Taking Punk to The Masses:
From Nowhere To Nevermind
Fantagraphics Books, 2011
I am fascinated by the fascination of coffee table-style books. The amass of photographs and art; the quick and dirty descriptions. It has become the ultimate distraction piece in modern interior design. But a good coffee table book tells something about the owner, a staple that defines who they are and possibly where they came from.
Growing up to this era of punk rock, I feel an initial offense taken to McMurray’s collection of punk rock relics. It seems strange and kitschy to run across a book like Taking Punk To The Masses when you lived it. My first reaction was that we are not a novelty, punk was defined from a purpose and we are that purpose, not an exploitation.
But the curious person that I am, I skimmed through it. Then I skimmed through it again. Then I read it. And then I fell in love with it.
Taken from the permanent collection of the Experience Music Project, the book culminates high resolution professional photography of things like Search and Destroy Zine, Greg Sage’s Gibson SG, the cash register used by First Avenue in Minneapolis during early ‘80s, or Soundgarden’s 4-track demo.
The Experience Music Project takes us from the late ‘60s and The Kingsmen’s influence on punk, through the L.A. scene of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s to the early explosion of Grunge and the Seattle Sound in context with the punk subculture that was going on in the Northwest.
The book is done so well and written like it was curated by McMurray, in a sense that you feel like you are walking through time and being enriched by an already enriched experience for myself. The added bonus is that for each item displayed, the author has culminated quotes from various musicians, producers, artists, etc. There is a two-hour DVD included that takes the experience even further. What this does is takes you back to the point when Sonic Youth, for example, played the show with Screaming Trees and Mudhuney at Seattle’s Union Station in 1988. It’s the full spectrum of experience that I love. With Lee Renaldo and Steve Turner’s comments, the book suddenly becomes a conversation, which lapses into a conversation piece.
Isn’t that what a coffee table book is supposed to be? It certainly is for this title.