Better Read Than Dead

Usually, I'd be the first guy to argue that books are not punk rock. They have weight, they have those things called "words" in them, and they require attention. Kinda like kids or pets. And what fun is that when, in the almighty words of the Dwarves, all any of us really wanna do is "Fuck You Up and Get High"?

But 924 Gilman, out now on Maximumrocknroll books, is punk rock. Not just because it's compiled by Brian Edge, a punker who knows his studs and spikes, but because besides having lots of swearing, it has pictures!

For those of you who don't know what 924 Gilman is, I'll make it easy. It's a club started by a 'zine called Maximumrocknroll that in many ways rivals CBGB, Max's Kansas City, and even the Peppermint Lounge.

Started in the mid- to late '80s out in Berkeley, California, by my departed pal Tim Yohannon, the idea of the place was that it was going to be a punk rock club at night and a youth center during the day. But of course, as with everything else Tim did, it turned into so much more, and you can read all about it in this book.

Still confused? Think Green Day, Rancid, and every modern-day punk band, then follow them back to their roots to this shithole of a warehouse located near some railroad tracks on the industrial outskirts of California's biggest hippie haven.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was there when the club was starting and did play at the place. I was there not only to help the place get on its feet, but to beat the shit out of the numb-nuts skinheads who used to attack the club and its patrons. It was strange, but back in THE DAY, skinheads hated punk rock. Whatever.

Anyway, now, almost 20 years later (20 fucking years, holy shit!), 924 Gilman is a piece of rock history. Usually referred to as The Gilman Street, it's taken its place in history along with where the Ramones started, Blondie started, and even the Stone Pony, the place where Bruce Stringbean started. Amazing.

Oh yeah, the book. It's got lots of words from people who helped start the club, people who worked there, and people who played there, and some of them are pretty famous now. My favorite sections are by someone named Jane G., whom I do admit to still having a crush on until this day.

Anyway, read this and you'll understand where the second birth of punk rock came from, and why the punk is really all about unity and family, and not that Mohawked stupid shit most people think it is. I mean, yeah, it is that, too, but it's so much more. Read and enjoy.

Speaking of The Punk Rock, rumors are flying around that The Dead Boys are doing a reunion tour, and may even do a new record. Now, I've stated before how I feel about this shit, and I really am having trouble swallowing this. Um, hello? Stiv Bators is DEAD. And as everyone knows, Stiv Bators WAS the band -- besides guitarist Cheetah Chrome, of course, who wrote most of the tunes the band played in an outfit called Rocket From the Tombs before he and Stiv joined forces for The Dead Boys.

More full disclosure here. The Dead Boys are the greatest punk-rock band to have ever walked the face of the Earth. Well, them and the Ramones. The Dead Boys' first album is as important in history as any great piece of art. Like that Mona Lisa chick, or that Venus gal who's missing an arm or two. The record Young Loud and Snotty changed the face of music history. As did the band's live shows. Stiv, from very near Cleveland (Youngstown), did Iggy better than Iggy, and the band really did rock harder than anyone. And The Dead Boys were on CBGB/Sire Records, so there you go.

Anyway, now, decades later, the guys are getting the itch to play some of the best music ever created out to some audiences. I understand. But just don't call it Dead Boys. Call it a tribute, reformation or remembrance, but for fuck's sake, don't call it a reunion. Look, I'm personal friends with Cheetah, and the Dead Boys' bass player, Jeff, used to play in a band with me. I know these guys deserve a billion dollars and I hope they get it, but they cannot recapture the time period or what the music meant when it was written. Or how innovative it is. And now I'm hearing they are writing new songs? Okay. But don't call it Dead Boys. Cheetah Chrome is one of the best songwriters I know, and IS the BEST guitarist, ever. He makes his instrument an emotional voice that I can understand more than what anyone has ever said to me in English in their lives. But please, guys, don't call this a Dead Boys reunion -- you're way too good for that.

I also mentioned last week that Johnny Ramone now has a statue of himself in Hollywood. I'm sure he'd enjoy looking at it if he wasn't DEAD. On the statue are quotes from Hollywood stars and celeb wanna-bes. I don't get it at all. The Ramones were all of us. We were all of them. They were the Everyman. For whoever did this statue for John's headstone, well, you certainly missed the point by about a million miles. It's stupid. Very stupid. So stupid that it's funny.

And maybe, just maybe, that's the point.

At least, I hope.


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