Sunday, February 07, 2010

“Treat Me Like Dirt” is an oral history of punk in Toronto and beyond by Liz Worth. It’s an exhaustive tome that goes into the minutiae. It can do this because of the book’s “two column and small font” format. Edited by our pal, Gary Pig Gold – no stone is left unturned. It’s taken me a while to get through it because of the conversational nature of how the various individuals portray what happened. Much of it centres on the destructive nature of The Viletones and in particular Steven “Nazi Dog” Leckie who may have benefited from a good hard kick up the arse at the time. Countered by the more conventional nature of Teenage Head’s relationship with bands like The Dolls and The Groovies, Ontario's scene seemed to mushroom in much the same order as it did in other major cities across the world. Then there was the more avant-rock that Simply Saucer was building. Attempts to acclimatise them to the burgeoning movement were fruitless. I guess it would have been like putting MX80 Sound on at the 100 Club.

In essence, it had more to do with what was happening in the UK than NY per se. This continuum was much more punk. The music was angry and unperturbed by what would eventually become new wave. The Ugly lived up to their name too. I always thought that they were like a proto-oi band but listening to then now, it’s a lot more Alice Cooper/Dead Kennedys. I don’t think that I ever heard The Curse. Some years ago, the Other People’s Music imprint issued a bunch of collections of recordings by some of these bands. I imagine that they’re still available if you scour the web. They don’t seem to be available from that label anymore. The B Girls who also feature, had a similar set "Who says Girls Can't Rock" too.

Anyway, this digest – published by Ralph Alfonso’s Bongo Beat Books – is the best example of its type since Brendan Mullen’s “We Got The Neutron Bomb”. It documents the years 1977 – 1981 in forensic detail with possibly way more information that is absolutely necessary but it’s interesting to read how it chimes with what was happening here for instance.

Don Waller recently, correctly, noted that many of the histories that are becoming available are being put together by people who either weren’t there or that hardly had a ringside seat. This one is the work of people who were in the trenches. They fought in the war that was supposed to put an end to stuff like Muse. Shells raining overhead, the whole nine yards, respect is due above and beyond.

“Treat me Like Dirt” is available in the UK from Proper Books. Or go direct to Bongo Beat.

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