HATE RATES.... ***** BIBLE **** TABLOID *** COMIC ** CHIP PAPER * PULP
In The Gutter By Val Hennessy Quartet Diversions Autumn 1978 ISBN 07043 32302
A school boys pocket money didn't go quite far in the late 70's, so you'll not be surprised when I tell you that I didn't buy this book at the time. In fact I'd never even seen a copy in the flesh (so to speak) until very recently. Ever since I got connected to cyber world a number of years ago I've spent/wasted a lot of time on and off trying to track down a decent copy to add to my ever expanding collection of punk rock slop without any success. That situation prevailed until only last week when I finally secured a second hand (possibly pilfered from a 'Birmingham' library many years ago as part of the stamp sticker is still attached) copy of my own, hooray! 'In the Gutter' was first published in 1978 and like the mythical hens teeth, there's not many about in the 21st century. I've seen a top end mint pristine copy advertised online for sale at a whopping £395.00. Needless to say I didn't pay that serious amount of cash as my copy is well read and a bit tatty if the truth be known, plus it has a few pages missing but those historical pics of rebellious youth inside the cover make any minor cosmetic imperfections like that insignificant to me.
The limited text centers around a Birmingham centric current affairs TV show debate on the new(ish) emerging 'punk rock cult' hosted by the books author 'Val Hennessy', who was apparently a well known tabloid journalist and TV personality back then. Though I'd never heard of her until now and I definitely don't remember seeing her on local UTV.
The book actually came about by accident while 'Val' and her staff were researching another project on the dress and accessorising of indigenous tribes and people from around the globe. I haven't a clue what they were looking at but they came up with the frankly silly premise of a comparison in the pictures they were studying of these ancient civilisations and the confrontational dress code sported by the first wave of punk rockers who were dominating the 'Fleet street 'daily red tops' and broadsheets day by day.
To be honest even back in '78 you were never going to get an understanding of what makes punk rock tick from the prose printed in this book. The over excited pontificating of 'Mark Perry' is here in all its glory as is the very irritating ramblings of his then sidekick 'Danny Baker' both of whose contributions seem naive in the extreme in 2010. Plus there's the cast of unsavoury real or quite possibly fictional cartoon Brummy mystery punk unknowns with silly cliched adopted monikers and dirty nasty habits to match that look to me like an attempt by the writer to poke fun at her subject, Vick Vomit & Wank Stain anyone!?
But its the as always priceless evocative year zero punk participants photos printed on these battle scarred but vital pages that tell the real story here. Some of the pics you'll know very well and then there's the others that probably haven't seen the light of day in any other publication or documentary since 1978.
Just tolerate the text as it definitely plays second fiddle to the photos,they make this book worthwhile and even 'Val Hennessy' agrees within the pages that the pictures speak for themselves andpersonally speaking I love stuff like this. The photographs as always reveal more than a million words can express about a time and a place long long ago which no longer exists, but is very fondly remembered by the now elder statesmen and women of the blank generation. 'In the Gutter' though far from perfect would be a great addition to any punks collection, providing you can finda copy? JOE DONNELLY (BELFAST) 13.7.10.