is a visual history that most of us older punk rockers wish we could have experienced first hand, and lived through. Charting a course through the clubs of LA (and London and Leeds, which I’m assuming are the result of an overseas jaunt by the author) circa ‘81 to ‘88, this book is a raw, unfettered, adrenaline packed journey that captures a visceral snapshot of a bygone era and a whole host of legendary bands in their fever driven, furious element. And it is breath taking, inspirational and stunning in equal measure.

Shot through with author and fan accounts of the shows that made the scene what it was and the memories they created, My Punk Rock Life documents a live history of bands that I, coming into the scene slightly later around the middle of ‘87, grew up idolising, and still adore, and never thought I’d get to see. Bad Religion, The Misfits, Black Flag, JFA, Social Distortion, Channel 3, TSOL, D.O.A, The Angry Samoans, Suicidal Tendencies (wait, is that Mike Muir WITHOUT his trade mark bandanna…?) and hundreds more fill the pages of this incredible and deeply personal tome that epitomises and extols the virtues of everything that punk rock, was, is and should and can be. Whatever else you do, do not, I repeat do not, let this book pass you by. You’ll regret it forever and a day if you do, and life is way too short for regrets… Tim Cundle

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