In which our book reviewer declines his assignment, instead championing "what may be the best book on the New York punk scene since "Please Kill Me!"


Dear Editor,

I know I was supposed to review the book “Hey Joe! eight months ago, but I’ve been sidetracked by world events, an overdamp basement, and a strange tremor creeping up my left leg. It’s not that I didn’t read Hey Joe! (I did!). I even listened to about 30 different versions of it on YouTube and not one of them was by Jimi Hendrix (who didn’t even write the song). I think what threw me off the Hey Joe! jamboree was the fact that the author (I’ll find out his name later) must have been under contract to turn in a page count of (I’ll find out how many pages later) and padded the damn book by writing Hey Joe! at least 20 times on every page.

Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but not by much. It was a fun read, sure, but I had better books to fry. Like… “The Cruel Radiance” by Susie Linfield or “Madiq Alley” by that Egyptian guy (I’ll get his name later) who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in (I’ll get the year, too). I also took valuable time out to listen to Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize Lecture. At first I didn’t think it should go to a songwriter, but after listening to that and then to Patti Smith doing Hard Rain in front of the global elites with their smug tuxedos and $5000 ball gowns, I thought, “Dylan. He is deserving. So deserving.”

There was another book that I read almost in one sitting and that was “Punk Avenue: Inside the New York City Underground 1972 1982” by Phil Marcade, a French juvenile delinquent-cum-CGBG/Max’s Kansas City-habitué-cum-junkie musician who used to score dope in Alphabet City during the good old days when New York was a dump and the people in it could live on almost nothing. Anyway, it may be the best book on the New York punk scene since Please Kill Me! by Legs McNeil (and his co-author). Marcade’s book moves fast and covers his druggy escapades as a 17-year old hippy to becoming fast friends with Nan Goldin and appearing with his girlfriend in her photobook the Ballad of Sexual Dependency. He hung out in Provincetown with her, David Armstrong (photographer), and John Waters and Divine, and his merry crew of degenerates.

After bouncing around the States and playing crazy to get out of the French army, he settled in New York’s Lower East Side and became pals with Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, Dee Dee Ramone, and all of the shining stars and lesser lights of the early New York punk scene. There’s tons of drugs and stories of scoring drugs, waiting for drugs, friends overdosing and dying from drugs. There’s also suggestion of lots of sex, too. He also talks about rock n roll quite a bit (he had a thing for R&B, the old romantic doo wop, and totally uncool C&W stuff, too).

At the end of the book he gives an account of friends he lost to drugs and AIDS and the list is almost endless. The heralded and the unheralded, the lauded and neglected, the rabid and the gentle. All young, too young, and gone, gone, gone. The previous escapades that I enjoyed so much were dampened by the reality of addiction, bad diets, corrupt lifestyles. The sad fact is that sooner or later the body breaks down, the psyche shrivels up and raw talent along with it. Ingenuity and the spark of life give way to a mumbling fool keeling over in a crappy little flop stabbing at his arm with a needle…

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to lately… I know I promised you a review of Hey Joe! for Rocker (your magazine) and I promise you I’ll get it to you soon. Meantime, mind if I write a review of Punk Avenue?


Joe Gallo


Punk Avenue, from Three Rooms Press is available at Powells