Check out the Ramones, the Velvet Underground, the Clash, the Sex Pistols, Blondie and, oddly enough, Fatboy Slim as anguished teens, before they were known as revolutionary musical icons, at MSU’s latest show. Special Collections.
“The magazines that existed at the time weren’t going to cover punk properly, so you took it upon yourself to build the scene,” said curator Joshua Barton.
“Like punk music, children have taken over the means of production. Back then, they didn’t have any social media sites to build a stage with, so some other kind of infrastructure had to be built.
The self-published zines were a labor of love, patchworks of text and images cut with razor blades and fixed with rubber cement. Photos were torn from magazines.
“There have been a lot of indiscriminate copyright infringements,” Barton said. “Another side of the legend is that a lot of them were scanned from duplicating machines or Xerox machines at work – staying after hours and printing them on someone else’s penny.”
Highlights of the exhibit include Slash Magazine from Los Angeles and Sniffin ‘Glue and Chainsaw from London.
Chainsaw is steeped in DIY improvisation. Editor Charlie Chainsaw’s letter “N” was broken on his typewriter, so each letter “N” was handwritten.
One of Chainsaw’s interview subjects was Norman Cook, drummer for a band called Disque Attack. Cook would later achieve international fame as Fatboy Slim, best known for a hit dance record series in the late 90s. He also holds the Guinness World Record for most top 40 hits under different a.k.a.
The collection also includes what is considered to be the first punk zine in history, Barton said. Entitled Punk, it was published in New York in 1976 with articles on the Ramones and Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground.
In its first edition, Punk Magazine writer Mary Harron said that listening to the Ramones play “Blitzkrieg Bop” live was like “Sitting under Niagara Falls.”
The MSU Special Collection zine cache wouldn’t be possible without the work of 1960s MSU Professor Russel Nye, who co-created the discipline of Popular Culture Studies.
“The first nugget in this collection came from him,” Barton said.
Prior to working as a librarian, Barton played punk in bands throughout high school and beyond.
“The threshold for participation was very low, including not even knowing how to play your instrument as a barrier to entry. It was all attractive. There is a liberation that comes from having to do things on your own. “
Starting work at the library in 2007, there were 200 uncatalogued punk material, Barton said.
“In the first two months, this was the first material I worked with as a cataloguer and I realized we had something special on our hands,” he said. “By training as a librarian, you learn to respect primary sources and materials which are artefacts of the cultures from which they originate. It is one of the main sources of punk and the western subculture.
MSU’s Special Collections are home to punk fanzines that are not available anywhere else nationally, with London Libraries being the only other holders in the world, he added.
However, the collections are not so sacred that they are inaccessible.
“The land grant mission is real right down to the use of comics and fanzines. It’s not a legendary material in that you can’t go in and touch it, ”Barton said.
Despite the advent of social media, zines are still very relevant and active on the punk scene.
“With Facebook, there is a certain vulnerability to be expected when looking for your own weirdos,” Barton said. Zines, on the other hand, are passed from hand to hand.
“That way you can control who you give it to and it’s all tied to an artifact and an intimate distribution chain,” he said.
MSU Open House Special Collections Punk Zine
4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday, November 27 MSU Library – Special Collections Seminar Room 366 West Circle Dr., East Lansing (517) 884-0901 www.bookings.lib.msu.edu