When Punk Was Fun
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Universe (April 22, 2008)
I've always been an admirer of Jenny Lens work from seeing her punk shots in various British
publications like NME, Sounds and others too numerous to mention. There are loads dotted
around my dusty US punk clippings I've accumulated over the years.
And a lot have been featured in documentaries including 'American Hardcore', 'Punk: Attitude', and
'Ramones Too Tough to Die'. More recently her must see website features a lot more not included in this
book. I do warn you though before visiting the site, all shots are with a 'Jenny Lens' watermark stamp to
deny people stealing her imagery from online without acknowledgement or credit. Which is a shame on
both counts. The fans have their viewing pleasure ruined and it spoils her outstanding work. So its a pity
she has had to resort to this due to unscrupulous treasure seekers, plunderers or just someone taking the
glory. She has become almost paranoid about thievery, which does somewhat spoil her online site. But I spose is only
fair considering some of her work has been published and credited to other photographers. Thankfully for the fans who
do get this book, they are presented with pristine uncensored shots that take you right back into the glitzy glamour of the
arty virgin LA punk scene. I hope Jenny don't mind me including some shots to go with this review. I often wonder if you
buy a book with your hard earned cash, does it give you the right to put some of the content therein online for a review?
It might even get a few more people buying the book? In actual fact the whole book can actually be seen with the
obvious watermarks included via a PDA link on her site, so check it out for yourself.
Anyway back to the photography. Jenny Lens is renown for her punk work which is captured here specifically
highlighting the early Hollywood punk scene on stage, backstage at parties and in the streets. There's even a shot of
Joey Ramone relaxing by a pool and in his black zippy swimming trunks (not for the feint hearted). Its predominantly US
bands what feature, which is a nice change. I have to admit the US band shots included here far outshine the UK ones.
Her Stones shots don't even count, and heaven knows what they were doing in a 'Punk Pioneers' book, but I take it
she's a fan lol. Please do not fear though, coz this book is predominantly punk focused and nearly every punk band
who hit town gets caught during her 76/80 photo frenzy. This is a lady who partied constantly for 4 years, took shots,
developed film on a shoestring budget and often didn't get paid for 95% of her work. She was doing it coz she loved it.
Although once established Jenny was offered high paying work on bands or performers who she didn't like. So she
turned it down flatly for her beloved punk. She rarely ventured out of LA to shoot, but who could blame her with the
scene of bands this exciting literally on her doorstep. There are brief forays to San Francisco for the
Sex Pistols and London for X that made it to this book. The few London shots show us some rare
snaps of X partying and feature an intriguing shot of Darby Crash of the Germs with the infamous
Farrah Fawcett Minor (more of later) plus Jordan at some London house party.
Jenny Lens (dubbed by a certain Patti Smith as "the girl with a camera eye") classes herself as a
photojournalist first and foremost. Indeed a lot of these shots go beyond the band on stage and
peek more into their personal characters and alter egos. The Ramones were the first band she
shot and she had intimate access with them on and off stage. The Clash were the last band she
snapped in 4 years of constantly shooting a punk scene unfolding. A shame she had the superior
black 'n' white Clash film stolen. Jenny whose real name is Stern was anointed Lens by a local
nauseus scenester Farrah Fawcett Minor. A somewhat intriguing character who was friends of Exene
and found notoriety in the X song “Los Angeles”, which apparently tells the story of Miss Minor, who
coincidentally did live behind an adult book store. Farrah was a hater, let’s just say. “She had to
leave Los Angeles….” she had been taunting Jenny one night in a drunken tirade and Jenny Lens
slipped out her mouth. The woman who delighted in tormenting our front line snapper and others,
also gave her the perfect name and what a fitting name it is too.
Jenny admits she only shot the bands she liked, so I spose thats why there's no Dickies or Fear
shots included. Never mind, we still get the Runaways, the Germs and a host of other legendary
LA pioneers. The classic Screamers shot at a bus stop with an old lady is hers, along with the
Ramones ripping up the Whisky. Her work began to get published in fanzines like Slash and
Flipside but it was Blondie showing her white panties which made it to her first front cover (and
indeed this books cover) of local mag Back Door Man which was important for Jenny. It made her
work accessible to a bigger audience. There's also a bloodied Ron Asheton of the Stooges in his SS
uniform, Iggy Pop covered in paint, Cherie Currie in that basque, Captain Sensible nude, the Dead
Boys Stiv Bators doing his double jointed elastic man routine. Others include Alice Bag looking every
bit the long legged sexy siren she was/is, and an almost film noir (one of Jenny's early influences) X
shot on stage. The neat colour shot of John Rotten and Joan Jett in a Whisky A Go Go booth has
now been given an owner and shot whilst the Pistols were on their first US tour. Makes you wanna see
more. Some of the dates are a little hit or miss but thats a minor matter. A few years later whilst
fronting Pil a giggling JR watches a young kid singing to him in the audience giving us yet another
iconic image. Its a shame we can’t see more, but there' a generous 208 pages worth to keep you
entertained for a very long time.
I gather Jenny still has a massive archive of unpublished shots which ain't even been filed, dated and
sorted a gold mine which will undoubtedly result in a future book or books of her must see work. She
rarely exhibits her work so I for one would certainly be interested in buying more of her photo books,
as I'm sure you will too once you seen this.
Her work was a big influence on future LA snappers which brings us nicely to the neat foreword written
by renowned punk photographer Glen E. Friedman. Glen took up the punk torch in 1980 to dedicate
catching the hardcore scene in action when Jenny finally quit taking shots.
Good images good times and as the song says "Hollywood it feels so good!"
PETER DON'T CARE
HATE RATES.... ***** BIBLE **** TABLOID *** COMIC ** CHIP PAPER * PULP
For more on Jenny Lens visit her fantastic photo archive JENNY LENS