Bruce Carleton, mandarin, points the way.


[To see evidence of my complicity in Punk's eructation, click on the cover thumbs to the left. If you're interested in owning any of these venerable relics, go to the Punk Magazine page in the Shop section.]

In the context of rock music and its peripherals, the middle 70s was a bland interregnum between the wild 60s and whatever was going to come next. Nobody at the time knew what it might be, but clearly something had to be waiting in line. In the first place, there had been more-or-less ten year gaps between Sinatra and Elvis, and between Elvis and the Beatles. We were due for the Next Big Thing. Added to that, the health of rock was so poor that it was clearly in dire need of a transfusion if it was going to survive. The airwaves were ruled by slop: power ballads, the laid-back California sound, mellow rock, the dreaded disco. Formerly respectable bands like the Stones and the Who were playing huge stadiums, their marrow having withered away.

This garbage made fertile compost, though... not unlike the bubbling slime from which the first life sprang. Things were already churning in New York City in '75. Several lines of influence (garage rock, bubblegum, British invasion, glitter, Detroit, the Warhol crowd, beat poetry, TV reruns, fast food) were converging in a couple of clubs in lower Manhattan: CBGB & Max's. The resulting litter included the Ramones, Patti Smith, Television, the Heartbreakers and Blondie, among others.

Three guys who had migrated to the city from Connecticut decided that what the world needed at that moment was magazine to express the same kind of frustration, angst, loose-endedness, boredom, dissatisfaction, etc. that was fueling the guys and gals in these as yet totally unknown bands. John Holmstrom was a cartoonist and the one who knew the music, so he became the Editor. Ged Dunn had the money, so he named himself Publisher. Legs McNeil was a punk. Since they had decided to call it Punk Magazine, naturally Legs became Resident Punk. The term "punk rock" had been knocking around for a few years, but as of yet, nobody had applied it to what was coming out of these clubs. When Punk Magazine appeared, the stuff suddenly had a name.

Punk #1 (buy it here!) came together when John and Legs went to see the Ramones at CBGB. Legs spotted Lou Reed in the audience, and being a punk didn't mind just walking up and proposing an interview. Lou, something of a punk himself, decided to give it to him. John, being a cartoonist, turned the whole thing into a comic strip. The result, with a few extras thrown in, is Punk #1. Shortly thereafter (January '76) James Wolcott ran an article in The Village Voice extolling the new music scene. He had some nice things to say about the new Punk Magazine, and declared that "punk rock" was an apt term for the sound. The name stuck.

Issues of Punk came out fairly regularly for a while: Punk #2 (buy it here!) in March, #3 in April, #4 in July, and #5 in August. Punk #6 (October) (buy it here!) was a groundbreaker -- a full-length photocomic "movie" starring Richard Hell in "The Legend of Nick Detroit." Issue #7 hit the stands in February of '77. Punk #8 was another groundbreaker of sorts, for me anyway. I had gone by the Punk Dump right after #2 came out (I'd missed #1 when it was on the stands, having gone back to KC for Xmas) to see if I could get some work. John was nice enough, but fairly noncommittal. Given what a haphazard "portfolio" I must have shown him, it's not too surprising. But he didn't blow me off completely. So I came back a few months later and he threw me a bone: do a title illustration for an article on the Tubes. I came up with what I thought was a masterpiece and brought it around. He wasn't there at the time, but when I talked to him later on the phone, all he had to say was that "You can't really read the title." He was right, of course, but I was disheartened and thought that was probably the end of that. Months (and several issues of Punk) later, I was at CBGB; somebody had just bought #8 (March '77), and there was my drawing. So that was the first piece I ever had published (if you didn't count Onions). I was still going to Pratt at that point, but on the verge of dropping out. When I did, about a month later, I came back to the Dump and John gave me another assignment: a full page of Eno. Since Eno was bar-none-number-one for me at the time, I put everything into it. It appeared in Punk #10 in the summer of '77. What happened to #9? Confiscated by the printers in lieu of payment. Punk Magazine nearly ceased to be at that point, but a benefit concert at CBGB kept it alive.

I got into #11 (buy it here!) (November) as well, with a Dead Boys splash illustration. I was driving a taxi at that point, but a mishap... one might call it a "wreck," put me out of a job. It was December and NYC was heading into one of its worst winters in recent memory. I decided to travel to warmer climes and got a passport. Punk #12 (January '78) was just about to come out -- I had nothing in that one, but decided to go by the recently moved Punk office (no longer a "dump") to bid farewell and see about getting back the original art for the Eno piece (which, as it turned out, had been confiscated by another printer). John, who was leaving that day to go on the Sex Pistols tour, said "Stick around and be Art Director instead." (The guy who'd been doing it had just quit.) So my path changed unexpectedly, as it so often does. (You can just ask my son about it, when he gets old enough to explain how he came to be.) When John got back, we put together #14, which came out in May '78. The next issue, #15 (summer '78) (buy it here!) , was a lot of fun. It was another full-length cartoon movie: "Mutant Monster Beach Party" starring Joey Ramone and Debbie Harry. Wait a minute... #11, #12, #14... what happened to #13? I'm not quite sure. As I recall there was yet another printer wanting to get paid... more confiscated art. I had a two- or three-page comic strip in that one, if my highly suspect memory serves me well. I hope they didn't throw it away.

Some time around in here is when the fabled Punk Awards Ceremony occurred. There are conflicting stories and interpretations as to what actually took place, but this much is certain: we printed some posters to promote it. Some other one-off things that came out in this general time frame: the 1978 Punk Calendar (buy it here!) and the 1979 Punk Calendar (buy it here!) , which made us enough money to pay for cheeseburgers for a month or so.

Anyway, we're up to #16 (buy it here!) now. It came out in March of '79... so there was a pretty long gap in there. More money problems, I'm sure. Maybe even another confiscated issue. It gets kind of muddled. Yes, I remember an interview I did with Von Lmo that didn't see the light of day. But then, only two months after #16 we got out #17 (buy it here!) . We were back on schedule, printing regularly, right? Nope. That was the last Punk for quite a while. We tried to keep it going but just couldn't scrape up with the money.

John was able to put together one more quasi-Punk: Punk Special #1, DOA, The Official Filmbook. It was meant to go along with the movie DOA, a documentary about the Sex Pistols' American tour that came out in April '81. Both the film and the magazine were flops. Punk went into suspended animation. Pretty much everybody but John thought it was dead. But somehow he was able to pull another one out of his hat. In January 2001 Punk #0 (buy it here!) , the 25th Anniversary Issue came out. It was hoped that this might be the beginning of a yet another rebirth of Punk. So far it isn't looking that way... but don't be too sure, eh?

"c" in circle in glasses on face All material on this Website is copyright Bruce Carleton. You may not repost, reprint, or otherwise republish, retransmit or reproduce any material on any of the pages of this Website without express permission of Bruce Carleton. All rights reserved.