At this point in my life, I don't think I ever need to read again the history of bands like the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and all that '77 NYC/U.K. stuff. And I'm beginning to feel the same way about the books on the Masque scene that have been cropping up. Those stories are interesting, but they've been covered and covered so much just I can tell you what you need to know in my sleep. Punk was happening all over the world, not just NYC, L.A., or the U.K., and, often, with more interesting results. So, when a book boasts on the cover, "Life and death in the Pagans" you have my attention. Never thought I would see a book about life in the Pagans. Stoked is I.
Mike Hudson, singer for the Pagans, lays out in 160 pages the beginning, middle, and somewhat end (though not quite yet) of the Pagans. The drugs, the sex, and the (self-) destruction. You do get information on the records and why they were pressed the way they were, the details on getting fucked around by Drome Records, inside dirt on band disputes, clashing of egos, and more. In short, it’s an insider’s view of life in a band in all its glorious dysfunction. I must confess, on the first read through I wasn't too impressed. On the second read though, I began to warm to it. I think my fault was in expecting something like Get in the Van. Different band, different times. Here you get a slice of what punk was like in the very beginning in the Midwest. Clueless, yet reluctant club owners, naïve bands, as well as a picture of life in the mid-to-late ‘70s, when the economy was in a low. They played once-glorious and swank venues that had fallen on hard times, in less desirable neighborhoods, and it seems they believed they were going to break through. There is bitterness, though I don't think it's ever admitted, over being shunned by the local press and ignored by stations like WMMS. At some point, you just gotta say fuck it and move on. The Pagans are definitely more interesting than most of the mainstream acts of the time, and put out some truly great music. A song like "Street Where Nobody Lives" is certainly not one you'll forget anytime soon.
Hudson isn't afraid to name names, either, over being treated like shit from the local bands like Pere Ubu, and underlining their differences between the art school scene and the working class scene that the Pagans were part of. But, for me, the most enjoyable parts of the book are when he's talking about hanging out with the Cramps and Dead Boys or telling stories of their early tours, capturing the feel of something new and just getting started. Then there are the stories behind the songs and the records, which, for record nerds, are always essential.
The writing style is easy to read, it goes fast, and it never gets dull. There is a bit of bravado in some parts, but there is also reflection over some painful times as well. So, instead of buying the millionth book about the Sex Pistols with the “never before seen photos” you have seen elsewhere, and “never before told story” you’ve read a hundred other places, get this. A worthy addition to any punk library. –M.Avrg (Tuscarora Books, PO Box 987 Falls Station, Niagara Falls, NY14303, www.niagrafallsreporter.com/tuscarora.html)